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‘Hi Score Girl’ is the Ultimate Anime Gaming Crossover

Hi Score Girl earns much of its charm by rationing 90s gamer nostalgia against a tale of rivalry, personal growth, and love.

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Hi Score Girl

Hi Score Girl is a Love Letter to Gaming

How many of us, during the torturous turmoil of adolescence, escaped into the world of gaming in order to survive? Haruo Yaguchi, protagonist of Hi Score Girl, is one such unlucky wretch. He doesn’t really have any friends, he’s awful at school, and has zero interest in sports. However, when it comes to gaming, he’s untouchable.

Whether battling it out in Street Fighter II at the local arcade or ripping through rounds of Final Fight on his Super Famicom, Haruo crushes the competition. That is until Akira Oono enters his life. The rich prodigy of the Oono family, Akira excels at everything she tries, and that includes video games. Now, with his one claim to fame and his only escape from reality being threatened, Haruo vows to crush his new rival, once and for all.

Hi Score Girl

This is the set-up for Hi Score Girl, the anime series animated by J.C Staff. Set mainly around fierce fighting game battles between Haruo and Akira, Hi Score Girl benefits greatly from having gained permission from the likes of Capcom, Konami and Sega to show actual in-game footage of their games in the anime. This means when characters are battling it out in one game or another, the fights are executed as they would be if you were playing the game yourself, rather than adapted into some poor facsimile that misses the look and feel of the game in question.

For fans of gaming and anime, this makes Hi Score Girl almost like a wet dream of crossover potential. If you grew up in the 90s, expect to see some of your favorite games rendered into the action of this series. Better still, the characters from the games featured in Hi Score Girl don’t only appear during play sessions. Characters like Guile and Zangief often appear to speak to or coach the protagonists of the series through their emotions and the growing pains of entering adulthood.

In fact, these cameos often make for some of Hi Score Girl‘s funniest moments (and rest assured, this anime is very funny). When Haruo makes one in an increasingly long string of selfish or stupid decisions, he can always count on a dropkick to the back of the head from a heavily pixelated Guile. Meanwhile, Akira, who embodies the classic gaming trope of the silent protagonist, must often allow video game characters to speak for her.

Of course, only a show featuring a protagonist as pigheaded as Haruo, and a silent character as his rival, could make the series’ eventual turn into will they-won’t they love story, and even a full-blown love triangle, actually work. Only because these characters are naive, self-involved, and insecure teenagers can a concept this batty, and this off-kilter, create a baseline for the world its characters inhabit.

However, the growth into a love story feels natural, and never takes away from the passion the characters feel for their favorite mode of escapism. Even with significant time jumps that go from primary school to high school, and from 16-bit gaming to 32-bit gaming, the world of Hi Score Girl always feels so lived in and fondly remembered by its writers that the story rarely suffers as a result.

A nostalgia-fuelled love letter to the golden age of gaming, Hi Score Girl is the ultimate crossover between anime and gaming as mediums. With enough anime personality and tropes to make it easily accessible and some painstaking tributes to the great games of yesteryear, Hi Score Girl will transport you back to one of the best runs gaming ever had as a hobby and a past time… and it might even make your heart swell along the way.

Both seasons, comprising the entire run of Hi Score Girl, are currently available on Netflix. 

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    April 19, 2020 at 1:46 am

    This is the anime I’ve been wanting to watch for over a year but I kept forgetting what it was called. Thanks, Mike!

    • Mike Worby

      April 21, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      Well worth your time dude, happy to help. The whole anime, start to finish, is only 24 episodes.

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 33: Coming into Maturity

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Anime Ichiban welcomes our anime waifu overlords, old and new. Join Matt and Kyle this episode as they discuss the return of the Goddess of Anime, Haruhi Suzumiya herself, then hop on over to the new virutal sensation that’s finally sweeping English-speaking nations: Hololive Vtubers!

For this episode of Anime Ichiban, the SHITSUMON! topic will have the duo diving into recently released Aggretsuko Season 3 and The Great Pretender and explore how the two shows work with mature themes.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions and what we’ve been up to
23:33 – The Return of Haruhi Suzumiya(‘s light novels)
37:23 – The Debut of Generation 1 of Hololive English Vtubers
53:07 – Minor news roundup: (Shenmue anime announced; Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Part 3 movie debuts to huge success; KyoAni fire updates)
58:35 – SHITSUMON! How does anime portray mature themes in its storytelling?

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 32: The Art of Following a Formula

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry.

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diary of our days at breakwater

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry and that the crew digs into along with how a series can effectively perform within its genre conventions.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions
12:28 – Legacy piracy site KissAnime shuts down
28:45 – AT&T reportedly looking to sell Crunchyroll
43:27 – Galapagos Syndrome: Is anime in danger of losing its global identity?
58:41 – News Reel
1:02:20 – SHITSUMON! How do shows perform effectively and still entertain in genres whose formulae are already well known and expected?

TRACKS

Intro – “Cagayake! GIRLS” by Houkago Tea Time (K-ON! opening theme)
Outro – “Tsuri no sekai e” by Umino High School Breakwater Club (Our Diary at the Breakwater ending theme)

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Anime

‘One Piece: Stampede’ is an All-Star Behemoth Buckling Under Predictability

Does One Piece: Stampede sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

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As the fourteenth film in Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece saga, One Piece: Stampede was released in 2019 to critical and financial success. As a big-budget commemoration of the anime’s 20th anniversary, Stampede has lots to live up to, from successfully stamping a momentous two decades, to satiating the hype of a passionate global fanbase. Does it sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

It’s party time at the Pirate Fest!

The Pirate Fest, a grand gathering of the sea’s most infamous individuals, is underway! At the festival, the Straw Hats compete with their Worst Generation rivals to retrieve a treasure of Gol D. Roger. But behind the scenes, festival organiser Buena Festa and legendary pirate Douglas Bullet are scheming something sinister.

Cutting to the chase, One Piece: Stampede soon kicks into an all-out battle against said Douglas Bullet, with Luffy working with friend and foe alike to fell his opponent.

Much like Dragon Ball Super: Broly, also animated by Toei Animation, each frame of One Piece: Stampede is a treasure to behold. Fluid animation and colors spell eye-candy magic, and the odd bit of 3D animation isn’t (too) visually jarring.

One Piece: Stampede nails its mission statement of lightning-paced popcorn entertainment to a tee. Goofy shonen films don’t have to transcend ‘awesome action and silly superpowers’. Rather than shooting for the moon and coming up short, Stampede settles for smashing the sky. With white-knuckle fights and satisfying character moments conveyed with a zippy pace, One Piece: Stampede assuredly brings what fans want. And whilst not as developed or memorable as other film baddies (One Piece: Strong World’s Shiki or One Piece: Z’s titular Z), Douglas Bullet is terrifyingly tough enough to tick the boxes.

Playing It Safe

Whilst the ‘playing it safe’ ethos of One Piece: Stampede succeeds on the surface, the imaginative innovation of One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is missing, and the excess of characters prevents the possibility of channeling the simplicity of One Piece: Dead End Adventure. Stampede works as anniversary celebratory bombast but isn’t the series’ smartest, and with the core of the film occurring in a single spot and under dull skies, location fatigue rears its head.

For some, the draw of One Piece: Stampede is its constant character cameos. From the instantly recognizable to the deep cuts, it’s a fun gimmick for fans, although the absence of big names like Kuzan and Jinbei are noticeable. Some cameos fall on the side of groan inducing-ly forced, shoehorning a requisite Zoro fight, or overtly shouting to audiences “Remember them?!” Having no effect on the story, these cameos are clunky and break narrative immersion.

Far from the worst of One Piece’s wildly varied films, Stampede is what it needs to be. It lacks the creative spirit of One Piece’s heights and is dampened by its inconsistent cameo execution, but it’s a fine anniversary celebration for one of manga and anime’s, if not the world’s, best works of fiction. For the uninitiated, it’ll be like an avant-garde acid trip, but for those clued-into Luffy’s antics, it’s a barrage of ballistic glee!

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