is a popular Japanese manga and anime coming of age story based on the board game Go written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The production of the series' Go games was supervised by Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan). The manga is largely responsible for popularizing Go among the youth of Japan since its debut, and in other areas such as mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea. More recently it has gained much popularity in the United States. The title is sometimes abbreviated 'HnG'.
First released in Japan in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1998, Hikaru no Go achieved tremendous success, spawning a popular Go fad of almost unprecedented proportions; it received the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000 and creators received Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 for the series. Twenty-three volumes of manga were published in Japan, comprising 189 chapters plus 11 "omake" (extra chapters). The anime series, which was created by Studio Pierrot, ran for 75 half hour episodes from 2001 to 2003 on TV Tokyo, along with the 77-minute extra New Year's Special that aired in January 2004.
In January 2004, the manga series debuted in the United States in the English language periodical Shonen Jump published by VIZ, now VIZ Media. In 2005 it was announced that VIZ Media also has the license to the anime. Hikaru no Go Volume 1 DVD was released on December 27 2005. A Hikaru no Go "Sneak Preview" DVD (first episode) was released in the January 2006 issue of Shonen Jump (Volume 4, Issue 1) to subscribers. Hikaru no Go airs on ImaginAsian TV in the United States. It premiered on the online streaming service Toonami Jetstream on July 14, 2006. In the April 2008 issue of Shonen Jump, it was revealed that this was the last chapter to be published in the Shonen Jump magazine. However, the series was not dropped, it is just going to be finished out in Shonen Jump graphic novels. Shonen Jump has mentioned that since Hikaru no Go will not be featured in the magazine anymore, the manga volumes will be arriving faster in bookstores.
The same basic storyline is followed by the manga and anime, with a few small changes between the versions. While exploring his grandfather's shed, Hikaru stumbles across a Go board haunted by the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, a fictional Go player from the Heian
era. Sai wishes to play Go again, having not been able to since the late Edo period
, when he possessed the body of Hon'inbō Shūsaku
, an actual Go player of that period. Sai's greatest desire is to attain the Kami-no-Itte (神の一手)
– "Divine Move", or the "Hand of God" – a perfect game. Because Hikaru is apparently the only person who can perceive him, Sai inhabits a part of Hikaru's mind as a separate personality, coexisting, although not always comfortably, with the child.
Urged by Sai, Hikaru begins playing Go despite a lack of interest in the game. He begins by mimicking the moves Sai dictates to him, but Sai tells him to try to understand each move. In a Go salon, Hikaru defeats Akira Toya, a boy his age who plays Go at professional level, by following Sai's instruction. Akira subsequently begins a quest to discover the source of Hikaru's strength, an obsession which will come to dominate his life.
Hikaru becomes intrigued by the great dedication of Akira and Sai to the game and decides to start playing solely on his own. He is a complete novice at first, but has some unique abilities to his advantage; for instance, once he has a basic understanding of Go, he can reconstruct a game play by play from memory. Through training at Go clubs, study groups, and practice games with Sai, he manages to become an insei and later a pro, meeting various dedicated Go players of different ages and styles along the way. While Hikaru is at this point not yet up to the level of Akira, he demonstrates a natural talent for the game and remains determined to prove his own abilities to Akira, Sai, and himself.
Although the anime generally followed the manga's plotline, faithful readers of the manga were disappointed that the last arc was not aired. Where the anime ended, the manga continued with Hikaru planning to enter the Hokuto Cup, a tournament for under-18 Go pros. As the highest-ranking under-18 pro, Akira qualifies for the tournament but Hikaru has to play a series of games to become one of the three Japanese competitors. His friends Waya and Ochi also enter the qualifying matches. He meets Kiyoharu Yashiro, a player from the Kansai (Western Institute), whose style is as strange and offbeat as his own.
Hikaru, along with Akira and Kiyoharu Yashiro, are selected to represent Japan, while Hong Su-Yeong (a Korean Go player who was beaten by Hikaru earlier in the series) and two others represent Korea and three of Shinichiro Isumi's Chinese friends represent their country.
The captain of the Korean Go team, Ko Yeong-ha (sometimes incorrectly spelled Yongha), is interviewed and his remarks translated for Japanese viewers. The translator makes an error which causes it to appear that he is disparaging the skill of Honinbo Shusaku, who, like Hikaru, was possessed by Sai. Although Yongha later finds out, he refuses to correct the error and instead emphasizes it when he realizes that it enrages Hikaru, who takes it as a direct affront to Sai. This leads to Hikaru eventually challenging the captain, and he loses by only half a moku (point). Japan eventually comes in last, behind Korea (1st) and China (2nd).
At the end of the game, Yeong-ha asks Hikaru for his reason in playing Go. With tears in his eyes, he answers with the line "To link the far past, with the far future".
In the end of the story, it shows two inseis who are ranked 14th and 16th the group 1 were discussing whether Akira Toya or Hikaru Shindo were stronger. In the Young Lions tournament, they are each paired with Hikaru and Akira, making them change their mind about who is stronger. In the second round Hikaru and Akira are paired against each other. That is where the manga ended.
Effect on the popularity of Go
Hikaru no Go
dramatically increased the popularity of Go in Japan and elsewhere, particularly among young children.
Go professional Yukari Umezawa
served as the technical advisor for the manga and promoted it on behalf of the Nihon Ki-in
. She had a short 5 minute special at the end of every episode instructing kids how to play Go. One of the reasons that she helped make Go so popular was because she was called "best looking Go professional". The manga also spread Go throughout the United States. As a result, many high school and middle school Go clubs were started by students influenced by the manga.
The plot of the manga "Hikaru no Go" revolves around the Japanese Go world. Several of the manga's prominent characters hold Go titles. The title holder is then called by a combination of their name and the title they hold. In the case of a multiple title holder the most prestigious title they hold is used. The 7 major titles mentioned in the manga are Kisei
, and Gosei
Hikaru no Go
is published in English in the United States Shonen Jump
magazine, and in individual graphic novels
. The anime is now being shown in English on ImaginAsian TV
to USA residents and on streaming video one episode at a time on Toonami Jetstream
, although there have been no announcements that it will be shown on their television block on Cartoon Network
The manga is unedited in the Shonen Jump version and the manga chapters that can be read on the Shonen Jump website. Unlike the earlier Shonen Jump versions, instances of cigarettes are removed from the Hikaru no Go graphic novels so that they can be labelled as appropriate for everyone. For instance, the cigarette that Tetsuo Kaga puts on a Go board is changed to a wad of chewing gum in the graphic novel. Other changes include removal of clothing designs (e.g. vol. 5) and actual trademarks.
The cigarette habits were edited in 2005 Shonen Jump editions along with the graphic novels, though not all were caught before translation. In Volume 2, Sai communicates his outrage about Tetsuo's "dirty cigarette" (graphic novel vol. 2, p. 9), and in another edition Sai says "He put his gum out on the board!" and in another panel Tetsuo is shown in the background smoking. As of September 2006, references to cigarettes and smoking are prevalent in the version seen in Shonen Jump.
Similar changes were made when it was adapted as an anime, inside Japan.
Names are in Western order (first name before surname) except for Fujiwara no Sai's.
- - Protagonist who is assisted by Sai. At the beginning of the series, Hikaru is a sixth grader in elementary school. An important factor in the development of Hikaru's passion for Go was an encounter early on where Hikaru becomes the rival of Akira Toya. At first, he thinks that Go is just for oldsters and he is annoyed at Sai's demand to play, but little by little his passion for Go increases as he plays more and more. From being a member of a school Go club to being an insei and finally becoming a professional Go player (at 14 years old) a year after Akira, Hikaru matures throughout the course of the series. Throughout the series, Hikaru gradually gets taller because the manga volumes are around when he is getting older and playing Go at the same time. Hikaru is often portrayed wearing clothing having the numeral "5". This is a pun on the Japanese common name for five: go. His birthday is September 20th. Part of his strength is his ability to read far into the game very fast, and to make seemingly stupid moves. These moves in fact lure the opponent to playing what looks like the obviously correct move, which Hikaru then uses against them.
- - A spirit from the Heian era of Japan and mentor of Hikaru Shindo. Sai continually plays Go in attempt to one day play the divine move (also known as the Hand of God or Kami No Itte). In the manga and anime, Sai had possessed the real-life figure Hon'inbo Shusaku and through his body, became a renowned Go player. Sai holds a rivalry towards Koyo Toya (a.k.a. Toya Meijin) and through Hikaru persuades Toya to have a game with him. His wish is realized when Toya accepts the challenge and plays a game through the Internet. After a legendary match that ends up with Sai's triumph, Hikaru discovers another move which would have turned the game around. Witnessing the maturity of Hikaru, Sai finds out that his one-thousand-year time in the world is going to finish and can't fulfill the wish of obtaining the divine move. A few days after the game with Toya Meijin, Sai suddenly disappears, neither terminating his last match with Hikaru nor saying goodbye to him. Sai leaves Hikaru forever, leaving Hikaru depressed and wanting to quit go. Hikaru then realizes that he will continue to play go for Sai since Sai influnenced him to play go. Extremely effeminate by today's standards (as is appropriate for a high-born Heian man), Sai is often drawn with traditionally feminine features and mannerisms. Yumi Hotta has joked about fans mistakenly calling him a "she" in the "intermission" pages of the manga. Sai's extremely emotional behavior is also proper for a Heian male; he sometimes cries copiously in chibi style (usually in an episode introduction), soaking his long sleeves with tears, which in his own time would be respected as a sign of intelligence and sensitivity. His name Fujiwara indicates that he is related to a noble family of extremely high prestige in the Heian period, the Fujiwara clan.
- - Hikaru's childhood friend. She begins to learn Go as well when Hikaru becomes interested and later joins the Haze Middle School Go club, serving as vice captain of the girls' team, despite her being a weak player. She also seems to have feelings for Hikaru, as noted by her two friends in the carnival, though the two remain friends throughout the course of the series. Her birthday is May 17th.
- - Hikaru's biggest rival and Kaio Middle School student. The son of Koyo Toya, Akira is already a very strong go player when Hikaru first begins playing and is amazed by Hikaru's seemingly impossible strength. Since his first game with Hikaru, Akira has been obsessed with discovering the secret behind Hikaru's strength. Akira has faced Hikaru again and won, but still can still see a lot of strength in Hikaru. As the series go by, they still play each other, but it always ends in an argument. Akira also get taller throughout the series. His birthday is December 14th.
- - A player at the Go Club at Haze Middle School who overcomes his cheating habit. He is angry at Hikaru for choosing to be an Insei than stay at the school Go club which they had a tournament around the corner. Yuki and Hikaru are no longer seen as friends. Yuki still remains in the Go club, but at first he didn't want to stay. His birthday is October 15th.
- - President of Haze Middle School's Shogi club. Kaga hates Go and prefers Shogi better because his father forbade Shogi and forced him to play Go from an extremely early age, and he could never please the old man no matter how well he did, because he always loses to Akira. He also says he hates Go because Akira is better than he is, while keeping a completely detached attitude towards the game. He still plays Go from time to time to keep his skills limber. He along with Kimihiro has graduated from Haze Middle School. Tetsuo smokes cigarettes, which were kept in the earlier U.S. Shonen Jump versions of Hikaru no Go, but were removed from the U.S. graphic novels and the later (as of 2005) Shonen Jump versions. His birthday is January 8th.
- - Captain of the Haze Middle School Go Club who relies on a strategy book but has excellent Yose (end game) skills. Kimihiro is the founder of Haze Middle School's Go club. Kimihiro has graduated from Haze Middle School along with Kaga, which makes his dream of seeing his go club at Haze Middle School a failure. His birthday is April 23rd.
- - Akira Toya's father. His real name is ; Meijin is one of the titles he earned. He rivals Sai. Later he retires from playing go because Sai beats him. He has an interest in Hikaru and requested to play him in the Beginner Dan series after Hikaru becomes a pro.
- - Hikaru's "big brother" insei. Like Kaga, he has a dislike for Akira Toya because he can never defeat him and because of Akira's detached attitude towards the game. He has once faced Sai in Internet Go as Zelda for his nickname. He becomes a pro (at age 15) in the same year as Hikaru. He is also known to be very reckless and short-tempered, even punching former insei Mashiba in the face because the latter rattled Isumi. Waya's birthday is August 12th. He took the pro exam 4 times before being able to pass.
- - Another insei friendly with Hikaru, he appears to be doing very well in the first pro exam shown in the manga, going undefeated, until his match with Hikaru. During that match, rumors about Hikaru's incredible strength add to the pressure of time constraints, and as a result, he misplaces a stone; his attempt to move the stone after letting go of it ends up with his resignation before Hikaru can accuse him of cheating. As a result, he is defeated in his next two games and loses his chance to become a pro. He later learns to control his emotions and passes the next year's pro exam without a single loss by going to China and training himself there. Isumi also unknowingly helps Hikaru get over his loss of Sai when their practice game makes Hikaru realize that by playing, he can find Sai within his moves, the Go that Sai passed on to Hikaru. Isumi's birthday is April 18th.
- - Yet another insei in the same group as Hikaru, Akira tutors him so Akira can test Hikaru's strength.Ochi is unnerved by Hikaru because Akira asked him over and over again about Hikaru's current strength at the time. Ochi then passes the pro exam along with Hikaru and Waya with only 2 losses, and is also the youngest of them at only 13 years old. He also dislikes Akira, especially since he lost an opportunity to be acknowledged as Akira's rival when he failed to defeat Hikaru during the pro exam. He comes from a wealthy family, as evidenced by the number of pros that come to his household. His birthday is November 2nd.
- - Kaio Middle School Go club president and former insei who did not become a professional. His birthday is March 5th. He enjoys to drink dark coffee.
- Yun, also known as - Yun is Akira's Middle School teacher who is in charge of the school Go club. He is originally from Korea. He worked as a go instuctor for young children.
- - A 3rd year Kaio Middle School student who stands up for Akira when he gets bullied by three other kids who dislike his presence. She hates bullying of all kinds. Her birthday is February 11th.
- , , and * - three students who dislike Akira Toya's presence in the Kaio Middle School Go club, and bully him by making him play "blind go" (i.e. calling out the moves without looking at the go board). Yuri Hidaka catches them in the act and puts a stop to the bullying.
- - The owner of a Go salon where Hikaru finds Yuki. Shu knows a cheater when he sees one. He hires Dake-san to teach Mitani a lesson about cheating.
- - A person hired by Shu to teach Yuki Mitani not to cheat. He poses as a regular at the Go salon and hides his strength. He bets money on the game, reveals his strength, and wins 10,000 yen (about $90 U.S.) from Yuki. Hikaru and Sai later win the money back. Dake sings romantic songs while playing Go.
- - Hikaru's grandfather, a regional go champion, who owns the board where Hikaru first discovered Sai. After playing an interesting game with Hikaru, he bought Hikaru a go board to practice on his own.
- - The current holder of the Hon'inbo title in Hikaru no Go. Kuwabara is friends with Toya Meijin, but rivals Ogata. He also has an interest in Hikaru and bet on Hikaru in his Beginner Dan series game.
- - Ms. Ichikawa is the cashier of the Go salon where Akira Toya teaches. She feels saddened when Akira frequents the club less often because of his pro schedule, primarily because she is a fan of the go prodigy. She would frequently drive him to different places and play teaching games together.
- , also known as Morishita Sensei or Mr. Morishita - A 9-dan pro who is Waya's go teacher and leader of the study group which Hikaru also frequents on Waya's invitation. He considers Toya Meijin a rival, since the two of them became pros at the same time. Morishita also mentors Michio Shirakawa (7-dan), the community Go leader.
- , nicknamed - An insei and classmate of Waya who is known for his extremely fast-paced style of play. Hikaru lost one game to him during the pro exam.
- / Yuki's Older Sister - A girl who works at an internet cafe and lets Hikaru go on the computers for free during her shifts. Helps Hikaru with his English. The name used to describe Yuki's sister is different in the English version since Yuki Mitani is usually called by his given name, "Yuki", in the English versions. In the Japanese versions Yuki is referred to by his family name, "Mitani" - therefore his sister is called "Mitani's sister" in the Japanese versions. She lets Hikaru use the internet for free in a local internet cafe, because Hikaru was a friend of her brother Yuki.
- - A Korean Go professional, about the same age as Hikaru. Hikaru beats Su-Young in an incredible match while he was still an insei and Su-Young was still a Kenkyuusei (the Korean equivalent of an insei.) The game they played encouraged Su-Young to work harder to become a pro. Su-Young became famous after beating a 9-dan in Korea. He later was the third representative for Korea in the Hokuto Cup.
- - A Go professional who sees Hikaru's talent when he explains a go move that would baffle professional Go players. He is also a student of Koyo Toya and soon takes the Judan and Gosei titles when Koyo Toya retires. His birthday is January 17th. He is obsessed with fishes and smokes often.
The manga has sold more than 22,000,000 copies in Japan.
Media and release information
Japanese version (Seiyū)