“Hikaru No Go” Series Review (Ep.1 to 36)

Adapted from the manga of the same name by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata, “Hikaru no Go” is an endearing yet heartwarming tale of true friendship that spans across eons, transcending time and space.

There are very few dramas that will leave your soul entranced and spellbound. This show draws indisputable life lessons from the abstract strategy board game “Go”. It might seem similar to a chessboard, but the complexities driving this game are invariably different. Most Chinese Bromances are majorly reckoned by censorship issues, so IQIYI has definitely achieved the “Impossible”. While main lead Shi Guang’s irrefutable romance with frenemy Yu Liang is desirable; his friendship with ghost spirit Chu Ying is equally enviable.

The first half of the show focuses on developing the relationship between the various characters, while the second half transversely portrays their difficult journey while training to become a Professional Go Player. The drama became well-known for depicting the intricacies of this ancient game, while interspersing it with varied life experiences. Unlike most Chinese Bromances, which focus on the life and travesties of the main leads; Hikaru No Go strikes a delicate balance between Shi Guang and his unique relationships with each and every supporting character. There is not a single soul that he hasn’t touched and made a difference to. Without further ado, let’s take a walk down the memory lane; as we reminisce my favorite moments!

Characters

☆ Shi Guang

Portrayed by Hu Xian Xu, Shi Guang is a carefree kid who is unconcerned about studies or life in general. One day, he unknowingly awakens the spirit of a centuries old Go player, Chu Ying; who becomes his lifelong friend and mentor.

☆ Yu Liang

Yu Liang, played by Hao Fu Shen is a child prodigy and Shi Guang’s potential love interest. His Father, Yu Xiao Yang is the current Go Champion and as such everyone has high expectations from Yu Liang.

☆ Chu Ying

Portrayed by the immensely talented Juck Zhang, Chu Ying is a legendary Go Champion born during the Southern Liang dynasty, who committed suicide. His greatest desire was figure out the “Divine Move” and as such, he seeks Shi Guang’s help for the same.

The storyline focuses on our main lead, Shi Guang’s diffident journey. He is a mischievous sixth grader, with an entirely carefree attitude of life. While rampaging through his Grandfather’s attic; he awakens Chu Ying, a centuries old Go Champion. His soul has been entrapped in the Go board, as he yearns to find the “Divine Move”. Shi Guang blackmails him into doing his homework in exchange for providing his help. One night, they have an arguement and Chu Ying disappears. Years later, they reconcile when Shi Guang is stuck in an unwanted situation and calls for help. As Shi Guang begins the difficult journey of self-discovery, Chu Ying becomes his guiding spirit. On this path, Shi Guang meets new accomplices, forges strong bonds of friendship and love, while understanding the importance of the game of Go.

Shi Guang’s Character Graph and His Relationship With Chu Ying

Shi Guang is a rambunctious and happy-go-lucky kid; a stark contrast to both Chu Ying and Yu Liang, who have led a disciplined life, dedicated to the game of Go. So, when he unknowingly awakens a mysterious ghost spirit, Shi Guang’s first inclination is to strike a deal with him. Chu Ying is unable to lift the stones and as such, Shi Guang becomes his proxy player. It is this, where they both meet and defeat Yu Liang. We must really appreciate the child actors playing the younger versions, because they are true to their characters. Alongside, Shi Guang and Chu Ying’s friendship blossoms. So, when Chu Ying disappears after an argument, Shi Guang is left heartbroken.

Years later, Chu Ying reappears when Shi Guang calls for his help and they reconcile. Shi Guang learns to appreciate and value Chu Ying’s existence and as such, begins their journey of self discovery. While Shi Guang trains to be a Professional Player, Chu Ying becomes his Mentor and unspoken best friend. They change each other in ways unknown, Shi Guang grows more mature and dedicated; while he teaches Chu Ying to loosen up and enjoy the simple things in life. As Shi Guang starts from the bottom of the stack and slowly progresses towards the top, his behavioral patterns undergo a massive change. Despite all that, he is still always humble and friendly. He learns to take all kinds of criticism with a pinch of salt and strives hard to achieve Chu Ying’s lifelong ambition.

Their friendship is so endearing, that it will definitely strike a chord with the audiences. But good things come to an end and as such, Chu Ying disappears during a Supernova Explosion (his spirit appeared in this timeline, during a similar explosion that happened eight years ago). Both Hu Xian Xu and Juck Zhang’s acting talents are praiseworthy, because their expressions are so earnest; you can’t help but feel their pain of separation. With Chu Ying’s disappearance, Shi Guang suffers from denial and has rampant outbursts of anger. You understand how deep their connection was and feel remorseful. Obviously, it doesn’t take long for Shi Guang to realises that Chu Ying won’t wish for him to be in despair. As such, he returns to the Professional circuit with a renewed enthusiasm to relive Chu Ying’s dreams forever.

Chu Ying is an Enigma

Chu Ying is charismatic as well as adorable. True to his word, there are very few who can actually win against him in a game of Go. A formidable player, born during the Southern Liang Dynasty; Chu Ying won accolades and was a respected figure during his times. But fame often breeds scorn and as such, Chu Ying gets framed by his rival. Unable to stand the absconding, Chu Ying commits suicide and his spirit gets entrapped in a Go board; because of his unhinged desire to achieve the “Divine Move”. Centuries later, when he awakens the world has moved on; but fortunately the game of Go still persists. Chu Ying is majorly portrayed as a dignified Go player, hellbent on following the rules. His attitude is straightforward and honest; yet he is gentle, kind-hearted and caring. He does seem whiny and persistent at times, but that’s mostly his experience speaking. He is also immensely patient because teaching Shi Guang is a herculean task.

Despite their significant age difference, Chu Ying is always in sync with Shi Guang and perseveres to teach him the right way. Their friendship is tethered on mutual respect and understanding; even their daily conversations will leave you with profound life lessons. Chu Ying’s existential crisis does bear down on their budding friendship, but to the last, they are each other’s biggest support. Juck Zhang has breathed life into this character and made him relatable; his earnest expressions betray Chu Ying’s sadness, yearning as well as his sudden bursts of happiness. The two scenes which deserve special mention are related to Chu Ying’s disappearance. When he comes to the sudden realization that Shi Guang has inevitably deduced the “Divine Move”; his spiritual form starts flickering. While counting his last days, he hides his pain and desperation from Shi Guang, while they enjoy a few moments of solace. The scene where Chu Ying breaks down and finally accepts that Shi Guang has become more important to him than the “Divine Move” is surreal and devastating. The end comes too soon but not without heartwarming memories for both of them.

Not “Br”Romances, But Love Tapestries

☆ Shi Guang and Yu Liang

One of the most underrated romances in the Chinese BL universe, Shi Guang and Yu Liang are complete opposites. Yet, their contrast personalities drew them to each other and binds them together. Their first meeting is legendary, because the precarious kid next door Shi Guang manages to win against the legendary child wizard, Yu Liang. A feat which should be nearly impossible; Yu Liang becomes obsessed and winning against Shi Guang becomes his lifetime ambition (without realizing that it was Chu Ying directing the moves). When they meet again; the romantic interlude is played out with soulful music and cherry blossoms. This relationship is projected as an unhindered romance. Their cat and mouse games continue, until Shi Guang’s decides to play without Chu Ying’s interference and Yu Liang deduces the truth.

Yu Liang’s disappointment leads Shi Guang to strive harder. While achieving the Divine Move remains at the forefront, it becomes imperative for Shi Guang to earn Yu Liang’s respect. Their love language includes veiled barbs and insults, that’s their way of encouraging each other. While their relationship goes various ups and downs; Yu Liang continously challenges Shi Guang to improve his form. They might be at odds, but Yu Liang never allows any of their adversaries to belittle Shi Guang. When Shi Guang gives up on the game (after Chu Ying’s disappearance), Yu Liang becomes his sounding board. These two are so much interspersed in each other’s lives, that even Yu Liang’s Father notices the effect Shi Guang has on his son. While Yu Liang is majorly portrayed as reserved and passive, Shi Guang is the only person he truly cares about. The show is littered with their romantic moments and its truly a blessing. Both Hu Xian Xu and Hao Fu Shen have an interesting dynamics off-screen which translates to excellent chemistry onscreen!

“If you can’t find a man who looks at you the way Yu Liang does, then you had better stay alone”

☆ Fang Xu and Bai Chuan

Director Liu Chang decided that he is going to give the audiences, an unabashed “Gay” version and so he did. Shi Guang and Yu Liang’s mandatory parental units, both Fang Xu (Han Mu Bo) and Bai Chaun (Fang Wen Qiang) play important roles in developing our main couple’s career goals. Being Yu Xiao Yang’s First Disciple, Fang Xu treats Yu Liang like his younger brother. Bai Chuan on the other hand is Shi Guang’s first Go teacher. Fang Xu and Bai Chaun have an interesting history and equally unwavering chemistry. Bai Chaun is undeniably Fang Xu’s comfort zone; someone he trusts implicitly and bonds well. While Fang Xu’s impertinence is a major drawback, Bai Chaun offers sound advice and support. They do bicker like an old married couple, which is far too amusing. But in the end, Fang Xu always gives in and listens to Bai Chaun.

☆ Ban Heng and Zhu Da Yong

These two are another peculiar pairing. Ban Heng (Chen Xi Xu) and Zhu Da Yong (Zhao Hu) are teachers at the academy where Shi Guang is training to be a Professional Player. The entire institute is terrified of Zhu Da Yong, but Ban Heng is the only one who can keep him in check. From controlling his drinking habits to helping him train the students, Ban Heng renders his invaluable advice. They are so in sync with each other that they effortlessly defeat Shi Guang and Yu Liang. This couple redefines healthy relationship goals and their hilarious banter is just heartwarming.

Beautiful Portraits of Friendships

Shi Guang has an unique ability to befriend almost everyone, even his enemies. Starting from the school bully He Jia Jia (Fu Wei Lun) to the vagabond genius Gu Yu (Ji Li), Shi Guang forms tight bonds with most of the people he meets. He wins their trust and hearts while making them an invariable part of his journey. While the show majorly focuses on his relationship with Chu Ying; his enviable bonding with Hong He (Zhao Hao Hong) and Shen Yi Lang (Sun Can) deserve special mention. Both of them render support in their own ways; specifically Hong He who even gives up on the chance to train under Go Master Ling Li. Throughout the second half, Hong He supports Shi Guang unconditionally. Shen Yi Lang might seem weak, but his gentle nature and maturity are admirable. This drama certainly had one of the strongest depictions of friendships in modern Chinese Bromances!

Final Impressions

If you are a huge fan of Chinese Bromances, then this show should be high on your watchlist. The cinematography is brilliant and leaves you spellbound. The production team have left no stone unturned to make this drama unimaginably mature as well as magical. While you draw inspiration from Chu Ying’s pursuit; Yu Liang’s persistence and Shi Guang perserevance are awe-inspiring. The storytelling is fantastic and there isn’t a single moment of boredom. Each character has a substantial storyline which is beautifully led to completion. Sports based dramas aren’t exactly my forte, but Hikaru No Go has managed to surprise me with its intriguing storytelling and brilliant casting!

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s