With Chihayfuru in the rear-view (toss a coin, bow twice and clap twice for a second season) it’s nice having Hunter x Hunter sticking around for the next couple of seasons. As different as they are, the common denominator is that both are shows I could count on to solidly entertain me every week, easy to watch and easy to enjoy. And after watching Shin Kyoto-hen earlier today, I especially appreciate a shounen that isn’t embarrassed about being a shounen.
While there was certainly a fair share of dark material this week, in general this was a decidedly different sort of episode than what we’ve seen up to now. It was brighter in every way than pretty much every ep since the final phase of the Hunter exam began – the music was back to the martial style that had given way to the more somber orchestral tone of late, the color palette was brighter (just compare the screenshots) and the mood was upbeat. There was certainly a sense of danger, much of it coming from Kikyou, who seems the most paranoid and isolated member of the Zoldyck clan. She’s also frighteningly attached to Killua, the “one child she won’t let go”, and obsessed with the notion that this is “a critical time” for him – and I don’t think she’s taking about the stuff they teach in health class. Her plot to keep Killua home in defiance of her husband may have been foiled, but I suspect we’ve not seen the last of her, and her reach is likely to be very long.
As for Chief Butler Gotou (Horiuchi Kenyuu) he’s another enigma in a show full of enigmas. I’m not sure if he followed his Mistress’ orders explicitly, or decided to give Gon and his friends a fair chance based on his own code of honor (I suspect the latter) but I never felt the threat dripping off him that I have off the other antagonists in this show. I don’t doubt him when he said “I should despise you for trying to take Killua away” or even that he might have killed Gon and his friends ad they lost their game, but he seems to care enough for Killua (indeed, there seems to be a lot of affection for him among the household staff) to realize that Gon’s friendship is the thing Killua most wants right now, and what he was really doing is making sure he could entrust Killua to Gon. Indeed, while he made the coin game difficult he never cheated – not until after the game had already been won, and that was to prove a point. If Gon was to be entrusted to be Killua’s companion, Gotou wanted to give him a free lesson – don’t trust anybody, because no one plays by the rules.
We finally received our answer to the question that was raised during the final phase – what did Hisoka whisper to Kurapika? While we know the what – a declaration that he knew something about The Spider, the Phantom Troupe that Kurapika seeks to avenge himself against – we don’t know the why. I’m quite certain Hisoka never does anything without a selfish reason, and perhaps we’ll find out in Yorknew City (LOL) on 9/1, when Hisoka has implied that he’ll share what he knows with Kurapika. With stolen treasures from around the world to be auctioned off the city will be crawling with Hunters, thieves like the Phantom Troupe and with Leorio, Gon and Killua too – promising to reunite to help their friend, and for selfish reasons too.
I was a little surprised to see the fellowship split up this early in the story, but I think it’s necessary to take the series – and especially Gon and Killua’s role in it – to the next level. Gon reveals that he intends to deliver his promised punch to Hisoka before he’ll use his license, which gives him a common goal with Kurapika but also a mundane need to make a living. Kurapika is off to put his license to work and earn enough to participate in the auction, and Leorio to cram for med school exams to pursue his dream of being a doctor. As for Gon and Killua, it’s off to the “Heavens Arena” to make some money – and to help Gon get stronger for his date with Hisoka in six months time.
There’s no question that for all his disorder, Killua’s reunion with Gon was the single largest factor in brightening up the story. The level of ease the two have with each other is plain, and they’re one of the best examples of something we haven’t seen all that much of lately in anime, the complex and devoted male friendship. Call it bromance if you like, but these two obviously have a special bond and the restoration of it raised the happiness level of the series quite a bit. In addition to the aforementioned (and not coincidental) changes in music and visuals, there was a lot more humor this week – and a lot of excellent face-pulling by the boys – and it was all skillfully tied together by director Hiroshi-sensei. And even in the serious moments such as when Killua was explaining the strength differences (fascinating that Killua admits to being weaker than Hanzo) to Gon, there was still a lightness – and we see, again, that these two feel free to act like little boys in each other’s presence, even when talking about deadly serious things. They’re children – exceptional and dangerous ones yes, but still children – playing at being adults, and that’s something I expect to be at the heart of the series going forward.