Writer/Illustrator: Rensuke Oshikiri
Publisher: Square Enix
WHAT IS IT?
A slice of life comedy set in Japan during the early 90s arcade boom. It’s equal parts a tribute to retro video games and slow-burn relationship drama with a healthy dose of over-the-top humor.
Hi Score Girl is what you’d get if Adventureland and FLCL were cloned together in a lab.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Sixth grader, Haruo “Mighty Fingers” Yaguchi is not a great athlete or student, but at his local arcades, he is king. That is, until ace student and fellow classmate, Akira Oono upends his world, besting him at his own games.
A rivalry quickly forms between the two. No matter which arcade Haruo goes to, Akira is not far behind. Will Haruo best his newfound rival, or gain a greater appreciation for her?
Rensuke Oshikiri perfectly captures the wonder of retro gaming and especially the arcade scene of the early '90s. Whether you grew up during the '90s or not, Oshikiri’s passion for the era is infectious.
Somehow, Oshikiri was cleared to use many real-life fighting game franchises for the manga, including Street Fighter, Splatterhouse, Final Fight, and many more. This added level of authenticity is shocking given the nature of IP holders, but is a real treat for readers.
The detailed descriptions of various game mechanics are effective at bringing people not familiar with these games up to speed.
Haruo’s depiction as a cocky smack-talker is a breath of fresh air for the “geeky outsider” archetype.
The evolution of lead characters Haruo and Akira is remarkable. Pairing the two as bitter arcade rivals and subtly building a gradual friendship that’s completely organic in a single volume.
This is especially impressive considering Akira doesn’t say a word throughout most of the story. This is an incredible feat of artistry on Oshikiri’s part that he could make Akira into such a compelling character using only her facial expressions.
Oshikiri’s page layouts flow like water, guiding your eyes from panel to panel with no issue. This is an easy book to lose track of time and read in one sitting.
Hi Score Girl’s humor is incredibly over-the-top, mostly using slapstick and exaggerated reaction shots, which the art sells perfectly.
The second half of the volume builds to some well-earned heartfelt moments, culminating in a poignant finale that leaves the reader lingering on the last moment between the two leads.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Note for American comic readers: Manga reads from right to left. Keep that in mind when picking this up.
There are a few panels where the word balloons cross through a character and make you believe the wrong character is talking. This is particularly jarring when Akira has been established as not uttering a word and each instance made it incorrectly appear as if she were speaking.
While Akira is well developed for being nonverbal, hopefully, future volumes will give her more of a speaking role or clarify her inability further. That’s currently the biggest question mark facing the series.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Hi Score Girl is the rare book that effortlessly clicks together from page one. Not only is it a brilliant tribute to early '90s video games, it captures the feeling of growing up in that period. Most of us weren’t the straight-A student or that popular, but even if you were…we’re always looking to escape from something. Haruo and Akira come from completely different backgrounds and couldn’t be more different in temperament. The two of them would never have associated with each other if not for their mutual love of video games.
Sure, this is also a hilarious story with amazing visual gags, but that’s not what’ll stick with you. No, Hi Score Girl’s hidden strength is its tenderness. The devotion to capturing the quiet moments of relationship-building from strangers to partners in crime, someone you couldn’t imagine not being a part of your life. That is the power of Rensuke Oshikiri.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Max Sarin
Blue Monday by Chynna Clugston-Flores
If you like the art:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Sam Maggs, and Gabi Nam
Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo
Off Road by Sean Murphy
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rensuke Oshikiri – Writer & Illustrator
Multitalented: Oshikiri is both a writer and an illustrator. And an amazing one at that.
On the Rise: Hi Score Girl was adapted into an anime, and season 2 dropped last April.
Outlander: He hails from Japan.
Alexander Keller-Nelson – Translator
Keller-Nelson has also completed manga translations for Sekiro Side Story: Hanbei the Undying, Giant Killing, All-Out!!, and many more.
Bianca Pistillo – Letterer
Prolific: Pistillo has worked on many different projects including, Goblin Slayer, Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger, Crimson Prince, and many more.
Outlander: She is based out of Italy.
Multitalented: Pistillo has translated manga in English and Italian.
Phil Balsman – Cover Designer
Award Winner: Multiple time Eisner and Harvey Award winner.
Owner and operator of Odin Star Industries: Art & Design.
Multitalented: Specializes in publication and logo design for Manga as well as American comics.
Tania Biswas – Editor
Multitalented: Biswas also has credited roles as a letterer and cover designer for various manga.
Senior editor for Square Enix Manga/Books at Penguin Random House
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