Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 28

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While there was an awful lot of mystical terminology thrown around this week, it didn’t stop Hunter X Hunter from being effective and unsettling – and it certainly didn’t undercut the episode’s big payoff.

In a week where there’s been so much good anime my head is spinning and on a day when Fate/Zero set the top spinning on moral ambiguity, you’d think a good old fashioned Shounen like H x H would offer a welcome contrast.  But while it does in the sense that it’s easy to watch and appreciate, it doesn’t exactly offer the audience a whole lot of black and white.  Togashi-sensei stealthily hides his mind-screwing inside the trappings of traditional shounen – cute characters, challenges, GAR-driven charges towards adulthood – but the screwing is still there.

Case in point…  I don’t think anyone would disagree that Killua is, if not a “hero”, at least one of the two main protagonists in this series.  Yet he casually reveals to Gon that he unleashed his full force on Zushi during their fight.  Step back and consider: if he considered that rationally, Killua would surely expect that to kill Zushi as we’ve seen him kill with a lot less than his best stuff.  So Killua struck out at a child younger than he, who had at least taken the first steps towards becoming a friend and certainly not shown any premeditated malice towards him, with the full intent to kill him – for no worse offense than failing to be defeated easily enough.  Yes, Killua surely did so in a fit of rage (he admits this himself) and not in a moment of cold calculation.  But does that make him less scary – or more?

The funny thing is, I like Killua and I can’t bring myself not to – even knowing all of the above and already having plenty to feel skeevy about before.  That’s part of Togashi’s genius I suppose, that he can create characters of such charisma who are also so dangerous and disturbing.  Gon is dangerous too, in his own way, and I would argue perhaps even more so than Killua – but the difference is that even at 12, Gon is more in control of his rage thank Killua is.  For all his talk of the assassins techniques he’s mastered, the self-control, Killua is actually a very typical child – easily prone to peevishness and anger, lashing out blindly when frightened.  The problem is when he lashes out, people die.  Just how deeply does Gon understand what a terrifying boy his friend is, I wonder?  He’s seen “Kil” kill, certainly, and seen the damage his upbringing wrought upon him.  But does Gon really understand how broken Killua is, or is this still a game to him on some level?  At the very least Gon believes that he at least – and perhaps only he – is safe from Killua, that nothing could push Killua to kill him at least.  I suspect he’s right, but it’d still be enough to keep me on edge.

The twin pillars of the episode are the unraveling of Nen, and the return of Gon’s nemesis.  Wing-sensei is certainly a mysterious sort – innocuous in appearance and soft-spoken – but clearly a man of formidable talents.  His first go-around at teaching the boys is straightforward enough – he gives them a little speech about how Nen is the burning of one’s own soul, to test strength of will.  Gon and Killua listen attentively, but Killua immediately realizes that Wing was lying – that it wasn’t mere willpower that allowed Zushi to survive his full-strength attack.  Zushi notices too, of course, and it’s none too surprising that Wing wouldn’t give away all his secrets to two kids he’s barely met.  His methods are to give just enough of the truth to nudge the student along, but clearly he’s underestimated the true nature of these two students.

This comes to a head with Gon and Killua’s arrival on the 200th Floor, still unchallenged.  This is the place where the fights are no holds (or weapons) barred, and the only prize for victory is glory.  And when they get there who should be waiting for them but Hisoka, and he’s as creepy and badass as ever.  It would be easy to argue that he’s obsessed with Gon and Killua to the point of stalkerdom at this point, having hacked their online purchases and figured out where they were headed.  He appoints himself as the guardian of the 200s – there to tell the boys that they’re arrived much too soon, and that he won’t allow them to pass.  I’m not totally sure of Hisoka’s motives here, to be honest.  A very big part of it could simply be that he loves messing with Gon’s head (and he’s obviously good at it).  It may simply be that Gon is the most interesting person he knows, and he hates being bored.  Or there may be more nefarious motives – some obvious and some less so – in his mind.

In the end this leaves the boys with a problem, because if they back down from Hisoka’s challenge and don’t register for a fight by Midnight, Gon goes back to the first floor and Killua is banned from the tower for quitting twice.  It’s Wing who grants a reprieve, pointing out (quite correctly I suspect) that Hisoka is right, it’s too early – they have no defense for his Nen.  As Wing elegantly puts it, they’re two people standing naked in the snow and wondering why it’s so cold.  But is Nen such a discipline that he can teach even brilliant prodigies like Gon and Killua enough about it in three-plus hours to give them a chance against Hisoka?

As Wing describes Nen it sounds deceptively simple, with four precepts: Ten (keeping the body’s aura flowing around the body and not away from it; a shield, and a preserver of youth), Zetsu (cutting off the flow of aura altogether; a method to rejuvenate and to conceal one’s presence), Ren (increasing the flow of aura; the offense to Ten’s defense), and Hatsu (the release of aura to carry out a specific task; “paranormal” powers).  But my suspicion is that like so much else in Hunter X Hunter it’s much deeper and darker than it first appears, and I can’t see even Killua or Gon (though the latter seems more likely) mastering it enough in a few hours to defeat Hisoka.  It will certainly be fascinating to see what happens when the boys get back to the 200th floor, because it’s much too early in the story for Gon to gain the upper hand against his arch-nemesis.

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Gon and Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Wing”

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7 comments

  1. l

    Just pointing out: They only need to create a ''barrier'' using Ten to pass Hisoka's Nen. They don't need actually get stronger than him, since he is not even touching them. Not a spoiler, just going by what was taught to them in this episode.

    Nen's most interesting powers lies on Zetsu, with a lot more information that Wing didn't teach them yet. I'm looking foward to learning it yet again, since I forgot a bit about it.

    But guess what, Nen is actually an great concept as a power. Togashi uses it in a clever way, not using it as an easy way out, like many random power-ups in shounen these days.

    I can't wait to see some fights with this level of animation.

  2. b

    I think you're referring to Hatsu because Zetsu is just shutting off your aura. Hatsu is the actual application of the Nen which is unique to different people.

    In any case, Nen will be integral to the story from now on and Nen battles aren't just normal fights. Looking forward to the fights. I also need to refresh my memory with the basics of Nen.

  3. l

    Yea, thx, mistake on my part.

  4. A

    To go with the "blizzard" analogy they just need to put on their coats to get past. They don't need to "defeat the blizzard".

  5. A

    Laughed heaps when Killua spiderman-ed himself into a corner in response to Wing's killing intent

  6. A

    Why the heck are you getting mad at Kil here Enzo, when it's Wing who is the one putting poor Shirou/Zushi through all this child labor by forcing him to fight to get money in order to cover for all the property damage he keeps on making.

    Poor Zushi :(

    ''Yet he casually reveals to Gon that he unleashed his full force on Zushi during their fight. Step back and consider: if he considered that rationally, Killua would surely expect that to kill Zushi as we’ve seen him kill with a lot less than his best stuff. So Killua struck out at a child younger than he, who had at least taken the first steps towards becoming a friend and certainly not shown any premeditated malice towards him, with the full intent to kill him – for no worse offense than failing to be defeated easily enough. Yes, Killua surely did so in a fit of rage (he admits this himself) and not in a moment of cold calculation. But does that make him less scary – or more?''

    I think the reason why we (as the viewers) ended up not really hating Kil for what he had done (effectively trying to kill a child younger than him) was because we actually get to see his reaction to the fight. He is seriously perplexed at how he is unable to knock out this kid, no matter how many times he tries to get a clean hit an it lands, he just stands up again and again. Eventually, the whole thing got so absurd he just snapped and just hit him to get it over with already, only realizing he made a mistake (this is important, Kil actually acknowledged that he screwed up when he punched with all his strength).

    So really, it's more of ''I made a mistake'' as opposed to ''I just wanted to kill the kid''.

  7. Shirou?

    I don't think there's anything in my post that disagrees with your reaction – and I don't think your comment changes anything I said. I certainly don't hate Kil – I know "I like Killua and I can't bring myself not to" makes that pretty clear – and I never suggested that it a was a calculated attempt to kill Zushi.

    But again, does the fact that it wasn't calculated make it less scary, or more? Intentional or not Kil struck l'il Zushi with what should have been a killing blow, and it's not as though Kil was under any real threat – just frustrated. He's an A-bomb that could go off any time, on friend or foe (with perhaps only Gon excepted) – that seems clear to me by now. The fact that he felt bad about it later shows he has a conscience – but doesn't make him any less dangerous. The problem is he's a little boy with the incredible killing power of a masterful adult, and the self-restraint of a child (and a nasty upbringing that messed his head up to boot). Scary, scary combo.

    But I still like him, can't help it.

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