If there’s a danger with Blogging this show, it’s becoming repetitive. Not H x H, but the blog posts – because there’s only so many different ways to say “another great episode’”. Fortunately what makes the individual eps great comes in so many varieties and styles that it rarely covers the same ground twice, but the overall impression is usually the same. In fact this series has been on one of the longest extended runs of excellence I can recall – even BONES superb FMA: Brotherhood adaptation had more ups and downs. Not only has the storytelling – pacing, timing, et al – been spot-on, but the production values just continue to impress. This is Madhouse getting pretty much everything right – giving a legendary manga a classy and first-class adaptation it richly deserves. I can only hope it proves lucrative for them and this version continues for a long, long time.
Hunter X Hunter has always been able to impress with its ability to succeed across such a wide swathe and moods and tones, but I’m struck more than ever this week by the fact that it really feels like two different series: one when Kurapika is on-screen, and one when he isn’t. The dark side of Kurapika’s nature was exposited early on, but he maintained quite a serene demeanor most of the time – the transformation in the character has been almost total. Darkness hangs over him like a shroud, and the scenes directly connected to his arc unfailingly have a heavy, ominous tone to them (including, usually, in the lighting and color schemes).
By contrast, Gon and Killua’s scenes are bright – brightly lit, full of sunshine and green and bustle, and brimming with boyish energy that practically spills off the screen. That these two faces of the show are able to coexist without seeming jarringly dissonant is surprising, but they do – and Gon and Killua’s arc is further brightened by the return of Leorio at long last. He makes a memorable entrance as the boys are mulling over their choices in cell phones, and reveals both sides of his nature right away. He’s practical and street-smart, wise in the “mundane” ways of society but just as clearly, he’s well below the others in terms of his abilities as a Hunter. As some point Leorio has obviously become aware of Nen, but his fumbling attempts to sound like an expert (he actually describes Ten and calls it Nen) reveal him for the neophyte he is.
As great as the last few months have been, I definitely missed Leorio – starting with the irreplaceable Fujiwara Keiji of course, but also because he fills a unique role in the story. In effect he’s both the big brother and the little brother – the fact remains that he wouldn’t have passed the exam without a lot of help from his friends (and not having mastered Nen still hasn’t truly passed it, if I understand the rules right). Gon and Killua look after him like their hapless younger sibling, but they also drive him crazy with their exuberance and frivolousness (and Madhouse really cranked up the kawaii factor to eleven for the two of them this week) and he has something to teach them about common sense.
In this case that manifests itself in a scheme he concocts to help them come up with the money to try and buy Greed Island (he gives them a general lesson on the workings of the auction, in fact). In effect Gon and Killua (and Kurapika) are much better Hunters, but Leorio is a better non-Hunter then they are – and his straightforward and simple approach to life is a good complement, too. The results of his plan – setting up Gon to arm-wrestle marks for 10,000 Jenny a pop (as a bored Killua acts as a human jewelry case) for a chance to win a 3 million Jenny diamond – are pretty hilarious (Madhouse continues to deliver easily the funniest and most expressive faces of the season), with Gon coached to pretend like he’s suffering and struggling to beat the men who outweigh him three-to-one. Gon isn’t much of an actor, but his appearance is enough to keep the suckers coming – though, as Kil notes, he’ll have to win 899,999 times to earn enough to bid on Greed Island.
There is one opponent with whom Gon doesn’t have to act, and that’s Shizuku (Arakawa Miho), one of the Phantom Troupe that’s taken a shine to the diamond. He wins, but only at full strength – and apparently only because she used her right hand instead of her left. The Troupe has split up into three parts (with Chrollo and Hisoka among the group planning the final assault on the auction, seemingly) converging on the auction by air, by land, and below the ground. There isn’t a lot of the Troupe this week, but what there is really sticks – especially the brief scene featuring Hisoka and Chrollo as they wait for their moment to attack. It’s dialogue free but full of menace, and one can’t help but wonder what that inevitable confrontation between them is going to look like.
Finally, there’s Kurapika – on guard duty 500 meters outside the auction site (as close as the mafia will let outside security get) and still dreaming of revenge as his employer’s daughter makes Dalzollene’s life hell. The wrinkle in Kurpaika’s story is Melody, who reveals that she became deformed by listening to one movement of the “Dark Sonata” – a musical score supposedly written by the Devil. She seeks to find any remaining copies and destroy them before others suffer the same fate – and she’s lamped out Kurapika’s identity and intentions by listening to his heart. Though he’s willing to kill Melody if she squeals (she says she won’t, and I believe her) in fact she’s the first person he’s likely opened up to since parting ways with his trio of friends. And in that moment we see just a glimmer of the old Kurapika – even a glimpse of his old smile – giving some small hope that the Kurapika we saw during the Hunter Exam hasn’t been consumed by his hate, but has been in hibernation waiting for someone to trust.
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Bassho”