by Yumi Gotta
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
One day Hikaru, a teenage boy, finds a Go (game popular mostly among older Japanese people, a la backgammon or canasta) game board and the spirit of an old Go master takes up residence in his brain. By obeying the Go master, Hikaru is able to play people much better than him, which leaves them confused. He enters a youth Go tournament and gets a lot of attention, but does not really understand what the game means to those who have gotten good the old-fashioned way – through practice. There are some really funny parts when he is trying to shut out the Go master’s voice from his head and just get through his day.
Personal Evaluation: To me, the idea of reading manga was like most people’s idea of eating their vegetables: you should at least try it once, it’s good for you (in that it makes you a more well-rounded children’s librarian). Even the head of the children’s dept. at work did not deter me when I asked her for a manga recommendation and she said, “I don’t recommend you read any if you can help it!” I just picked one randomly off the shelf and when I took a closer look later I saw that it was a Shonen Jump one, it was all the better as I see those go out all the time. I’m still not sure what that means but I think it’s the name of the Japanese publisher. But anyway, I actually found the story fairly easy to follow (especially after my Asterix experience – see previous entry). The only confusion was some of the Japanese terms and social constructs. I was fine with the story not explaining the game at all, but every once in a while there would be a page of instruction that I found did not make any sense. Other than that, it was a quick and surprisingly enjoyable read. The game part kind of reminded me of Louis Sachar’s recent book, The Cardturner.
What might interest children: The story is fun and easy to read. I think kids really like the style of animation. I asked our teen librarian and her impression is that kids really respond to the “otherness” of the Japanese culture and the manga drawings, and the fact that really random things happen – in fact, the more random, the better. She thinks the storylines are also appealing to kids.