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Hi Score Girl – Continue?

「Round 12」
“Round 12″

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.

Epilogue:

September 29, 2018 at 7:23 pm
17 comments »
  • September 29, 2018 at 10:13 pmGnop2

    I had heard good things about the manga for a long time, but because of all the problems it had with copyright issues and the fact that it was 3DCG, I wasn’t really expecting much. Having seen all of this show, however, I can say it’s one of my favorites this year so far.
    The characters are damn great, the way the actual games and gameplay was integrated, and the nostalgia factor all made the show really enjoyable. It’s a shame this show was ignored because of Netflix’s dumb release model, and because no one was subbing it but I hope more people watch it after this great finale, or when the English release comes out, whenever that may be.

    • September 29, 2018 at 10:33 pmGuardian Enzo

      Too many strikes for HSG to ever succeed commercially, I think. It’s anti-moe, it doesn’t pander, it asks a lot of the audience. Then add in all the production delays because of the lawsuits, full CGI and Netflix hell and you have a perfect storm of commercial sabotage.

      It’s being released on Netflix USA next month, so maybe a few more Westerners will watch it then, especially if quasi-official subs come out too.

      • September 29, 2018 at 11:18 pmGnop2

        I still have hope it could do at least okay in Japan, trying to predict how well an anime will do over there is always really hard. At least the 3 OVA episodes are confirmed, even if they end on a “Read the manga to finish the story” note.

      • September 30, 2018 at 9:03 amLyfe

        You literally have nothing to worry about. The show is ranked 27 in the best sellers on Amazon Japan and isn’t released until December 19 either. I would expect the show to shift big numbers considering how well the pre orders are going.

    • September 30, 2018 at 9:07 amLyfe

      FYI. The show is being released in three separate boxsets(four episodes each) at around 10k yen each. The reception to the show has also been good too. I hope yall are ready for a season two because there’s no way its not getting one with the sales its picking up.

      • October 1, 2018 at 12:03 amGuardian Enzo

        Can you post a link with hard numbers to back that up? Because with Stalker dead I’m not aware of anyone (apart from a Chinese site that’s sort of halfway doing so) that’s attempting to seriously track anime pre-sales.

      • October 1, 2018 at 3:52 amLyfe

        I’ve not seen a show rank that highly on Amazon Japan and sell less than 5000 copies on release. It was more opinion based on past experience with shows. It’s hard for anyone to really track pre order numbers beyond where the show is ranking so early, because as said, it’s not out until December.

        Most anime shows don’t even break the all time top 100 best sellers on the website. And the ones that do, like Idolish7(recent) sell really well.

      • October 1, 2018 at 2:36 pmGuardian Enzo

        Interesting – I sure miss Stalker…

        There’s a conflict going on inside me, because while I don’t disbelieve what you’re saying it makes absolutely no sense that HSG would be that well on disc. Unless the gamer segment is just going nuts for it or something.

      • October 1, 2018 at 5:18 pmLyfe

        I think people just really loved the show. The first volume already has 16 reviews on Amazon Japan, all positive. See ハイスコアガール STAGE 1 on the site.

      • October 1, 2018 at 8:06 pmGuardian Enzo

        What can I say, I sure hope you’re right!

  • September 30, 2018 at 7:24 amMediafag

    God damn that cliffhanger was so good and yet so depressing at the same time.

  • September 30, 2018 at 12:22 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    This is one of those rarer times where you don’t want ANY of the triangle to “lose” because you like them all so much, but you know one of them has to…and it’s even sadder when the “loser”, Koharu in this case, KNOWS she has “lost” before even beginning, but still giving it her all.

    And Akira…to think that we could get so far with her without her ever saying a single word and so Haruo is the one who has to carry most of the slack and he succeeds.

    • October 1, 2018 at 12:05 amGuardian Enzo

      Yeah, this is a tough one because all three are such great characters. I’m Team Hidaka and always will be, but I certainly can’t root against Oono.

  • September 30, 2018 at 10:31 pmBROOKLYN otaku

    wow! i thought from the screen caps that the blonde girl was the main character with hair dyed……CHEAP CGI is effing CANCER to anime!!!

    • October 2, 2018 at 11:06 amHalfDemonInuyasha

      It’s funny because, when you see Akira and long-haired Koharu side by side, they look VERY similar, making me think she grew it out in hopes it catches Haruo’s attention.

  • October 1, 2018 at 2:54 amruicarlov

    That scene where Oono watches him sleep….
    Thanks show, now I’ve developed diabetes!

    Also, I’m kinda lost to what team do I belong anymore.

  • October 1, 2018 at 2:16 pmBamboo Blade Cat

    Best anime of the season!

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