HIKARU NO GO, vol. 22 by Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
Shonen Jump, 2011, 190 pages, 978-1-4215-2827-4, Paperback, $9.99
As we near the end of this series, the tension really starts picking up. The competitors for the Hokuto Cup finally meet, and every instance of interaction is just another opportunity to size up the opponent. China’s players don’t quite know what to make of Akira Toya, as his friendly manner belies the ferocity of his playing style, while both China and Korea completely disregard Hikaru and Yashiro as concerns.
Hikaru, on the other hand, has eyes for only one opponent. He still believes that Ko Yong Ha has publicly belittled Shusaku–a belief only furthered by Ko Yong’s Ha’s assertion that Shusaku would not be able to beat him were the Go legend still alive. This deliberate provocation only further fuels Hikaru’s determination to defeat the Korean player. His main obstacle, however, lies in his position as second while Ko Yong Ha is playing as first for Korea. Hikaru’s only option is to somehow convince Kurata to let him take the first seat.
Overall, I found this volume very exciting. From the first page, Hikaru comes face to face with both Suyong and Ko Yong Ha. I enjoy seeing the fluctuations in Hikaru’s personality–not unlike those in Akira’s–from friendly and seemingly ditzy at times to completely focused. Suyong, on the other hand, starts out intense–interested only in his ability to play Hikaru once again–then becoming flustered as Hikaru explains why he has a problem with the Korean first. This leads to a scene between Suyong and Ko Yong Ha that was unexpected and, though obviously not meant to delve too deeply into their characters, does allow the reader to see them from another angle.
But what I found most worthy of hand-wringing is just how close Hikaru comes to revealing his past with Sai. As if it wasn’t enough that Akira almost asked him about his personal stake in Ko Yong Ha’s slight against Shusaku (and, oh, I wanted him to ask, just to see if Hikaru would tell him), he then comes so, so close to explaining everything to Ko Yong Ha himself. What I can’t help but wonder is what everyone will think of his explanation should he actually go through with it. I’m sure I’m not the only reader dying to know the answer to that question. Of course, I’m mostly concerned with Akira’s reaction since they’ve been competing against one another since the beginning. But in general, it’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to be taken seriously, and I wonder if Yumi Hotta is actually going to go there. Needless to say, I’m ready for volume twenty-three.
A note about the artwork, which I’m sorry to have never pointed out before–I’m always stunned by how well Takeshi Obata can indicate the tension and seriousness in these scenes. Facial expressions, body posture, and action-in-progress all combine to make me really grip the edges of the book or to spend several seconds pausing over a particularly well done frame. I’ve always enjoyed looking at this manga just for aesthetic reasons–and don’t even get me started on how amazing Obata is for his ability to age the characters gradually. I love this man’s art. In fact, he’s the only reason I’ve been hanging onto the first four volumes of Death Note. . . .