Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁, lit. "Hikaru's Go") is a manga series, a coming of age story based on the board game Go written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata with an anime adaptation. The production of the series' Go games was supervised by Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan). The manga is largely responsible for popularizing Go amongst the youth of Japan since its debut, and in other areas such as China, South Korea, and Taiwan. More recently it has gained much popularity in the United States. The title is sometimes abbreviated 'HnG'.
First released in Japan in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1998, Hikaru no Go achieved tremendous success, spawning a popular Go fad of almost unprecedented proportions; it received the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000 and creators received Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 for the series. Twenty-three volumes of manga were published in Japan, comprising 189 chapters plus 11 "omake" (extra chapters). The anime series, which was created by Studio Pierrot, ran for 75 half-hour episodes from 2001 to 2003 on TV Tokyo, along with the 77-minute extra New Year's Special that aired in January 2004.
In January 2004, the manga series debuted in the United States in the English language periodical Shonen Jump published by VIZ, now VIZ Media. In 2005 it was announced that VIZ Media also has the license to the anime. Hikaru no Go Volume 1 DVD was released on December 27, 2005. A Hikaru no Go "Sneak Preview" DVD (first episode) was released in the January 2006 issue of Shonen Jump (Volume 4, Issue 1) to subscribers. Hikaru no Go airs on ImaginAsian TV in the United States. It premiered on the online streaming service Toonami Jetstream on July 14, 2006. In the April 2008 issue of Shonen Jump, it was revealed that this was the last chapter to be published in the Shonen Jump magazine. As of May 2010, 19 volumes of the graphic novel have been released in the US.
The same basic storyline is followed by the manga and anime, with a few small changes between the versions. While exploring his grandfather's shed, Hikaru stumbles across a Go board haunted by the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, a fictional Go player from the Heian era. Sai wishes to play Go again, having not been able to since the late Edo period, when his ghost appeared to Honinbō Shūsaku, an actual Go player of that period. Sai's greatest desire is to attain the Kami-no-Itte (神の一手) – "Divine Move", or the "Hand of God" – a perfect game. Because Hikaru is apparently the only person who can perceive him, Sai inhabits a part of Hikaru's mind as a separate personality, coexisting, although not always comfortably, with the child.
Urged by Sai, Hikaru begins playing Go despite an initial lack of interest in the game. He begins by mimicking the moves Sai dictates to him, but Sai tells him to try to understand each move. In a Go salon, Hikaru defeats Akira Toya twice, a boy his age who plays Go at professional level, by following Sai's instruction. Akira subsequently begins a quest to discover the source of Hikaru's strength, an obsession which will come to dominate his life.
Hikaru becomes intrigued by the great dedication of Akira and Sai to the game and decides to start playing solely on his own. He is a complete novice at first, but has some unique abilities to his advantage; for instance, once he has a basic understanding of Go, he can reconstruct a game play by play from memory. Through training at Go clubs, study groups, and practice games with Sai, he manages to become an insei and later a pro, meeting various dedicated Go players of different ages and styles along the way. While Hikaru is at this point not yet up to the level of Akira, he demonstrates a natural talent for the game and remains determined to prove his own abilities to Akira, Sai, and himself.