It’s a really good sign when you’re surprised when an anime episode ends, and that was the case here. I felt as if it had lasted about 10 minutes, and though it wasn’t blisteringly paced or breathlessly exciting, that tells me it had my attention thoroughly all the way through. It was just good, straight-ahead shounen – challenges, puzzles, one-on-one battles, teamwork. Except the people getting eaten, of course, which you don’t see in every shounen series out there. It seems to be something of a H x H specialty, though.
Notable this week was the return to prominence of Tonpa (Sakurai Toshiharu), the laxative-juice guy who thrills in crushing the dreams of exam rookies. Just why he’s so into that isn’t exactly clear, but he’s obviously not at all interested in becoming a hunter. When the time comes for our four heroes and their unlikely ally to engage in single combat with five prisoners for the right to advance towards the bottom of Trick Tower, Tonpa again shows how clever and irritating he is. By offering to go first (under the guise of an act of contrition for his earlier treachery) he immediately admits defeat in his match. It’s perfect – no risk of injury or death, and he forces the others (who he wants to lose anyway) to win three of the four remaining matches to meet the arbitrary winning percentage they need to be allowed to proceed.
It’s certainly striking just how capricious and deadly these trials are, and how little concern the Hunter Examiners have for the lives of their applicants. You’d better really want this gig, because the chances of dying in the exam are preposterously high. It seems odd that we haven’t been given more exposition about just what Hunters are and why it’s such a great goal, but I gather that’s the way it is in the manga too – we more or less have to take their word for it. As for the remaining trials, on paper it would certainly appear that Leorio is the weak link in the group. Killua has already proved he’s pretty deadly without even trying, and Gon is both the protagonist and clever enough to outsmart most opponents. That leaves Leorio and Kurapica only needing one win between them, and Kurapica is the more accomplished combatant of the two. But maybe I’ll be surprised, who knows – Leorio has to step up sooner or later, and what better time than this?