Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine has announced in its 16th issue that Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi is slated to return to serialization in the issue due out on April 18.
Anime Expo occurred over the Fourth of July weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and there were certainly a lot of fireworks as publisher exploded with new license announcements. Over the four-day holiday weekend, Viz, Vertical, Crunchyroll, Kodansha Comics and Yen Press all announced titles, so of which nearly had fans swooning from shock and excitement.
Vertical Comics got their announcements out early, with their panel on Thursday. They first added to their comedy line with a title that has been showing up in their surveys; Nichijou. US fans are familiar with the title through Crunchyroll streaming the anime, and Jmanga having published the first four volumes. It follows a group of female students living what should be a normal high school life, except for all the talking cats, robots, and deer wrestling going on. Vertical did good with their pick of My Neighbor Seki, so I’m gonna trust them with this one too. Actually, they had me at talking cats. It is currently 9 volumes. The first will be out in Spring 2016.
Their second manga license was Fuku Fuku: Kitten Tales by Kanata Konami, the creator of Chi’s Sweet Home. This title is a spin-off from an earlier series, Fuku Fuku Nya~n, a story about the everyday life of a domestic cat and owned by an old lady who runs a local provision shop. Kitten Tales is also about the everyday life of an old lady, but this time it’s with a new kitten. This is so a must have! Just getting more cat manga is great, but getting more Konami cat manga is a boon! Maybe if Kitten Tales does well we can get Nya~n too! The first of the two currently available volumes of this series will be in the spring of 2016 as well.
In the prose department, Vertical picked up another Attack on Titan novel. Lost Girls is another spin-off and is composed of three short stories. They center around Mikasa and Annie, the two butt-kicking girls from the first half of the manga. “Lost in the Cruel World,” “Wall Sina, Goodbye,” and “Lost Girls will make up the 220-page volume and will be out in the Summer of 2016. I’m not too crazy about Annie, but I would totally be up for some stories about Mikasa. I’m glad Vertical is keeping with the Attack on Titan novels. They’ve worked out well filling in story and time wise while waiting for new volumes of the main story.
Viz Media had their first panel on Thursday, for their non-imprint titles, and gave fans their first OMG moment, when they announced they had picked up the novel series Legend of Galactic Heroes for their Haikasoru line. Please notice that is novel and not light novel. Legend of Galactic Heroes is a title a lot of old school fans will be familiar with, it had a 110-episode OVA series that began in the late 80s. It is an epic story of political intrigue and war as the story follows the conflict between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planet Alliance. It is space opera at its finest as it focuses on the personal stories of Admiral Reinhard von Lohengramm and the Alliance’s Yang Wen-Li. Now, the source material for the series, something at most fans thought was a long shot at best, has been licensed. The series is 10 volumes long as well as 4 volumes of side stories. They were written by Yoshiki Tanaka, who also penned the novel for Heroic Legend of Arslan, which is basis for the manga and anime out now. The first volume will be out in the spring of 2016, and remainder of the series will depend on the success of the first three volumes, so be sure to pre-order if this sounds like your kind of thing.
On Friday, Viz had their Shonen Jump panel that didn’t have anything really new to announce. The closest they came was to announce that the Naruto manga spin-off, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring that has been running in Shonen Jump would be collected and released as a print volume. It ran for a total of 10 chapters, the final of which came out in the issue that was released on Monday. The story takes place several years after the end of Naruto, and follows the new generation of ninja, including Naruto’s son Baruto, and Sakura and Sasuke’s daughter Sarada. I liked Naruto enough that I would check this volume out despite not knowing how the series ended. It will be released in the winter of 2016. If you can’t wait that long, check the Shonen Jump back issues, or watch for a possible early digital release.
That’s it for the first two days. Things are starting off slow, with Vertical having the most titles announced so far, but fans got two good OMG moments with LoGH and Nichijou. I’m still thrilled for more cat manga. There can never be too much cat manga. But Saturday is the big day. It the day when all the biggest announcements are made, and Yen Press, Kodansha and Crunchyroll do not disappoint. I will get to those, as well as Shojo Beat tomorrow.
Shuiesha, the publisher of all the Shonen Jump titles released an app in Japan that allows 30 manga to be read for free. Some of these titles first run in Weekly Shonen Jump, and some in their mobile app Jump Live. This is all well and good for people living in Japan, but no so much for us here in the west. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wish. Going through the list, there are 5 titles that I would like to be able to read, or at least check out a few chapters or volumes.
Rough Diamond: Manga Gakko ni Yokoso (Welcome to Manga School) – This series follows Yuuto Takatsuki, a high school boy who has already had a series published. Just as his series is ending, and he is looking forward to a normal high school, he helps out a fellow mangaka, and ends up missing one day of school too many, and isn’t able to pass his grade. Luckily, he’s offered a teaching position at a manga school. The principal will help me make his absenses disappear for teaching the class, but the only problem for Yuuto is that he has to teach students older than him, and he’s still in the world of manga. On top of all that, he is being haunted by the ghost of a mangaka Akira Tennouji! I’ve become addicted to manga about making manga ever since Bakuman, but this one looks just plain fun!
Nekota Biyori – Being a cat lover makes this series a no-brainer. It is about a cat named Nekota. It follows his daily life with the family he lives with; daughter Ami, house wife mother and salaryman father. I’m happy just watching cats laze around, so a manga of a cat doing the same thing is a must have for me.
Shonen Jump no Tadashii Tsukurikata! (How to Make Shonen Jump the Right Way) – Billed “the shocking documentary manga”, this series is about a manga artist and his editor infiltrating the Shonen Jump offices. Considering how well Bakuman did, another series about the behind the scenes workings at Shonen Jump would no doubt do well as well.
iShojo – This is an anthology series about a magic app that helps people’s dreams of love come true. I might not be big on romantic comedies, but the formula for the series appeals to me, and I do have a soft spot for stories that get couples together. As an anthology, I think I would enjoy it much more that trying to follow a series.
Seiyu Mashimashi Club – This series is a 4 koma manga about girls who want to be voice actresses. 4 komas have been hit and miss with me, much like romantic comedies, but I do enjoy titles about aspiring voice actresses, much like I enjoy titles about aspiring mangaka, so I would like to give this one a try.
I wouldn’t mind having these be digital only, just as long as they are titles that can be downloaded/don’t expire. It’s so easy to get distracted and fall behind on titles (Hello Mangabox, my old friend). Hopefully our friends at Viz Media are giving some these titles a nice look over.
Just reading the description of this new series makes me think it’s a mash-up of Blue Exorcist and Nisekoi. But since it’s been licensed, it must have something going for it. Guess we’ll have to wait until next summer to find out.
West Coast publisher Viz Media was the only publisher from this coast to attend NYCC and hold a panel. While their panels this late in the year usually consist of reiterating want was licensed at the beginning, this year they had two new licenses to announce. Tokyo Ghoul will be a Viz Signature title and So Cute It Hurts will be a Shojo Beat title.
Tokyo Ghoul comes from Shueisha’s Weekly Young Jump magazine. There are currently 14 volumes out in Japan. The series follows Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college student. Tokyo is being haunted by “ghouls,” who devour humans and whose identities are shrouded in mystery, leaving people in the grip of panic. While at a coffee shop he likes to frequent, Kaneki meets Rize, an avid reader just like him. But his life is changed forever when he becomes the first half-human, half-ghoul hybrid. Straddling both worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn about Ghoul society and master his new powers. Tokyo Ghoul recently had an anime that was streamed by Funimation, and has been on fans radars for a while. For me to enjoy a good action/horror title, it really has to be something really good. I just not sure Tokyo Ghoul will have the appeal I’m looking for. But there are plenty of fans out there it no doubt will. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.
So Cute It Hurts comes out of the gate not being something I’m too interested in. This title runs in Shogakukan’s ShoComi magazine and there are currently 8 volumes available in Japan. This series revolves around twins Mitsuru and Megumu Kobayashi. Megumu is good at history, Mitsuru not so much. In order to keep from loosing his weekends to extra history classes, Mitsuru convinces his sister to switch places with him, and help him pass his tests. What Megumu doesn’t know, is that Mitsuru has been going to a school for delinquents, and when confronted by a gang of bullies, she meets a mysterious boy with an eye patch. I really don’t care for gender swapping in titles, and this one doubles the whammy by it being twins doing the swap as well. This series will have to get a big wait and see from me. It might have potential. The first volume will be out in June of 2015.
Also discussed at their panel was the two initiatives started for Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Jump Start and Jump Back. Cute names, huh? Jump Start is a way to bring over and preview new titles simultaneously with Japan. Several chapters of a new series will run as well as one-shots. Jump Back is a way to bring back older popular titles from their catalog. The first of these Jump Backs will be Death Note. Besides having cute names, I think these initiatives are great for readers of WSJ. They give new titles a wider reach, and could possibly lead to new licenses as well as introduce older titles to a new generation of fans who may have missed them the first time around.
Like sports manga, we don’t get a lot of sci-fi manga, so it’s a big deal when a series launches. World Trigger isn’t that new, having been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since February of 2013 here in the US. But finally Viz is releasing the manga for everyone to read! Keep reading for more details.
VIZ MEDIA LAUNCHES SCI-FI MANGA SERIES
WORLD TRIGGER IN GRAPHIC NOVEL FORMAT
Two Unlikely Heroes Are Earth’s Last Hope Against Alien Invaders In New Manga Action Series Straight From The Pages Of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP; Series To Debut In Print And Digitally
San Francisco, CA, September 16, 2014 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, announces the print and digital launch of creator Daisuke Ashihara’s thrilling sci-fi action manga series – WORLD TRIGGER – in a dedicated graphic novel format on October 7th. The series is currently being serialized chapter-by-chapter SIMULTANEOUS to Japan in the pages of the digital anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP.
WORLD TRIGGER will be published under the Shonen Jump imprint with the first two volumes releasing simultaneously on October7th. Volumes 1 and 2 are rated ‘T’ for Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN each. New volumes are scheduled to be released bi-monthly.
Digital versions of WORLD TRIGGER also will launch for $6.99 (USD/CAN) each on the same day on VIZManga.com and through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, as well as through the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iBooks, comiXology and GooglePlay stores.
Destroy thy Neighbor! Earth is under constant threat from Neighbors, invincible monsters from another dimension that destroy humanity’s way of life. At least there are the elite agents of Border, warriors who co-opt alien technology to fight back. Our hero Osamu Mikumo may not be the best agent, but along with his Neighbor friend Yuma, he’ll do whatever it takes to defend life on Earth as we know it.
In the series’ opening volume, when straight-laced Osamu meets a feisty humanoid Neighbor named Yuma, everything that he thinks is right is turned on its head. Can the two natural enemies ever become friends?
Things become tense and the action heats up in Volume 2. Osamu has protected the feisty Neighbor’s identity ever since they met, but he’s about to get a rude awakening when he discovers that Border has ways of sniffing out traitors in their midst.
“WORLD TRIGGER begins four years after a gate to another dimension opens, letting alien Neighbors invade and the unlikely heroic duo of Osamu and Yuma must deploy powerful weaponry called Triggers to defeat the invaders and save the world,”says Hope Donovan, Editor. “WORLD TRIGGER has captivated fans in serialized form in WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP, and with the anime releasing in October, we can’t wait to introduce even more readers to the manga series with the simultaneous launch of the first two graphic novels in early October.”
WORLD TRIGGER creator Daisuke Ashihara began his manga career at the age of 27 when his manga, Room 303, won second place in the 75th Osamu Tezuka Awards. His first full series, Super Dog Rilienthal, began serialization in Japan in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2009. WORLD TRIGGER is his second serialized work to appear in Weekly Shonen Jump and chapters also run in the English digital counterpart published by VIZ Media. Daisuke Ashihara is also the author of several shorter works, including the manga one-shots Super Dog Rilienthal, Trigger Keeper and Elite Agent Jin.
For more information on WORLD TRIGGER, or other manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.
About VIZ Media, LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan. Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular digital manga anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages. VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products. Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.
Shohoku has made it to the second round of the Nationals, and are matched up to play against Sannoh, last year’s National champions. While Sannoh seems to be on a whole different level from Shohoku, the boys are ready to give up on their dreams of advancing just yet, especially Sakuragi. It going to take everything they got and every trick in their book to make it through this game. The question is, will it be enough?
By Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Slam Dunk is one of those titles that can suck you in and keep you glued to your seat whether you think you’ll like the series or not. I’ve read previous volumes and have enjoyed them all, but these volumes, some of the last before the end of the series are just amazing. There really is no other way to describe it. I know nothing about basketball and really don’t care for it, but I could not put down a single one of these volumes and had to grab the next, the game was so gripping.
The entirety of these four volumes is dedicated to a single game; Shohoku’s semi-finals game against Sannoh, the previous year’s national champions. And they don’t even end the game! These volumes only cover the game through to seven minutes left in the second half. They start out with both sides scoping out the competition through tapes of the teams playing. For Sannoh, this is no big deal. They easily spot Shohoku’s player’s weaknesses. For Shohoku, it’s more of a shock to see how far out of their league Sannoh seems. It really shakes the confidence of the players, especially Mitsui, Shohoku’s Center. Sakuragi isn’t shaken though. He goes into the game with the complete confidence that they can win, and even if that confidence seems misguided, it helps the other players to go on the court with that same confidence.
The majority of volumes 26-28 happen all on the court. Even before the game officially starts, both sides show off for the crowd and the other team. Sakuragi is right up there, trying a flying slam dunk and failing, but he isn’t fazed at all. As soon as the game starts, it becomes a battle of not just skill but also wills. Sannoh is taken by surprise by Shohoku starting play, but they soon get their rhythm and throw Shohoku off theirs and the game is like a teeter totter, the tide turning from Shohoku to Sannoh and the slowly back to Shohoku.
It is incredible how Inoue is able to put the reader on the court and in the players heads. All through these volumes, we are constantly seeing what the player is thinking and feeling as the game progresses. We also see how easy it is to get trapped by those thoughts. Akagi gets caught up in his belief that he has to beat Sannoh’s Kawata, and it puts him and his team in the bad place. It takes his older brother and Sakuragi’s outrageous antics to get his head back in the game. While Inoue draws exciting and dramatic shots and moves down court, it’s the characters that really make this title awesome.
And it’s Sakuragi that really gets to shine in this game. He might not know better when the others see how much better Sannoh is, but he never lets them intimidate him, and he never loses hope. He may be the loudmouth and a bit of a showboat, but he knows his teammates and what they need to get them focused on the game. Whether it’s taking big about being a “phenom”, or jumping on the tables on the sidelines to declare Shohoku will win, he knows what’s needed and isn’t afraid to do what it takes. He also finally has the skills to back up some of his words. He is the “offensive rebound king”, and it’s this skill that helps the team get their rhythm back at the critical moment in the second half.
Slam Dunk is a Shonen Jump title that embodies the spirit without having to resort the to tropes. Building friendships, facing adversity and beating the odds, Slam Dunk does all this without being obvious about. Sakuragi was an annoying mess at the beginning of this series, but now, he is one of the strengths that the team can rely on. He smack talks his teammates, but they know they can trust him to do what is needed, and he isn’t willing to give up, no matter what is in front of them. Whether or not you like basketball, if you like a good story with some real driving action and great characters, then you should be reading Slam Dunk.
Review copies provided by publisher.
A condensed retelling of the beloved samurai tale–one of the best-selling manga series of all time—released in conjunction with a new live-action movie.
During the violent upheaval of the Bakumatsu era, Hitokiri Battosai was a feared and ruthless assassin. But now that the Meiji Restoration has begun to heal the wounds of civil war, Battosai has taken up a new name…and a new calling! He is now Himura Kenshin , a rurouni wanderer who has vowed to only draw his sword to protect those in need. But not everyone is pleased with Kenshin’s new direction, and enemies from his dark past have vowed to bring him down!
By Nobuhiro Watsuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical Fantasy
It took a while, but I finally read all of Rurouni Kenshin last year. With a live action movie having been released last year in Japan, a re-imagining of the manga was created by original creator Nobuhiro Watsuki. This can sometimes lead to new and interesting directions for the title and characters to go. Too bad that’s not what happened here.
It uses the same characters, but the story has been turned around a bit. Himura Kenshin is still a rurouni who stumbles upon a man masquerading as the Hitokiri Battosai, but this time it is during a tournament run by a merchant Takeda Kanryu. He is buying out the rights to dojos and using the leaders of them in the tournaments with the promise that they can buy their land rights back. Kaoru Kamiya is of course one of the participants. Yasuhiro works for Takeda, and is used as a reverse hostage to keep Kaoru in line. Kenshin gets involved of course, and defeats Takeda, who then hires eighteen assassins to kill Kenshin. In this volume Sanosuke and Saito are introduced with their stories greatly compressed. It also includes a chapter zero, which tells a tale of Kenshin before he arrives in Tokyo.
The volume is rather lean for a shonen jump title, coming in at 142 pages. I read all of these chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha where they ran monthly. I didn’t care for this re-imagining then, and I still don’t now. I don’t have anything against re-imagining titles in general. I like to check out remakes, and can enjoy them and the originals separately. This new Rurouni Kenshin rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone seems angrier this time around. The art is also much sharper and more spartan. I didn’t enjoy reading it or looking at it. This is definitely not the “meiji swordsman romance” and is much more a harder action title. I’m sure this will please a lot of the Shonen Jump crowd, but as I’ve grown tired of all but the best of shonen, it doesn’t please me. If you think Kenshin would have been better with more of an edge and less of the character development, then this is the title for you.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Going digital can be a big decision, especially if you are like me, and still like to hold paper in your hands. But there are times when buying digital is an advantage, as is when a publisher, like Viz, has a big backlist of titles that are lengthy or difficult to find. One thing you can say about Viz, they have been working hard to make their backlist titles available again in digital. With Viz having their 20% off holiday sale, now is a good time to catch up on some older titles you may have missed out on.
Viz really made a name for itself with Shonen Jump and bringing over many of the well-known and loved titles from that magazine. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is probably the most beloved series to come out of Weekly Shonen Jump. The first half is action and comedy, while the second half all action that set the standard for fighting shonen manga for years to come. It is 42 volumes, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting? Rurouni Kenshin was another series that helped establish shonen manga in the US. This title brought both men and women, with it’s heavy action, historical backdrop and hints of romance that is realized in the end. It is 28 volumes over 3 story arcs. Yu Yu Hakusho came on the heels of Rurouni Kenshin in the world of anime on Cartoon Network, and was one of the debut titles in the US Shonen Jump. It is a mix of supernatural and action, with a punk lead and an ensemble cast to please any taste. It’s shorter at only 19 volumes. Shaman King was another debut title in Shonen Jump, and is also a supernatural action series. It veers more into the ghost and spirits side of the supernatural, and has a health dose of comedy to balance the more serious action. It’s a healthy 32 volumes.
Hikaru no Go is a very different kind of shonen, as it’s battles take place on the Go board instead of an arena. It’s smart and intense writing matched with beautiful art keeps is a must for any gaming manga fan. It’s 23 volumes and worth every one. Black Cat is an action title that skirts the supernatural, but is more about being true to yourself and following the path you’ve made despite where others think you should go. It’s the shortest, at only 20 volumes. Almost all of these titles are complete at vizmanga.com, except for Black Cat, and Yu Yu Hakusho which has been coming out for past several weeks and making the top 5 titles every week.
Viz isn’t one to ignore the lovers or drama and romance. Over the years they have brought out a lot of shojo titles. Basara is a historical title that thrusts a young woman into the role of her brother to protect the oppressed while gaining allies against her enemies. A late 90s-early 2000s title, volumes for this series are hard to come by, and later volumes can go for big bucks on eBay or Amazon. This digital release puts the series back in a more reasonable price range. It is 27 volumes. Boys Over Flowers is another early shojo title. It is a poor girl against the elite boys story, though the girl is no shrinking violet and stands up to the boys. It been made into live dramas all around Asia and even has an adaptation coming out in America. It is a whopping 37 volumes. From Far Away is a big hit with librarians, who like to recommend it for tween girls looking for action and romance. It features a girl from modern-day being swept away into a fantasy world of adventure. She is rescued by a boy who holds a great evil that she can unleash, binding the pair together. It is only 14 volumes. Fushigi Yugi is the title that started the girls swept to a fantasy world plot and is often the one most other titles are compared to. A teenage girls is pulled through a book to a world where she is believed to a priestess to one of the four gods and must find her seven warriors to save the kingdom before she can go home. It is available in the VizBIG edition in digital, which was a high quality three-in-one release. It only 6 volumes, but are double the price.
Hana Kimi is a girl disguises as a boy to get close to the boy of her dreams at an all boys school, and has to keep her gender a secret. It’s got lots of humor using the gender-bending a lot, though is more a romance than comedy. It is 23 volumes. Here is Greenwood is another cross dressing all boys school story, but this time, it’s a boy cross dressing as a girl. The boy lead is trying to escape heartache at home, and is thrown into the craziness that is Greenwood dormitory. It is another early aughts series that can be difficult to find volumes of, though it ended after only 9. Please Save My Earth is a rare sci-fi/romance story. A group of teenagers start having the same, recurring dreams of being alien scientists observing the Earth. It deals with love and fate and is another title that is difficult to get volumes of. It is 21 volumes. Red River is a historical romance for the older teen to young adult. It features another modern girl drawn to past to fulfill a destiny, but this time, the past is ancient Mesopotamia, which is in conflict with Egypt. It’s romance is more mature and throws plenty of action. It’s 28 volumes.
There are so many more titles available at Vizmanga.com, but these are taste of older titles that you might not have heard or known about. Many of these are from the 90s and the art might seem a little dated, but the stories are strong, with some of them being the basis for whole new sub-genres. There’s a lot her to take in, so take your time in checking them out. They all feature first full chapters to give you an idea what the stories and art is like. The 20% off sale lasts until December 31, 2013, so don’t take too long. But definitely give some of these titles a try.
Nisekoi: False Love started as a digital only title for Weekly Shonen Jump and became a surprise hit for Viz Media. The digital volumes are consistent best sellers on the Vizmanga.com site, hanging on for several weeks, a feat usually reserved for big titles like Naruto, Bleach, Black Bird and Demon Love Spell. Now, the gang of Nisekoi are breaking through the digital barrier and coming to a bookshop near you. The print version of volume 1 will be available January 7, 2014, bringing with it the promise of making the New York Times Best Seller List. Find more details after the break.
This week I look at the news from Anime Boston and Fanime, some new license announcements from Seven Seas Entertainment, the Vizmanga.com top 10, and bid a final farewell to Jmanga.
After a short break with a series of short stories, the action starts back up with Hikaru hungry to climb the Pro ladder and start competing at the same level as Akira. Hokuto Communications, a telecom, decides to sponsor a Go tournament for young pros from Japan, Korea and China called the Hokuto Cup. Akira is a shoe in, but Hikaru has to fight for a place on the three-man team. When the tournament finally starts, it’s a battle of wills, ego, and pride.
While I really enjoyed the previous six volumes, these six volumes which also finish the series were not as strong. It was really great to see Hikaru get his fire back, but the short stories, while cute, took away from the building excitement of seeing Hikaru play again, and the Hokuto Cup was too much drama and not enough intense play, which is what has been so addicting about the story.
After the end of volume 17, the story doesn’t pick up immediately. Instead, we are treated to 5 stories that feature mostly side characters, in times of their lives before or after they meet Hikaru. For the most part, these are good stories. I enjoyed seeing how things were for Akira right up to before he and Hikaru played their first game. I also liked seeing what led up to Yuki’s game with Dake, and what’s like to try to date as an Insei with Asumi. While I enjoyed these stories for what they were, their placement in the middle of the series didn’t feel right. These were stories that were better off as bonus stories to fill at the end of volumes, or as a filler at the end. They didn’t feel so well after such an emotional moment at the end of volume 17. I didn’t want to be entertained with cute stories, I wanted to get back to seeing Hikaru play.
And in Volume 19 that is precisely what we get. Hikaru is playing to make up for the lost time from all the games he missed while in his slump. He takes no prisoners, especially against Pros, as he continues his race up the ladder. In his rematch against Gokiso 7 Dan, the pro Hikaru beat back in volume 12 with Sai’s help. This time, he doesn’t need any help to take this haughty pro down. He gets his first real taste of defeat when he goes up against his teacher Morishita, who shows Hikaru a player can have more than one face, and more that one style of play. Morishita’s advice to Hikaru is forthright, and it along with some other things said hint at a possibly broader arc coming up, but instead, the story goes into the Hokuto Cup.
The final volumes of the series show the prelims in Japan, and the tournament itself. As a lead up to it, a reporter for Go Weekly, the newspaper for Go players in Japan, goes to Korea to speak to the players in the Hokuto Cup, but arrives a day early, so there is no translator there for him. He tries to interview Ko Yong Ha, but a poor translation of his words causes a misunderstanding that carries through the Hokuto Cup and the series. I really didn’t like how or more why this misunderstanding was perpetuated. Ko Yong Ha was an arrogant jerk to not only keep the misunderstanding from being straightened up, but then throws gas on the fire. I hated the whole plot point and Ko Young Ha. This made the end so much harder for me to accept. He didn’t deserve Hikaru’s true feelings, and really just needed a good whop upside the head for being so full of himself.
The series also ends rather abruptly. It really doesn’t feel like the story was meant to end there. In the volumes building up to, and even during the Hokuto Cup, there was a lot being made about Japan not remember their Go history, only focusing on the present, and how that is a weakness for them. It really felt like this show plot line should have been taken somewhere. Instead, it feels like it got cut off prematurely with the end of the series. I really would have liked to have seem more about Japanese players rediscovering their past as they continue into the future.
Despite these complaints, I still really enjoyed these volumes of Hikaru no Go. I loved seeing how much Hikaru has grown, not just emotionally, but physically. By the time of the Hokuto Cup, he is standing tall and looking confident. The whole series only covers three years, basically Hikaru and Akira’s time in middle school. In that short amount of time, he’s come to look like a serious pro, and not the goofy kid the started out the series as. Losing Sai had the most profound effect on Hikaru. While Akira always had a serious air about him, his rivalry with Hikaru gave him the focus he needed, and gained the both of them lifelong friends.
Hikaru no Go is one of those rare shonen titles that makes the battles about brains and not brawn, and shows rivals can also be friends. I think this is one of the title’s strengths. Hotta created some great characters, and developed them with such depth, while Obata’s art struck the perfect balance between realism and comedy. Hikaru no Go is one of the best titles you will ever read. It is a must for any manga collection. Do no pass this one up.