Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 19

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Gon is GAR.

That is all.

I thought Hunter X Hunter was going to have a rough time equaling the epic power and intensity of the blockbuster episode 16, but this week’s effort might just have done it.  And the fact that it did so while featuring a character – Hanzo – that we’ve barely gotten to know to this point is all the more remarkable.  Kishio Daisuke (Zazie!) did a great job with the character, but it’s Han Megumi’s performance as Gon that’s increasingly knocking me for a loop.  I know she has the genes for it, but it’s hard to recall another example of a female seiyuu in a boy role hitting a home run like this.  She may be a newbie, but Han-san is a seiyuu star in the making.

As with the sixteenth episode, I hardly know where to begin to praise this effort – it really was shounen at its best.  The GAR was so thick you could cut it with a knife, the intensity level was off the charts, and it had that particular H x H mind-screw quality that makes this series so uniquely enjoyable.  And when it comes to mind-screw, Netero takes a back seat to no one.  I knew he had some mischief up his sleeve when he conducted those interviews with the nine surviving candidates, but the scheme he came up with was truly ingenious – and diabolical.  For starters, the notion that only one applicant will fail is a surprising choice – but it was the way he stacked the deck that was his piece d’resistance.

My feeling on Netero at this point is that there’s absolutely nothing incidental in anything he does – everything is calculated to the last small detail.  That’s why it was so fascinating to watch the reaction from his audience when the details of his final test became clear.  For starters, to rank the candidates according to a pretty nebulous formula mostly based on “overall impression” – and then to salt the wound by telling them it was really about their potential – was truly devilish.  And it started a spiral in Killua’s character that told us a lot about the darkness that still drives him.  As Netero was describing his plan, I kept thinking to myself “It would be truly insane if he instituted a no kill rule – that’s what this needs to push it over the top.”  And so he did, as if on cue – thus ensuring that the individual matches would be a festival of pain.

To say that the details of Gon’s match with Hanzo were difficult to watch is putting it mildly.  This is the essential contradiction in Gon’s character from an audience standpoint – he’s a formidable fighter and a marvelously clever strategist with great natural instinct.  Yet for all that he’s still a child with an unmistakable quality of innocence to him, and that makes it very difficult to watch him suffer the way Hanzo made him suffer.  It says something for Leorio that he was so agonized that he was willing to disqualify Gon just to try and spare him more pain, but his rage seemed like the most natural reaction in the world to me.  As Killua was internally raging over the fact that he could have done so much better in the fight and mocking Hanzo’s braggadocio at having killed a man by age 12, Leorio and Kurapika were quickly reaching the boiling point from watching the brutality being inflicted upon Gon.

As for the combatants themselves, they were equally fascinating to watch.  While Gon certainly overestimated his own strength vs. Hanzo, he was correct in assessing the nature of the test Netero had devised – it was a battle of wills, not a battle of strength.  There was a certain honor to Hanzo, as cruel as he was – he thinks like a samurai, despite his ninja training.  But Gon simply refused to give in, no matter how much pain Hanzo inflicted and how many threats he made, even after his arm was broken.  We know that Gon has an iron will and constitution, but he didn’t refuse because he didn’t care about dying – he simply believed Hanzo wouldn’t kill him and give up his own chances for a year, and that as long as Gon held his ground Hanzo would eventually give in and meet him on his own ground.  This was really the first time we’ve heard Gon talk so movingly and openly about his father and why he wants to be a hunter, and it was clearly the right time for it.

When Hanzo finally made the choice to surrender, several interesting things happened starting with the choice itself.  For starters, Gon wasn’t bluffing with his refusal to accept the win – if his conflict with Hisoka proved anything, it’s that his pride is very real.  Hanzo correctly surmised that trying to meet Gon’s demand for a fair fight was a no-win situation for him (literally) so he ended things the way Hisoka did – but though Gon ended the fight unconscious again, he was still the winner – because he had the stronger will, if not the stronger body.  But I think the most fascinating thing to see was the reaction of two of the spectators, Killua and Hisoka.  Killua, rather than being pleased for Gon, was genuinely shocked to see his world-view shaken – that there were different kinds of strength besides the ability to kill.  This seems to be a watershed moment for Killua – a true paradigm shift for better or worse, and in a sense, Gon has surpassed him.  And Hisoka’s reaction to Gon’s cheeky “triumph” was genuine mirth – I don’t think there was an ounce of irony to his laughter.  For him, Gon has proved himself the most interesting and challenging of all the candidates, and for someone who seems to loathe boredom above all else (and perhaps, for less savory reasons) it’s easy to see that his fascination with Gon will become an obsession.

And so it goes on, with the main character already having ensured his own passage – an interesting twist on conventional dramatic buildup. It’s hard to imagine Hanzo won’t dispatch Pokkle in the next round, though perhaps it’ll surprise me, as Pokkle vs. Killua doesn’t seem to hold much potential for drama.  I see Gittrackur in Killua’s half of the draw, and destiny seems to be calling those two together for a match.  On the other side, Leorio and Kurapika (facing Hisoka in the first round) could be destined for a match – another pairing that seems as if it could have been in the cards from the beginning.  On the other hand, there’s mysterious Bodoro – who’s conspicuous claim that he would refuse to fight a child can only be put to the test if he meets Killua in the final match, which can only take place if Bodoro loses to both Kurapika (if Hisoka defeats him) and Leorio.  There’s certainly enough mystery here to keep things lively for the rest of the tournament, as Gon presumably convalesces and nurses his injuries – and bile.

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  1. A

    Haha, if you think that this was awesome and Gon was GAR at this point, I bet your brain will implode once you see the things to come. Oh the surprises that are in store for you!

    I will admit, this was the point where I feel in love with Gon back in the Manga and the '99 series. Really does goes to show how much a master Togashi really is at show-not-tell by showing us how unshakable Gon's will really is.

    (Speaking of the '99 series, as much as I liked this episode (and I did, quite a lot in fact!) I really do regret that they didn't set the fight to be during dusk. It added a whole lot of atmosphere and made Gon's stand all the more visually impressive. I do like how they went about it here, and IMO the new VA cast sells it a lot more this time round, but that episode still holds a place in my heart.)

  2. A

    "Oh the surprises that are in store for you!"
    Hahaha. I like that.
    Same impression I had with the 1999 version. I also love the sound effects in the previous version. Also the atmosphere. But the Seiyuus in the 2011 version wins bigtime!
    Loved this episode but I can't wait for the next!

  3. b

    Could have sworn Kurapika's fight was the first match but oh well.

    When Leorio and Kurapika were getting ready to interfere, I was also gritting my teeth there. Kudos to Sawashiro Miyuki and Fujiwara Keiji for that.
    This was really a great episode. And plenty of blood as well.

    *looks at preview* Oh shi- here we go.

  4. M

    That is only in 1999 version. In the manga, Gon's fight was the first match.

  5. F

    I got the feeling, that this adaptation will slowly but surely, convince all the 1999 adepts, maybe is not as dark as the first, but damn, without a doubt this adaptation its just as Gon, his hidden potential is way to big to fail.

  6. M

    Not showing the blows Hanzo gives Gon strengthens the impact of this episode. So much is left to the imagination, and then once Gon and Hanzo are onscreen there's smears of blood all over the place. Very clever!

    I liked how Netero leveled the playing field by having a 'no killing' rule in there. It really is a test of will. Had Hanzo been swallowed by rage or bloodlust, he would've just killed Gon but in the most part, he was thinking rationally.

  7. A

    episode was mediocre compared to the manga
    and a joke compared to the 1999 series

    the handling of madhouse of the 4th exam made me happy and gave me some hope (even though i recognize that the first anime is still better). but this one is just crap.

  8. Defend your argument, at least. Make a freakin effort.

  9. S

    Hi Enzo,

    I kind of agree with Anonymous. The buildup was totally toned down. The moment when Leorio and Kurapika were gritting their teeth should've made you do it as well. Plus they left out the ability of Gon to win people's hearts even the judges. The whole atmosphere is totally different, much lighter. I may just be one of the 1999 purists, but watch episode 28 which is where the 1999 anime fight with Hanzo and Gon. Although you might want to finish the Kurapika vs Hisoka first as it was a fight before Gon and Hanzo in the 1999 version. Anyway, watch just that episode and compare it with this episode. You'll be able to somewhat understand his statement then.

  10. All I can tell you is that I disagree completely, and I was totally engaged with this episode. I don't need to look for reasons to be dissatisfied, because I've always believed that any anime – even a remake – should be judged on its own merits.

  11. A

    pardon the late reply, i hope you'd still get to read this. instead of telling i'll just be showing. here is a links of a particular scene from the two versions:

    2011 version –
    1999 version –

    i agree with you that an adaptation should be judged in its own merits and i don't make it a habit to compare the 2011 series to the 1999 one. but where i differ from you, i suppose, is that i judge this series particularly as an ADAPTATION. you, as a newcomer, judges mainly the story and the characters and the production value becomes merely peripheral(and don't mistake me: this is of course understandable and in fact expected).

    so yes, from a newbie's perspective this episode could have been enjoyable. but ask yourself: how much of this enjoyment came from the story and the characters (i.e., manga material?) but for someone who knows the story by heart, this episode is just mediocre compared to how it COULD HAVE BEEN if the material was handled in a more competent manner.

    so why am i posting comparison clips for the two series if i don't believe in comparing the two? well, i have to be on the defensive you see. i am slowly getting the impression that you're getting annoyed with the 1999 fans, and this is partly understandable because some of the complaints are unreasonable. however, we're not completely in the wrong. so i'm posting these clips so that, before you judge us 1999 fans as a bunch of whiners, you can get a glimpse first of where we're coming from.

    so please watch it. i know you said you won't watch the anime to taint your perspective, but this clip lasts only less than two minutes so i think it won't have such a big lasting impact on you. besides i took a whole lot of trouble of uploading it :p

    anyway, the clips in question are actually very similar in terms of story and dialogue, but watch with careful eyes the differences in directional approach, from the big ones (design, color palette, mood) to the more subtle ones (additional dialogue lines, storyboarding). i see you have some experience in watching and reviewing anime so i believe you will be able to distinguish the good from the mediocre.

  12. A

    long story short: on its own the episode might be entertaining, but as an adaptation it's clear that madhouse put little effort into it

  13. s

    Maybe Enzo is becoming annoyed with you lot because you all are really annoying?… and this is coming from someone who read the manga since 1999, worked on it since 1999, read it over 40 times and dissect the series everytime I reread it.

    If you are judging the HxH 2011 series as an "adaptation" then why not also judge the HxH 1999 version the same courtesy? The problem with you fans are how blinded you are to the greatness of the 1999 series when there are serious holes and problems with it as well… much greater than the new series.

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