It’s fair to say that I was looking forward to this ep as much as any anime episode all year, but fate intervened and left me a twisted, wraith-like creature with a bout of food poisoning. So I was left with two choices – I really wanted to tackle this episode when I was at full strength, but the agony of waiting was too much. So in the end I caved and decided I had to see it, and I’ll do my best to sum up my thoughts no matter how scattered they might be at the moment.
Yeah, it was fantastic – but that can hardly come as a surprise. In fact the ep managed to surprise me in almost every way except two – how great it was, and Pakunoda’s death (there’s no denying the Hunterpedia curse). Here’s the thing – I like being surprised, very much in fact, because I’ve read and watched enough fiction over the years that very little can really surprise me anymore. That Togashi is a terrific writer is hardly a bold and outlandish statement, but it’s worth pointing out how little of this conclusion went in predictable directions, genre-specific or otherwise. This wasn’t a finale driven by climactic physical battles and revenge, but by strategic tug-of-war and expressions of loyalty and even integrity, much of it from quarters you wouldn’t expect to find it.
Let’s start with Kurapika, who (almost – would he have done the same if he’d felt that killing the head would truly kill the spider?) conclusively answered the question I asked last week – in the end, would he choose his friends over his enemies? In truth I have to say that wasn’t a development that much surprised me either, but it was a powerful moment – not the most powerful of the ep, but a major milestone moment for his character in that he effectively decided that the living (and by extension, himself) were more important than the dead. He can’t bring back the Kurta Tribe, but he can lose the friends he has now – and only by living on can he make the memory of his people live on, too. Chrollo knew this about him of course – but if he was hoping that Pakunoda would refuse Kurpika’s conditions and let him die, he didn’t get wish. Chrollo understands his people with extraordinary clarity, but he seems to underestimate the degree to which they feel loyalty to him.
If I had to pick the most intense moment of the episode, it might just be the scene in the hideout where the Spiders almost came to battle over whether to allow Pakunoda to carry out Kurapika’s instructions or not. First it was Gon stepping up for his main character moment, showing his GAR by ripping away his chains as if they were nothing, then doing what Gon often does – clarifying the situation by stripping away all the intrigue and deception and breaking it down to its essence. Pakunoda would only agree to the deal if she knew Kurapika would keep his word, and Phinks and Feitan were being blind to the fact that others besides themselves could act out of loyalty to their friends. Then Franklin – perhaps the one member of the Troupe who’s been least heard-from – stepped up and put the others in their place with a very simple question: “What’s our worst-case scenario?” Even Phinks had no answer to this question other than to let Pakunoda go.
Those are not the sort of moments you expect a blockbuster shounen arc to conclude on – nor do you expect the long-awaited Hisoka-Chrollo confrontation to end as it did. Hisoka’s master plan was flawless right to the end – Illumi filling in for him, a demand Kurapika couldn’t refuse, in fact would seemingly be pleased to accept. Of course he was bluffing about killing the boys (though it’s interesting to speculate whether they believed him or not) but what happened next amounts to only the second time I can recall seeing Hisoka really and truly caught off-guard – the first being when Gon surprised him during the final phase of the Hunter Exam. Kurapika’s deal with Pakunoda had effectively undercut his entire plan by taking away Chrollo’s ability to fight with Nen. There was a moment of shock (hilariously out-of-character) but no pouting or peevishly killing the defenseless Chrollo – he merely washed his hands of the matter and left the others to their own devices, disappointed no doubt but also possessing a newfound respect for Kurapika’s resourcefulness.
I think the most surprising element of the finale was the fact that the emotional peak came from the Spiders – most specifically, Pakunoda. Remarkably, despite everything he’d said earlier, even Gon felt sadness when he heard she died – because in being around the Spiders for an extended period he came to realize that they were driven by many of the same motives he was, like friendship and loyalty. In his heart he knows they’re all terrible killers, but he also knows that they (some more than others) are deeply loyal and protective of each other, something he understands on a gut level (which for Gon means a lot). It was loyalty that drove Paku to give up her life for the sake of the Troupe – “Please, let this end with me” – who would have thought that she of all people would deliver the powerful summation of the entire York Shin Arc, and that Phinks would look at Gon and Killua and say “Pakunoda wanted to thank you”?
This is the magic of Togashi, of course – to surprise, and to deliver up complicated situations where villains don’t twirl their mustaches and tell the audience exactly how to feel at any given moment. In truth of course the reason Gon and Killua didn’t flee the injured Pakunoda when they no doubt could have was out of loyalty, too – loyalty to Kurapika. They didn’t want to make a liar out of him and more importantly, they didn’t want to see him driven further down the path of no-return by taking another life. In the end,of course, it would be Paku’s life that Kurapika ended up taking – though the boys didn’t know that at the time (and neither did Kurapika). And while some of Neon’s prophecies have been borne out (“East is the direction to go; you will find the one who awaits you”) others remain a mystery for now.
The final conversation between Gon and Killua was a fascinating one, reflecting each of their personal biases – was Kurapika driven by revenge from the beginning as Killua said, or by something deeper, as Gon argued? Either way I think Gon is right that the Kurapika of the moment has changed from the one who started down that dark path, because of the loyalty of his friends. With Gon and Killua putting Gon’s still-unknown plan into action – plans don’t normally seem to be his department but it must be pretty good, as Killua gave it an 80% chance – there’s one more surprise, Phinks and Feitan’s presence at the auction and the aforementioned final remembrance of Pakunoda. And with it the revelation that the Spiders cannot kill Kurapika for fear that his vengeful Nen will destroy Chrollo after his death. As for Chrollo, stripped of contact with the Troupe and use of Nen, he does exactly what someone in his position should – sets off to seek the services of someone who can remove the chain from around his heart. Gon and Killua have figuratively done so for Kurapika already, so it seems only fair.
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Chrollo”