OP: 「flash」 by (sora tob sakana)
It’s easy to get sidetracked by how complicated things always seem to be with the Hi Score Girl adaptation. Netflix is burying the second season again of course, delaying the worldwide release until after it’s finished airing in Japan. That season is only 9 episodes long (though one could easily classify the “Extra Stage” OVAs as part of the second season), resulting in the last premiere (assuming Pet is dead, for now at least) of the fall. Nothing is ever straightforward with this show, except for one thing – it’s great. That’s the one thing about Hi Score Girl that’s simple.
The Netflix thing is especially a shame because HSG is the sort of series that could easily have become quite popular in the West, especially the U.S.. It is quite popular in Japan, which is why it got a second season and why the adaptation managed to survive one of the greatest debacles in adaptation history and the years-long delay it caused. All of the frustration is at least being rewarded with a prize so many excellent manga never get – a complete adaptation. This season will take us all the way to the end of the manga, with minimal if any cutting required to match the episode count. No fans have earned that happy ending more than fans of Hi Score Girl.
That of course is the reason the anime has the luxury of starting the season off with a recap – albeit only half the episode, and with a good deal of manga material mixed in. It probably wasn’t necessary based on the short hiatus, but Ooshikiri Rensuke himself though a pause to look back was necessary before the story begins its final push, and I’m glad Yamakawa-sensei chose to follow his lead. Looking at the past through the perspectives of Akira and Hidaka is interesting, not least because it’s a reminder of how much deeper the roots that connect Akira to Haruo are. That’s not to say that’s the only factor that matters, but it does matter.
Who knew Oono had a thing for bearded geezers like Zangief? Perhaps it was her empathy for the overlooked and ignored that fueled her attraction to Haruo, though unlike Zangief Haruo never shed a tear in self-pity. He was quite happy being who he was – which was ultimately the thing that made Akira fall in love with him, I think. As much as I adore Hidaka – which is a lot – I’ve always felt the gravity of that connection was too great a mountain for her to climb. No matter what else happens, Akira needs Haruo in a way Hidaka never can. He’s Akira’s knight-errant, her connection to the world – with Hidaka, he’s just the boy she’s in love with.
The series is still in retrospective mode in the B-part, though it feels much more connected to the “present” series timeline. The characters are really in their element here – Miyao trying as ever to be the best friend he possiblt can, Haruo far too straightforward and earnest for his own good, Hidaka a simmering cauldron of frustrated emotion. I love the little details here, like Haruo making sure to get a snack for his mom as well as for himself and Miyao. And Miyao’s decision to invite Hidaka along feels like a fateful moment, and sets up one of the most deliciously awkward scenes you’ll see in anime.
It’s fitting that it’s Hidaka who finally breaks that interminable silence – that’s so very much in-character for her. One of the things I think we see in Hi Score Girl is that no matter what external events impact them, the characters are always essentially themselves. We can very much see in the 12 year-old Haruo and Akira the young adults they’ll be (which is usually the case, no matter what parents of teens might say). That’s good in some ways and bad in others – it’s complicated, like so much about HSG and not least its character dynamics. We’ve got some very good character-driven anime airing at the moment, but in that department this series sets a very high bar indeed. It was one of the best shows of 2018 and will be of 2019, and late or no it’s absolutely wonderful to have it back.
ED: 「Unknown World Map」 (アンノウン・ワールドマップ) by (Etsuko Yakushimaru)