Once again, the beauty of this series is its ability to maintain a sense of tension and drama over what is basically just an unending series of go games. In volume 11, the author finally
wraps up Hikaru's pro test that has been going on for the last four volumes. (Spoiler: he passes.)
The most dramatic game by far is between Hikaru and Ochi, the young Insei who has already guaranteed his place in the pros, but who has been receiving private tutoring from Akira Toya. The game between Ochi and Hikaru is bristling with hidden significance, as represented by the ghostly Sai sitting behind Hikaru, and Akira's presence behind Ochi. Akira is obsessed with Hikaru, Hikaru wants to become a match for Akira, Ochi is aware that Akira is more interested in Hikaru than him and wants to earn the young pro's respect, and Sai is showing hints of developing a subplot of his own, as he begins to speculate on whether he really will accompany Hikaru throughout his life.
Given that in the author's notes, Hotta admits she doesn't always know where she's going with the story, I wonder how things will develop now that Hikaru is entering pro ranks.
Oh, look, the author remembered that Hikaru a 13-year-old, still has parents. Once every few volumes his mother shows up to titter nervously about how she just doesn't understand this go game her son is so obsessed with. Talk about disappearing parents in children's fiction. I don't think we've seen Hikaru's dad since volume one.
Anyway, this volume was also notable in that it's starting to refer to actual go terms and tactics in slightly
more detail, and I was actually looking at the game between Ochi and Hikaru trying to figure out how Hikaru was going to make life for his black stones. You still don't really need to know how to play go to enjoy this series, but this was the first volume where I think you might miss a bit of nuance if you're not familiar with some basic principles. (And believe me, basic principles is all I know.) I know they have go experts double-check all the go drawings, but not being an expert myself, I wonder how tricky and sophisticated these games really are, or do they just pick some old classic Honin'bo tournament to illustrate?
Anyway, once again one of the better volumes in the series.