Hikaru no Go 7 by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata: A

From the back cover:
Hikaru is horrified to find that he’s losing all of his games at the insei school! The Young Lions Tournament is just three months away, and the insei who qualify will play against rookie pros, including Akira. Hikaru sees his chance to impress his rival, but can he turn his losing streak around in time?

It’s hard to articulate why I love this series so much, but I really do. The plot is not a new one in shounen manga, but the characters are so endearing, and the art so great, that it still feels fresh. Hikaru is your typical boy, thoughtless at times, but still with the occasional sweet moment when he is determined to do something good for Sai. And, of course, Sai could not be prettier and/or cuter. I particularly like when all that’s in his thought bubble is a little heart.

It’s also pretty unique how far we’ve progressed so far. A little over a year has passed since Hikaru started playing, several months are covered in this volume alone, and I think the story is somewhere over the halfway point of the anime series. With 16 volumes after this one, it makes me think there’s tons of story that wasn’t animated, and since I have remained unspoiled on it, it’s quite a lovely prospect.

In this volume, I liked that Sai is able to diagnose why Hikaru keeps losing, and actually do a bit of instructing that nudges Hikaru’s skill level up some. Plus, the stylized representations of their games as parrying swordplay was a pretty cool way of illustration his progression. The other insei are more interesting than his former clubmates back at his junior high, because they’re better skilled and less worshipful of his abilities, and with this volume, he’s just getting into playing against a couple of characters that I quite like.

Everyone needs to read a bit of shounen tournament-style manga every once in a while, to experience its awesome addictive power. Hikaru no Go would be an excellent choice.

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