With episode 27 the Heaven’s Tower Arc finally begins – and with it we get a new OP and ED (though the OP is only a slight remix of the old one with new animation). It’s an amazing time to be watching anime – not only is the Spring season one of the very best in the last 5 years, but the schedule is packed with outstanding shows on virtually every day of the week, and in virtually every genre. Eureka Seven is back in style, NoitaminA is kicking butt, and even studios like DEEN and Hoods are out with manga adaptations that look great and seem destined to improve on their source material in every way.
And in the midst of all that, we have Hunter X Hunter carrying on in relative obscurity – still drawing excellent ratings and still delivering outstanding and classic shounen every week, with nary a misstep. I continue to marvel at how easy this show is to love, how totally involving it is every week. Togashi-sensei’s formula seems so simple – it presents itself as a boy’s adventure battle manga, presenting mazes and duels and puzzles every week, but there’s so much subtlety and darkness hidden in the rushes. In reality this is a psychological study, this series – the real entertainment is not in the tests themselves (clever as they are) but in watching the way the characters react to them.
With the focus now on getting stronger to face Hisoka – and on earning enough money to live – Gon and Killua (now happy and smiling as he’s back in Gon’s company) head for Heaven’s Tower – at 991 meters the 4th (!) tallest building in this world. The drill here is pretty simple – it’s like a Roman amphitheater except the gladiators get paid, and participation is strictly voluntary. Of course, you start on the first floor and if you win you get enough jenny to get a canned drink – but that prize money increases as you climb, which you can only do by winning. Turns out Killua has been here before – his father left him there at the age of six and told him not to come home till be reached the 200th floor (out of 291). Talk about tough love – but Killua managed to accomplish the feat by eight, earning hundreds of millions of jenny in the process, and spending it all on snacks…
As the first floor is all about assessment, Gon and Killua are instantly advanced to the 50th floor after their routine wins – Gon using the newfound strength he gained by powering his way through the Testing Gate at the Zoldyck Estate. But joining them there is someone seemingly destined to be the next major cast member – Zushi (Osu! – Terasaki Yuka), another cute shounen even smaller than Gon and Killua. He also easily defeats his first-round opponent, using the Shingen-Ryu martial arts he diligently studies under his master, the bespectacled and unassuming Wing (Toshihiko Seki – Fred Luo!).; Zushi is serious, somber and determined – determined to reach the top floor, in fact, though we’re not exactly sure why that’s so important to him just yet.
It falls that Killua and Zushi face each other in their first match on the 50th floor, and I have to confess, I was seriously worried for Zushi there. It says something about the impact Zushi made in his introduction, and about what an odd and difficult anti-hero Killua is. It didn’t seem at all a stretch to think that he could let his restraint slip and seriously injure Zushi without batting an eye. Killua did try and hold back, as it happens – but Zushi proved stronger than he expected, and when Killua became peeved at this I really started to worry for Zushi. Zushi, in fact, began to use a technique called “Ren”, and this seriously spooked Killua – as it reminded him of the techniques of his nemesis, his brother Illumi. Fortunately (for both boys, I suspect) Wing sternly rebuked Zushi from the audience and Zushi remembered his promise not to use Ren until Wing told him he was ready. Killua wins their battle, of course – but not by a knockout, which has him even more vexed than ever.
It’s quite remarkable how much happened this episode – so much so that I thought maybe Madhouse had spiked the pacing for some reason, but a check of the manga reveals a pretty faithful adaptation. Not only did we get a very comprehensive introduction to life in Heaven’s Tower, but was have Killua asking Wing to teach him Ren – and eventually Nen, the highest form of his discipline – and offering to humble himself to learn from the beginning. If Gon is obsessed with Hisoka Killua is likewise so with Illumi. Again, we have the stark contrast because Gon and Killua’s sheer strength – and ruthlessness (especially Killua) and their very typical schoolboy demeanor – like Gon jumping on the bed when they get their precious private room when advancing to the 100th floor, or the way he and Killua playfully mimicked Zushi’s “Osu!” when introduced to Wing. This is surely quite intentional on Togashi’s part, and quite an effective device. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at Wing’s dojo – I suspect there are darker aspects to both his story and Zushi’s that we haven’t seen as of yet. For now, the both of them are an interesting addition to the cast and the story – yet again – is taking an intriguing turn.
ED2: “Hunting for Your Dream.” by Galneryus
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: