Elite pro gamers only.
Final score: 2.5 out of 5
Sometimes Netflix suggests random things for me to watch, and I feel bad saying no.
Hi Score Girl is a cutesy look at young love through the eyes of protagonist Haruo Yaguchi, a HARDCORE ELITE PRO GAMER in Japan’s early ‘90s arcade scene. Haruo is a pretty typical video game obsessed kid, spending countless yen at the arcade, much to the detriment of his schoolwork and relationships. The arcades of the time were dominated by fighting games, and Haruo is addicted to Street Fighter II. (Side note: Square Enix is credited on the title screen of the show, but the show focuses heavily on Capcom’s Street Fighter series)
Haruo’s world gets flip turned upside down when Akira Oono, the daughter of an affluent family, begins to dominate the arcade he hangs out in. The only way he can defeat her is by using a cheesy tactic with Guile, known as a “turtle”. The show’s creators show the depth of their game knowledge in scenes like this, using Haruo’s dialogue to describe not only a wide variety of games, but also a deep knowledge of their mechanics and strategies.
Akira and Haruo’s antagonistic natures quickly give way to a very saccharine budding romance. Despite being utterly oblivious to other peoples’ feelings, Haruo manages to develop a relationship with Akira, teaching her about games and chasing down an urban legend of an arcade offering 10 yen plays. Their love is cut short, however, when Akira moves to Los Angeles. Haruo continues to practice at Street Fighter, swearing to challenge Akira on equal footing the next time they meet.
As Haruo moves on to junior high, he attracts the attention of Koharu Hidaka, a girl with no experience with video games. Her father owns a shop and recently put an arcade machine out front, and Haruo spends a lot of time there teaching Koharu about games.
For her part, Koharu bounces back and forth between hating Haruo for not being sensitive to her emotional needs and not being able to cut him out of her life. Their budding relationship is further threatened by the sudden return of Akira Oono.
The show uses a lot of the typical anime tropes, such as a boy-crazy side character who asks to grab the main character’s penis to see if there’s a bone in it, or Haruo’s mother who feeds the girls who show up in their house her signature dessert, “the pancakes you see in manga”. These take away more than they add to the series, which overall is just fine. I’d rate it 2.5 out of 5 stars - entertaining, but not something I’d lament missing.