missitar and harumi and I have been discussing the ups and downs of blind_go. I will put my rambling about challenge format and ideal challenge lengths behind the cut to spare the rest of you.
I have really mixed feelings about blind_go. On the one hand, yeah, I feel like it's good for the community to get all revved up about it, and it's always fun, and there are always enjoyable fics to come out of it.
on the other hand, Blind Go's only been active for nine months, and in that nine months it feels like the ENTIRE FANDOM has ground to a halt and simply stopped producing fics because everyone is sitting around waiting for the next round of blind go. Which honestly has not produced that many fics that I've enjoyed to begin with, I think because the parameters tend toward the generation of a kind of, oh, intelligentsia fic that is really, really not my personal kind of Hikago fic flavor. Hikago fandom seemed to produce a LOT more fics on average in a month this time a year ago than it does right now, and i don't think that's really healthy. Fandom shouldn't revolve around one community, especially one that only happens three times a year.
I think the fact that there are always so many challenge themes and such make it easy to take it extremely seriously - that and it's really the first major community challenge that's ever occurred in the fandom. And it just hasn't put out enough memorable quality fics (my opinion again of course) that I've enjoyed to make it worth that amount of reverence. If anything, I feel like it would work best integrated into any number of fandom fic challenges and so forth.
which brings me to the idea of creating a Big Bang-like comm for Hikago. Positives: it would require people to actually deal with the end of the manga, which, as dorrie6 just posted about, leaves much to be dealt with. Plus, it would get people writing again, and not just waiting around for Blind Go number 4.
I actually think doing a Big Bang-type thing for Akira/Hikaru would be a *great* idea, because there is so much to work with based on the direct end of the series (manga canon) that fandom hasn't yet explored). Now that i've had the idea, i'm seriously thinking about it.
However, a novella-length challenge it would require people to work on one fic for at least 6 months, and that might just make fandom stall *even further*. I think if anything Hikago fandom needs to focus more on being spontaneous. I feel like sometimes we kind of lumber along without really going anywhere, haha. And as much time as fandom has had, I still feel like none of us (self included) have ever really delved deeply into the mythical aspects and the ongoing character development concerns the manga leaves us with.
Which brings me to the end of the manga. Which I am now going to talk about excessively, in response to Dorrie's post.
Dorrie basically felt (probably because I always build the end of the manga up so much) that the end was a let-down. She felt that it moved away from the focal point of the series up to then, which had been Akira and Hikaru's intense rivalry.
Personally, I don't think that the Akira/Hikaru is diminished in any way by the final arc. In fact, for me the pivotal Akira/Hikaru scene is actually the final scene in the manga.
I'm not objective about this, at all.
Hikaru no Go, the entire show, is epitomized in the moment when Touya just looks at Hikaru and says "This isn't the end - there is no end."
That line, oh my god. That line gets to me so intensely. That line is the summation of the entire series. And it has to be Touya who says that to Hikaru in that moment.
It has to be Touya because Touya is the only other person who understands that eternal walk that they are on together. He is the only one who can and will pull Hikaru forward after losing Sai.
I also think that moment shows how clearly Akira can see Hikaru's Go, too - not just Sai's. He not only trusts Hikaru to tell him about Sai when the time is right - and he doesn't need to know about Sai, which is something we only see in that final arc when Akira thinks about asking Hikaru why he's so upset about the Shuusaku insult, and then chooses not to - it shows that Akira is letting go of his obsession with Sai and focusing on his and Shindou's mutual growth.
Akira not only sees Sai's Go in Hikaru's, but he also sees the eternal chase in Hikaru's Go. He can see it in Hikaru's go even in that very devastating moment, and he knows that is what Hikaru's after. He doesn't offer him consoling words or pity, he just offers him the one thing he knows he needs, which is perspective. And that line just snaps the entire arc and the entire series into place. It just breaks my heart every time.
Something that new readers of the manga (Dorrie and Dorrie's husband, but anyone else too) may or may not have realized, but which I want to talk about anyway, is the significance of May 5th.
- May 5 (Boy's Day) is the day that Sai disappeared.
- The Hokuto Tournament in the manga takes place exactly one year to the day after Sai disappeared. In other words, that tournament is ALL about Sai, completely immersed in symbolism that gives the outcome of that tournament a tremendous, weighty significance even beyond Yong-ha's insult.
"Just as I existed for Hikaru.... Hikaru will exist for someone else.... and that person will exist for someone else...."
I believe Hikaru exists for Touya, and that Touya exists for him, and that the two of them, the combination of their Go, will reach such a level that they will, in essence, become the next Shuusaku - they will move the game of Go to a level where the strength of one player fades beside the ability of two players of such strength coming together again and again to develop a game strategy that builds off every preceding match they share. And in doing so, they will have existed to inspire and move generations of Go players hereafter.
Throughout the manga we have all these subtle throwbacks to Hikaru claiming that he is going to use the Go board to build a new universe. That metaphor of universality is a constant throughout the story. There's this constant move to expand - to grow as a player, but also to expand the game of go and the far-reaching impact of players across the generations, so it really does become this eternal cycle. So structurally, it makes sense to physically expand the scope of the manga in the last arc from Just Hikaru and Akira to The Rest of The Go Universe.
This idea of building the universe is implicit in the last lines of the series: Go is, explicitly, a metaphor for "why we are alive." We are *all* here to provide continuity, to link the past, present, and future. Which is why the final line is: "Can you hear my voice?" - Sai's voice, speaking to the audience from
The Go God's HaremThe Astral Plane.
The manga has to end without ending. That is pivotal to me. The whole point of the story.
If you just read the final arc as "there's this other tournament and Hikaru loses" you're just like, what, why would I want to read that or, after you've read it, wtf, what was the point of that?
But, if you understand the power and the significance of that match, and experience everything that came before it with the fight over Shuusaku, and if you realize the significance of the game occurring on May 5, and then - and then - after all that, you experience Hikaru's loss (oh god) -
Then that moment when Touya says to him, "let's go, Shindou. This isn't the end. It never ends," just snaps everything into place.
sanalith pointed the cyclical nature of the loss out on my Hikago Top 5 Meme (which I think is maybe one of my favorite lj posts of all time), so I'm going to quote her:
I love, love LOVE the fact that Hikaru loses that last match in the manga. At first I was like, what? How can he not pull a win out like always? And knowing is was a loss so tiny (like half a moku or something, right? It's been a while...) I just couldn't believe it. But then I remembered how Hikaru lost his first pro match against Akira, and that just brought it full circle for me. It doesn't matter who wins and loses - it never will. Go for Akira and Hikaru won't *ever* be about winning. It will always be about the journey, and that journey never ends.
I'll go back even further and say that Hikaru losing on May 5, as he played in Sai's name, brings us back full circle to Akira losing that first match against Sai. Because Akira and Hikaru are completely together on this path, that penultimate page of the manga says more about their equality, their ability to build their Go universe together, than any of the earlier moments where they were trying to get their shit together and be rivals already.
Touya's response to Hikaru when he loses is no longer disappointment or frustration or impatience. He says two things: "Let's go, Shindou;"
and, "this isn't the end; it never ends."
A) We are in this together; your loss is my loss, just as my loss is your loss -
B) - and there will be other losses. It never ends.
At some point in the waiting game before Hikaru's pinnacle match with Touya, he says "Let's play, Touya; we can't start until we play." The reason the final arc leaves off in medias res is because it *is* just the start - they both realize that.
If the series had stuck to showing us just the development of Hikaru and Akira's rivalry, then it would have been satisfying, but it would have been narrow. With the entire mythology of Hikago pointing towards eternality and expansion, we had to see them operating together in a larger plane, one that moves them beyond the scope of their own limited rivalry and allows them to finally *start* together.
So what we see in that last arc is Hikaru and Touya becoming more than rivals - we see them becoming partners, aware of their roles in the long march toward the Hand of God. "Go is a game for two" isn't just about competitive challenge, but about the need for partners to pull you along in that journey.
Ultimately, the final arc shows us Hikaru moving beyond his dependence on Sai (GOD MY BABY), and understanding clearly what his role as a player is, for the first time: "to bridge the far past with the far future."
It's not just Hikaru who struggles with his role in the eternal saga - that struggle defines Sai's conflict throughout the story. He doesn't understand what his role *is* until the very end: "Just as I existed for Hikaru, so Hikaru will exist for somebody else."
And that somebody else, the manga makes clear, is Touya. The role of bridging the past with the far future is one that Hikaru shares with Akira. It's a role that is larger, much larger, than both of them, but a role they are both committed to, both in love with each other
's goenough *to* commit to.
Which is why Akira was the only one to discover the truth about Sai in Hikaru, why Akira played Sai more than anyone else, why it was Akira's loss to Sai that galvanized him into demanding more from himself *and* Shindou.
What we see in the final arc of the HnG manga doesn't devote as much physical time to Hikaru and Akira - but it doesn't *need* to (and not just because when they are together in that arc they're married, married, MARRIED AND SQUABBLING ABOUT DIRECTIONS AND GROCERIES ♥).
When Hikaru marches out of Touya's salon and declares he won't stand before him until he can face him as a member of the team four months later, that's not a diminishment of their rivalry, but an enhancement - because they no longer have any insecurity about what they are to each other; it's being so secure of your partner that you can pursue your own path knowing that they'll still be there to join you when you've found your way.
That's why the half-moku loss on May 5th is as fully connected to Akira as it is to Hikaru, and Akira knows that instinctively. He knows automatically that Hikaru being upset over the Shuusaku insult is connected with Sai, and when he chooses not to ask Hikaru about the mystery behind Sai, he is putting his faith in *their* Go, as it exists right now.
Because it's enough for him. And by the end of Shindou's match against Ko Yong-ha, Shindou will know that it's enough for him as well. Not because it's perfect, but because it *has* to be enough.
It's not a triumphant ending, but it's the *perfect* one, because the divine move, whatever it is, is not a finishing move. If anything, it might just be the opening. The goal of the entire series is for Akira and Hikaru to start, not to end.
It never ends.
eta: kindofspark has a beautiful response post to this. It made me cry. Everything about Hikago makes me cry. It's such a beautiful, beautiful show.