Hikaru No Go by by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata (amazon) 4 stars

I’ve heard good things about Hikaru no Go and I’ve read a couple random chapters in Shonen Jump, but I recently sat down with the first and second volumes and found it very entertaining. The plot of the manga combines spirit possession and the typical “try hard and succeed” storyline of many sports manga.

Hikaru is a normal 6th grader who is scavenging for items to sell for pocket money. He finds an old go board in his grandfather’s attic, and is promptly possessed by the spirit of Fujiwara no Sai, a go master from the Heian period.

Sai wants to play go to fulfill his last mission on earth, but Hikaru finds it terribly boring. As Hikaru is exposed to the game, he begins to enjoy it, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be content to be Sai’s puppet in go games for very long. Hikaru and Sai begin to explore the world of Go by taking classes at a community center and visiting a go salon. Sai learns how the game has developed in the modern era. Hikaru’s irreverence sometimes gets him into trouble as he encounters the traditions of Go. Hikaru and Sai beat a boy named Akira who is being groomed by his father to become a professional go player, and an intense rivalry develops between the boys, more on Akira’s side than Hikaru’s, since Hikaru seems to be blissfully unaware of the reactions his spirit-derived go skills provoke in others.

This is an all ages title that has wide appeal, the art is very expressive and Takeshi Obata (also the artist on the new title Death Note) makes the act of sitting down in front of a Go board seem filled with tension and emotion. This is the type of title that librarians and teachers would naturally love – the manga serves as an introduction to a challenging game of logic, and it is so easy to think of activities that could compliment the manga. If you have a manga club at your library or school, you could read the book and play the game. I think the Hikaru no Go anime is going to be released on DVD in the US starting in December.