Magical Mondays: Ghosts in Geek Culture

Ghosts are a common feature in many speculative fiction stories, from Harry Potter to Supernatural to Saga and a million things in between. They can be scary, or silly, or solemn, but they tend to have one thing in common: ghosts cling to the mortal plane because of some sort of unfinished business in our realm. Because of this, ghosts are often used in one of two ways in storytelling: either as a horror trope, to pop up and say boo and scare you, or as a way to teach the living characters something about themselves—namely, how to avoid the circumstances that led them to being a ghost. And while there can be something tragic or terrifying about the horror type of ghost, I think that ghosts are more effective as a storytelling trope when they’re used to teach a lesson.

Speaking of ghosts, can anyone explain why this creepy little fricker was so popular?

Speaking of ghosts, can anyone explain why this creepy little fricker was so popular?

Spoilers for Hikaru no Go below the jump. Continue reading

Nonviolent Battle: Super or Not Very Effective?

Since I’ve been going through everything that is Yu-Gi-Oh! to write more manga posts for you guys, I decided to look at the concept of different kinds of non-traditional battles and whether or not they properly illustrate the conflict and move the plot forward.

Probably the best and one of the most well-known examples of non-traditional combat is “Riddles in the Dark” in The Hobbit. What makes this such an easy example to understand is that they literally go from pointing weapons at one another to throwing riddles. Out of all of the examples I’m using here, this is the one I would consider closest to actual combat. The thing with non-traditional combat is that it still there still needs to be some sort of contest, and here it is a battle of the brains. “Riddles in the Dark” is both entertaining and dramatic, while still moving the plot of the story forward. So it’s a successful example.

battle 2So let’s get on with Yu-Gi-Oh! since you already knew I was going to bring it up. Card games instead of swords. Does it work? I’d say yes. The key thing about Yu-Gi-Oh! is that they aren’t just doing what they do for shits and giggles. There is always another, larger plot arc that motivated the characters to “do battle”. For example, Yugi went to Duelist Kingdom to get his Grandpa’s soul back. The characters still have motivations outside of the game. If you took away the cards, there would still be a story, which I think means it was successful replacement for fighting with weapons.

battle 1Hikaru no Go falls short in exactly that sense. What would happen if no one played Go? Absolutely nothing. There would be no story. And while I adore Hikaru no Go, if you don’t understand the game then you are shit out of luck, at least when reading the manga. I don’t know what the anime is like, but I suppose it’s possible that it did things differently. Granted, Hikaru no Go is more of a slice-of-life story than the extraordinariness that is Yu-Gi-Oh! But when all the conflict is conducted through a game that is never entirely explained, I don’t think that it is an entirely effective device for plot movement. So while we know there is conflict, it comes at the cost of a substantial plot.

There has to be a balance between the conflict itself and the motivation for that conflict—swing too close to conflict itself and you lose your story. I couldn’t think of any examples that didn’t put too much emphasis on story because with story usually comes some sort of conflict. Why would you write a story without a conflict? It’s like a sandwich without stuff between the two pieces of bread; it’s totally pointless. And really sad. So give your stories conflict in any way you see fit. Violent, non-violent, it matters not. Both can be effective. But make sure that whatever you chose doesn’t take away from the story.

Fanfiction Fridays: True Love is Arguing about Go

So today I was going to bring you a fic about the Doctor finding the Master only he’s regenerated into an octopus and Amy and Rory are the most confused… but I don’t have it bookmarked and AO3 seems to be down so I guess I’ll save that for another Friday.

Instead, I bring you a true classic in the world of Hikaru no Go fanfiction: A Whole New Apocalypse by Aja. Aja is what fandom calls a BNF—for most of the 2000s, any fandom she joined was bound to get a dose of awesome writing out of her attention. Her most famous work is also her most infamous—her abandoned WIP Harry/Draco epic Love Under Will cut off on a terrible cliffhanger—but she’s written for many fandoms, and HikaGo is one of her favorites. (Her glowing recommendation on LiveJournal was the whole reason I watched it, in fact, and it remains one of my all-time favorite anime.)

Dat proprietary hand on Touya’s shoulder.

This fic is really tremendous, and I constantly return to it when I desire a dose of the pure and true go-fueled love between Hikaru and Touya. (It does have some sexy scenes, so I guess it’s notthatpure, but go with me.) It begins with Hikaru having a total sexuality crisis because he’s worried that he’s been accidentally leading Touya on despite his being not gay, thank you very much. It features awkward conversations at McDonalds (why do they always eat there between Insei sessions?), Waya as a beleaguered relationship counselor, Touya being awkward and intense and wonderful and looking totally hot even though he’s wearing a horrible pink tie, impassioned arguments over games of go, corny go similes, Ochi being obnoxious, wonderful UST and realizations, and a perfect ending.

Check out A Whole New Apocalypse here!

Manga Mondays: Let’s 5 with Hikaru no Go!

So I was playing go with aperigren on Saturday, and it came to me: I’ve never done a Manga Mondays for Hikaru no Go.  So strap in, everypony, because this is possibly one of my favorite manga ever.

Let the “5 is ‘go’ in Japanese” puns commence immediately.

Quick intro to go: go is a strategy board game invented approximately several millenia ago in China.  It’s so complex that computers have trouble learning it – each game has billions of outcomes.  It takes some getting used to, but it’s really quite fun once you get the hang of it.

So, then, to the plot: In Hikaru no Go, a junior high kid named Hikaru stumbles on an old go board in his grandfather’s attic, and releases the ghost who’s been trapped within the board.

The spirit is one Fujiwara-no-Sai, a go player from Japan’s Heian Era (794-1185) who died a tragic death, cheated out of his dream of playing the perfect game.  Releasing Sai ties him to Hikaru, and from then on they’re together wherever they go.  Hikaru has less than zero interest in go, but he promises to play every once in a while to appease Sai. For their first game, they go to a go salon and Hikaru offers to play against a boy his age.  The boy is professional go player, Touya Akira, and with Sai’s help, Hikaru crushes

Touya easily.  Touya is thrown into mental chaos after being beaten soundly by a kid who doesn’t even know how to hold the stones correctly, and he makes it his goal to figure out why Hikaru is so good and to eventually beat him.  In the meantime, Hikaru becomes drawn in by the game, and starts to seek out other opportunities to play, eventually becoming a strong player in his own right and testing to become a pro himself (part of Hikaru’s motivation is that he wants to beat Touya without Sai’s help, leading to an epic rivalry greater than ALL EPIC RIVALRIES EVER. Like the words ‘eternal rival’ are actually used. Along the way Hikaru makes friends and enemies in the world of go and learns important lessons about life, love, friendship, and loss.

Why it’s so good:

  • The characters are so interesting! I love all of them, even the background ones and the adults and the students whose names I can never remember. ^_^; (But I especially love Touya, look at his dumb purple suit and his existential crises and his ETERNAL RIVALRY with Hikaru and his obsession with Sai and tell me he’s not the bestest. )
  • The story follows the typical shounen tournament-style storyline (where the main character faces off against ever-stronger opponents) but puts a fresh spin on it.
  • Hikaru and Touya’s relationship is best relationship.  One part rivalry, one part obsession, one part mutual respect, one part deep friendship, and one part intense, pure young love: they complete each other.
  • The story takes a game that has the Japanese social stigma equivalent of playing chess, and makes it seem like the most awesome and interesting thing ever. (The anime actually does this even better with the world’s most intense background soundtrack.)
  • The art is done by Death Note artist Obata Takeshi, so it’s beautiful to look at.
  • Unlike a lot of shounen standards, this deals with a number of adult themes, like loss of a loved one, extensively and maturely.

With all that to recommend it, what could possibly be bad about HikaGo? Well, it does suffer from the typical manga problem of having ALL the male characters and fewer females than I have fingers. However, the world of professional go is a male-dominated one.  And anway, the women that are shown are tres awesome.  One of my favorites is the volleyball player who takes Hikaru’s spot on his school go team when he joins the young go players’ institute: she’s great at it, and doesn’t look anything like what manga girls are ‘supposed’ to look like; rather, she’s short and stocky and kickass.

This is really just a tremendous series and I strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Please please please go read it right now.