Have you ever watched a drama that left a void in your heart after it was over? That empty feeling that persists after continually recalling the sweet moments that tug at your heartstrings? For me, “Hikaru Na Go” will be that show. I never felt this empty after watching “The Untamed” or even the more recent “Winter Begonia.” Both were beautifully done dramas with a major flaw – the main protagonists were depicted as being in a “brotherhood” far from the truth. While these adaptations deviated from their original “gay” storylines to kowtow to the Chinese Censor Board, I felt deprived. IQIYI and the “Hikaru Na Go” Production Team decided to give me a brilliantly scripted love story instead. A story where the Director and the Scriptwriters leave no stone unturned to depict their main lead’s romantic entanglements. This left me oddly surprised and pleased. The original Anime didn’t project the main leads as romantic interests, but doing so has certainly made this show truly phenomenal.
—Edited by TheFNGee
The Producers took the subject at hand, gave it a spin, and reworked the story into an all-encompassing drama left unspoken in the Chinese Bromance circuit. The poignant chemistry between the main leads is an added advantage. The fact that the streaming portal and the show’s Producers dared to venture into the rarely-tread territory of an actual same-sex relationship is a ray of light for the future. Can we hope for more Chinese BL where the “gay elements” aren’t censored into oblivion? The future seems uncertain, but since Hikaru Na Go managed to get past the censorship apparatus, I’m certainly hoping for more honest depictions of homosexuality in upcoming Chinese Gay adaptations like “Immortality,” “Winner is King,” and “Faraway Wanderers.” For now, let me lead you on a journey through the penultimate episodes as Shi Guang faces major upheavals in his life and learns to fight them, with Yu Liang taking up his place as Guang’s “Better Half.”
The third phase of this storyline focuses on the changing dynamics between our main leads, as Shi Guang battles his insecurities to up his Grade and better his game style. As he slowly toes the line between reckless gameplay and starts blossoming into a Professional Player, Yu Liang decides to test his limits. The end result leaves Yu Liang surprised and exasperated with Shi Guang’s sudden improvement. However, all good things tend to end sooner or later. Due to the recurrent Supernova phenomenon, Chu Ying vanishes, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Shi Guang is left heartbroken and denounces the game of Go. As his friends rally together to break through his mental block, Shi Guang is left feeling desolate and depressed. However, Yu Liang’s persistent efforts bear fruit, and Shi Guang finally decides to return to Professional Go after the short hiatus. How these two tag together and represent their country on the international platform forms the rest of the story.
My Thoughts on These Episodes
As Shi Guang finally gets graded as 1-Dan, everyone is left overjoyed. Yu Liang, on the other hand, acknowledges his skills and recommends his name to Fang Xu. In the midst of this, Mr. Zhu decides to help Shen Yi Lang and sends him to a Japanese training institute. Before leaving for the trip, both the close friends have a heart to heart and resolve their differences. On the other hand, Fang Xu saves Shi Guang from being scammed by an impersonator and offers him a chance to work for his Team. Shi Guang wholeheartedly agrees at first but rejects the offer later. Fang Xu wants him to act as Yu Liang’s Initiator (He has to keep improving his form and only compete against Yu Liang so that Liang’s stance keeps progressing).
Shi Guang is left resolute since his sixth rank isn’t earning him favors with any popular Go Team. The silver lining arrives unexpectedly when Yu Xiao Yang decides to play against Shi Guang in a friendly match. The game is met with huge excitement and anticipation. Chu Ying wants this opportunity to have a face-off with Yu Xiao Yang. After much cajoling, Shi Guang agrees, and the match proceeds with Chu Ying directing the moves.
Interestingly enough, Yu Xiao Yang is one step ahead of Chu Ying, and shockingly, Chu Ying loses. I was left stunned because the show has been projecting Chu Ying as the “God of Go.” Guess even the god has his own limits!
As Shi Guang is whiling away his time, he unexpectedly meets Xu Hou. Xu Hou studied at the same Go Institute as Shi Guang and is a 5-Dan Professional Player. He also owns a Go Team, which doesn’t rank very highly. He offers a position on the team to Shi Guang, and after much deliberation, Shi Guang joins Xu Hou’s Team. While both Shi Guang and Yu Liang dance around their feelings for each other, Yu Xiao Yang and Fang Xu have a fierce battle for the Meijin Cup. Shockingly enough, Yu Xiao Yang’s condition deteriorates during the third match, and he is hospitalized. Before Yu Xiao Yang, Shi Guang kowtows for a chance to play one round of Online Go with Chu Ying.
Although Yu Xiao Yang doesn’t agree at first, Shi Guang’s persistence pays off. The match is yet again met with great anticipation because it is a “battle of titans.” As the entire Go universe is swept with excitement, with bets placed on will win. Yu Xiao Yang is continuously surprised by Chu Ying’s offensive play, and by the end of the game, Xiao Yang’s gameplan undergoes a major change. Chu Ying imparts him with valuable life lessons that entirely change his perspective. Inexplicably, both our Go legends miss out on an important detail during the match, and Shi Guang correctly points out their mistake. Chu Ying is left shocked that Shi Guang could deduce the “Divine Move” and finally ends his centuries-old search.
Meanwhile, the netizens start badmouthing Fang Xu since he won’t ask for deferral despite his own Master’s declining health. The next time Yu Xiao Yang enters the Mystery Go Room, he plays without worries, and although he loses to Fang Xu in the final round, he wholeheartedly accepts the defeat. Yu Xiao Yang announces his retirement (Xiao Yang had made a bet with Shi Guang that he would retire from Professional Go if Chu Ying defeats him in Online Go). However, the situation turns detrimental for Fang Xu, who is blamed for Yu Xiao Yang’s retirement.
In the midst of this, Chu Ying is left reeling from the news of the recurring Supernova Explosion (Chu Ying appeared eight years ago in this timeline when the last Supernova Explosion happened). Chu Ying can clearly see the end coming, and he wants to make the most of his borrowed time. He begins to train Shi Guang more zealously and has random outbursts of anger and emotions. Shi Guang is left speechless because he can’t figure out the reason behind Chu Ying’s rapid mood swings. Chu Ying is often pulled back into his past life, where his spirit becomes more substantial. The fact that his clock is ticking is a major foretelling, but Chu Ying decides against divulging anything to Shi Guang.
Shi Guang happily proceeds through his A-League Matches, continues to flirt with Yu Liang, and continuously argues with Chu Ying. On the day of the Supernova Explosion, Chu Ying lies to Shi Guang that it is his birthday. Shi Guang readily fulfills all his wishes, and they return to the places where they share their important memories. These scenes were painful, so watching them left me emotionally exhausted. You have to appreciate Juck Zhang’s acting skills because playing a ghost spirit isn’t always an easy task. To play a centuries-old spirit is an even more difficult task. As Shi Guang falls asleep from exhaustion, unaware that Chu Ying will disappear, you feel Chu Ying’s yearning and can’t help but feel sorry for the friendly ghost next door. The scene where he begs for another chance to spend a lifetime beside Shi Guang will devastate you. Go has been the sole reason for his centuries-old existence. But at that moment, when he is about to fade into oblivion, Chu Ying desperately pleads to stay beside Shi Guang. At this point, Go has become entirely insignificant, and his only desire is to watch Shi Guang grow old. It was such a heart-wrenching scene because Chu Ying is one of the most well-written characters in the history of Chinese Bromance ever.
When Shi Guang discovers that Chu Ying has disappeared, he goes through various stages of denial, anger, and dejection. He tries different methods to make Chu Ying reappear, even jumps into the school lake hoping that his best friend would return, but alas, nothing. Guang isn’t ready to accept that Chu Ying doesn’t exist anymore. He calls for favors and drives to the Lan Yin temple to talk to Lazy Master. Although Lazy Master brushes off his concerns at first, later, he advises Shi Guang to accept the truth and move on with his life. Shi Guang doesn’t pay heed to his words and decides to give up on playing Go. He stops attending Go matches, and despite his Team Leader and Hong He’s persistent efforts, he gives up on playing. He also returns to school and seems disinterested in life. Despite everything, Yu Liang doesn’t give up on him, and at last, his attempts yield a positive result.
Shi Guang then realizes that his only connection to Chu Ying was the Go Chessboard, and after a hiatus of six months, Shi Guang returns to Professional Matches. He sweeps through the wins and immediately takes over the lower bracket. Yu Liang, Hong He, and Shi Guang are selected to represent their country at the Hokuto Cup. Unfortunately, Hong He’s Father is hospitalized, and he has to give up on his dreams momentarily. I have huge issues with the storyline here. Firstly the Korean Organizers decide to remove the third players because of an anomaly at their end. The decision seems haphazard and makes no sense. Secondly, this sudden change seems like an attempt to brush off Hong He so that the spotlight can be redirected towards Yu Liang & Shi Guang’s subtle romance.
The last episode could very well be titled their “honeymoon phase.” I was left surprised, exasperated, and even shocked. The show’s producers somehow managed to bypass the Chinese censorship despite the obvious depiction of the main lead’s romantic inclinations. Since the show has no female love interests, it is impossible to classify Yu Liang and Shi Guang’s relationship as a “Bromance.” It’s as clear as day, and although we don’t have any sexual interludes, the entire Hikaru Universe knows and accepts their obvious relationship. It is clearly not platonic, and the show’s producers didn’t even try to gloss over this fact with random outbursts of sportsmanship or brotherhood.
As Shi Guang slowly accepts this new alternate reality where Chu Ying doesn’t exist, Yu Liang takes center stage and becomes the most important person in his life. Shen Yi Lang returns from Japan and successfully gets graded. Apart from Hong He, Yi Lang is another fan favorite, and I’m glad that his persistent efforts finally earn him the most awaited Grade.
Chemistry Between The Main Leads
Yu Liang and Shi Guang
The show majorly focuses on the poignant romance between main leads Shi Guang and Yu Liang. It’s loud, preposterous and entirely encompassing. The show’s producers have made very little effort to hide their relationship or tag it as Bromance. Both Yu Liang and Shi Guang wholeheartedly accept their feelings. Yu Liang is the kind of character who never openly expresses his feelings, and yet the news that Shi Guang is going to join his Go Team makes him smile wholeheartedly. His entire demeanor changed, and his emotions are clearly on the surface. Yu Liang continuously defends Shi Guang in front of Mu Qing Chun and Yue Zhi, which spells out his respect for the person he likes. The scene where he follows Shi Guang to the Lan Ying Temple requires a special mention. Even Lazy Master correctly deduces their relationship, and Chu Ying is amused. The fact that Yu Liang wants Shi Guang to progress to his own level makes you wish for a partner like him. Yu Liang shares his dreams and ambitions with Shi Guang and is patient enough to wait until Shi Guang catches up.
After Chu Ying’s sudden disappearance, Yu Liang takes up the stead in his place. As Shi Guang goes through various denial phases and rejects his advice, Yu Liang doesn’t give up on trying to persuade him. He even begs in front of Shi Guang and apologizes for past mistakes. Yu Liang is a very strong character, and it is unimaginable to see him get down to such emotionally intense levels. Yet he does that and even goes to the extent of breaking his ties with Shi Guang. Another scene that deserves a special mention is Yu Xiao Yang having an open-heart conversation with his son. It’s obvious that Shi Guang’s condition is affecting Yu Liang’s gameplan. The fact that Yu Xioa Yang finds his son’s obsession amusing is a clear indication of the sudden change in their relationship. Unlike other BL parents, who try to dissuade their kids, Yu Xiao Yang readily accepts Shi Guang’s influence and importance in his son’s life. Truly a legend.
As Shi Guang roams around aimlessly, Yu Liang giving into the rejection requests that Guang forget their time together. His expressions will shatter your feelings. That’s what triggers Shi Guang to play again. Apart from Chu Ying, Yu Liang is the only important person in Shi Guang’s life. Shi Guang can’t let go of Yu Liang, and he decides to return to Professional Go. His entry at the next day’s match would put most Chinese dramas to shame. I never thought that I would get to watch a slow-motion run with two male leads in a Chinese Bromance, but the show’s producers certainly managed to shock the audiences in the penultimate episode. The way Yu Liang practically glues himself to Shi Guang’s side will leave you thrilled. Now that Shi Guang is finally back, Yu Liang won’t let him out of his sight. He is more at ease and smiles more often. Yu Liang is a complete introvert, and the only two people he smiles for are – Fang Xu and Shi Guang.
Despite their various misgivings and arguments, Yu Liang would never let anyone else insult Shi Guang. It could be Mu Qing Chun or Yue Zhi, and still, Yu Liang would always defend Shi Guang. I just love how both our main characters are equally flawed, and despite that, they are each other’s biggest strength. I especially enjoyed watching their interaction in the finale episode, which was entirely dedicated to their blossoming relationship. From gradually becoming friends to acting totally in tandem with each other, their relationship changes positively. When Shi Guang expresses his grief over being left alone by his friends successively, Yu Liang simply floors him with “You have me.” Fang Xu is pretty much irritated with the sudden shift in their friendship because these two wouldn’t stop flirting in front of him. When he suggests that they would have to stay together to train and offers his bar, Yu Liang rejects the offer. Obviously, he has other ideas and goes ahead to bring Shi Guang to his own home. I was pleasantly surprised by this turn of events.
As our feisty couple settles down, their “honeymoon phase” turns into a laugh riot. They face major issues when it comes to mutual understanding and bicker over insignificant things. Yu Liang has major doubts about a certain person’s influence, which is reflected in Shi Guang’s style. On the other hand, Shi Guang can’t share his secrets and gives vague answers to hide the truth. Though Shi Guang’s dishonesty hurts him, Yu Liang still asks for his trust. The scene where they have an open discussion about trusting each other might very well be a lesson in relationship goals. While Yu Liang is impatient with most people, Shi Guang is an exception. He is ready to fight to earn his trust and respect. The dynamics of their relationship tethers on the love they have for the game and each other.
As the show progresses, they test the strength of their pairing by playing against more formidable players and seek answers to their unresolved issues. The show ends with a classic twist where Yu Liang and Shi Guang reminisce about old times, and Liang sincerely thanks Guang for their togetherness journey. Although he is still waiting for the answers to his questions, Yu Liang sounds more at peace with himself, and you can notice the implicit shift in their relationship. They have encountered numerous problems in nine years and emerged stronger. They are still standing beside each other and will continue to do so.
Chu Ying and Shi Guang
The final episodes dealt with Chu Ying’s disappearance and Shi Guang’s utter devastation. The fact that the audiences experienced the same pain is a testament to Chu Ying’s popularity. Transcending the horror element usually associated with spirits, the show portrayed Chu Ying’s character in a positive light. The fans cheered when he was happy and were left heartbroken when Chu Ying disappeared. I personally felt the loss because, frankly, apart from the main leads, Chu Ying was my most favorite character. Juck Zhang embodied Chu Ying’s quirks, convictions, and ethics. I’m totally in awe of his portrayal. Hu Xian Xu, on the other hand, literally spells out heartbreak. Despite being paired opposite a veteran actor like Zhang, Xian Xu has very good control of his expressions. He encompasses the character’s expressions of loss and makes you feel the loss as well.
Although their teacher/disciple relationship was the focal point of the show, the fact that they are first and foremost best friends can never be changed. Towards the end, when Chu Ying undergoes a change of heart and accepts that Shi Guang has become more important to him than the game of Go, you are left strangely surprised. For him to accept such a thing shows how significant Shi Guang is in his life. I treasured, enjoyed, relished this friendship, and I’m oddly jealous of Shi Guang. He has the best friendships in the Chinese BL world. Chu Ying, Hong He, Shen Yi Lang, and Gu Yu – each of them fought beside Guang and made significant sacrifices to help him realize his dreams. I guess that’s a part of his charm and charisma—the exact reason why Yu Liang is so drawn to Shi Guang.
Fang Xu and Bai Chuan
We never got a chance to discuss Fang Xu and Bai Chaun’s romantic interlude. So I might as well do it now. The fact that both of them are opposite in nature and personality might seem detrimental to their relationship, and yet opposites attract. Bai Chaun is Fang Xu’s comfort zone. The one place he seeks solace, advice, and peace. Whenever Fang Xu is plagued with problems, the first person he turns to is Bai Chaun. They both have divergent points of view that will never converge, yet Fang Xu always pays heed to Bai Chaun’s words. Their relationship is clear from the get-go when Bai Chaun protects Fang Xu from the attacks after his win against Yu Xiao Yang. While Fang Xu looks lost and discouraged, Bai Chaun becomes his silent support and points out his positive aspects. The whole world might stand against Fang Xu, and he won’t care as long as he has Bai Chaun by his side. They are also the obligatory parental units for Yu Liang and Shi Guang. Their attempts to teach Shi Guang and Yu Liang the basic principles of Pair Go lands them in major hot water. Although they argue and bicker like an old married couple, Fang Xu supports Bai Chaun unconditionally. When the Children’s Palace where Bai Chaun works gets closed, Fang Xu promptly buys him another luxurious place to teach Go to young minds. Their thoughts might have different tracts; they are each other’s biggest support.
Ban Heng and Zhu Da Yong
The third couple in this sports saga is Shi Guang’s training institute teachers – Mr. Ban and Mr. Zhu. They have a healthy respect for each other, and although the entire institute is terrified of Mr. Zhu, the only person who can keep him in control is Mr. Ban. From restricting his habitual drinking to helping him instruct the kids on their games, Ban stands beside Zhu. In the last episode, both of them effortlessly defeat Shi Guang and Yu Liang. Our main couple is surprised by the teamwork between the two. Mr. Zhu explains that their tactical moves are a result of more than ten years of training together. They might banter and seem indifferent, but the fact remains that both of them care a lot for each other.
If you are looking for a sports-based drama, then Hikaru Na Go should be high on your list. The romance is an added advantage, but what sets this show apart is the well-written script with excellent direction. Each character has its own storyline, and the nuances are finely layered. You will never encounter boredom because the show grabs your attention and keeps you hooked on the bait. Truly phenomenal. If you still haven’t watched this show, then what are you doing with your life?
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]
We are leaving you here with some pictures from Hu Xian Xu, Juck Zhang, and Hao Fu Shen’s recent photoshoot with Variety Magazine. Don’t our dynamic trio look enticing, and the sizzling chemistry between our main leads is off the charts even offscreen!