While I’m still keeping up with this fabulous series, I’ve also started re-watching it from the beginning with Kwoo in hopes of getting him caught up on the anime. HxH has always baffled me with its persistence in staying on my radar despite being everything I thought I disliked: 100+ episode count, source material still ongoing, a shounen battle-anime–the list goes on. All these factors aside, the show excels in areas that far outweigh my misgivings. From character development, to setting, to story and pacing, HxH succeeds time and time again in not only fulfilling my expectations, but also far exceeding and even surprising them. Re-watching from the start does not change the the amount of pleasure I take from this series. On the contrary, I find myself reveling in the craft.
Character Bonds and Restrictions
Two of the four main characters who fill the Hunter Exam arc at the beginning of the series still stand present in the current arc, and one other received ample attention midway through in a different story line. Over the course of these many events I’ve witnessed phenomenal growth in character more meaningful than any of the timely power-ups so prevalent in similar shows of this genre. Care is put into pacing, and, as a result, the arcs are longer and each character receives more spotlight.
Gon and Killua’s relationship begins very early on with the first day of the Hunter Exam, and the two instantly gravitate to one another as the youngest kids with the most energy. Curiosity, competition, and age all contribute to the bond that quickly forms into the friendship that will drive much of this anime. At the start, it’s much like when two people in love start getting to know one another. They ask questions, try out each others’ hobbies, spend almost every second together. The interactions are fresh and exciting. But when push comes to shove, Killua folds under the pressure and the next step in deepening their bond looms high and near unreachable. Every setback is met honestly and head-on, and they are stronger for the struggle. What draws me more to Killua’s character is his complexity–he loves Gon as a true friend, but does not want to be the one responsible for holding him back. Through all his fears of being the darkness to the light, he completely overlooks his own brilliance.
Gon, in turn, chases after a simple yet seemingly impossible dream: to meet his father. Almost everyone who meets him remarks upon a single aspect–his eyes. They are clear, unwavering, and utterly without malice. That purity stays with him despite many of the terrors he faces, and it isn’t until the unique circumstances of a mentor that he suddenly find himself overwhelmed with anger. I can’t even begin to imagine how Gon would react if it were Killua in torment. As much as Killua has matured and moved past the chains of his family, it’s Gon who has surprised me the most, and I’m not sure if it’s all for the better. I would be curious to hear Hisoka’s thoughts on his beloved choice.
And then there’s Kurapika, among the first of the group to master Nen. His path has always been a sad one, predetermined in its direction and ill-suited to an otherwise peaceful and balanced character. In the first serious breach of control we see during Phase Three of the exam, where Kurapika almost knocks out his opponent, we see just how unbalanced the mere idea of the Phantom Troupe makes him. It’s brutal, almost frightening, the transformation that makes his peoples’ eyes such a priceless commodity. His interactions with his friends prove how caring of a person he truly is, but the fate formed by his revenge arguably weakens one of the possibly strongest characters.
The long time frame of this series gives HxH the freedom of venturing across multiple landscapes. Adventure permeates each new scene, but the different settings help prevent stagnancy. We begin on Whale Island, the place of Gon’s birth and the same home that nurtured his infamous father, Ging. From there we take the rollicking trip that is the Hunter Exam. Other locations include Kukuroo Mountain, Heaven’s Arena, Yorknew City, Greed Island, and the current arc in the nation of NGL. The variety and detail that goes into each of the settings breathe life into what could otherwise seem a stock environment, and I have no problem believing in this world.
A favorite arc is Greed Island, where our cast is sent into a video game for Hunters. Instead of succumbing to the popular method of card collecting via player theft, Gon and Killua earnestly play the game by taking quests and defeating monsters. It’s a fabulous training grounds where they are nurtured by a new mentor and friend. While Heaven’s Arena taught them the basics of Nen, Greed Island shapes their specialties and gives them a relatively safe playground to gather experience both in battle and everyday interactions with NPCs and other players.
The Meat of the Matter
If there’s one major thing that shocks me the most about this anime, it’s its ability to shape the plot over such a large time frame, with no fillers and very little recap. The plot tells of mangaka Togashi Yoshihiro’s apt planning and organization. Watching up to current episodes the first time around gave me a clear feeling that not a single episode was weak or unnecessary, and watching it through a second time, I still find each scene, even those of the side characters, invaluable to better understanding and appreciating the characters and their stories in the grander scheme of this world.
With strong characters whose motivations we care about lining the base of HxH, the chances are already strong for the show to succeed. The individual stories of Gon, Killua, and even the Chimera Ant King-post-Komugi are powerful and resonate with the viewer. Follow that with arcs that thrill and satisfy with powerful climaxes without dragging on the aftermath, and there’s really very little that weakens the overall structure. Possible exceptions to this might be the Yorknew City arc where Gon and Killua’s lessons in appraisal pale to the blood-curdling fight between Kurapika and the Phantom Troupe, and the several recent episodes on the attack on the palace where the King and his Royal Guard have set up a base. Complaints regarding the now 10-episode long battle highlight the overly present narrator and the empty spaces between action where viewers are faced with what seems like forever of a hallway or smoke.
I stand firm in my view of both providing depth to the settings and cast as well as diluting scenes that might otherwise feel overly oppressive or action-focused. Even with the voice over of the narrator explaining events and inner thoughts, I am not too annoyed. It takes a lot for me accept voice overs since I view them as a crutch for writers to not put more thought into showing instead of telling, but this is one of the few exceptions. There are so many separate pieces moving independent of one another that it can be difficult for the viewer to keep track of everything, particularly over ten weeks of a single assault.
What the Future Holds
With the Chimera Ant arc hopefully coming to a close within the next few episodes, there are quite a few questions I’m curious about: Where is Palm? Whatever happened to the Chimera Ant Queen and her other offspring? Is there any sort of future possible for the King and Komugi? How will the friendship between Gon and Killua fare after the hurtful statements that were made? I feel like this arc could realistically go on for another full season without too much strain, though that would probably tread on too much aftermath.
I cannot elaborate enough on the care and thought that has gone into this remake of the beloved manga and original anime, and how it has affected my view of other like shows that I would have quickly dismissed at a glance. Coming-of-age tales and stories of growth are nothing new to literature, but there is something undeniably evocative about them since we have all been children and have all learned through our experiences.
- “Kwoo” refers to my boyfriend, who I feel silly repeatedly calling “S.O.”
- Shizuka, the Phantom Troupe member above who carries around a seemingly bottomless vacuum, is one of my favorite characters. She is forgetful of things that do not matter to her, but impeccably in control of her abilities. Who cares if she can’t remember the face of someone she met just one day prior?
- If I were a hunter, I would be a Gourmet Hunter without a single doubt!
- I have not read the manga and am in complete dark regarding upcoming arcs. If you have read it or have watched the original anime, please don’t spoil me!