75 episodes. I watched the Japanese version. I have heard some of the English dub and can say -- watch the Japanese version. The Japanese cast is fantastic - the English language version not so much.
STORY - Very compelling right from the start. Having read the reaction of many others who have immersed themselves in Hikaru no Go, I must warn you not to get involved in this until you have 25 hours solid to watch this show, because you will not be able to stop yourself from pressing through to the end, and then you will probably want more. I have read this story variously described as (1) a sports story, (2) a coming-of-age story, and (3) a story of passion. Also an exposition about the world of Go, showing author Yumi Hotta's earnest advocacy to keep the game alive. This is definitely a story for people of all ages. The story at first draws you in with humor to make the characters charming. Then introduces you to the intense conflict that arises and compels the story forward - between Hikaru Shindo and Akira Touya. The themes in this story are so universal, so common and generic, yet so tenderly and humanely dealt with, so exquisitely exploited, and ultimately so touching. This story had me sobbing on more than one occasion, laughing and cheering on other occasions, and pumping my fists in excitement in other occasions. Personally, like so many, I loved the dynamic between Akira Toya and Hikaru Shindo. Who doesn't dream of having that one other person in the world who sees how special you are and knows how you feel and accepts you?
ANIMATION - Well, the animation is what I'd call clean and simple. Visuals were subtle but used to nice emotional effect (I'm thinking particularly of the visuals in the moments following an emotional dream, but also setting scenery and mood). So many people comment on the maturation of the characters as they age through puberty that it seems trite to mention it now. What's more to the credit of the visual team is the facial expressiveness - it's so important to making this story shine. Watch the expressions on the faces - the slightest subtle distictions are made and really bring you into the moment! Also there were several shining moments where the sound and visual teams work together to slip out of mundane reality into a heightened emotional or internal place.
SOUND - Well, as I've said, the voice acting is fantastic, from the Japanese end anyway. The theme songs were a little frivolous and boppy for my taste initially, but it did have a certain quality that made it suitable for the story and had me cheering for the story in its chords. The incidental music was appropriate, too, sometimes too loud and dramatic in the games, but that is one aspect of this story - Go is DYNAMIC and EXCITING, with blowing winds and athletic plays :-) and the music behind the games supports this aspect. All in all, the music, while sometimes being unremarkable all by itself, was perfect to support this story and edited to evocative perfection.
CHARACTERS - How many characters didn't I fall in love with? From the main characters to the secondary characters - even the characters you love to hate - the characters are FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. Personally, for me, Akira Touya is the most thrilling and fascinating character I can draw to mind out of all my old favorites at the moment. Hikaru Shindo is also very appealing in a more sporty way. Sai is very well fleshed out and completely lovable. All Hikaru's little Go friends, especially his Insei friends Waya and Isumi, bring something completely charming of themselves to the story.
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