Friday, April 20, 2018

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 8 review

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High Score Girl Continue, vol. 8 (SquareEnix, 2017-18), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
Every so often, I will get to wondering when the next volume of a specific manga will come out, and I'll do a name search on to see if something will pop up with a near-future release date. That's what I'd done for High Score Girl just recently, and there were no hints that vol. 8 was planned yet. A few days later, I'm at Junkudo bookstore, and there's number 8 already on the shelves. I wasn't expecting that, and I bought a copy right away.

There's really not so much of a story this time, though. The first part has Haruo facing criticism from his classmates, his mother, and Hina's older sister, Moemi, for his inability to choose between Hina Ohno and Koharu Hitaka for a girlfriend. All Haruo really wants is to play video game against strong opponents, and right now, Hina's the only one that can play at his level, but she's fickle and attacks him when he tries to get close to her, and Koharu is the only one that has expressed strong feelings for him. Later, Haruo is outside, looking for a game center to visit when he's kidnapped and driven to the Ohno estate. Hina's aged chauffeur has decided that Hina deserves a break from her studies, and wants the boy to spend the day with her playing fighting games in 2-player mode. Between the two of them, they easily clear the final stage bosses before going on to the next game. In the end, Haruo apologizes for her having seen him kiss Koharu, and Hina seems somewhat appeased. Haruo is allowed to return home.

But, soon after, Hina stops by Koharu's shop, and sits out in the cold wind in front of a Street Fighter machine as Koharu minds the family's shop. After an hour or two, Koharu's mother returns, allowing Koharu to accompany Hina to a game center. Hina pretty much never speaks for any reason, so Koharu finds herself compelled to talk for the two of them. She professes her attraction towards Haruo, and how she's willing to fight for him. The two girls start out with a strength test game (pulling a handle like you're doing arm curls). Koharu gets 79 kg, while Hina marks in with 176 kg. They sit down in front of the Street Fighter II consoles, and both girls accidentally end up missing selecting Ryu. Instead, Koharu plays Akuma, and Hina takes Zangief. Koharu works herself up into a frenzy by repeating that she is "a demon." In the first round, Hina simply defends, losing on points when the time runs out. Koharu starts out the second round trying to second-guess Hina's strategy, and she gets so wound up that she misses a beat in her attacks, and in that moment Hina gets in a low kick followed by a pile driver for the K.O. Koharu realizes suddenly that this is not a match between Zangief and Akuma, but between herself and Hina. Koharu is still shaken at the start of round 3, and Hina easily destroys her defense for another K.O., winning 2 rounds to 1. Koharu has to accept that Hina is the better player, and has the stronger claim to Haruo.

The rest of the book has Moemi convincing Haruo to try taking a driver's test to get his license. Just about everyone else he talks to thinks this is a bad idea, especially when he keeps trying to use racing games for image training. But, Moemi promises to give him her scooter if he passes, adding that this will give him greater freedom in taking Hina to game arcades farther away in Tokyo (Haruo and Hina are in the Kanagawa area, 30 minutes from Shibuya and Shinjuku by train). Haruo concentrates on studying for the test, while trying to keep his game training from making him check the wrong answers. In the end, he does pass, and Moemi gives him her scooter as promised. He immediately goes to the Ohno estate, where he finds Hina in back, working in the garden. When he brags about being able to take them together to the arcades, she takes a step forward, turns sad and stops walking. Haruo gets confused and the chapter ends.

The last couple pages are a joke about Moemi sleeping over at Haruo's house, and how Haruo's mother makes really weird snoring sounds that end up invoking a demon and a poltergeist that fight each other.

Summary: The artwork's about the same as ever, but Rensuke is getting more consistent in his character designs from panel to panel. The story is evolving from a simple nostalgia piece about a boy growing up with games in the 90's, to a kind of unbalanced love triangle. Games are still central to everything, but there's not so much anticipation over new releases, in part due to how many games were coming out at that time. Recommended to anyone that likes the series.

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