Julien Neaves, Editor
I’ve been meaning to drop a review of superb anime Hi-Score Girl for a while now. It’s part 90s video game love letter, part teen romance, and part wacky comedy, and I love it.
So let’s insert a coin, press start and check out why Hi-Score Girl is anime awesomeness in three rounds:
Round 1: Get in the Game!
One of the main selling points of the series is the abundance of love for video games. The two main characters, slacker Haruo Yaguchi and stoic rich girl Akira Ono, are both obsessed with video games, and as their relationship grows over the years the audience is given a history lesson in games of the early 90s. And the anime (which has a delightful quirky art style) features actual video game footage, so old school gamers can expect to be submerged in nostalgia. There is a strong focus on coin-op fighting games and an even stronger focus on Street Fighter II. And my favourite character is actually a version of Street Fighter II combatant Guile who acts as a sort of spirt guide/conscience to Haruo. His unique method of giving advice was responsible for some of my biggest laughs during the show’s two season run. There are also other video game character who pop up to give advice in hilariously over-the-top ways. The series also makes the video game fights feel so epic in a way only anime can.
Some of the other fighting games featured include Dark Stalkers, Tekken, Samurai Showdown, Virtua Fighter and many, many more. Outside of fighting games we also see beat-em ups like Final Fight, a few shooters, and some odd Japanese games I have never heard of but enjoyed learning about. And as Haruo gets older he also gets into console gaming, so even MORE nostalgia. Man even if this series’ story was crap (though thankfully it’s not) the video game stuff alone would make this series worth recommending.
Round 2: Kooky Cast
Another area Hi Score Girl scores points (Get it? You get it) is in the characters. Growing up in the 90s everyone had a friend or two whose whole life was video games and that was all they ever talked about. Heck, you might have been that friend. But Haruo’s love for gaming is infectious and never got old (for me, any way). And he is also a caring and thoughtful kid though completely oblivious on matters of the heart. And that’s where Akira comes in. Remember when I described her as “stoic”? You don’t? It was two paragraphs ago! Try and keep up. Anywho, stoic may be overstating as Akira is practically mute as she never speaks for the entire series. She communicates with facial expressions, sounds and random acts of violence (Haruo is usually on the receiving end). But even without words you can mostly figure out what she is thinking and feeling. With Akira never speaking and Haruo never not speaking it makes for an interesting dynamic, and the two have a very sweet and understated relationship. As the series progresses another girl named Hidaka takes a fancy to Haruo, creating a love triangle that becomes one of the show’s main arcs.
There are other entertaining characters here as well. I enjoyed Haruo’s overly enthusiastic mom Namie, Akira’s blunt older sister Makoto, as well as her kindly chauffeur Jiya, and her super strict instructor Moemi. Season 2 introduced a slew of new characters but I found almost all of them superfluous and somewhat distracting.
Round 3: Season 1 vs Season 2
And speaking of Season 2, I found that while the first season was a light, video-game fueled slice-of-life story the second felt overstuffed and somewhat meandering. But the season did find it’s way in the end and delivered a solid and satisfying conclusion.
So if you are burnt out on shonen and want to try something different in the anime realm, or if you have mad love for 90s video games then you definitely need to check out Hi Score Girl.
Editor Jules’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
So what’s your favourite unconventional anime? And you can check out more anime-zing content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.