Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 35

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I don’t have to search too hard for a one-word review of that episode – “Wow” covers it pretty well.

Not only was the match between Hisoka and Gon the subject of perhaps the most intense build-up of any event in this series so far, but there was the added anticipation caused by the one-week UEFA hiatus (a week without H x H just doesn’t feel complete).  As a result the last half of this episode had almost impossible expectations to live up to.  The fact that it totally exceeded them for me should let you know just what an amazing job Madhouse did with the fight – but before we even got to the that there was some amazing stuff in the first half of the episode.

I’ve come to really enjoy Wing’s little lectures on Nen, because they really show the level of thought Togashi-sensei put into creating the background world for this series.  With the boys pretty much up to speed, the time has come for Wing to finally introduce them to Hatsu – at last, the expression of their Nen abilities into a specific function.  This being H x H there’s a very specific taxonomy to these abilities, and they fall under six groups – Enhancer, Transmuter, Emitter, Conjurer, Manipulator and Specialist (one whose abilities don’t fall into the other five groups).  Every Nen user has a natural inclination towards one of these five abilities, and perfecting a Hatsu ability native to their talent will be easiest, with those closest to it in class being next easiest.

Wing (conveniently) knows a test to determine one’s natural ability class, using a leaf and a glass of water.  Killua is an Transmuter (same as Hisoka), Zushi a Manipulator and Gon an Enhancer (as is Wing).  The boys go about training themselves in the development of their newfound skill, set to a completely new piece of BGM (there were several in this episode).  Wing gives them four weeks to practice, and then comes their “exam”.  Zushi, not unexpectedly, has to deal with the fact that he’s not up to par with his older friends (Wing tells him he’s “One in a hundred-thousand” but when Gon and Killua are “One in tem million” it still has to be a little discouraging).  Killua’s Transmuter ability progresses to make the water taste like honey, enough to pass Wing’s muster.  But it’s Gon who shows the most progress – his Enhancer skill so powerful that he breaks the glass with the force of the expanding water (another blow to Wing getting his security deposit back).  Wing has another revelatory moment about just how scary this boy is – certainly, he seems to have the most natural Nen ability of anyone in the group.  And he’ll need it, with the date he’s chosen for his matchup with Hisoka falling on the next day.

Before that, though, Wing drops a bombshell that’s been hinted at for a while – mastering Nen was actually the last phase of the Hunter Exam, and Gon has passed.  And his Master is indeed Netero, as I speculated – the old bastard has his hands in every pot.  As well, Wing says that Hanzo and Kurapika have learned Nen, while Leorio is concentrating on his medical school exam and Illumi and Hisoka already knew Nen – leaving only poor Pokkle left behind, struggling with Ren.  He also tells Killua that he should take the exam again, for he’d surely pass – which I don’t doubt, though I do wonder if it’s something he truly wants to do.

That revelation was certainly a big deal, and in hindsight explains a lot of what’s happened since the exam proper ended.  Indeed, I thought perhaps we might not even get to the Gon vs. Hisoka fight at all until next week, and this would still have been an excellent episode.  But boy, was I wrong – did we ever get to the fight.  Hisoka was in all his sinister, flamboyant glory this episode – preening naked at the window when Gon called him to set up their “date”, getting “turned on” when Gon gave him his best shounen stare in the ring before their match.  This was arguably the first real appearance of this full-on creeper side of Hisoka that’s become legendary over the years, and pretty much erases any worry that his character’s dark side was going to be soft-pedaled in this version.  Hisoka is still Hisoka, and he’s deliciously twisted.

And then the fight began.  My reaction?  Let me put it this way – as soon as the first flurry ended, I jumped back and watched it again, twice.  And I took more screenshots of this episode than any I’ve ever watched.  They won’t remotely do it justice – it has to be watched in full HD to be appreciated.  It reminded me of the first fight scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang, which drew a spontaneous standing ovation when I saw it on opening weekend.  To be honest I think this almost entirely hand-drawn sequence is more impressive than the lavish Kiritsugu-Kirei “Matrix” battle in Fate/Zero, though it won’t get a tenth of the attention. It was simply some of the most splendid combat anime I’ve seen since Seirei no Moribito’s third episode. I loved the judicious but excellent use of slow motion, the BGM (new again), the close-ups on the faces.  And maybe best of all, the dead silence for almost 15 seconds after Gon landed his punch on Hisoka after using his “Stone Flip” move.  An absolutely lovely directing choice that totally enhanced the moment.

Of course, as great as the mechanics and aesthetics were, the reason this really soars is because Gon and Hisoka are amazing characters.  There’s not even any Nen here – just martial spirit. Gon definitely reverts to 12 year-old boy mode, initially abandoning all pretense and going after Hisoka with everything he has.  Hisoka avoids all his blows and lands several of his own while, as he points out, never moving from his initial spot.  But Gon is a creature of instinct with indomitable spirit, and he keeps coming, a little smarter the second time around, using feints and the stone flip to finally gain the upper hand – for a moment.  But is forcing Hisoka to use his full power really something to be happy about?  For Gon, the crazy little GAR bomb he is, I suppose the answer is yes.

The thing is, of course, that Killua is right in saying the gap in skill is still enormous.  Hisoka’s “weakness” may be in his refusal to retreat, knowing he’s stronger – but he is stronger, by far.  And the psychological side of this is really the more interesting, because ultimately it’s a question of what Hisoka wants out of this fight.  I don’t doubt that Gon’s blow landed legitimately, and hurt like hell – but I also don’t doubt Hisoka could kill Gon if he wanted.  But I don’t think he wants to – I don’t think Gon is “ripe” yet in his eyes.  I’m guessing this is an opportunity for Hisoka to enjoy himself, to test Gon’s new strength, and perhaps even to give Gon enough encouragement to keep chasing him (which is what he really wants).  But that doesn’t mean Hisoka won’t teach Gon a lesson and win the battle, irrespective of whether he cares about losing his fourth fight or gaining the right to challenge a Floor Master (which I don’t think he does).  Encouraging Gon and having fun is fine, but Hisoka will want to make sure the boy knows his place – and whether Gon has earned enough of Hisoka’s respect for him to accept his tag back, I’m not sure.  In any case, I can’t wait to see how this epic showdown ends – not the result, so much, but the way it comes about.

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Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Hisoka”

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20 comments

  1. l

    This is another of those episodes that makes me think that this show won't go past York Shin arc.

    The level of animation is TOO god-like. I thought it was awesome before but, after this, it's past just ''awesome''.

    Anyway, this was, undoubtely, one of the best fights in anime I have seen in years. And hey, they weren't even using nen abilities.

  2. Indeed, good point about the nen – duly noted.

  3. A

    Yeah, the Hisoka stuff was excellent in this episode. Now, realize that I edited this last week, along with last week's Fate/Zero. Once I found out that Hisoka and Waver shared a seiyuu, you can imagine that it severely impacted my ability to focus on the very serious Rider/Waver antics happening in that episode!

    Ironically, as I read your blog for HxH here, your description for Hisoka works pretty well for Archer. I'll be honest, Hisoka didn't really fully mature for me as a character that I could sink my teeth into until this episode. Not because he hasn't had any other good dialogue, but generally–and it's a credit to the source material–his exposure has actually been fairly minimal until now, although he's still hung over some of the series in general. But with this one, I finally felt like I "got" him. Ha ha, whether or not that proves to be a good thing, I guess we'll see.

    And I agree that this was a very impressive fight, from a technical standpoint. I don't totally agree it overshadowed the FZ fight, but honestly, I think they are very different in nature, and each portrayed their respective fights appropriately. FZ's would have been fairly difficult for anime-only viewers to follow without the narration, which consequently meant slowing down the overall fight. HxH's was a simpler fight in many ways (which is no slight at all to it, or a knock on how much I enjoyed it). So they used slow motion more judiciously with a couple lines of narration, as opposed to needing whole paragraphs of exposition.

    As for the above comment, though I am not privy to any actual confirmation or concrete information in this regard, I don't expect to see HxH going anywhere for a while yet. I would be pretty surprised, in fact, if it doesn't outstrip the original series in terms of chapter content. I certainly expect them to make it to Greed Island, at any rate. I could be wrong (so no one should expect me to be speaking for Madhouse or any other party here but myself), but that's my general feeling.

  4. Hisoka has a little of that "dark matter" quality to him – he impacts everything in profound ways even when we can't see him. As an anime-only viewer I can't quite agree that he wasn't someone I could "sink my teeth into" before now – even if his time on-screen has been limited, I've felt like I had a pretty solid grasp on his nature almost from day one, and haven't really seen anything yet that's shocked me. And he's always immensely entertaining.

    I hope you're right about H x H outstripping the 1999 series, because it just keeps getting better and better and I'd like to see it carry one for as long as possible. As for F/Z, while that's a better topic for another thread, I think we might be seeing some evidence that the material has some issues in terms of it's suitability for anime. It's a wonderful series, but I get the strong sense that a lot of this season has been a little flat because ufotable couldn't quite figure out how to present the material. That in concert with a couple of questionable pacing issues has held the show back a little bit.

  5. A

    This series isn't going anywhere, it is making too much money. The series was created with the intention of fully adapting the HxH source material (accurately). The series has become a huge success in Japan and with the amount of money it is making them, this is Bleach's replacement in the Big 3 anime (rightfully so, Hunter x Hunter is excellent, Bleach is not). I don't know why people are worrying so much about the longevity of this series, there is no doubt in my mind this is going to be another long running shonen series much like One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball etc.

  6. A

    Not to be a jerk…But you wrote Killua as an enhancer. He's transmutation.
    I'm sure that was just a typo though. And I look forward to reading your reviews. I mean I've seen the 99 series and read the manga and are up to date with the 2011 series…but it's like I still learn new things after reading these reviews. It's like…I didn't think of it like that.

  7. b

    Killua is an Enhancer (same as Hisoka)
    You mean Transmuter right?

    I have to get used to these new names though. I was used to the ones before. Enhancer is Reinforcement/Strengthening, Transmuter is Transformation and Conjurer is Materialization. Emission, Manipulation and Specialization is the same.
    Incidentally, you can figure out Kurapika and Leorio's Hatsu by looking at the ED song.

    ANN has listed the seiyuus for the Phantom Troupe and it's full of amazing ones. Pretty sure I read before that the director plans to cover after Greed Island too since he removed a certain scene in episode 1 and plans to move it later on as it will have more impact when it gets past GI. So this will really go on longer. At least I hope it does. With this level of quality in this episode, the next arcs will be even more orgasmic and mindblowing.

  8. A

    The series will go past Chimera Ants arc. In the intro in the beginning of the series when the narrator talks about Hunters you can see many characters silohetted from the Chimera Ants arc.

  9. Yes yes, everyone's a critic! Fixed.

  10. B

    After seeing this fight I went to the old series to see how they handled the beginning of this fight and it only made me appreaciate what this episode did even more. It just seemed to be lacking any real tension while in this episode I was absolutely blown away by the direction and animation. Honestly I look forward to new episodes of Hunter X Hunter more than even Apollon and Tsurutima and if the series maintains this level of quality it will definitely end up being one of my favorite series.Ok I'm gonna go rewatch the fight for like the tenth time already.

  11. K

    Ok… This… Wow! O_O *awestruck*

  12. J

    Wing's master is not Netero. Wing's comment was more that Netero had asked Wing to train Gon in Nen.

  13. Let's just leave it at "Netero is not Wing's Master" and not get too specific about when stuff happens later in the series…

  14. x

    Wow indeed. Let's just say Hisoka wasn't the only one who had a definite Schwing! moment during that fight. That's gotta be the most intense 5 minutes of Shounen I've seen to date.

    And again, it's just amazing how HxH manages to accomplish so much with so little. No planets destroyed, no suns exploding.. Just a 12 year old boy punching a creep in the face.

    It's moments like these that make me think that the, arguably, somewhat generic setting of HxH is less of an oversight, and more of a deliberate handicap. Just to show that in the end, all that really matters are strong characters and skillful storytelling.

  15. s

    Omg! I'm so glad this fight was as amazingly well executed as it was, and I'm happy that new viewers of the series are also enjoying it! I'm a huge fan of the older series and I've been very receptive toward this new one, but I've always been waiting for the moment when I'd feel like the new series has outclassed the old one. This is definitely that moment. :)

    Thanks for the great review, as always.

    (And wtf, I wish 1999 viewers and manga readers would be a little more kind/civil around here. Some of you guys give us a reputation of being really whiny and nitpicky. :/ Just chill out and enjoy the ride.)

  16. A

    Though I think you COULD call Netero Wing's GRANDmaster as Netero is the grandmaster of Shingen Ryu

  17. S

    I think the 1999 series has been better for the most part (not nostalgia goggles, either, since I first watched it less than a year ago), but the Hisoka/Gon fight in the remake clearly blows the fight in the original away. It's not even close, actually. The animation, pacing, impact and sound direction in the fight are all vastly superior. It's such a subtly difficult fight to depict, too, since Hisoka is stationary the entire time, so Gon has to be extra fluid and kinetic to make up for it. I'm incredibly impressed by the work done in this episode.

  18. A

    I've never seen the 99 series, but I have read up to the current chapters in the manga. I enjoy this adaptation a lot. I'm also glad there's someone blogging this series, because I can't seem to find that elsewhere. Thanks, Enzo!

    I ran across someone on a forum complaining about Gon not demolishing Hisoka after 3 or 4 months of nen training, as a beginner. One of the things I enjoy most about Hunter as a series is that Gon and Killua are just beginners, and even though they have potential to be best nen-users in the world, they won't accomplish that in just a few months. Especially compared to someone like Hisoka who's been using nen for years.

    Togashi likes to keep it real.

  19. It's certainly fun for me to cover series this good that no one else seems to be covering. It's odd that this show gets so little attention, though.

  20. K

    I did find bloggers but they seem to be very bitter and criticize it because it isn't the 99' series

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