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Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁) is an anime and manga series about Hikaru Shindo, an (initially) eleven-year-old Japanese schoolboy, who accidentally releases the ghost of Fujiwara no Sai, a Heian-era Go master who killed himself, and whose spirit was trapped in a bloodstained Go board. Once released, Sai's spirit posesses Hikaru, because he is desperate to play Go again, seeking to achieve the Divine Hand, the perfect decisive move. Initially, Hikaru plays for Sai, instructed by their mental link, simply to get him to shut up.
A chance game with a kid his age has unexpected consequences for Hikaru and Sai. Turns out that the kid is no piddling Go novice, but Akira Touya, son of the world's top Go master. Shocked that a beginner could beat him, Akira makes it his life mission to figure out who exactly Hikaru is. Things really begin picking up when Hikaru realizes that he might actually want to play too, and begins tapping into his own potential. Just how far can he rise in the world of Go? And can he ever catch up with his eternal rival Akira?
Emphatically does not suffer from the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, in that the identities of the two "strongest" Go players in the world are made pretty clear very early on. Whilst Hikaru meets and plays progressively better opponents as the series goes on, we know that none of them would be a match for the best players of all.
Has the flavor of a Widget Series, in that only the Japanese could take a board-game more complex than chess on a mental and strategic level, and make it work as a young boys' action series. One doesn't even need to know how to play the game to enjoy the series, only an appreciation for strong characters and a compelling rise-to-the-top plot. Playing the game won't hurt, though (go play the game!)
Compare Shion no Ou, which has a similar premise, only with the game of shogi instead.
- Anime Hair: Hikaru's a borderline case, with his two-tone hair.
- Sai's hair is more Anime-Hair-like. It's purple.
- Anticlimax: The end of the preliminaries for the pro exams. Hikaru needs to win three matches to pass. He had lost twice and won twice. Everything depends on this last match... Then Hikaru wins by default. This allows even more tension in the pro exams themselves.
- Berserk Button:
- Don't suggest to Akira that you play Go for money, as Hikaru learnt the hard way.
- If you suggest to Hikaru that Shusaku's style is obsolete, he'll be out for blood.
- Blindfolded Vision: Akira and Go.
- Cavalier Competitor: Subverted by Hikaru.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Kurata 6-dan, an adult professional Go player from the same generation as Ogata, was mentioned a few times as passing references during the course of the series (with his rank improving as the series progresses) before finally making an appearance two-thirds through the series.
- Club Stub: At first, Tsutsui is the only member of the Go club, and they are usually desperate for more.
- Combat Commentator: Several characters fill this role. Totally Truth in Television too, since live game-commentry is a common feature of high-level Go.
- Coming of Age Story
- Contrived Coincidence: Hikaru challenging Akira for a game on the internet just a few seconds before Akira was about to challenge him.
- Cooking Duel: It is Truth in Television that Go is Serious Business, but Sai also plays Go to make a dishonest dealer remove the fraudulent Shusaku signature and in a side story, prevents another rogue from selling fake antique vases.
- Cool Old Guy: Kuwabara-sensei.
- Cut Short: That's how the manga ends. Other Ending Tropes may apply, too.
- Determinator: Practically anyone who wants to become a professional Go player has to be one, since it's very difficult.
- Dramatic Irony: Ochi, after weeks of receiving Akira's training for weeks, thinks to himself, while playing against Hikaru:
Touya is standing behind me. Is there anyone standing behind you, Shindou?
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Sai. Sometimes Akira, too, whenever Takeshi Obata felt like it or something.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: Sai. Consistently dominated the manga's periodic character popularity polls.
- Isumi-san actually beat Sai in one poll.
- Every Episode Ending: The ending theme start to fade in during the last scene.
- Everybody Smokes: Almost all the adults do.
- Four (Six) Temperament Ensemble: While not exactly a group, all the important characters that were introduced at the beginning of the series fit this. Hikaru (Sanguine), Kaga (Choleric), Akira (Melancholic), Akari (Phlegmatic), Tsutsui (Supine) and Sai (Phlegmatic II).
- Gaming and Sports Anime And Manga
- Gender Blender Name: Both Hikaru and Akira.
- Gratuitous English: It never ends!
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Subverted. The series looks as if it was set up to demonstrate the meteoric rise of Hikaru as a talented Go player. However, despite his immense talents with a thousand year old spirit of a Go genius as a teacher, he is never shown to be capable of dominating his rival Akira, who is just as talented as him if not even more, but had started playing much earlier than him.
- He's Back: Hikaru experiences a two-month retirement about two thirds of the way through the series. This is caused by Sai disappearing. He becomes afraid that by playing Go himself, he has caused Sai to disappear. He also suffers a crisis of confidence, and believes that his rival Touya will never want to play against him, preferring instead the now-vanished Sai. This fear prevents him from playing Go for two months, with no explanation given to anyone else. A game with Isumi, however, finally makes him realise that his connection with Sai still exists in his Go, and that he can legitimately continue to play. Upon his return, he is back with a vengeance.
- Hustling the Mark: The owner of a Go salon hires Dake-san to do this to Mitani, after the customers get tired of him cheating.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Anyone ranked below their actual strength.
- Dake-san, quite literally (though inverted, he is left-handed and usually plays with his right). He actually switches to his dominant hand, showing that he's had more practice then he previously let on. He also starts playing seriously at this time.
- To a lesser extent, Hikaru's two month hiatus leads to him missing Oteai, leaving his official rank lagging behind his actual one.
- Sai put a 15-point handicap on himself in the Beginner's Dan Series game against Touya Meijin at Hikaru's request. He couldn't win under such a large disadvantage but the Meijin did recognize his strength.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All episodes are numbered as "Games"
- Japanese School Club: Hikaru and Akira are members of their respective school's Go clubs.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mitani. He's arrogant and a shameless cheater, but Hikaru only accepts him in his school's Go club because they need three members (and even he didn't want to join at first). Later when Hikaru has to leave the Go club, Mitani protested furiously and even threatened to quit, although he is shown to be secretly wishing him all the best.
- Lonely Piano Piece: Sayonara, Hikaru.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Sai, with an Obi-Wan Moment.
- Merchandise-Driven: Inverted. Rather than inventing their own marketable game, or licensing a copyrighted game, the creators brought an ancient board game roaring into popularity.
- Mirror Match: Okumura attempts to stalemate Akira by mimicking every move he makes, starting by taking away the spot in the center board. Akira wins anyway by tricking him into a position where he manages to capture, breaking the guy's strategy. (Which is later revealed to be low-grade and easily countered.)
- Multicolored Hair: Hikaru and Ochi.
- No Indoor Voice: Tsubaki at the pro exams.
- No Koreans in Japan: Averted. Yun-Sensei, the teacher in charge of the Kaio Middle School Go club, is originally from Korea. Hikaru also stumbles into a Korean-run Go shop and irritates everyone there when he shows his complete ignorance of anything Go-related, especially when it comes to Korea.
- No Sense of Humor: Touya Akira and Touya Meijin.
- Passing the Torch: Sai eventually did this to Hikaru.
- Power Level: Truth in Television, as real Go players are ranked in playing-strength.
- Promoted to Opening Titles: Isumi, Fuku, Waya, Ochi, and Nase after Hikaru becomes an Insei.
- Recap Episode
- Public Domain Artifact: Go itself, see above.
- Retired Badass: Touya Meijin
- The Rival: Hikaru and Akira to each other. The series' epithet for them is even "Eternal Rivals". Other strong Go players' attitude go more along the line of Worthy Opponent.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Ogata. To a lesser extent, Ochi and Kishimoto.
- Serious Business: Most of the characters take Go very seriously, but that is pretty much Truth in Television.
- Shown Their Work: Every important match played in the series is based on a famous Real Life game. The writer of the manga consulted the Nihon Ki-In (Japanese Go Association) throughout, with ranked professional player Umezawa Yukari 梅沢由香里 credited as a consultant to the manga and anime.
- Smart People Play Go: Lampshaded by Akari saying that stupid people usually can't learn how to play Go.
- Smug Snakes: Itō, Kojima, and Okumura, the three students who dislike Akira's presence in the Kaio Middle School Go club, and try to humiliate him into quitting the club by making him play "blind go". It dosen't work out exactly as planned.
- Spin-Off: The live-action instructional series "Go Go Igo!", presented by Umezawa Yukari, shown after episodes of the anime.
- Spirit Advisor
- Spirited Competitor: Most Go players. Sai stands out because he remains in the world after his death one thousand years just to play more Go.
- Strategy Schmategy: Okumura's playing style is unpredictable, because he's so awful at Go. It actually manages to trip up Akira when he's playing blind.
- Student and Master Team
- Theme Naming: The names Hikaru, Akira and Akari are all related to light. For more on this, see this essay: .
- There Are No Therapists: Hikaru spends two months suffering from severe depression after Sai disappears. None of the adults in his life do anything about this.
- Fridge Brilliance: When you think about it, none of the adults in Hikaru's life were in a position to notice he was depressed, because they have no clue what's going on in Hikaru's head. Hikaru has a responsible adult living inside of his head (even if he had his dashes of Adult Child at times), so there was no need for him to ever talk to actual adults about anything important. But no one knows about Sai, so the adults around Hikaru probably thought he simply became more introverted, and started taking care of himself. Hikaru's become so used to having Sai following his every move that he doesn't know how to express himself to adults well.
- The Thing That Goes Doink: Shown a number of times, most prominently in the Touya residence.
- Tournament Arc: The pro exams, and later the Hokuto Cup.
- Translation Convention: Names of modern characters are placed in Western order in everyday speech but remain in Japanese order when referring to them as competitive Go players (as does Sai's throughout).
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Poor Akari. She follows Hikaru around but he doesn't appreciate her at all. She obviously likes him way more than he likes her.
- Unrelated Effects: When someone is demonstrating exceptional skill in the game, their fingertips glow as they place down the stone.
- Untranslated Title: But it isn't too hard to guess what it means.
- Victim Blaming: When Akira first joins his school's Go Club, several jealous students try to figure out a way to humiliate and beat him in a 'fair' game. When they're caught, both the girl who discovers the bullying and the club president tell Akira it's his fault because his talent naturally inspires jealousy.
- Wham! Episode: When Sai disappears.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome? - Every game of Go is played like a typical sports game, with speed lines, dramatic angles, and important moves glow.
- White and Grey Morality: While some characters are jerks, no one is evil. Sometimes it's even White and White Morality, when two sympathetic characters have to play against each other (and something high is at stake).
- lit. North Star
- as in 'nobody has to know how we cheated'