Netflix anime Hi Score Girl mixes coming-of-age conundrums and the nostalgia of 90s gaming in a well-measured and endearing story.
When I was younger, playing video games was the mantle of my life. On countless occasions, I found myself at war with my mum who needed me to come down so I could eat my dinner, but the online game was too important. I had to play it. It meant everything. I can safely say my hormones were not raging due to nearby girls taking an interest in my latest round of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but for character Haruo Yaguchi (voiced by Kouhei Amasaki) he had an unusually rich but quiet gamer girl Akira Oono (voiced by Sayumi Suzushiro) taking an interest in him due to their matching passions. Netflix original anime series Hi Score Girl, or Hai Sukoa Garu, taps into the 1991 nostalgia while keeping cute and endearing.
In Hi Score Girl games are apart of Haruo’s life. He neglects education, sports, and social activities and replaces them with evenings tiring the joysticks at local arcades. To my amusement, the main theme of the series is the celebrated Street Fighter series, reminding me of the addictiveness of such a commonly played game in my youth. Masculinity consumes Haruo as he notices Akira go on a long winning streak at his arcade that he calls “his” place. And from them, the two characters draw an attachment to each other.
Gaming is the constant relationship between Haruo and his friends and family in Hi Score Girl. He’s an overwhelming character, especially in the opening episodes where he’s talking to Akira, who is practically a mute, who nods or uses violence to express her feelings. He prides in his knowledge in gaming, giving the anime series a relatable topic for 90s kids, where gaming was slightly different to the YouTube generation that make coin on Fortnite. Haruo is a character that would probably irritate many in real life, as he spurts all the technicalities of consoles and different machinery in arcade gaming.
But with the comedy, entwined with the romance, gaming becomes common ground in Hi Score Girl. The anime series has an air of cuteness about it, as Haruo is completely unaware of his growing romances through his hobby project. Whereas in this generation, it takes two seconds to meet a gamer girl via Instagram or Fortnite where creepy men ironically send cash to bolster their online reputation, Hi Score Girl is the classic gaming, where meeting someone over a game means something, with greater relationships formed.
I was genuinely charmed by Haruo Yaguchi, Akira Oono, and even Koharu Hidaka, who is introduced later and learns to play games while rivaling for Haruo’s affections. I’ve watched plenty of anime this year but Hi Score Girl hits the right sweet spot, with a coming-of-age story that keeps the plot fresh with each episode. And of course, if you like gaming and 90s-type arcade games, then you can not go wrong with this Netflix anime series. Let’s hope Yoshiki Yamakawa directs a season 2.