Netflix has swooped in and gifted all of us with another anime. Released July 14th, 2018 in Japan and worldwide by Netflix during Fall 2018, High Score Girl (ハイスコアガール) is a fantastic anime that has been enriched with nostalgic video game references all over the place. The level of love and detail for retro gaming proves that this show was created to be a love letter to the creator’s youth. If you can get past the fact the show is made completely out of CGI that often puts people off well then this is the show for you.
This series is set in 1991, where we are introduced and follow the life of an overly passionate sixth grader named Haruo Yaguchi. While not the most popular kid on the playground, Haruo spends the majority of his days and yen (money) in the arcade. It is at an arcade that Haruo meets Akria Oono a young girl from a wealthy family who isn’t just good at academics but she’s also a very skilled gamer. Although she and Haruo walk two separate paths in life, it’s their love for gaming draws them closer together.
These characters begin to share a bond and friendship like no other, but that connection seems to only be expressed by their 2D scrollers and beat’em up games. This is because Akria is mute, never speaking during the series twelve episode run. Instead, she lays her emotions right out at the arcade. Having beaten Haruo 30 times in a row at Street Fighter II. Although Akria does not speak, there is a large focus on her expressions, the background music changes, and the way Haruo’s speaks to Akria as he starts to really understand her and her feelings as she plays her games.
With Akria being mute and Haruo doing most of the talking during the beginning half of the series, we are forced to want to yell at Haruo to shut up as in typical anime fashion Haruo yells…a lot. Although sometimes this makes the series slightly irritating, there is a certain charm about him when he speaks about his passion and love for gaming that made me adore him as a character. Plus the games he mentions and plays began to bring up old memories for me.
This series did exactly what it needed to do and took the audience back to the 90s or if their audience was never born during or before that era, did an amazing job on giving them a trip back in time and showing them what it was like to be a gamer kid back then. It was extremely refreshing to have an anime that had actual game references rather than some fake brand that sounds like the real deal. it felt good to hear Haruo gush over the legit game that was Street Fighter and not some off band game called “Fighters of the Street.” It truly makes this love letter all the more interesting.
This series truly is a nostalgic throwback that is stuck in a loop of time. Yet, time does move on as we started in 1991 and by the end of the show, the year is 1995. That was the best part of this shows appeal. As life goes on and people start to make their way into Haruo’s life, he also begins to grow as a person, as we get to see all his wins and all his loses.
Love is in every nook and cranny of this anime and while that genre can often make people want to change the show and flip to a new one, High Score Girl truly handles the love story with care rather than shoving it in our faces like other anime are known for. This show does not give us any form of fan service or a moment of indecency, it is because of this that this show feels very pure-hearted and begins to become a series about a gamer boy who falls in love.
I, of course, did find Akria’s violent outburst to be very stereotypical but any heartwarming scene more than made up for that issue. One issue at times that I did have with the series like many was the CG animation, yes very RWBY like but the bright palettes of color that were used and the simple character designs work like a machine (in a good way) for the world and story that is being told to us.
So just a small warning, this anime is starting to gain a lot of popularity after its slow start and I can grantee that you will literally watch all 12 episodes in one day the same as I did. I looked at it on the overview on Netflix and thought it was going to be horrible but then I gave it a chance and I regret not watching it sooner. So if you are a product of the 90s or lived through them, grew up inside of arcades, battled with the great decision of getting a PlayStation or a Sega Saturn then High Score Girl is the show for you.
The show is in every way, shape, and form, a love letter to the retro gamers and retro gaming, written by someone who wanted to express their love in a retro way. As a 90s kid, the gaming references bring such good memories of more simple times, on which the human Interaction meant so much when growing up. It is because of this series that I would recommend this series, and will even admit that it has a value to make you want to watch it all over again.