Hi Score Girl 2 | A Gaming Love Tale
The second season of Hi Score Girl returns with the same quirky, lovable characters but amps up the development between them. This article review does contain [SPOILERS] and lots of them, so I do advise you to watch the show beforehand!
Hi Score Girl 2 picks up immediately after the Extra Stage OVA. This time, we find ourselves fast-forwarded five years later in 1996 where the central characters Haruo Yaguchi, Akira Oono and Hidaka Koharu are just starting their sophomore year of high school.
Despite the lengthy time gap, our protagonists are still in the same unusual predicament they were in back in their grade school days. That, however, is where the similarities come to an end. Hi Score Girl 2 puts its foot down on the gas and progresses the relationship between the three childhood friends in an all-out assault. The pacing, development, and conclusion in the second season were overall extremely well done, especially considering its rather short 9-episode duration. This Netflix original is a certified smash hit and here’s why!
Our Hero, Haruo
The Street Fighter mega maniac and lover of all video games, Haruo, still spends the majority of his time seated in arcade shops, slotting his coins in any machine that is willing to take it. His behaviour and personality are about the same as they were in season one, in which he resorts to anything game related when he is unsure on how to handle things. This is especially true when dealing with his rival, and potential love interest, Akira.
Although Akira is a lovable silent sweetheart, her feelings are conveyed naturally through her actions and facial expressions. Beyond the natural cool complexion she carries, Akira continues to blush, laugh and gets flustered just like anyone else her age would. Her emotions are more noticeable of the two, and Haruo is able to get a general sense of how she’s feeling without Akira ever saying a word. However, this does get more complicated when deeper themes are involved, like love. The two are the same in the sense that they feel a certain way towards one another but cannot come to terms with actually expressing their affection definitely.
Haruo is painfully too stubborn to grasp his true feelings that he would rather join a gaming club in Shibuya than deal with the love triangle of Akira and Hidaka. That is most likely because Haruo has yet to experience a romantic lifestyle outside of video games. Apart from combinations and move sets, Haruo remains clueless on how to handle the recent affection he receives from both girls. As this weird sensation continues to creep up on him, he eventually can no longer keep Akira or Hidaka at bay without a solid response.
This feeling of indecisiveness and uncertainty between the girls he truly cherishes eats away at him to the point where his spirit animal, Guile, cannot save him. It is not until Haruo is told by the people closest to him that he should go and accept the feelings he has harbored for so many years. Our socially awkward boy, Haruo, finally snaps out of his endless loop of gaming self-destruction and finally reaches out to the person he reveres to as his eternal rival. More on this below.
Solace in Silence
Akira Oono, the natural gamer, and heir to the prestigious Oono family. In season two, Akira has more of a transparent relationship with her caretaker and mentor, Goda Moemi. Akira even willingly tells Goda beforehand about her plans to participate in the Osaka Street Fighter tournament, with none other than Haruo himself. Although Goda did not give her official approval, she practically tells Akira that it’s alright if she goes.
Akira no longer needs to sneak out of the house with her chauffeur just to play some games and enjoy life outside of her family forced lessons. Goda understands the pressures put on Akira as the new heir after her older sister adamantly rejected the Oono family’s strict traditions. Akira still plays video games, mastering the hefty Russian, Zangief, even more so in Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
She remains the silent beauty we’ve come to love in season one, while also very obviously wearing her heart on her sleeve. Her affection towards Haruo is still evident but ramps up even more when her impending move to Los Angeles quickly approaches. During their trip to Osaka for the tournament, Akira surprisingly gets bottled up over her relationship with Haruo that she chokes and loses in the prelims. Like a true professional, she manages to bounce back from the losers bracket all the way to the semi-finals, where she is matched up with Haruo’s reformed Guile. Akira ends up winning the duel in a close fight but loses in the finals offscreen.
We learn that the tournament was never about proving tactical superiority over Haruo or being the best Street Fighter player in the nation. What we discovered was that Akira valued spending time with the one person she loves rather than the outcome of any competitive game. Her preordained move to live with her parents in Los Angeles, paired with the conflict she had with Hidaka, gave Akira enough incentive to accept and stand by her feelings of unconditional love for Haruo.
Hidaka Koharu’s story is quite endearing but slightly maddening at the same time. She experiences what everyone in their youth has regrettably been a part of at least once in their lifetime, one-sided love. Hidaka ends up winning the tournament in Shibuya against Haruo and his newly formed group. After the victory, Hidaka does not let up and proceeds to advance with all her might on Haruo. She doesn’t know how this particular geek managed to steal her heart, but Hidaka puts the specifics aside and pursues her intuition in an all-out effort.
She does what only a few people can actually do, layout all her feelings on the table and confess to the person she adores. There is no idling around with Hidaka, or letting nature take its supposed course. Like a savvy businessman, she saw the opportunity to be closer to Haruo and tried to seize it. When her obvious advancements in the diner weren’t enough to give Haruo the message, the next part in her attempt would have no ambiguity. The scene with Hidaka force hugging Haruo’s limp body on an open stretch of Shibuya, with Akira awkwardly watching from the distance, is a painful scene that perfectly encapsulates the type of person Hidaka is — fearless.
Hidaka was even willing to go against the fangs of Akira in Street Fighter. Knowing she was handily outmatched, Hidaka did not back down from the fight and gave it her all. Her feelings for Haruo were so cemented in her mind, body, and spirit that she was ready to snatch Haruo from another girl who is virtually the perfect counterpart for him.
Despite her affection being constantly disregarded and then eventually rejected, Hidaka still shines as someone with far more courage and self-acceptance than anyone else. It is this daring bravery and willingness to convey exactly what’s on her mind that puts her value as a character head and shoulders above the rest. Hidaka could not be praised enough for her tenacity and a clear sense of desire.
Though her screen time in the second season was limited, the impact she brought to the show was extremely memorable and more importantly crucial to set up the anticipated ending.
Final Round, Fight!
In the final few episodes, Haruo finally manages to properly turn down Hidaka’s affection and confirms his unwavering love towards Akira. With the help of his gaming spirits, especially his long-running partner Guile, Haruo barely makes it to the airport before Akira departs. After spending days competing against each other, getting on each other’s nerves, and creating wonderful memories, the two finally embrace and confess their love for one another. It was an immensely touching ending that satisfied those who were along for the ride since the beginning.
Only time will tell if we’re blessed enough to witness a third season of Hi Score Girl, but the heartfelt ending begs the question of whether we actually need another sequel. With Haruo vowing to visit Los Angeles to resume their eternal rivalry, and their feelings for one another finally being established, it might be better if we leave the rest to our own imaginations, or risk needlessly dragging on a show for no reason. Regardless, Hi Score Girl is a uniquely worthwhile show that everyone, not just gamers, would thoroughly enjoy.
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