Review: High Score Girl – Season 2

T.K.O.

Producer: Warner Bros. Japan
Director: Yamakawa Yoshiki
Writer: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Starring: Johnny Young Bosch, Christine Marie Cabanos, Erika Harlacher (Dub)
Distributor: Netflix
Genre: Romance, Comedy

When I first discovered High Score Girl back in 2018, it was the nostalgia that drew me in. Taking place in the early 90’s around the arcade and fighting game culture, I decided to give it a watch. What I didn’t expect was to find one of my favorite stories in all of anime. When season one was over, I couldn’t wait for more.

In 2019, a few OVA episodes were added to season one called “Next Stage” that would lead us right into season two. While those few episodes were able to feed my need for more, I was left waiting for more yet again until this year. Then, thanks to a social media post from Netflix, I was excited to learn the wait would be over in April. However, I did not realize this journey would be coming to an end so quickly.

Content Guide

DISCLAIMER: This content guide primarily refers to the dubbed version of the anime and may differ from the subbed version. It is at the viewer’s discretion on deciding which version to watch.

Spiritual themes: A few of the arcade games featured in the show include supernatural elements, such as the game Vampire Hunter/Darkstalkers, which takes inspiration from various sources of the classic horror genre.

It is worth noting a minor character does wear a cross necklace, but they don’t get enough screen time for us to know if they have any religious background.

Violence: Most of the games played on the show are of the fighting and beat ’em up genre, and much of the gameplay is depicted in multiple scenes. On a few occasions, characters are hitting one another, though it is presented in more of a comedic manner than picturing moments of extreme violence.

Language: The subtitled version seems to include strong language such as “d**n,” “G** d**n, f***, and b****. I recommend watching the dubbed version since the dialogue is much cleaner.

Sexual Themes: Being that this show is a blend of comedy and romance, there are plenty of sexual themes here. Most of it feels relatively innocent, though, especially coming from the uneducated students that reference “making out.” Another example is a student saying, “I want to find out if your penis has a bone in it.” That’s about as extreme as it gets.

As other characters discover the dilemma the main character has found himself in, they tell him multiple times he’s becoming a man now. Two characters suspect him of playing a virtual erotic video game as well.

Review

High Score Girl tells the story of Haruo Yaguchi, who is caught in a love triangle between Akira Ono and Koharu Hidaka. Season 2 picks up where the Next Stage episodes left off, as the love triangle begins to close in on our three main characters. Akira is stuck studying at home, Haruo still spends his time at the arcade, and Hidaka spends time taking care of her family’s store. She also still holds a grudge against Haruo for defeating her in a match of Vampire Hunter that would’ve got her a date with him if she had won. At this point, Haruo is also still oblivious towards the feelings of these two girls.

As I said in the introduction, it was the theme that drew me in. What I did not expect was to feel so attached to these characters and the events that were taking place. The first season took us through some heart-wrenching moments, and season two reminds us of this by starting in a manner that isn’t very positive. For the season to start this way is a testament to how well written this story was. Great characters also help make a great story, and I believe we have those here too.

Many of the characters in this show serve a purpose, and there aren’t any I overtly dislike, which is a significant achievement. However, I want to focus on the main three. Haruo is a typical guy, one many guys can relate to and one many women probably know. He is so wrapped up in his hobby that it takes a gut punch to get him to snap out of it and he spends most of the season like that. When we see Hidaka again, it is clear she hasn’t entirely accepted her loss as well. Meanwhile, Akira is still trapped by her studies, but has now fully realized her feelings for Haruo. These characters have flaws and struggles many of us can relate to and still have those in season two.

This scene was quite tense.

Much of the humor in the show comes from Haruo’s ignorance. He’s always getting beat up by his mother, Akira’s sister, Makoto, and even Akira herself on a few occasions. These moments occur in a very Looney Tunes-Esque manner when he says or does foolish things. His character defects continue to be detrimental to himself, and the same can be said in this season—though we have seen him rise above his flaws in the past.

In the first season, I found myself pulling for Hidaka to get Haruo’s attention. However, I didn’t feel sorry for her this time around. She has a moment of desperation to be with Haruo that plays out awkwardly and is easily the weakest moment in the show. Not long after, she gives an excuse I find very hard to believe. Yes, it was indeed a moment of weakness for her too, but I felt it could have played out differently. Despite the delivery of the scene, this also is a testament to how well the characters have been written.

Then there’s Akira, which I feel is one of the most cleverly written characters in anime. She doesn’t talk, yet conveys so much emotion with her expressions and reactions. Without her ever speaking a word, we can feel for her and the situation she can never seem to escape. She also brings much humor to the show, especially around Haruo, who she puts in check on multiple occasions. While her quietness does not always work in her favor, her biggest struggle is the work and studying she is forced to do for her family.

What I find fascinating about High Score Girl, is the setting is a significant part of what drives this story forward. All of these characters come from different backgrounds, yet have been united by arcade games. This setting is what is going to get casual audiences to check out the first few episodes, especially the fighting game fans. All of the video games featured in this show come from Capcom, Sega, SNK, and more. It must’ve taken some hard work to get the permission to reference all of these franchises in the show. The manga initially getting into some trouble for using some of these properties likely made it much harder, too.

Another major part of the humor is that the favorite fighters of our three main characters live in their subconscious—Guile for Haruo, Zangief for Akira, and Huitzil for Hidaka. With Haruo being the main character, we mostly see Guile’s 2-D sprite-self interacting with him and sometimes intervening in moments of his life. From the few images I’ve seen from the manga, the translation from panel to animation enhanced these moments since the actual in-game sprites were utilized.

The way this season ended could not have been any better (I may have cried), even if it plays out like a typical romantic comedy movie. Unfortunately for us, this is also where the manga ends. I may have just broken your heart by revealing that information, but the final episode does a great job of conveying the finality of the series. No plot thread is left open, nor are there any stones left unturned in the relationship between these three characters. I would’ve loved to see what life is like for them as adults, and we may get to see that for Hidaka if the new spin-off manga called High Score Girl: Dash is ever adapted into an anime.

High Score Girl has become one of my favorite anime shows of all time, and season 2 did not disappoint. Its setting drew me in, then proceeded to rip out my heart and show it to me on a silver platter. We can thank the well-written story, relatable characters, and slap-stick humor for that. High Score Girl is a fun and innocent anime I can recommend to almost anyone, especially casual anime fans who are also into video games as much as I am. Almost everyone has a Netflix account whether you pay for one or mooch off of someone else’s account, so there is very little excuse for someone not to check it out a few episodes.

The Bottom Line

 

Nostalgia is initially the driving force for High Score Girl, but the show will buckle you in for a roller coaster ride of emotions you never expected.

 

9

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

2 Comments

  1. Miau on May 5, 2020 at 2:55 am

    Hsg 2 catched so hard. Season 2 ends with tears in my eyes and there is no hope for more. I am not satisfied with Hidakas ending. This char need a better ending

    • L.J. Lowery on May 6, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks for reading! And yes, I agree on Hidaka. I’m hoping they eventually adapt that spinoff manga into an anime at some point.

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