In some ways, this episode felt almost like a reward for both the characters and audience – a chance to sit back and relax after a pretty intense run that peaked with the Gon vs. Hisoka combat of the last two weeks. Those Heaven’s Tower eps weren’t just intense because of action, but they were jam-packed full of information too – the audience has to learn Nen as the same time Gon and Killua are learning it. I haven’t seen a lot of shounen that consistently bombard the audience with stimuli the way this one does, and they range from purely visceral to quite intellectual and esoteric. It’s a unique experience but sometimes it’s nice for us to have a break, just like for the boys.
That’s not to say that this was “filler” (how I hate the way that word is overused – almost as much as “slice-of-life”) or a placeholder. There’s some very important plot advancement here, arguably some of the most important of the entire series – but it’s parceled out in a rather low-key manner for H x H. Even more, it was a vital opportunity to see Gon and Killua in a different context that we’re used to seeing them, and that’s very important to understanding them as characters. That dichotomy between the two sides of the boys’ nature is an important element of the series, but we’ve really only been looking at them in one mode for the better part of the last cour.
There’s also something very magical about hearing Han Megumi and Han Keiko playing Gon and Mito respectively, even if that’s all projection from me. There’s a real warmth to their scenes together that shines through despite how rarely they happen, and I really think it’s important to see that this boy who’s a ruthless and deadly fighter with an iron will is also a kid who loves the women who raised him and has kindness in his heart. It struck me in watching the Whale Island scenes that Killua really admires Gon, in a way – he calls him “admirable” because Gon has something he wants to do (find his father) but I think it goes deeper than that. Killua admires the fact that Gon is able to become the Hunter that Wing – who likes him – calls “terrifying”, yet still retain the essence of who he is – smiling, optimistic, and affectionate with his family. Gon has things he wants to do – Killua has things he doesn’t want to do. In many ways Killua is like a photo-negative of Gon – or at least, sees himself as one.
Watching Killua’s reactions on arrival in the Freecss household is one of the most fascinating elements of the episode. He’s quite awkward at first around Mito and Grandma, unsurprisingly, and you can see him trying not to be a third wheel. But while he never stops feeling like an outsider, he’s also keenly observant of Gon’s interactions with his family and probably a little envious (he admits to wishing he had a Mom like Mito). Gon, for his part, is adorably eager to show Killua everything, literally running in place as he announces his plans to show Killua around the island. This easy ability to slip into innocence is something that separates the two boys, and while Killua lowers his guard enough to act like a goofy kid around Gon, there’s an “old soul” quality to him that says that part of him knows it’s an act. And it’s the desire to protect that side of Gon, I think, that motivates Killua to walk the dark path when necessary so as to spare Gon from having to do the same.
Love is definitely in the air pretty thick here – some classic shounen bromance as Gon openly shares his feelings for Killua and on why having a friend is so precious to him. Killua mocks him for it, but that’s an act too – Killua treasures the friendship just as much as Gon does. And the scene where Gon explains his family history to Killua around a campfire – telling him of how he never asks about his mother because Mito is the only mother he’ll ever have, as Mito silently listens – was handled perfectly. This is something else that binds Gon and Killua – loyalty, something both of them seem to treasure above all else.
Of course even if Gon doesn’t, we’re free to ask what might have become of Gon’s mother – but for now, the focus is on Ging, his father. Gon has pledged to search for him and while Mito clearly disapproves, she shares both a story of her past and a memento from Ging. Ging (who looked almost exactly like Gon) is her older cousin, to whom she was fiercely attached, and like Gon he left Whale Island at age 12 to become a Hunter, because he “had something he wanted”. His departure clearly hurt her deeply (her own parents died in an accident, which was what she originally told Gon happened to his). Ging returned to the island 10 years later with a toddler Gon in arms and Koyama Rikiya’s voice, and left him in her care – along with a steel box and instructions to give it to Gon if he became a Hunter (which Mito halfheartedly tried to throw away numerous times).
It’s Kil who figures out that it’s something Gon only has now that he’s a Hunter that’s the key to opening the box, and I laughed pretty hard when Gon came up with his Hunter License and Killua facepalmed, because I had the same thought Gon did. No, it’s Nen that’s needed – and the box’s contents are revealed to be a cassette tape (interesting that Madhouse left this as is – I guess the “10 years earlier” thing), a ring with Nen writing on this inside, and a memory card (a cassette tape and a memory card – anachronistic?). The boys play the tape (even the birds listen closely when Gon’s father speaks) and when Ging asks him the question that I guess sets the tone for the rest of the series – “Do you want to see me?”. I think we all know the answer – and I look forward to learning more about Ging next week before the series finally shifts to York Shin.
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Mito”