I confess, I’ll be very interested in seeing what the fans of the first series think of this week’s Hunter x Hunter. To me, they seem a pretty surly and hard to please lot – much the same as they’re saying about me when it comes to Last Exile…
I think there’s quite a difference between a remake of an adaptation of a manga, as this is, and an original sequel to an original series. Nevertheless, expectations are expectations and they can be a cruel weight for a series to bear. I was a little worried after last week’s episode, which was poorly paced and not especially interesting. But this one was much better, maybe the best so far. It’s always interesting when a shounen series like this one shows us something surprising and dark about one of the characters, and the events as played out were interesting and fun to watch.
Killua was certainly in the spotlight here, and he’s been something of a mystery man so far. He was the last of the four leads to have his backstory filled in. Everyone in this show is either running away from something or chasing something, and he’s quite literally in the first category. A rebellious son from a family of assassins, he quite cheerfully tells Gon that he stabbed his mother in the face before he ran away from home. Gon, that canny soul, doesn’t show any shock and that surprises Killua. More than anything what I’m getting from Killua is arrogance, a sense that no one in the world can touch him. And there’s no doubt, he’s a lot deadlier than meets the eye, as he shows in dispatching a couple of bullies and showing off some fancy moves in a “game” with the exam committee head, Netero.
This game is interesting for a lot of reasons, not least that it tells us a lot about all three players. Killua realizes fairly quickly that Netero is toying with the boys in his game of keepaway, not even using his right hand or left leg. Killua wants no part of a game he can’t win, and though he later says he only held back so that he wouldn’t kill Netero, I suspect he was trying to convince himself that was true to spare his own ego. Gon, by contrast, is fully invested in the challenge of the game even if can’t win – it’s quite victory enough if he can simply make the examiner use his right hand. He also doesn’t appear to have Killua’s analytical skills, but Gon is extremely and deceptively clever. I think his earnest and straightforward nature is genuine, but at the same time it’s also a bit of a cover for his keen strategic mind. With Gon it might be more instinct than training, but it’s just as effective.
The two boys make an interesting contrast at the heart of the series, stark opposites in every superficial way, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve caught the attention of the examiners. There’s always a sense with Hunter x Hunter that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and I suspect that the relationship of those two is going to be more complicated than it looks right now. When a shounen series has a likeable and engaging main character and a charismatic foil, you’re in pretty good shape for the long haul.