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Eternal Rivals: Shindou Hikaru/Touya Akira (Hikaru no Go)

Title: Eternal Rivals
Author: elektra3
Series: Hikaru no Go
Pairing: Shindou Hikaru/Touya Akira
Spoilers: The entire series.
Notes: Whoo! It's finally done. But hey, at least it's less than a month late this time. We're making progress! Also, I apologize for the lack of screencaps; they'll be added as soon as I have access to a computer where I can actually save things on the hard drive.


First Things First: What Is Hikaru No Go?

Hikaru no Go (literally "Hikaru's Go"), or HikaGo, is the story of Shindou Hikaru, a young boy who, while scrounging through his grandfather's attic in search of something to sell, finds a ghost-possessed Go board instead. The ghost in question is Fujiwara no Sai, a Heian-era Go master who committed suicide after being framed for cheating by one of his rivals, but nevertheless stuck around on the mortal plane in order to find the Hand of God. (Basically, the perfect game of Go.) Sai is delighted to come across a mortal who can hear him, and latches onto Hikaru. Hikaru is... not so delighted at first, but eventually comes to care about Sai, and to take an interest in the game itself.

Despite the supernatural premise, Hikaru no Go is less about magic and Go Stones That Go "Pa-Chi!" In The Night than the story of Hikaru's coming of age, as he grows up, learns to deal with loss, and finds his purpose in life.

And also finds a rival with whom he can play Go and bicker incessantly. But I'll get to that in a minute.


Shindou Hikaru

His ghostly roommate and natural talent for Go notwithstanding, Hikaru's a fairly normal kid. He's outgoing, bright but not particularly interested in schoolwork, and cheerful - well, most of the time. A likeable character for the most part, he does have his faults: He's stubborn to the point of pigheadedness, doesn't always know when to shut up, and can be rather bratty and selfish. He does, however, outgrow many of his childish flaws as the series goes on.

He also has a talent for completely baffling and/or frustrating the people around him, but that's mostly unintentional.


Touya Akira

Touya Akira, whose profound skill at Go is matched only by his profound lack of anything even vaguely resembling a dress sense, is the son of Touya Kouyo, Japan's preeminent Go player. Akira himself is a Go prodigy: He began playing when he was two years old, and by the time he's eleven, and the series begins, his skill level is comparable to that of adult pros.

Akira doesn't have many friends his own age, and by "many" I mean "any." Since Go is more or less his only interest, he's used to spending time with his peers in that field, who are all adults. As a result, he often comes across as older than he actually is, though he does have his childish moments. Mature manner or no mature manner, however, he's still a child, and so doesn't quite fit into either group - too young to fully be part of the adult world, yet still too much a part of that world to ever really fit in with his own age group.

As you can imagine, that takes a certain toll. By the beginning of the series, he's not exactly unhappy, but he's started to feel a vague dissatisfaction: With himself, with his life, and with his Go. Call it the eleven-year-old equivalent of a midlife crisis. (Hey, I did say he was precocious.) The people around him keep urging him to take the pro exam, but he constantly refuses, despite knowing that he'd be able to pass. Something, he feels, is missing from his game.

Then one fine day, a certain loudmouthed protagonist wanders into his father's Go salon...


Hikaru and Akira in Canon

The first time they meet, it's entirely by accident. Sai has been pestering Hikaru to let him play Go, and Hikaru finally gives in and goes to the first Go salon he finds, which happens to belong to the Touya family. Rather put off by the fact that almost all the patrons are middle-aged or older, he's happy to see another kid his age sitting alone in the back of the salon, and promptly challenges him to a game. Akira, the kid in question, agrees to play Hikaru, little realizing that he's about to get the shock of his life.

At this point, you see, Hikaru has never so much as held a Go stone, much less played a game. (It's slightly different in the manga. In that continuity, Hikaru asks his grandfather to play, but takes so long to figure out where Sai wants him to put the stones, his grandfather gets fed up and ends the game. Either way, though, Hikaru's pretty much the rankest of rank beginners at this point.) However, Hikaru's not actually the one who's playing. Sai is, and Sai is anything but a beginner. So put yourself in Akira's place for a minute. Here's a kid who holds the stones like a beginner, claims to never have played before - and plays like a pro. His confusion grows even stronger when he realizes that "Hikaru" isn't even playing at full strength. So as you can imagine, by the end of the game Akira is very curious to find out just what the hell is going on.

His desire to play this mysterious newcomer grows even stronger after another game in which Sai, finally playing at full strength, crushes Akira, and he resolves to train until he's strong enough to face "Hikaru." But by the time he does feel strong enough, he's in for another shock: By now, Hikaru has started to become interested in Go, and refuses to play Akira until he's strong enough.

Matters don’t come to a head, however, until Hikaru tries to play Akira in a tournament. Since Hikaru's joined his middle school Go club, Akira reasons that if he joins the Go club at his middle school, he'll at least be able to play Hikaru at the annual tournament. But when the big day comes, Hikaru, yet again utilizing his extraordinary gift for confounding others, decides midway through the game that he wants to play Akira for himself.

It doesn't take long for Akira to notice Hikaru's sudden, dramatic drop in skill, and it's even shorter yet before he's literally shaking with frustration. At the end of the game, he's so disappointed he can barely even look at Hikaru. Shoulders shaking, he says, in barely more than a whisper, "I thought I saw the Hand of God in you," and stalks away. (I have no idea whether he even bothers to play in the last round of the tournament. Probably not.)

Hikaru, for his part, is equally devastated. He wanted so badly to see how his skills measure up to Akira's, and now he knows: They completely fall short. His tears don't last long, though, and his sadness is replaced by resolve: No matter what it takes, he'll catch up with Touya Akira.

To that end, Hikaru becomes an insei, one of a group of talented younger players who are training to become pros. There, he quickly gains notoriety for the way he repeatedly claims that Akira (who’s currently the rising star in the Go world) is his rival. The fact that, at the moment, his skill level isn’t anywhere near Akira’s doesn’t matter in the least to Hikaru. Equal skill or no equal skill, there’s one person he’s chosen as a rival, and that’s all that matters.

Which is, funnily enough, something that he and Akira have in common. Still reeling from his bad breakup – er, discovering that Hikaru wasn’t what he thought, Akira decides that whatever he was waiting for isn’t going to show up, so he might as well take the pro exam. Unfortunately, though he easily passes the exam, losing something that’s been an all-consuming obsession for over a year isn’t exactly good for his game. Noticing this, Ogata Seiji (9-dan pro who later becomes a 10-dan, member of Touya Kouyo’s study group, sponsored Hikaru’s entry into the insei program, moonlights as Akira’s creepy gay uncle) takes Akira to see one of the insei sessions – or, rather, to see Hikaru at one of the insei sessions. But not for long: Upon seeing Hikaru, Akira turns on his heel and walks out the door. Hikaru’s understandably rather hurt and annoyed by Akira’s apparent indifference, with “apparent” being the operative word: Once outside the room, though he angrily professes to no longer care about Hikaru, it’s somewhat undermined by the way he vows to “move far beyond him so that he’ll never reach me. I won’t let him come near me!” And alas for eternal indifference, Akira even being able to maintain a semblance of it doesn’t outlast the annual Wakajishisen.

The Wakajishisen, for those of you who don’t know, is a yearly tournament pitting the sixteen top insei against sixteen young pros. Since Hikaru knows that Akira will be competing in it, and since he also knows that only the top sixteen insei will be allowed to compete, reaching the required rank becomes a goal of his. If he can do that, he reasons, he might be able to play Akira, show him what his Go has become, and move closer to the day when Akira acknowledges Hikaru – the real Hikaru – as a rival.

Well, they don’t actually get to play each other, due to Hikaru being eliminated in the first round, but Akira does manage to catch a glimpse of Hikaru’s Go. By the time Hikaru and his opponent have reach the endgame, Akira’s game is over. Walking over, he sees that Hikaru is losing – but by a margin which indicates that Hikaru and his opponent were tied going into the endgame.

Said opponent is somewhat less-than-amenable to being interrogated, but Akira finds a witness in Ogata, who stopped by to see the tournament. It was, Ogata reports, “spectacular”: Hikaru (in what eventually becomes a hallmark of his playing style) made a move which initially looked weak, but actually allowed him to be in a stronger position later in the game. Though it doesn’t allow Hikaru to win, it’s still enough to make Ogata sit up (well, figuratively speaking; he was standing during the match) and take notice. And if Ogata’s interest is piqued, Akira’s is even more so. Here, at last, is a sign of the brilliant Go player Akira first met.

Fast forward to the pro exam. By the time the exam begins, Hikaru’s strength has increased to the point that it seriously unnerves several of the other insei, one of whom is Ochi Kousuke, a top-ranked insei who augments his practice by hiring pros to tutor him. What does this have to do with Hikaru and Akira? Well, nothing – except that Akira is one of the pros Ochi hires. Upon learning that Ochi is taking the pro exam, Akira immediately tries to pump him for information about Hikaru, even going so far as to offer to personally train Ochi in order to use him as a guinea pig to see how strong Hikaru has become. Ochi is, naturally, rather offended at being used this way, and initially refuses, but changes his mind when his confidence is shaken due to a defeat by Isumi, another insei taking the exam. Agreeing to Akira’s tutoring does not, however, lessen his resentment at being the third wheel, and before he plays Hikaru (in the last match, incidentally, of the pro exam) he makes a few demands: That if he wins, he’ll be allowed to become a member of Touya Kouyo’s study group, and that Akira will acknowledge him as a rival. Akira agrees to speak to his father if Ochi wins (though he doesn’t say a word about acknowledging Ochi as a rival), looking rather startled that Ochi would even suggest such a thing.

What’s noteworthy here is not so much Ochi’s demand to be taken seriously – because honestly, who can blame him? – as the fact that Akira has obviously never even entertained the possibility of Ochi being a rival. Despite the fact that he knows that Ochi is a strong player, and the fact that Akira’s unwavering conviction that Hikaru is currently a strong player is based entirely on second- or thirdhand sources, it’s not Ochi whom he’s set his sights on. One never really gets the feeling, in this scene, that Akira seriously believes that Ochi will win.

If Ochi believes that Hikaru, at least, will give him his undivided attention on the day of the game, he’s sadly mistaken. Trying to intimidate Hikaru with the fact that Akira was his tutor, he succeeds only in making Hikaru ask eagerly if Akira mentioned him. Sensing, perhaps, that it might be a bad idea to tell Hikaru that the subject of his inquiry wouldn’t shut up about him, Ochi lies, saying that Akira didn’t mention him at all. Hikaru is crestfallen to hear this, but immediately cheers up when he catches Ochi in a lie and realizes that Akira has been talking about him after all.

Strengthened by the knowledge of his crush’s – er, rival’s regard, Hikaru wins the game and passes the pro exam. He’s excited to learn that his first game is with Akira, but fate (or the manga-ka) isn’t about to let them play that easily: Before the game can take place, Akira’s father suffers from a heart attack, causing Akira to forfeit the game so he can visit the hospital. He’s disappointed about not being able to play Hikaru, but not unduly so; now that Hikaru is a pro, it’s not the last time they’ll be able to play.

But before that can happen, tragedy strikes: Sai leaves, and a grief-stricken Hikaru stops playing Go. Akira’s understandably bewildered, and tracks Hikaru down to confront him about it: “What did you become a pro for? Wasn’t it to play me?” Hikaru tries to claim that he quit playing because he’s not very good at it, but Akira refuses to believe him. Their discussion finally culminates in Hikaru running out of the building, Akira vainly chasing after him.

Fortunately, Hikaru isn’t doomed to angst in Go-less perpetuity. When a Isumi finally guilt-trips him into playing a game, Hikaru realizes that Sai hasn’t left him at all, but was in his Go all along. He vows that he’ll play “dozens of games, hundreds of games, thousands of games from now on,” and – after, of course, the game he’s currently playing is over – goes to tell Akira that he’ll start playing again.

He finds Akira in the Go Institute, Akira having just finished a match. Hikaru’s presence causes quite a stir, since he’s been forfeiting all his games for the past few months, but he ignores all this and yanks the kifu from the game out of a nearby hand. “You won!” he exclaims.

Akira, looking rather flummoxed, asks, “Why are you here?” to which Hikaru replies, “Touya… I… I’m not giving up on Go. I’ll keeping walking down this path!”

“Come after me!” Akira says. (Both of them, I should probably point out, are still completely ignoring the five or so other people in the room.)

Numerous apologies to relevant officials and a few games later, they finally get to play. They’re both so excited about it, the game starts to resemble a game of speed Go, the stones practically flying off their fingers; by the time the buzzer for lunch sounds, they’re both breathing hard. And why not? They’ve been waiting for this for three years. Their relationship until now has been one long series of striving to become worthy of each other: Akira first striving desperately to become equal to the opponent he thought Hikaru was, and Hikaru trying just as hard to become that opponent. Now, at last, they can meet each other as equals. As rivals.

But when the game is paused for lunch, and Hikaru is heading out the door, Akira acknowledges the rather massive elephant in the room. “Sai,” he breathes, stopping Hikaru dead in his tracks. “I thought of Sai when I played you.”

Hikaru smiles a little sadly and says, “I’m not Sai, unfortunately.” Akira, however, is undeterred.

“You played me twice in a Go salon. He… he is Sai. I can tell because I know you better than anyone else. Only I can tell this, but there’s someone else inside you!” Then he pauses, suddenly unsure of himself. “No… never mind. I’m not making any sense.”

Hikaru, however, is speechless. This isn’t the first time someone has made the connection between him and Sai, but it is the first time anyone has ever hit upon the actual truth of the matter. “Touya found Sai!” he exclaims to himself. “Only I knew of Sai until now… But Sai, Touya’s found you! He’s found you!”

But Akira’s not finished yet.

“No… The game you play is what you are. That won’t change, and that’s all I need.”

And Hikaru smiles. “The game I play,” he thinks, “is what I am. Touya… That’s right. Sai is in the game I play.” Still smiling, he starts heading out the door again. “Yeah, maybe,” he says out loud. “I might tell you everything someday.”

Akira might have more or less come to terms with Hikaru’s apparent case of multiple personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still curious about it. He chases Hikaru to the elevator and demands to know the secret, Hikaru exasperatedly snaps that he’ll tell it “someday, far in the future,” and they’re still bickering about it as the elevator door closes. But for all that Akira had to run to catch Hikaru before the elevator door closed, the time when they’re continually chasing and just missing each other is over. From here on out, though they’re no less prone to petty squabbling, and though their games more often than not end in a shouting match which itself ends with Hikaru storming out of the room, they start playing together on a regular basis. Whatever their limits may be, from now on they’ll be reaching them together.


Why Hikaru/Akira?

So, what makes this my HikaGo OTP? Well, I love bickering couples, and they certainly are that, but I started shipping them long before that dynamic truly came into play. A better answer would be that I’m struck by how intensely they react to each other – a fact which is made all the more striking when you consider how seldom they actually interact for most of the series. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that they think about each other all the friggin’ time – or, at least, to an extent which is disproportionate to how much time they actually spend together, and it doesn’t take much to make either of them start obsessing about the other. They also each have the power to elicit unusual-for-them responses from the other: Hikaru’s one of the only people who can make Akira lose his composure, and Akira’s one of the only people who can instantly command Hikaru’s undivided attention. They miscommunicate, piss each other off, and generally confuse the hell out of each other, but at the end of the day there’s no one else that either of them wants as a rival. There’s no one else who’s changed them quite as much as the other has.

Which, I suppose, brings up a larger point. At the beginning of the series, they’re both stuck in holding patterns which, though opposite in nature, are equally stagnating: Hikaru with his lack of direction or a real goal in life, and Akira with his steadily increasing disaffection for Go. But when they meet, it all changes. Hikaru finds something to strive for, and Akira finds something that reignites his love for the game. At the risk of sounding horribly cheesy, they complete each other – no, actually, that’s not true. They help each other complete themselves.

And really, that’s what this series is all about. A major theme in Hikaru no Go – if not the major theme – is rivalry and what it means. Your rival isn’t just the person who you want to beat; it’s the person who you learn from and who learns from you, who makes you stronger and who you make stronger. Simply put, your rival is the most important person you’ll ever meet. It doesn’t always work out, either; Sai’s life was made a tragedy because his rival proved to be a dishonorable man, and Touya Kouyo’s game, however strong it is, will never really be complete because he met his rival too late. Go, as Kuwabara says, is a game for two; the goal is not to win, but to find someone who will help you win. For those who never find that other person, they’ll never get past their personal limitations. But for those who can find a true rival, as Hikaru and Akira do, the sky’s the limit.


The Fandom

The HikaGo fandom can best be described as "small, but refreshingly sane." And if you’re a Hikaru/Akira shipper, you’re in luck: This is probably the popular pairing in the fandom, so there are plenty of fics to choose from.

For those of you who are feeling brave, you can try your luck in the HikaGo sections at Fanfiction.net, particularly the Hikaru/Akira c2 community, or Adultfanfiction.net. There's also a number of LJ communities: hikago_yaoi (an exclusively AkiHika community), igo_yaoi (which accepts other pairings, but has a large number of Hikaru/Akira fanworks), and, for those of you who like pretty artwork along with your story, hikago_djs. (That last is also a multi-pairing community, but seems to be predominantly Hikaru/Akira.) And, of course, there's always hikarunogo, the main HikaGo community.

As for specific recommendations, try the following:

aishuu's fics, particularly Brightly Burning
Furikawari: Exchanging Territories by Starbrigid
Blind Descent by Shikami Yamino
Summer Storm and The Right Moves, both by Silver Thunder
Memoirs of a Go Player by Laziness Incarnate, aka flonnebonne
issen4's fics, particularly Unfolding Fan (which, granted, isn’t explicitly romantic, but still captures most of what I absolutely love about their relationship), A Pleasing Shape Takes Place, and Next to NetGo
mousapelli's fics, particularly Metonymy (The Ragin' Meijin Remix) and This Isn’t the Freaking Heian Era
thehoyden's fics, particularly A Game For Two and When He Sees It
Name and A Whole New Apocalypse, both by Aja, aka bookshop
rageprufrock's fics: Enough Blame To Go Around, Inertia, and the first six parts of a currently unfinished AU: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6

And probably a few others that I’m forgetting at the moment. But that should be enough to get you started.

Comments

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Thank you! I'm glad it was accessible to someone who's not familiar with the series.

And the series is actually pretty easy to find, if you want to see it. Both the manga and the anime have been licensed, and (if you get impatient for the next installment of the official release to come out) the entire anime has been uploaded on YouTube.
Hikaru no Go! I'm so happy with this manifesto, you really did an awesome job here. Hikaru/Akira is my OTP too.
Thank you!
Awesome job with the manifisto. I had to laugh as you pinpointed some of the details down perfectly.

Like:
think about each other all the friggin’ time

&


Touya Akira, whose profound skill at Go is matched only by his profound lack of anything even vaguely resembling a dress sense,

- *laughs*

Also I'm sorry I never responded to you a while back, on jf, I just couldn't find the link anywhere. @.@;
Thanks!


Also I'm sorry I never responded to you a while back, on jf, I just couldn't find the link anywhere.

Eh, don't worry about it.
Mmm... this is why I love meta. You've said pretty much everything I have in the four years since I first started the manga, but in a much more cohesive, compelling way. I'll definately link this to the next person who, utterly baffled, asks me why I like the series instead of my usually flailing that it really isn't as boring as it sounds. XD

Oh, and more fic recs are in my memories if anyone requires them. ;p
*cracks up* That always seems to happen when you're explaining the series, doesn't it? "It's about Go... but it's not as dull as it sounds! Really! It's also a metaphor for sex!"

And ooh, fic! *wanders off to explore the shiny*
Thanks for doing such a wonderful job on this essay! You've managed to catch exactly why I came to love this pairing. Also the humor, whether intentional or not, was great, I was laughing most of the way! =D

Also, thanks for the great recs. I haven't read any stories from this fandom in a while!
Thanks! And yes, the humor was intentional.
This sums up everything I love about this pairing *perfectly*. The section on what rivals mean to each other is their relationship in a nutshell -- especially "they help each other to complete themselves." (Their relationship is best symbolized by the yin-yang symbol, which, coincidentally, looks like it contains a pair of Go stones).

Beautiful essay -- and thanks for the recs list, too! (Damn right aishuu's fics deserve an enormous rec!)
Nice work with the manifesto and thank you for mentioning my fic. :)

You might want to also mention how they realize that their first official game is actually their FIRST REAL GAME EVAR and is like a big sexual climax after years and years of UST (or maybe that's just me).

Would you consider putting Dracostella's Jigo on the recs list? It's quite possibly my favourite Hikaru/Akira story and I don't think too many people know about it.
Another person who read Jigo! I have to say that it probably is one of the best fics that I've read for this pair.
Wow, what a great sum-up of the relationship! I think you got just about everything I'd mused about in the series and between Akira and Hikaru. You captured everything pretty much perfectly.

One thing to note: you mention that Akira knows the name 'Sai', but you forgot to include the reason he (and a number of others) know of Sai. It's a small thing, but it might confuse people who don't know the story. ;)

Also, thanks for the rec! ^^ I'm going to read some of the others you listed that I haven't gotten to yet. This just totally reminded me of how much I adore the series.
A Hikaru/Akira essay! Very nice work, and I find it very telling that a manifesto for this pairing reads a lot like a summary of the series. :D

Loved your summary of the series. You hit on all the great points of the series that really illustrate the Hikaru/Akira love. Plus your answer on "Why Hikaru/Akira?" just sums up perfectly why I love the two of them, too.

Much love and lovely essay. <3
Oh this manifesto was a wonderful read! You've hit a lot of points as to why I absolutely adore this ship more than any other ship in any other fandom I'm in.

♥!
Akira and Hikaru = OTP

the anime/manga make it sound like they stalk each other constantly, lol.

they complete each other – no, actually, that’s not true. They help each other complete themselves.
you took the words right out of my mouth
Thank you so much for writing this. I've only just discovered this wonderful fandom, and already this pairing is my fave! And thanks so much for all the recs at the end! ^___^ *2 thumbs up*
Okay, wow, you totally did my OTP justice and gave its defense so much depth. Thanks for taking the time to post this!
Brava, excellent essey.

I started reading Hikago fanfics before I saw the anime or read the manga, which I tend to do quite a lot (since the access to manga and anime in my country is, in most cases, only as good as your internet access, and mine is as good as my local internet cafe's). I liked the relationship between Hikaru and Akira so much that I pestered a friend who finally agreed to download the manga scanlations for me.

And after reading the manga, I can safely say that I have few OTPs as strong as Hikaru/Akira, in any fandom. Just as you wrote, they react so intensly to each other and they think of each other so much that it would be damn hard ,i>not</i> to ship them. Their 'rivalry' is so intense that no other relationship could compare. Even if one of them got a girlfriend at some point, she would seem just like an afterthought in comparison to the rival. The only other rivals as focused on each other are Naruto and Sasuke, but that's a whole other can of worms.

I remember when I read the chapter where Hikaru confronted Ochi before their pro exam game. I was all like: Are you kidding me? They behave like little girls arguing over whom their chosen boy likes best! "Did he say anything about me?" "No he didn't, he doesn't care about you at all!" I mean, honestly, those two. (Er, Hiakru and Akira, not Hikaru and Ochi.) If what they are displaying is not a major crush, than I don't know what is.

Regarding Akira's lack of fashion sense: I think this is mostly anime, where the designers made Akira dorky in this respect. In the manga (no colours, so maybe that's the reason) I only saw him as being dressed formally most of the times.

Oh, and isn't aishuu a goddess. "Brightly Burning" is the single best what-if AU I've ever read, despite it barely being started. But her "Lessons in How to Make a Bishounen Snap" cracks me up every time I read, even though it's not Hkaru/Akira per se.

When it comes to recs, I could also add:

"Grey" by Treneka -- it has to be read, because it's hard to explain. It's not a Hikaru/Akira and yet it definitely is. Great, great story, I can't recommend it enough. (unfortunetely still a WIP, so you could start pestering the author about finishing it, like now.)

"Balance" by Sailor Mac -- well, it's been about two or three years since I read it, and I can see many faults now, but I remember liking it quite a lot when I first encountered it. I'm sure many fans would be happy to read it since this one is a Hikaru/Akira for sure, smut and all.

I love "Grey"!

I torment Treneka by telling her that her story is exactly as ambiguous as the canon is. :P
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