Remember those days you had to beg your parents to take you to the arcade and had to use physical currency in order to play video games? No...? Perhaps I'm dating myself then. The Netflix original series Hi Score Girl is a glimpse into true 90's kids across both the US and Japan. The story revolves around Haruo Yaguchi, a young school boy who obsesses over video games (like we all did at his age) and is determined to be the best Street Fighter player there is. This of course changes over the years to reflect the latest arcade and console release, bit nonetheless we see a kid who let's video games become the primary focus of his life while studies and social skills (and friendships) fall to the wayside. While this perfectly summed up my childhood and possibly many of my readers, this series is much more than a trip down memory lane.
At the beginning of this series, the talented gamer Haruo has his Street Fighter 2 winning streak as Guile decimated by an unknown player using Zangeef at his local arcade. Haruo is surprised when his opponent turns out to be the beautiful and wealthy Ono from his school, and individual who excels in school, arts, and shockingly good at arcade games. From here on, the mute Ono and Haruo begin a playful, romantic, and borderline abusive rivalry. The series then follows their outrageous video game centered adventures.
The reason I love this series is that it is a retro nostalgia adventure. It gives reference to a number of my childhood favorites such as Tekken, Street Fighter 2 (all editions), Mortal Combat, Ghosts n Goblins, Final Fight, and many more. The retro pop culture references and cameos were definitely on point. The three main characters of the series we're loveable, and the relationship between between the Ono and Haruo is adorable and hilarious at the same time. Also, the series has almost no sexual content (despite one reverted classmate) so I can honestly say it's a series you can watch with your kids.
While I truly enjoyed Hi Score Girl, I had a few issues with it as well. First: the english dub is garbage. As with many other animes, it seemed rushed and unattural. I took care of this issue by switching to the original Japanese. My next issue was that the secondary characters in the show (except Haruo's Mom and Ono's Driver) are basically white noise. There's the token ugly perverted character who makes three appearances, Haruo's best friend who is the super nice guy but not good enough to give any details too, and Ono's mentor that literally gets close to 1 minute of air time through the whole series. In aA personal pet peeve of mine was the animation style, seeming to be in the same style as Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I would like to clarify that this is a personal preference and not necessarily a flaw, so it took a while to finally grow on me.
Overall, I believe Netflix can write Hi Score Girl off as a win. Despite it's flaws I believe this series has the potential to continue forward in it's retro goodness. I give this series a 4 out of 5 because while it's definitely a unique storyline that breaks out the Nostalgia (not to mention a strong desire to purchase the Ultimate Street Fighter Collection), it seems that the writers were trying to add numerous anime cliches into it just for kicks. Definitely give the series a chance, and form your own love for this series.
Anime Year of Release: 2018D
Director Yoshiki Yamakawa
Writer: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Music: Yoko Shimomura
Watch It On: Netflix
Final Score: 4 out of 5
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