Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 36

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The question here was always whether Hunter X Hunter could possibly follow up the tour de force display of episode 35.  The answer, unequivocally, is yes.  A resounding yes.

Here’s how good the fight scenes in this episode were: I forgot to take sceencaps for several minutes because I was so mesmerized by what was happening, and had to replay them.  But that’s fine, because I was going to replay them anyway.  What Madhouse has effectively done (thanks in large part to Togashi’s plotting, of course) is to connect the two most intense and riveting episodes of the series so far – episodes 16 and 35 – and directly connect them with this episode.  That moment when Hisoka walked up to Gon and Gon handed him the “44” tag was everything I imagined it to be – full of subtext and complex implication.  It was a perfect way to start the episode, and things just got better from there.

Subtext and subtlety is such a huge part of why this is great, transcendent shounen – some of the best I’ve seen.  The straightforward stuff – the friendships, the training, the action – is fantastic.  But the stuff that’s happening just under the surface is almost shockingly dark and disturbing, not least for a show that’s nominally aimed at kids.  I had someone tell me this week that they didn’t want to watch H x H because “looks so kiddie”.  Well, what can you do – but don’t think Togashi isn’t fully aware of that disconnect, and using it very artfully to mess with our heads at every turn.  Taking Gon and Killua on their own terms, the gulf between their appearance and their true nature is pretty shocking as I’ve pointed out before.

But when you get to Hisoka, that element of the series is off the charts.  He’s a fascinating, incredibly complex character to start with – and clearly the strongest person we’ve met in this fighting series, to boot.  His feelings as regards Gon are complex too – there’s definitely an element of respect there.  But he’s also a flat-out pedophile, a shotacon – a guy who’s physically turned on (and visibly so), by looking at Gon , and who gets off on the act of punishing and being punished by Gon and the thought of eventually “breaking him”.    “You’re so adorable.  You’re so good!  That face…  Those eyes!  Not yet.  More…  More!”  This is seriously creepy and disturbing stuff, and it’s right there in plain sight.  And it doesn’t detract one bit from the fight being immensely entertaining (the Godly animation doesn’t hurt in that regard).

You can set the creeper stuff aside and the dynamic here is still a fascinating one.  Gon himself is a fear addict – he loves the thrill he gets from facing Hisoka, because only Hisoka can terrify him enough to make him feel truly alive.  And make no mistake, there’s an element of respect here on both sides.  It’s obvious in this fight that Hisoka is teaching Gon (and Gon is learning, though he’ll decline to share just what with Killua later) more than anything else.  Enjoying himself immensely, yes – both the punishment he’s dishing out and what he’s taking – but using the opportunity to show Gon his own shortcomings and the tricks he can only learn from Hisoka, without damaging him enough to break his spirit, even encouraging him.  Could he defeat Gon at any moment?  Of course he could – he could kill him at any moment, easily.  But he’s not lying when he says Gon has made incredible progress, and he makes sure Gon understands there’s no point in wasting any more time in Heaven’s Tower.  In his own words, Hisoka wants Gon to “reach soaring new heights…  Until I can no longer bear to ruin you.”  My God – is there any other anime where that line could possibly appear?

Of course Hisoka does win the fight – he was always going to win the fight.  We see very telling reactions when the fight is over – Wing, Zushi and even Killua are happy Gon has lost, because they’re glad he’s still alive.  Even the referee admits that he scored the fight tightly because he didn’t want it to become dangerous.  Indeed, the one most disappointed that the fight was over was Gon himself, for all the damage he’d taken – because he knew he’d never feel the same thrill until he got to fight Hisoka again.  He knew it was hopeless, yet wanted to keep going, while the others – his friends, the ref, even Hisoka himself – were happy to see it over with Gon still alive.  Gon truly is a beast when his blood is up, but he’s nowhere near ready to fight Hisoka in a true life or death battle.

There was plenty of other great stuff in the ep, too.  For example, Hisoka’s little lesson about his personality method for determining Nen class (“Like the blood type personality test, and just as reliable”).  He nails it with Gon – “Enhancers are simple and earnest” – and for himself and Killua – “Transmuters are fickle and dishonest”.  He declares that he and Gon are attracting opposites, and that “We could become very intimate” (Hisoka, you creeper…) but also warns him that things could turn at any moment (a lesson he also shares in his match-clinching deception later on).  I also loved Gon’s defiant “Shut up, I’m brainstorming!” during the match – have I mentioned that Han Megumi is doing an amazing job?  It was also interesting that the BGM for the fight switched to a rock track, completely opposite from last week’s creepy strings.  And then there’s the weird dude (Togashi himself? Prince Baka?) who popped up out of nowhere next to Coco in the booth to explain about different types of scoring.  I’d call it random, but there doesn’t seem to be any random in H x H.

What’s really remarkable is that we haven’t even reached the arcs that most fans of the manga and the 1999 series consider their favorites.  As is, this one is drawing to a close, and at the perfect moment as well – ending on an extreme high note, with its story having been told in a completely satisfying way.  I’m definitely going to miss Wing and Zushi (Osu!), who were excellent characters and added a lot to the emotional appeal of the arc in addition to fulfilling their roles in the plot.  The next ep is a return home to Whale Island so that Gon can proudly show off his license to Mito (played of course by Megumi’s RL mother, seiyuu legend Han Keiko) and again, it comes at a perfect time – after the intensity of these last episodes, a brief respite in the warmth of family couldn’t be more welcome.  Of course Ging’s name – remember him? – will come up (it already has, in the episode title) but I hope the main course will be on Gon and Mito, with Killua’s first exposure to a loving family not made up of assassins an appetizing side dish.

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Gon & Killia’s Hunterpedia: “Gon!”

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  1. l

    LOL. That weird old dude was Togashi, he appeared as a dog on the previous anime. And…

    Didn't he look similar to Baka Ouji from Level-E? O.o

  2. He was the dog in the cab, I remember that – I didn't recognize him this time!

  3. l

    Well, I only recognized him because I made the connection with the 1999 series. And he looked like Baka Ouji with silver hair, and since Togashi is the author of Level-E, I thought ''hey, there he is, trolling us again''.

  4. A

    I think I'm going to watch Level-E.. 🙂

  5. c

    The Baka Prince from Level-E was voiced by Hisoka's voice actor in the anime, but here Hisoka's voice actor didn't voiced him though. But that guy is definitely Bake Prince, whose personality is basically Togashi himself (trollish, how to have fun tormenting his supporters without losing their support at the same time, etc.)

  6. b

    Oh God, Hisoka gave me goosebumps to the max with his pedo monologue about Gon.
    It doesn't help(or it helps a lot?) that Namikawa Daisuke's voice just ramps it up to 11.
    And god the animation still won't let up with this. Madhouse, you make me proud.

    You can actually match up the Nen personality test of Hisoka's with the Hatsu alignment of Kurapika and Leorio in the ED and be surprised at how it really fits. And glad you noticed that as a Transmuter, it can also apply to Kilua, though with his relationship with Gon, it's hard to say if he's still dishonest.

    And a bit of a breather before we get to the arc everyone's been waiting for. But with the title being concerned with Ging, be sure that it's not completely an unimportant episode. That box…can't wait.

    Anyone know the seiyuu of that random guy in the booth? He did look like Prince Baka 😛

  7. S

    Well, the Heaven's Arena arc ended with a bang. Onwards to Yorkshin!

    Just the thought of seeing a certain fight in the next arc animated to this level of quality gives me goosebumps – I am certain that anybody who read the manga or watched the original anime knows what I am referring to…

    Really, my main complaint at this point remains the music. If they change the OP to something less… happy-go-around feeling and introduce some good themes for the spiders I'll be happy enough :).

  8. A

    I held on watching last week's episode in order to watch these two back to back, so can't really comment on them much (aside from knowing how they play out) but

    ''The question here was always whether Hunter X Hunter could possibly follow up the tour de force display of episode 35. ''

    Asking this question at this point is sort of unneeded a bit, isn't it Enzo? 😛

    I mean I told you before, we are not at the good bits yet … sometimes I wonder if you are even listening to me lol

    *goes to watch*

  9. K

    awesome episode! though i still kinda lyk episode 35 when it comes to animation quality than this one. i dunno, d animation style here is kinda different. anyway, i dunno if this is considered a spoiler but i juz wanted to know, is killua supposed to fight this darth maul-lookalike at the Heaven's arena b4 gon and hisoka's or did i miss something?

  10. S

    That was filler of the old anime.

  11. K

    oh, i see. and i was actually looking forward to that fight. too bad… but anyway, on to the next awesome arc. thanks, btw!

  12. x

    I think calling Hisoka a pedophile does the character disservice.. It's not Gon's body Hisoka is interested in, but his soul. It certainly helps that Gon is a child, since you probably won't find that kind of.. pureness (not as in innocent, but in being the pure essence of something; in Gon's case: GAR) in an adult. But apart from that, I can't see Hisoka caring much about things like gender or age. He just wants to take something pretty and pure and horribly, horribly break it. Which obviously makes him a flaming sadist.

    Also, research shows that every anime would be immediately 347% better if it had Prince Baka in it.

  13. Well, I suspect you may be giving Hisoka a little too much credit. And some psychologists would say that even what you describe is a big part of pedophilia, anyway.

  14. C

    But you also tend to ignore Hisoka's obsession with what he called a 'green fruit', which he found specially salivating….it's another 'level' of his thrill. If he didn't have this side then he's just a battle nut as you say. Yet he's not just that, as the author went to show the extend that Hisoka gets MORE excited from the appeal of Gon's boyish package. Yes he gets his rush from fighting with strong people (but so does Gon right?), but Hisoka went beyond that — the whole 'young, unripe, pure' package added on his excitement. So that's where his pedophile-equivalent side came from.

  15. x

    Well, there are a lot of deviants targeting children, not all of which are necessarily pedophiles. Power fantasies and Sadism can lead to the same end for different reasons.

    What I'm saying is, there might very well be certain.. undertones in his behavior, but that would be a bit like calling Jeffrey Dahmer a homosexual. True, yes, but hardly the most glaring issue. I just don't think Hisoka is that much enthralled by Gon because he finds him cute or attractive, or because he wants a challenging fight.. I think it's mostly because he wants to break him. That's what he gets off of the most, and that is because he is a Sadist first, and possibly a Pedophile second. Bu the latter is just the icing on the fucked up cake.

  16. K

    Been a while since I commented as I've been busy moving/searching for a new apartment (all done now! :P) But, yeah, this episodes was GAR. Though a few scenes are different than what I remember from the manga, overall the feeling of helplessness (when Hisoka went on a "rampage") contrasted with the feelings of eerie disturbance by Hisoka's speech/lines, for me, helped instill Hisoka's pesona perfectly. He's a beast, that raises "live stock" (Gon) only to want to slaughter them and enjoy it.

    I agree, anyone who has never read the manga seen the 1999 series, will definitely love the upcoming arcs. Despite many fans' favorite being the YS arc, for some reason I hold GI arc as my favorite and I can't wait to see it animated (again).. though the Chimera Ant arc will be awesome to see animated as well 😛

    Enzo I still say you should try simu-blogging this on RC. I'd like to think many people who overlook HxH would become interested :S

  17. A

    Holy damn, Namikawa Daisuke does an amazing job with Hisoka. I can say the same for Megumi Han with Gon.

    Hisoka's battlephilia/pedophilia doesn't bother me, as strange as that sounds. He's a very interesting character, and one of my favorites.

    Yeah, the old series kinda messed up the return to Whale Island transition for me. I hope Madhouse can do this part justice!

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