This episode was really geared towards learning about characters. It proves that there’s room in H x H to learn more about those we know very well already – Gon and Killua – and that there’s plenty of hidden depths to the Phantom Troupe. That applies to them both individually and collectively, and it’s fascinating to watch the flesh slowly being applied to the bones of their character. As for the boys, the ep was pretty much a shameless advertisement both for their merits as main characters, and their amazing abilities in a pinch.
Probably the best comparison I can make for the Spiders is the Juppongatana from that other great shounen classic, Rurouni Kenshin. Watsuki-sensei and Togashi-sensei are clearly both aware that villains are much more interesting when they have likeable qualities, and when they’re laced with a healthy dose of moral ambiguity. We haven’t even really touched on the fact that the Spiders are apparently heroes in their home base of Meteor City, but we’re seeing that within the group there are nuances of morality and a real sense of loyalty. It’s clear from both his tears and his behavior that Nobunaga felt real affection for Uvogin – they do seem to have been a sort of Yin and Yang – and takes his death personally. It also seems that Gon’s straight-laced force of will has won over another convert, as Nobunaga has clearly taken a liking to him.
I’m also quite interested that Shalnark more or less took over leading the group in Chrollo’s absence. I’m not sure if this was a more general assumption of command – I’d thought the Spiders were more or less equal within themselves apart from their leader – or simply a reflection of the fact that this current search for the chain user falls under his level of expertise. There’s also a strong disagreement between Nobunaga and Feitan over what to do with Gon, clearly borne of Nobunaga’s growing respect for the boy. In fact Nobunaga even decided he’d like to see the prisoners join the Troupe, though I’ll get to that in a minute. I get the sense that, as with the Juppongatana, there are those in the group that are truly evil, and those who see a sort of right and justice in what they do (misguided though they may be in that belief).
As to the boys themselves, they get to play both the adorable scamps and the GAR beasts they are in abundance this week. Kilua recognizes the dynamic in the room immediately – Hisoka is a hidden ally because “he likes Gon” – but Gon, instinct-driven as ever, reacts when seeing his old nemesis. Kil never stops thinking, and uses the presence of Shizuku to avoid the issue. He also figures out from the evidence at hand that Kurapika is, in fact, likely the chain user – which he knows is a problem because he also realizes (what a clever tyke he is) that Pakunoda’s ability is to read someone’s memories by touch. If she examines him again, she’ll see what he now suspects. Killua also gets a lesson that Hisoka’s interest in seeing his playthings’ lives extended only goes so far – and doesn’t extend to exposing his true identity to the rest of the Troupe. Not yet, anyway.
Gon matches Killua’s strategic thinking at every turn with bravery and sheer brute determination, not to mention an instinctive ability to wriggle out of trouble. His speech to Nobunaga about the hypocrisy of the tears he sheds for Uvo – and the subsequent use of his anger to finally defeat Nobu in arm-wrestling despite bleeding badly from the hand – tells us that Gon remains wholly himself, untainted by the evil he’s encountered on his journeys. He’s a simple boy in many ways, a classic Enhancer – but not to simple as he likes to pretend in his playfully self-deprecating moments with his best friend.
The bromance is thick in the last part of the ep, but really, the part of the story that doesn’t focus on Kurapika is really built on it. Killua remains tormented by his self-loathing, and tries to throw himself under the bus to give Gon a chance to escape from Nobunaga. Gon wants no part of this plan, returning the favor from last week by whacking Kil on the head, and calls him selfish. And it’s Gon who senses the right way out of their crisis, using his almost savant-like ability to see that “side-stepping” – as taught by Zepile – is the answer. And it proves enough to escape Nobunaga and his En (a new Nen term, I believe – the ability to extend the aura for large distances from the body), leaving the boys free and Gon to lecture Killua not to act stupid, because it’s his job to stop Gon from acting stupid. Kil, as always, trying to sacrifice himself (though more literally than usual) to spare Gon from facing the darkness – and Gon placing loyalty and friendship above all other virtues.
There’s a lot going on here, as always, and it seems we’ve finally reached the point where the disparate threads are coming together. Killua has sensed the truth, and the boys and Kurapika now have a common goal – and Killua believes Kurapika is the one to teach the boys some new Nen tricks to bring their game up a few levels. Will that be a match for the Spiders? I suspect it’s going to take a true combined effort to stand a chance.
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Franklin”