Three years, 148 episodes, and seven arcs have given us a show that leaps far and beyond the story that was introduced in that first episode, an adventure spurred by a young boy’s wish to simply meet his father. This is not only a story about a boy growing up, but about life in general, the darkness and difficulties in it, and what exactly makes it worth living. We laugh when Gon smiles, grimace when he clenches his fists, cheer when he succeeds, and cry out with his frustration. Hunter x Hunter has burned itself into my heart with stunning force and deserves my final slot for the year of 2014.
When I began this anime back in 2011, I thought it looked like a fun show, albeit one completely focused on a younger audience. I found the first episode fairly enjoyable and funny, and picked up the second fully expecting to drop the series after a few weeks. I quickly discovered just how addictive Gon’s personality was, and how much I wanted to see him succeed in becoming a Hunter and meet his father. The spirit of adventure permeated the very air of HxH and made it impossible to not move on to the next step.
What quickly enabled the anime to work itself into my heart were the friendships Gon formed early on in his journey. His refreshing honesty and earnestness won over some of the hardest of souls, and the longest-lasting and deepest bonds were ones whose history we could watch from the very beginning. His talent and determination were also major factors in the formation of these friendships–the best in any field naturally attract rivals who push them to greater heights than could normally be obtained alone. It’s in this manner that Gon meets Killua, the son of a renown family of assassins who initially avoids befriending anyone. When the two meet at the start of the Hunter exam, they immediately gravitate to one another as fellow “kids” taking the famously impossible test. Their vastly different backgrounds and characteristics actually complement each other and they are able to improve off of their competition with one another.
HxH was able to avoid one of the biggest issues I have with others of its genre: one-dimensional villains. No opponent encountered comes without explanation, not only making them feel extremely real, but also making them likable as individuals. The anime gives them depth, but also doesn’t excuse the atrocities they have committed. The Phantom Troupe have slaughtered many, including the entire clan of one of the main characters, so you first view them as black-and-white evil. But when we finally put faces and personalities to the names, the hatred falters and I realize that I respect and even like quite a few of its members. I still understand the unforgivable acts that have occurred, but somehow avoid writing them off as irredeemable.
One of the final arcs, and by far the longest, gives us enemies who we can finally view as inhuman and undoubtedly evil. However, even that viewpoint doesn’t last long. They evolve and experience emotions indeterminable from those of humans. They hate. They cry. They love. They question the very definition of humanity. They push us to the brink of death and force us to fight for a reason to live.
And so with the final hopeful arc in Gon’s story, I wish you Happy Holidays and entreat you to look out on 2015 with an air of adventure. Thanks for sticking it out with me for another year and through these twelve days of anime!