TV Tuesday 4/25/23

I don’t know how it is with hobbies and interests for others, but mine — the ones that persist, anyway— are typically cyclic. I’ll be into something, reading, blogging, programming, trying to learn quantum mechanics, whatever, and then I’ll burn out or get temporarily tired of it and take a break.

Watching TV is definitely an interest that waxes and wanes. Through most of March, it was more or less on the wane. In April, though, it waxed, and one result of that is another TV Tuesday post.

Perhaps not surprisingly (given my tastes), the main entry today is a Japanese anime series, but there are a number of side dishes, including some movies that snuck in because I watched them on TV.

The main entree today is Hikaru no Go, a Japanese anime from 2001-2003. The anime TV series comprises a single season with 75 episodes. (It’s available on Hulu.)

The story follows Hikaru Shindo, a sixth grader in elementary school. The series spans a few years, so Hikaru grows to be a high schooler by the time the series ends. I know some have, and I somewhat share, a lack of interest in anime that focuses on high school or younger children, usually when the story is largely set at school and follows the exploits of the students (though Assassination Classroom is still one of my favorites). But Hikaru no Go focuses almost entirely on extracurricular activities with a small bit of action taking place at school.

Shindo is an ordinary sixth grader with ordinary sixth grade interests until he stumbles on his grandfather’s Go board in the attic. The board turns out to be haunted by the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, an expert Go player from ancient times. Sai wants to play Go again, which he hasn’t been able to do since his ghost appeared to Honinbo Shusaku, a (real life) top Go player of the Edo period.

Only Hikaru can see or hear Sai, who stays with Hikaru from that point on. He begins to teach him Go (so Sai can play), and this leads to a visit to a local Go parlor where Sai, through Hikaru, can play experienced players. They encounter and play another boy, Akira Toya, son of Koyo Toya, a master Go player. During their game, Akira is blown away by what he perceives as Hikaru’s skill. From this a kind of rivalry develops. Akira wants to understand Hikaru, and Hikaru wants to become an expert Go player like Akira.

Hikaru (left) and two of his friends involved in a team Go match.

The series follows Hikaru’s training and growth, with Sai’s help, as a Go player. It turns out that Hikaru has great potential to be a master Go player.


One might think a 75-episode series about a boy learning to play Go wouldn’t be very interesting, and it’s definitely not any kind of action story, and there are no real villains. The only thrills are in the games they play. Yet it manages to be charming and endearing. (And each episode has a mini tutorial at the end to introduce you to Go.)

The animation style is generally realistic, but the animators have some stylistic fun during matches, almost making them look like typical anime fight sequences (with the reduced or non-existent backgrounds and the action speed lines — kinda cute). At other times, the animation style can venture into the surreal to emphasize what a character is going through.

The show was apparently responsible for popularizing the game among Japanese youth. Watching it made me want to try again to learn the game (someone once tried to teach it to me, but it didn’t take — Go is amazingly complex, more so than chess).

Full disclosure, about halfway through I got a bit bored and set the show aside for a month or so. (Not with the Go so much as with the characters and the sometimes-slow pace of things.) When I returned to it, I enjoyed the remainder of the series.

It’s a neat series, definitely a change from the normal anime, and I give it an Ah! rating and recommend it for anime fans (and game-playing fans). The many Go games played in the series are curated by Go experts, and many of them are based on games on record.

§ §

The movies in this section obviously aren’t TV shows, but the only place you’ll see any of them these days is on your TV. (And TV is the new movies anyway, right?)

I watched each pair as a double feature:


In the It Takes a Thief post I mentioned two great old movies: Raffles (1939), with David Niven, and To Catch a Thief (1955), with Cary Grant, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. For once “the algorithm” was my friend. Prime off-handedly mentioned it just happened to have both movies in case I’d care to watch them. Well, yes, I would, thank you!

I’d forgotten how funny the Hitchcock cameo is. He appears seated next to Cary Grant at the back of a bus. The camera has framed Grant looking to his right (camera left) at an older woman and at the caged birds she’s got between them. Then Grant slowly turns to his left — seeming to pause briefly for a direct look into the camera (or very nearly). The camera pans right to follow his glance to reveal Hitchcock obliviously starring dead ahead. Hold for a moment; end of scene.

It’s tempting to think it’s an allusion to The Birds, but Hitchcock didn’t direct that until 1963. To Catch a Thief is pretty tongue-in-cheek, kind of a comedy for all its drama (Wiki calls it a romantic thriller). The bit with the birds might be a reference to the story “being for the birds.”

Regardless, it’s a cute bit, one of the better Hitchcock cameos. He was 55 when he made To Catch a Thief and had been making movies since he was 30 or so. Lot of experience!


A pair of recent Jackie Chan movies: Little Big Soldier (2010) and Police Story: Lockdown (2013). Neither are the usual Jackie Chan fare.

The former is essentially an Enemy Mine (1985) story set in the 3rd century BC when China was at war with itself. Chan, a farmer drafted as a soldier, and a general from the opposing side, are the only two survivors of a battle (Chan because he played dead). Chan captures the wounded general with the intention of turning him over to his king so he can be discharged from the military. They journey and have some adventures along the way. It was okay, probably best for Jackie Chan fans (like me), and I give it a strong Eh! rating.

The latter is to Chan’s other Police Story films somewhat like Clint Eastwood’s outstanding Unforgiven (1992) was to his other westerns. A major change of pace and tone. And a story far more realistic than usual for the genre. The Police Story movies often have a comic tone. Not this one. Some good acting here. I give this one an Ah! rating.

Very interesting to see an older Jackie Chan.


The Gentlemen (2019), directed by Guy Ritchie, starring Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, and Colin Farrell; and The Nice Guys (2016), directed by Shane Black, with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling (and Kim Basinger in a supporting role).

The former is a crime story from the Bad Guys point of view, the latter is from the Good Guys point of view. Though part of its deal is that the Good Guys leave a bit to be desired (but are good at heart). Both were quite watchable, but neither was anything to write home about. They both get an Eh! rating.

I really liked Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000), and he’s returned to the crime format for The Gentlemen. Fun to see him doing that again. (His movie Revolver (2005) was interesting but weird. I think we just have to overlook Swept Away (2002) and those Sherlock Holmes movies.)


A pair of semi-obscure French action films: Lost Bullet (2020) and Lost Bullet 2 (2022). Available on Netflix.

They were okay. An Eh! rating. I liked District 13 (2004) and its 2009 sequel better, but then I’m often a sucker for Luc Besson movies.

§ §

Back to actual TV. I downloaded my viewing history from Netflix. Almost 2000 shows viewed since October 26, 2017. That’s most likely when I subscribed (I’d have to check), or it’s as far back as the history goes (for whatever reason).

It’s interesting. I’d forgotten I watched Person of Interest or Burn Notice on Netflix. I know I’ve watched them on streaming platforms — that’s the only way I’ve ever seen Burn Notice — but couldn’t have told you which ones.

I think Netflix is a pretty good value. $9.99/mo. In contrast, Hulu is $14.99. (That old gag with the nines. [sigh] Really $10/mo and $15/mo.)

BentleyMom was describing a movie she really enjoyed but couldn’t recall its name. I thought maybe she meant a film I’d recently seen pushed on Netflix but couldn’t recall its name. Neither of us could recall the name of the actors in our respective movies. We couldn’t even come up with enough clues to search the net. We later figured out she meant Another Happy Day (2011) whereas I was thinking of This Is Where I Leave You (2014). The cast of the latter looked interesting, so I watched it, but soon realized I’d seen it before. Netflix pushing it made me think it was recent, and I didn’t notice the year it was made. The ages of the actors were a bit of a giveaway right away, though.

I ended up watching the whole thing because I like the actors but can only give it an Eh! rating. That I didn’t remember it at all until I started watching says something. The one BentleyMom watched is apparently much better.


On Amazon Prime, I’ve been watching The Avengers, season two (1962). That’s before Diana Rigg joined as Emma Peel. Season two has Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale. She was a huge hit and would have continued on the show except that she got a role in a James Bond movie (Goldfinger (1964), as Pussy Galore).

I’ve found Prime Video to also be a good value. (I’ve subscribed to Amazon Music and like that as well. (So far.)) But I’m annoyed at a bug the Prime Video app has on my iPad where it doesn’t mark shows I watch as watched.


Returning to Hulu, I got down to the last 13 episodes of Ally McBeal, decided I couldn’t take it anymore (watching was torture), and removed the show from my watch list. Kind of unusual for me to not stick it out that close to the end, especially after having invested in four-and-a-half seasons, but as I said, it had gotten to be torture.

§ §

Patiently waiting for more:

Netflix: Umbrella Academy, season four; Black Mirror, season six; Love, Death & Robots, volume four; Disenchantment, part five. Netflix is funny; shows can have seasons, volumes, or parts.

Hulu: Reservation Dogs, season three, Only Murders in the Building, season three, Little Demon, season two, Solar Opposites, season four, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, season four. And season six of Rick and Morty to show up there.

Prime: Reacher, season two, Invincible, season two.

Now that I’ve dumped YouTube TV, it’s tempting to add another streaming service, but I already have more than I can keep up with, so maybe not.

Stay televised, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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