Disclaimer: While I know the basic premise, I’ve never read the manga or seen an episode of the original series from 1999-2000. But I know both are well-regarded, and that the anime was produced by Nippon Animation and considered to have remarkably good animation for the time. It was directed by Rurouni Kenshin’s Furuhashi Kazuhiro as well.
OP: ”Departure” by Masatoshi Ono
None of that matters a hill of beans, of course, when the new version is produced by Madhouse and features an entirely new cast and new director. But Koujina Hiroshi has some talent, and Madhouse is capable of very good work as long as they stay away from American comic books. As there was no way I had time to watch the 62-episode original anytime soon, this seemed like a good opportunity to check out the material and see if it was for me. Of course, all I can do is judge this series on its own merits – comparisons to the original anime or manga will be lost on me. So with all that in mind, what did I think?
It was fun. It looked pretty good, was briskly paced, and screamed “Shounen Jump!” from the top of its lungs at every turn. Still running after all these years, it seems the manga has a huge following and ventures into some pretty dark places, though you don’t really get any of that from the premiere. There has been buzz that Madhouse is sanitizing this version somewhat, toning down the violence and eliminating the pervy aspects of one of the main villains. That’s worrisome on principle, thought I’m in no position to judge how true it’s going to be. On face value this comes off as very typical and agreeably high-spirited shounen, with 12 year-old hero Gon (newcomer Han Megumi, suitably exuberant and boyish) off to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Hunter, one of a legendary and elite group. Back on Whale Island he leaves Mito-san (Han Keiko) the pretty young woman who’s been taking care of him since his father left.
On-board ship he meets fellow Hunter candidates Kurapica (Sawashiro Miyuki) and Leorio (Fujiwara Keiji). Keiji-san can do this in his sleep, but as always he’s vastly entertaining as the older Leorio, whose motives appear far more practical and self-serving than Gon and Kurapica’s. Sawashiro is way too feminine as Kurapica, and seems an odd choice for the role. There’s obvious notes of camaraderie and rivalry building here, but what’s most interesting – if it’s pursued – is the notion of Gon following in the footsteps of the father who walked out on him. The rest of it all plasys as pretty standard boys’ adventure fare, with lots of swinging from ropes and fishing lines and swashbuckling music.
This strikes me as a series I’m much more likely to watch than blog, but I’ll give it a couple of weeks to show me it’s stripes.
ED: “Just Awake” by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas