off, I'm not the typical person who recommends anime. Back in my younger
days, I used to watch a lot more anime (some old school favorites include Berserk, Initial D and Death Note).
last "modern" anime I really enjoyed (and couldn't get enough of)
was One Punch Man (patiently waiting for Season 2). In
general, I spend much more of my time trying to get better at fighting
games over watching TV or movies. However, as a
fighting game enthusiast for 30+ years,
I'm here to recommend to you an anime called Hi Score Girl.
Originally written and illustrated by Rensuke Oshikiri, the manga released
back in 2010. Directed by Yoshiki Yamakawa, the anime was
greenlit in December of 2013 and first aired last year, July 13th to
Hi Score Girl is
chock-full of fighting game references... and then some.
Score Girl follows sixth grader
Haruo Yaguchi, a boy who is known for
slacking off in school and athletics... but when it comes to
fighting games in
Haruo's true passion and persona
comes alive. To quote a line of show, Haruo spends his time at arcades to
"escape the drags of everyday life"... and I know that a lot of us
long-time fighting game players can immediately relate.
And Haruo is not the only character in the show who's a regular in the local
Akira Ono is a quiet
girl.... she also racks up win streaks at arcades to escape a strict home life.
Score Girl takes us back to the year 1991.
For any old school gamer, this show is a true nostalgia trip back to simpler times...
we should remember and deeply appreciate. In many ways, Hi Score Girl is a
love letter to those of us who grew up playing games in late 80's / early
The show wastes no time highlighting some very
real "arcade kid
/ video gamer problems" back in the day... here's a few you might
remember: Which game systems can I afford to buy? I can't wait for this (and that) game to be released... will I even have
enough time to play all of these games while balancing school work and
I need to level up my skills, so next time I meet "that player" at the
arcade, I'll have my fated revenge!
Score Girl immediately draws you in with its accurate depictions of
classic video games, home consoles (and their epic release dates) and Japanese
culture. Along with all the 90's nostalgia and authenticity, Hi
Score Girl has rich moments
of comedy, which shines through clearly in characters expressions and
enthusiasm (or lack thereof) heard in their voices. To quote Haruo in
one of my favorite scenes: "No, I really don't want to play Ghosts 'N
Goblins... (because quarters last much longer in Final Fight)."
This kid speaks the truth.
Hi Score Girl hits
on the "important" fighting game releases of the time.
of the characters in the anime are, impressively, made entirely of 3D models, but still manage to show convincing
expression and substance. Animation-wise, Hi Score Girl is
not groundbreaking or particularly flashy... with the video games
themselves (and gameplay) actually taking precedence a lot of the time.
However, there are some brilliant moments of character animation, such as
Haruo walking like Cody or Guy from Final Fight. (I was
guilty of periodically doing this walk myself between 1989-1990.)
Camera angles during many scenes do a fantastic job of capturing that "arcade
feel". In nearly every scene when characters are hanging out inside an arcade, your eyes tend to wander over characters' shoulders to
check out what games are being played on the screens in the background.
The gameplay on all the screens is crisp, looks to be running at a perfect 60fps, and
character commentary during the full-screen segments is entertaining and
fact, one of my favorite aspects of Hi Score Girl is the many
moments of gameplay in "full screen mode". Every episode of Season
1 is chock-full of full-screen
goodness that brings you right into the
game the kiddos are playing in the moment. We're not talking entire
matches or levels, but you definitely get to enjoy the game along with 'em
for a short while. Nostalgic 2D sprites also randomly fly across the
backdrops at the weirdest times, breaking up some of
the typical (slow-ish) storytelling and character development.
Before watching the anime, I
knew a little bit about Hi Score Girl and its direct homages to Street
Fighter 2, specifically. What I wasn't expecting... was how many other great
homages there are, including a more-than-healthy dose to my all time favorite 2D
beat-em-up title, Final Fight. There are plenty of other
fighting games referenced too, including Darkstalkers, Samurai
Shodown, Mortal Kombat, and plenty of other (non-fighting
game) arcade classics.
The show doesn't take long to venture inside of the player's
mindset during a Street Fighter 2 match, citing specific strategies such as "turtling"
and "throw janks". Those of us who love playing fighting games
competitively can immediately relate to some of the "mind game
moments" that take place during an intense match with another human. And for those of us
who remember actually playing games in arcades, the show comically brings
up awkward (yet perhaps memorable) real life public situations
when playing at an arcade.
Yeah, Guile just got
bodied.... and if you've ever been a Guile main, you'll especially love this
When it's not busy being a
binge-worthy nostalgia trip, Hi Score Girl is something of a romantic comedy.
The snarky and sometimes rude Haruo Yaguchi
doesn't seem at all interested in girls (an excusable flaw for a 6th
until, of course, he gets bodied by Miss Ono in Street Fighter II.
Haruo clearly takes his fighting game skills seriously... so seeing his
bruised ego pushed to its limits after his losses (along with his
cockiness after winning) is
comedy gold. Haruo eventually comes around in some ways, but I guess
I won't spoil the love story part for you hopeless romantics.
Back to the games.... There are so many great references to small details of games and specific
characters (and I won't spoil all of them for those who haven't seen it), along
with the mention of iconic
release dates for "life-changing" consoles at the time (including a few
home consoles which were much more popular in Japan).
The show also provides us overseas fans
with a historical walkthrough of Japanese culture in the 90's (as a kid) and
its lucrative arcade scene. From the little "mom & pop
shop" arcades (with just a few sit-down cabinets), to the local
"hotspot" where all the hardcore fighting game players hang out, to the
overdone (and usually disappointing) theme park arcade... it's all very
what many of us experienced overseas with the rise of fighting games in
Among many of the
show's random funny things... one of the teachers is actually Lau from Virtua Fighter.
Time passes fairly quickly
in the show, with characters aging and new games being released... even
fighters such as Virtua Fighter 1 & 2, and my personal favorite, TEKKEN.
What the show gets very, very right is the "importance" the main
character puts on the new games and systems coming out in the near future. This struck a chord with me, as I could immediately relate to
Haruo's excitement when talking to
his friends about upcoming games (especially when those friends appear to
be much less informed). Going over to each other's houses
to play on consoles and experiencing games for the first time with friends
(because nobody can really afford to have all the systems by
were the days. Most kids of this new gaming generation will
never know the struggle.
This screen speaks to
me... This was exactly me in 1995/1996, minus the cute girl
sitting on my bed.
The anime's soundtrack is composed by the
Shimomura, known for her work on
iconic and timeless soundtracks such as Final Fight,
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, and Kingdom Hearts. Besides the original
songs heard in the intro and outro (which is especially catchy), most of the score
(and sound effects) is
resemble music specifically from games like Street Fighter and Final
Fight. Needless to say, the audio
design of Hi Score Girl is pretty fantastic all around.
You never know when
and where Akuma is going to pop up. 天
There are even some clever cameos by
actual fighting game (and non-fighting game) characters in Hi
Score Girl. Many of the cameos are fighting game characters speaking directly to Haruo
in his head. (Again, I won't spoil this comedy gold.) For any kind of video game fan, of any age, Hi Score Girl is a must
watch for historical value alone. I for one can't wait for Season 2. What makes Hi
even more interesting and unique is the fact that it begins in '91, with the
characters aging at least 4-5 years throughout the first season.
That said, could you imagine a High Score Girl "Season 7" with characters fully grown
and still enjoying modern fighting games such as Ultra Street
Fighter IV or TEKKEN 7? This would be an authentic reflection
of a large part of the fighting game community (and really the only piece
of media that exists to reflect this lifelong passion of ours). It's
a pretty exciting prospect that Hi Score Girl
could continue for several more seasons, as we will get to vicariously experience the excitement of
future game releases along
with the main characters. That said, there's a ton of potential for this show
on many levels. And I must say... being an adult who still loves
playing fighting games after 20 or
30 years is actually a pretty special thing.
Webmaster / Mr. Yagami
Hi Score Girl
was clearly made by fighting game fans... for fighting game
fans. Must watch!
You can watch the entire first season (12 episodes) of Hi Score Girl on
Netflix and Crunchy Roll. Three "sequel" episodes 13-15
are planned for release on Netflix and as an OVA in March 2019. Below is
an official trailer for the upcoming episodes.
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coverage and content.