It’s great to have H x H back after a hiatus week – it’s so unlike anything else in my blogging rotation that I really missed having it around. This was an episode that was quite a bit more low-key than the intensity bombs of the last few, but nevertheless packed a lot of punch in subtler ways. Naturally, it’s quite interesting to see the way both Gon and Illumi responded to the events of the 20th ep for starters. Gon’s reaction was very much in character – especially his irritation with everyone else’s bickering about the exam results when he was the real issue as Killua’s state of mind. Loyalty is obviously of paramount important to Gon, much more so than conventional morality or the license itself.
Even more interesting to me was Illumi’s behavior. Obviously he plays the impassive card well enough, but even when Gon broke his arm his expression never broke. Illumi seems primarily driven by intellectual curiosity, though it seems to me that there was some genuine malicious glee in the way he manipulated Killua last time. There was no anger at Gon displayed, just a kind of bemused puzzlement that betrayed just a hint of astonishment by the end of their confrontation (though as Illumi never responded, that seems too strong a word). The key moment of the exchange was when Illumi challenged Gon’a assertion that he hadn’t earned the right to be Killua’s brother – to which Gon replied that Killua didn’t need to earn to right to be his friend. It’s clear that the seal on this can of worms has barely been broken, and Illumi will be heard from again.
When Illumi tells Gon that Killua has gone back to their clan’s home on top of Kukuroo Mountain, Gon’s path is immediately clear to him – and probably unsurprisingly, Leorio and Kurapica are happy enough to tag along. There are loose ends to be tied up – in the orientation meeting Pokkle briefly challenges Kurapica to reveal what Hisoka whispered to him (no dice) and Leorio briefly argues that he should be disqualified instead of Killua, but as Gon says “It is what it is”. And then there’s the parting between Hisoka and Illumi, which is one of the most genuinely creepy scenes you’ll see in a mainstream anime. Whatever else drives the mysterious Illumi,, he seems to consider it wisdom not to get in the way of Hisoka’s obsessions. There’s also the matter of goodbyes with Hanzo – who reveals his top-secret ninja business cards – and an abortive effort by Pokkle to look up Ging’s information of his H-Pad (for lack of a better term). The mystery around Ging deepens – not only is all information about him top-secret, but Satotz apparently idolized him for the great work he’d done restoring old ruins with his own money – a fact he shares with Gon, whom he increasingly seems to have taken a protective interest in.
That’s just the appetizer from Satotz, but he doesn’t serve up the main course until the “winners” have left Hunter HQ – though his affection for Gon apparently almost prompts him to spill the beans – the hunter exam isn’t actually over. That’s fascinating, as the survivors have been sent on their way with their Hunter IDs and stern warnings about not losing them, and scattered to the four winds. The implication of course is that whatever this last challenge is, it must be more difficult than all the others that led up to it – the question is, what sort of challenge is it to be when the candidates have apparently been allowed to choose their own destinations and travel freely? I confess I didn’t see that development coming, though it did seem as if the exam portion of events had ended a little anti-climactically. With that cagy old bastard Netero behind it, I can only assume something nasty is in story for the seven survivors.