You know I hate to bury the headline, so let’s get to the big news straight off – there was no Season 2 announcement at the end of this episode of Hi Score Girl. There was, however, the news that we would be getting a three-episode OVA next March. In some sense that’s the very definition of a mixed bag, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Especially given that the new episodes will be released on Netflix (whether that’s just Japan or worldwide I don’t know), which means there’s a substantial chance someone will sub them.
The question every viewer should be asking is whether three eps is enough to adequately tell the rest of the story. And my answer as a manga reader is no, it’s not – but that said, the anime staff has shown a deft touch with this adaptation and I think they can make it kind of work. My sense is certainly that these OVAs are instead of a second season, not in addition to it – so as always with Hi Score Girl, I’m grateful for whatever I get. Whatever Yamahata and Urahata can do with three episodes is almost certain to give us a more satisfying ending than what we got in Episode 12.
I need to clarify that, of course. This ending was only unsatisfying because it wasn’t an ending at all. There shouldn’t be an ending at this point in the story – we’re right in the middle of it. In fact J.C. Staff ended this ep exactly where I think they should have, but then that was in-line with every other element of this finale. It was basically note-perfect from my manga reader’s perspective – there were hugely important moments scattered all through the episode, and every one of them came off exactly as I would have wanted. For me, it was a glorious experience.
Needless to say (that is, if you know me at all) this is a series that really puts me through the emotional wringer in a good way. I mean, the fact is that I just love all the main characters here so damn much – Oshikiri-sensei has crafted a triangle that so exceeds the norm for such situations in manga and anime that it seems altogether of a different species than most of them. And this final episode gave them equal parts and equal measure, with the A-part dedicated entirely to Oono’s relationship with Haruo-kun, and the B-part to Hidaka’s.
All of the road trip sequences in this series are great. Hi Score Girl is always wonderful at expressing the feelings of adolescence, but these high-stress adventure moments are – as in reality – like life experience cranked up to 11. Having missed the last train thanks to Oono’s reluctance to go home, Haruo is forced to call his mom for help. She needles him a bit, then checks the phone book (if you need to, Google it) and finds them a hotel room. A hotel room, mind you – but Haruo is far too much a gentleman to exploit the situation. More than a gentleman, he’s a knight-errant – and no knight was ever more chivalrous than Haruo is towards Akira.
I love Hidaka, I make no bones about it. But I mean, how charming and cute was that whole bit in the hotel, with the bathtub and the NES console and and the kids on their beds playing “Daiundokai” in 8-bit and bathrobes? It was everything adolescence is encapsulated in a perfect on-screen moment – childhood and adulthood present in equal measures, the exhilarating and vexing power of attraction. No matter how one feels about Hidaka, how can they feel nothing when they see Akira’s face as she stares at the sleeping Haruo, then tucks him under a blanket? Or sleeps wrong-way round, to mirror him, or their parting in the morning as he goes off to work? Hi Score Girl doesn’t need words to tell its story – we understand exactly, right down to the molecular level, why these two kids love each other.
It would be so easy to leave it there, to say “Game Over” – no one would begrudge Oshikiri that. But he doesn’t – when he takes us back home Hidaka is waiting for Haruo there. And once more, Oshikiri (and the anime team, without a doubt) could not be more comprehensive in showing us why Hidaka-san is in love with Haruo. She expresses herself in words in a way Oono obviously doesn’t, but her face and eyes tell us as much as Oono’s do. Yes, she sees Haruo as a man-child – but she loves that he’s still very much the boy she first met. He’s true to himself and to others, passionate about what he loves, and – above all – possesses an inherent kindness that Hidaka can’t help but be enthralled with. It’s a cruel irony (Hidaka’s life is full of cruel ironies) that it’s that very kindness which made Haruo fall for Oono-san in the first place.
Koharu had to be the one to confess – it was inevitable, true to her nature. Hopeless or not, Hidaka is in a no-lose situation here really from a selfish perspective – she doesn’t register on Haruo’s romantic radar (to an extent neither does Oono, but it’s obviously different) and she knows it. Even so Koharu is well aware that she’s complicating Haruo’s life immeasurably by doing this, and this troubles her. The whole sequence with the exchanging of consoles in Haruo’s room is no less charming than the hotel scene (ah, the mystique of the original PlayStation – even I was not immune), but there’s no doubt it ends on a very serious note. As indeed, does the episode.
I’m heartily glad that the series doesn’t end there, because that would have been too cruel – but it would have been even more cruel to hodgepodge together an ending out of nothing and have it fail to be true to the story. No, this is best – even if it does end up being only three more episodes, an abridged telling of the fate of this trio of intertwined fates is far better than the alternatives. The extent to which Hi Score Girl is a true memoir isn’t something we know and perhaps we never will, but the experience feels so authentically personal that it matters little. The depiction of early adolescence on-screen just doesn’t get much better than this in anime.
The saga of Hi Score Girl has been a long and painful one for fans, and all the more so for Oshikiri himself to be sure. But as far as I’m concerned we’ve been rewarded in a way that should leave everyone who loves this series feeling very pleased. This adaptation was wonderful – from casting to direction to pacing, it’s been spot-on. Even the CGI, which is never my first choice for any series, ended up being a positive at times because the series managed to cleverly incorporate it into the story it was telling. It still wouldn’t have been my preference, but if any series could make a case why CGI made sense for artistic reasons, Hi Score Girl may just have been it. The synergy between the 90’s gaming scenes and the main narrative was fluid in a way it might not have been with a mainly hand-drawn style.
Now the wait begins. But compared to the wait we had for the series itself, six months isn’t even a blink – it like a year or even a century in geologic terms. This wasn’t a strong anime season and 2018 hasn’t been a strong year, but Hi Score Girl has been a standout in both – just like the manga a remarkably witty and intelligent snapshot of a specific time in the world, and the lives of a few wonderful characters inhabiting it. For Hi Score Girl fans the night has been dark and full or terrors, but that just made the dawn all the more rewarding.