So I was kind of skeptical when most of this volume turns out to be about Isumi, who was a minor character until now. Isumi was one of Hikaru's fellow Insei, but he failed the pro test, and decided to go to China to study go there for a while. Now that Fujiwara no Sai has disappeared and Hikaru has quit playing go, Hotta apparently decided to focus on another character for a bit. Although I had never cared much about Isumi before, he turns into just as engaging a character as Hikaru, and being older, he's a lot more mature.
In China, he finds that the level of play is much higher than in Japan, and while trying to build up his confidence and his skills, he gets p0wned by not one, but two bratty little 11-year-olds. He recovers, however, with some encouragement from other Chinese players, and returns to Japan ready to kick some weiqi ass.
This brings us back to Hikaru, who has been moping around, not playing go for months, forfeiting all his pro games, and making everyone wonder WTF is up with him. Even his mother finally notices. (Hikaru no Go
has some of the most useless parents ever, even for a childrens' series.) All of his middle school friends are still playing go, but he's being too angsty even to reconnect with them. Man, this kid needs to be slapped.
Basically, he's gotten it into his head that if he plays go again on his own, Sai won't come back. Which makes no sense -- the last
thing Sai would want is for Hikaru to quit playing go. But there's a teenager for you.
Speaking of which, it's nice to see that the characters are actually aging in this series. When the series started, Hikaru was 11, and now he's 15, or nearly so, and he's being drawn appropriately older.
Now, when is he finally going to notice Akari? I mean, c'mon, I don't care how brooding or go-obsessed you are, a 15-year-old boy is a 15-year-old boy.
Anyway, this volume was a bit of an uptick in the series from the rather mediocre last couple of volumes. It ends with Isumi returning to Japan, visiting Hikaru, and asking him to play one last game with him to clean the slate after his final game against Hikaru during the pro test. Hopefully the next volume will begin with Hikaru pulling his head out of his arse and playing some go.