Also known as loli shogi, Ryuo is a LN about pro shogi players Yaichi Kuzuryu who has taken the prestigious title of Ryuo, and of his 9 years old apprentice, Ai Hinamatsuru. The LN has earned the first place for Kono Light Novel wa Sugoi in 2017 and 2018.
Don’t let the nickname of this LN fools you. Behind the few humorous cliché joke related to underage girls known in otaku media, Ryuo a wholesome read. The author spent a lot of time researching about shogi and players, and it shows. There is no need for the reader to know shogi; I certainly don’t, and still greatly enjoyed the story.
The story start as Ai Hinamatsuru tries to get Yaichi Kuzuryu to be her teacher. Initially he refused, but then saw her talent and remembered his promise of teaching her. Thus start their life together, a teenage professional player with a elementary school girl, playing shogi, despite the refusal of Ai’s family who would only let her play under some hard conditions.
If it’s a game for some, in Ryuo, shogi is a way of live. The characters are all passionate about their game, and through the course of the novel, the reader experience it vividly, in victory as in defeat. Emotions are portrayed with great and gripping accuracy, as they struggle to just move one piece over the board. A single move across the board of this boring game turns into secret techniques for epic duels thanks to the narration. It’s a wild emotional ride to experience by reading.
Each character get their own screen time, with their own struggle, aspiration and improvement. Yaichi has the burden of living up to his title. Ai Hinamatsuru has natural talent at the game, but her family is against her playing. Ai Yashajin is another talented 9 years old whose connection to her late parents is through shogi. Sora, Yaichi’s sister in the shogi family, has the burden of being a girl, and her unrequited love. Keika is the daughter of a pro player, yet failed to reach the Women League despite being in her 20s. All these characters will grow and make an interesting cast to follow through the volumes.
Interestingly enough, as you may see from the list of character, the author spent some good time on the existence of the Women league. Men and women don’t play together, like in a lot of other game. It explains why it’s structured like that, but also conveys an hopeful message to be more inclusive of women.
Art wise, it’s very special, aside of Shirabii’s pastel colours. The B&W illustrations are not always full page, but instead are sandwiching the text, making them like a face to face duel. Some shogi board are also illustrated so if you are a player, you can have a better picture!
Volume 1 is the introduction, and better say, if people didn’t push me past it, I would have stopped. It was a slow beginning and I had particular dislike for Bookwalker’s app. Volume 2? It’s picking up, and got to its cruise speed. Since then, I greatly appreciated it. The stakes are getting higher and higher, and I believe volume 5 does mark its highest peak as Yaichi is against the Meijin. I have heard that it was supposed to be just 5 volumes, but turns out that there is now 6 more. I will read them later.
If I had to summarize, Ryuo is the passionate work about passionate people living their passions. And I can’t help but admire passionate people. Highly recommended! And now I wonder if we may get No-rin translated one day.
An anime was broadcasted in 2018. It covers the 5 first volume in 12 episodes. This is barely more than 2 episodes per volume, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like it was overly rushed. Better say, the LN has lots of explanation about the world of Shogi, explanation which aren’t featured in the anime which focused more on the games played by the character. These explanations wouldn’t really fit the anime format anyway. So I can say that it was decent, but LN is better, as you live the world of Shogi. I had watched before reading volume 3 to 5, but reading was a far more intense experience, despite knowing the story.