This volume was a little slower-paced and had less in the way of go as it relates to the characters and dipped more into tween melodrama, hence not quite as enjoyable as the last one.
Hikaru's growth from apathetic sixth-grader to someone with an ambition to become a serious go player and beat Akira Toya has been developed over several volumes, but it still isn't entirely clear why. (Sometimes it seems like the author is just begging fans to write Akira/Hikaru foe yay
.) So now Hikaru becomes motivated to take the test for Insei, which is a sort of apprentice professional-in-training rank for serious go players in Japan.
This causes much drama in Haze Middle School's go club, which frankly, is kind of silly. The other members are studying for their high school entrance exams, so why do they care so much if Hikaru quits the go club? I guess it's that life-and-death importance attached to silly things and I've grown too old to really remember what it was like.
Also, Akari, Hikaru's little "girlfriend," continues to be a tertiary character waiting to have an actual subplot of her own, but so far all she does is kind of stand around and gaze moon-eyed at Hikaru while still puzzling over basic go concepts that all the boys mastered in a matter of days.
I do rather like the author's little endnotes about how she draws the manga, her worries about pages getting shipped and editorial directions and so on. Sometimes it seems like she's stretching for material, though.
Don't mistake me, I am still enjoying the series, but this volume was more of a 3.5 and seems to be kind of a transitional chapter. There was almost no Sai in it, Akira is only mentioned, the whole subplot about Sai becoming an Internet go phenomenon from last volume was dropped entirely, and we don't find out until next volume whether Hikaru will become an Insei.