I had been putting off watching this show, but then friends on Twitter started tweeting about it. The tweets caught my attention and got me pretty intrigued. The reviews were astounding, and I wondered why. One answer lies in this adaptation’s magnificent production values, which achieves high standards for the upcoming Chinese Bromance. Plus the fact that this is a Chinese live-action adaptation of the Japanese Manga series ‘Hikaru no Go.’ If you thought that “The Untamed” and “Winter Begonia” were legendary, add this one to that list.
—Edited by TheFNGee
“Hikaru No Go” spins a tale based on the centuries-old abstract strategy board game “Go” while giving irrefutable life lessons. I fell in love with the show’s premise right from the pilot episode. Normally I watch Chinese Bromance dramas to wind my way through the “disputable romance” and try to overemphasize the Bromance elements. It didn’t happen here. Each character and their storyline is so encompassing that the Bromance takes a backseat. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist; we have two strong male leads who have an unusual yet enviable relationship. On par with their romantic connotations, this show draws attention to the game of Go and the larger than life experiences that it offers.
Before we move any further, let’s get acquainted with the game first and foremost. Go is considered to be the world’s oldest yet most complex board game that is still played today. It is an adversarial game where the objective is to surround a larger total area of the board with one’s stones than your opponent. The goal is to amass territory to score points while protecting your stones from being captured by the enemy player. This game seems to be more prevalent in China and South Korea. Although I’m not well versed with this game, I’m intrigued and hoping that someday I will play it.
Shi Guang, played by Hu Xian Xu, is a rambunctious kid with a careless attitude about life and studies. He has no respect or inclination to play the ancient game of Go. One day while searching his Grandfather’s attic, he unknowingly awakens a centuries-old spirit, Chu Ying. Thus begins his journey of self-discovery and life long friendship.
Hao Fu Shen plays the character of Yu Liang. He is Shi Guang’s adversary as well as his potential love interest. He is a child genius, and his father, Yu Xiao Yang, is the present-day Go Champion of the World. His only ambition in life is to overcome the competitor (Chu Ying) who is always one step ahead of him.
The handsome Juck Zhang portrays the ghost spirit Chu Ying. He was a Go Champion during the Southern Liang Dynasty and committed suicide after he was accused of cheating. His only ambition is to figure out “The Divine Move.” He seeks Shi Guang’s help to accomplish that, and both end up becoming an indelible part of each other’s lives.
Hikaru No Go is the story of a mischievous 6th grader Shi Guang. One day, while searching his Grandfather’s attic for prized possessions, he stumbles across an old Go Board. He unknowingly awakens the spirit of Chu Ying, a Go player who has been entrenched in the board as a “soul” and has a centuries-old yearning. Chu Ying’s only pursuit is to play a game of Go with the current Go Champion and figure out the “Divine Move.” Shi Guang uses this desire as a way to exploit Chu Ying to do his homework. However, one night, a sudden argument sparks conflict, and Chu Ying disappears. Years later, the grown-up Shi Guang calls for Chu Ying’s help when he is caught in an unfortunate situation. Chu Ying reappears and thus begins their journey to find the “Divine Move” and rediscover their life’s ideologies. On this path, new friendships are forged, and Shi Guang learns the importance of Go and its teachings.
My Opinion About These Episodes
When this show started it’s run on the IQIYI web portal, I admit that I was in two minds. I’m not a huge fan of dramas of the sports-based genre. Add to the fact that Go is an unknown entity because we don’t play this sport in my homeland. So my curiosity was less, and I wouldn’t have watched this show if I hadn’t read some tweets by mutual friends commenting on the chemistry between the main leads.
We are taken on a journey where Go is portrayed as a divine sport with a formidable reputation. I understand that each game comes with its own set of rules and regulations. So what makes Go different? The players’ mindset – because the game has to be played with complete honesty, and the players must be dignified. You cannot be a Go Player if you resort to cheating, and the levels of respect that this game demand is astounding. I was left bewildered and maybe even a little entranced.
Watching this show is the first time I appreciated the child actors playing the main leads’ younger versions. The storyline wouldn’t be this riveting if the child actors failed to set the performance bar high enough. Here we have Shi Guang as the mischievous next door kid. He is your usual 6th grader who likes to play and hates studying. When Shi Guang unknowingly awakens the Go game spirit, Chu Ying, they strike an odd deal where Chu Ying does Guang’s homework, and Guang plays Go games with the Go enthusiast’s on Ying’s behalf. In one such instance, they meet Yu Liang, who is the complete opposite of Shi Guang. He is a dedicated Go Player, and none of the Seniors in the Go Club have ever won against him. In short, Yu Liang is a legend – no one except for his own father, Yu Xiao Lang, stands a chance to win against him
The tables are turned when Shi Guang plays against Yu Liang. Of course, it is the spirit Chu Ying directing Shi Guang’s moves, and Yu Liang fails miserably. I love their dynamics. While Shi Guang has this haughty attitude about life, Yu Liang is disciplined and dedicated. The child actors playing their respective roles steal the thunder and set the stage for future entanglements. I couldn’t help but fall in love with both of them. The way they express their character’s strengths and flaws are praiseworthy. Another interesting facet is Chu Ying’s friendship with Shi Guang. It’s beautiful, and even though they are from different timelines, Shi Guang grows to love and appreciate Chu Ying’s existence. So when an unlikely argument triggers a fight, and Chu Ying disappears, both Shi Guang and the audiences are left heartbroken.
After a brief interlude, we are introduced to the grown-up versions of our main leads. While Yu Liang leaves for Korea to train himself (I can’t believe that his kid actually went abroad to study more about the game. He is virtually obsessed with defeating Chu Ying.) Shi Guang is, as usual, squandering his time. Shi Guang gets stuck in an unfortunate situation and calls for help. The soft-hearted spirit Chu Ying responds, and years later, they are back together. I appreciate the behavioral changes in Shi Guang. While the younger version was rude and arrogant, the older version appreciates Chu Ying and strives hard to achieve Ying’s goal of finding the “Divine Move.” Thus begins their journey where they are thrown into difficult situations. Chu Ying’s centuries-old pursuit becomes Shi Guang’s life ambition as he morphs from an unruly kid to a disciplined Go Player.
Chemistry Between The Main Leads
Yu Liang and Shi Guang
The transition is heartwarming, and both of our main leads have rather interesting dynamics. The stage is set for their relationship from the first time they play a game of Go. For Yu Liang, Shi Guang is an enigma. He has never met someone who could play a defensive game against him and win. So Shi Guang might very well be a “God of Go.” After a rather humiliating defeat, Yu Liang leaves for Korea to train more. That he is obsessed with defeating Shi Guang might very well be an understatement. Both these characters are strong yet flawed. Shi Guang doesn’t understand the game plan nor has the inclination to play, while for Yu Liang, the Game of Go is all-consuming.
My favorite scene is their first meeting years later. Yu Liang has been consistently searching out Shi Guang to play another round again. I couldn’t hold my laughter because Chinese dramas are so obsessed with floating blossoms or snowfalls for their main leads, “romantic interludes” indeed. When our fierce couple meets again (the scene is hilarious because Shi Guang has been avoiding Yu Liang like he is the plague), cherry blossoms are floating in the background as Yu Liang questions Shi Guang’s avoidance. The situation should be romantic but turns dramatic instead.
Despite being separated, Yu Liang is still practically obsessed with defeating Shi Guang (poor kid doesn’t know that he was actually playing against Chu Ying, who directs Shi Guang’s moves on the board). Thus begins the chase where Shi Guang does everything to avoid playing Yu Liang while trying to fulfill Chu Ying’s wishes. It’s rather unbelievable because someday they would end up together, and that’s what happens. Yu Liang joins his school’s Go Club, goes through rampant bullying by his classmates, and even fights with his coach so that he can play just one round of the game with Shi Guang. At this point, you start wondering if it is only about the game or the feelings go deeper.
However, their first major confrontation strips the blindfolds from Yu Liang’s eyes. Shi Guang decides to play with Yu Liang without Chu Ying’s assistance, and the end result is disastrous. He is obviously no match for Yu Liang’s prowess and fails miserably. Yu Liang should be happy about his win, but instead, he is left bereft and disappointed. For ages, he has had this indestructible image of Shi Guang in his mind. However, at the instant he defeats Shi Guang, that image shatters, and he is left brokenhearted. The tables are turned, and this time around, Shi Guang is the one begging for a second chance.
I just love this different approach because, unlike most dramas where the main protagonists become each other’s strong support, Hikaru No Go is taking a new path. Yu Liang and Shi Guang are at first adversaries, but somehow they trigger each other’s positive aspects. Yu Liang consistently improves his form so that he can win against Shi Guang’s defensive play. On the other hand, Shi Guang, who never took Go seriously, starts to train just to have this one chance of playing an honest game with Yu Liang.
Oddly enough, Yu Liang might never accept, but he cares too much about Shi Guang. The affections become more apparent when despite their disagreements, Yu Liang rushes to rescue Shi Guang when our adorable idiot gets lost in the mountains during a camping trip. The best part of their interactions is, however, watching Chu Ying ship the two kids together. I wonder whether homosexuality was prevalent in the Southern Liang dynasty because Chu Ying’s favorite pastime is trying to flame their romance.
Chu Ying and Shi Guang
Chu Ying and Shi Guang aren’t romantically inclined, but their relationship is a special mention. Their friendship is adorable, and they strive to make each other better. While Chu Ying might seem whiny and childish at times, he has centuries’ worth of experience. Something that makes him a Legend. However, unfortunate for him in his spirit form, he can’t lift the stones or play the Go game himself. Although their relationship starts as a deal, it quickly morphs first into friendship and later into a Teacher-Disciple paradigm. Frankly, Chu Ying is the most easy-going teacher ever. Despite Shi Guang’s various misgivings, Chu Ying is persistent and never gives up on Shi Guang. Their relationship stems from mutual respect, and I adore this friendship.
Even their daily mundane interactions leave you with centuries-spanning life lessons. The fact that they belong to two different eras and yet are still in sync with each other’s thoughts is astounding. While the younger version of Shi Guang was portrayed as self-centered, the older version is written as maturing in a better direction. Shi Guang is a character with major flaws, but that’s what makes him humane. His interactions with Chu Ying are from the heart. You learn to treasure their sweet friendship and wish that they stay together forever.
Do We Recommend This
I wasn’t expecting much when I started with the pilot episode, but this show just swept me off my feet. It has the kind of energy that leaves you enthralled and wanting more. Each episode is tied into a new aspect, which leads you to stunning revelations. What I love about this show is that even the supporting cast feature excellent performances. Like Wu Di (Shi Guang’s best friend) struggles to choose between his career prospects or the Game of Go; Shi Guang’s Go teammate Gu Yu’s self-destructive nature and how Shi Guang helps him reform his ways, Shen Yi Lang’s (Shi Guang’s Camp Instructor) inspiring love for the Game or the poignant relationship between 9 Dan Top Player Fang Xu (Yu Liang’s Senior) and Bai Chuan (Shi Guang’s Coach).
Each story is vibrant and complete in itself. Watch this show for its brilliant cinematography and stunning visuals, as well as the storyline that leaves you surprised, stunned, or shocked.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]