Monday, September 24, 2018

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 9 review

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High Score Girl Continue, vol. 9 (SquareEnix, 2017-18), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
It's been so long, we need a recap. Harou Yaguchi is a high school student growing up in the 1990's in parallel with the releases of some of the best arcade and console video games of the time. Playing video games is the only thing he's good at, and he's disturbed when the richest girl in his part of Tokyo, Akira Ohno, starts showing up at the arcades he's called home, and beats him at his favorite games. Over time, they form a kind of bond, and end up competing on various games in every arcade they can find. But, they are on two different life tracks, with Akira's parents (who live in Los Angeles) tasking her tutor with grooming her for entry in the top schools in Japan, forcing Haruo to double down on his studies to get into the same schools (he fails). Eventually, we are introduced to Koharu Hidaka, Haruo's classmate. Koharu envies Haruo's easygoing personality (she's a bookworm), and she becomes a game maven in order to get closer to the boy that she falls in love with. We also get Makoto, Akira's older sister. Makoto had run away from home to get away from her parent's plans for her, kind of dooming Akira to be the focus of those plans now.

In volume 8, Makoto makes a deal with Haruo - if he gets his driver's license, she'll give him her scooter, so he can take Akira to more game arcades more easily. Haruo succeeds at this task, but when he rides out to the Ohno estate to show off his new scooter, Akira just looks sad and walks away. At the beginning of volume 9, Haruo finally realizes that he really likes Akira, but he doesn't know what to do about this, because they're from different worlds. Makoto, Haruo's mother, and a couple of his friends try to push him into telling Akira his feelings, and one of his friends points out that there's going to be another Street Fighter II tournament in Osaka at the beginning of July. Makoto tells Haruo to take this opportunity to go head to head with Akira to see who's the best player, and use that chance to tell her how he feels about her. Makoto also gets the tutor and the Ohno chauffeur to let Akira go to Osaka on her own, with Haruo. Surprisingly, the tutor agrees with little argument.

The day before the tournament, Akira and Haruo take the shinkasen from Tokyo to Osaka, and Makoto is in her room, bawling her eyes out. She'd just gotten done talking to her mother in L.A., and had been told that her parents are going to have Akira fly out to L.A. at the end of the month, in preparation for getting her into an arranged married. The chauffeur, the tutor and Akira were the only ones that knew about these plans, all since May. Makoto curses her parents, and herself for pushing Haruo into making a fool of himself, saying that the end of July is too soon for Akira to be leaving.

--- Spoilers ---

Haruo and Akira get to Osaka, and spend the rest of the day visiting the city, playing games, and eating food. That night, they're in neighboring rooms, and Haruo sees his hero and mentor Guile from Street Fighter. (Guile is with the boy wherever he goes.) Guile tells him to not let this opportunity go to waste, so Haruo starts speculating on ghosts in their rooms, and Akira can hear him through the thin wall. A picture frame falls off the wall and shatters on the floor in Akira's room, and she panics. In the end, the two of them get into Haruo's bed, but Akira keeps on scratching him and biting him in the shoulder to keep him from falling asleep (to try to stay with him as long as she can). The next morning, they're both in rough shape, not having gotten much sleep at all. They're at the convention center, preparing to start in the tournament. Akira is in block F, and Haruo is in block C. The games start, and Haruo is desperate to just survive his instant death first rounds against the other three guys in his block. He barely manages this, and goes over to the results board to see how Akira is doing. and the volume ends with a close-up of the board. Ohno had been eliminated in her first match.

Summary: I like this manga. The focus has moved away from the games and more towards a tragic love comedy. Even so, it's still fun, although the characters' overblown reactions get tiresome occasionally. The artwork has improved a lot since the beginning, which is good. And the TV anime is getting popular. So of course, the manga has to end with the next volume. Will Akira really go to L.A. and be forced to marry someone we've never met? Will Makoto try to wreck her parent's plans? How will Haruo react when he learns why Akira has been so sad? And, is anyone going to act surprised when Koharu makes it to the final-two?

(Volume 9 included a cheap-looking xerox of a sketch of Koharu. And, the bookstore gave me a choice of Square-Enix bookmarks when I bought this volume in September. The manga itself had come out in June, but I'd misplaced my copy and ended up buying a second one a week ago.)

1 comment:

McGuck said...

Patiently waiting for you to discuss volume 10.