So long York Shin (the arc, not the city – yet), hello Greed Island (the arc, not the game – yet). With a new arc, we get a new opening sequence but – to the great disappointment of many, I’m sure – no new OP song, just another remix. The animation is quite the attention-getter for someone who’s new to the material, though – lots of new faces and nary a glimpse of Kurapika or Leorio, who aren’t present in the ED (which does get another new song) either. I wouldn’t say the new sequences are more than usually full of spoilers – though I’m not the best one to ask – but they do make it clear that once again, Hunter X Hunter is taking a dramatic change-of-course.
It seems to me that when comparing arcs of this series, it isn’t so much a matter of a difference in quality – they’re all spectacular – but personal preference. It’s part of Togashi’s genius that he can write in a variety of styles while maintaining the overall feel of the series and characters, and you could hardly have two arcs more different than Heaven’s Arena and York Shin. Was one better than the other? I can make a pretty strong case that YS had the more subtle and well-developed storyline, with the better supporting cast and perhaps the wider range of emotions – but there were things I liked better about Heaven’s Arena too. It was more in synch with my feelings as a viewer, as vague as that sounds – and in the end they’re both a triumph, as different as they are.
In “Greed Island”, we have what at first glance appears to be more of a traditionally shounen premise. Gon and Killua are back at center stage, and it appears that they’ll stay there for the duration of the arc. While York Shin was about revenge and self-loathing and deceit and all the psychological machinations of the Phantom Troupe, GI opens with a focus on two things – Gon’s quest to learn more about (and find) Ging, and Gon and Killua’s quest to get stronger. We even get a callback to Heaven’s Arena as Gon turns to his old master Wing – at Kurapika’s suggestion – to seek help developing a special ability. It’s premature to say this arc is going to be more stylistically aligned with that one, but there are suggestions of it in first impressions.
The focus of everything of course is in the title itself – Greed Island. It’s the game that’s at the center of Gon’s obsession and everything else, including the auction. Gon’s brilliant plan, as it turns out, is not to bid on the game at all – he had nowhere near enough Jenny to compete anyway – but to get himself and Killua picked as hired guns by one of the bidders who wins the game to help clear it. Apparently a Hunter named Jeitsari signed a contract stating that he and six other active players would auction off copies of the game if they were unable to clear it by the date of the auction. Two of the players have died – when you die in Greed Island you die in real life – leaving five copies left to be auctioned off. Leading the bidding on those is the tycoon Battera (Umezu Hideyuki), who describes his interest in GI as “a matter of love”, and it’s he that Gon and Killua have set their sights on impressing.
There’s a hell of a lot more to the Greed Island scenario than that – that would be obvious even if Togashi weren’t writing this story – but that will come out in time, and we have the help of the newly launched “Greed Island Tutorial” (replacing the Hunterpedia – fujoshi everywhere are weeping) to help us figure it out. Meanwhile as Kurapika slowly recovers from a fever which has kept him unconscious for two days Gon and Killua set about getting hired by Battera. That means impressing Tsezguerra (Yanada Kiyoyuki), the Hunter Battera has hired to help him clear the game. He takes one look at the boys’ Nen and arrogantly tells them that they don’t have a chance in hell inside Greed Island, a game where several of his hired guns have already given up on beating it in favor of living out their lives inside.
Naturally, being told he can’t do something is to Gon like waving a red cape in front of a bull. If you’re a fan of Gon’s straightforward intensity and the nuances of his relationship with Killua, I can already sense that this arc is going to be a treat. For Gon, clarity of purpose and self-belief is everything – but while he has plenty of the former he’s running a bit short on the latter at the moment (as well as Hunter licenses, as his is still in hock). Killua takes it upon himself to manage his friend’s struggle here – pushing and cajoling him, trying to get him to the right frame of mind to where he can see where his power lies, and tap into it.
Loyalty is such a huge part of this series, no matter the arc – Gon and Killua to each other, and Gon’s loyalty to Kurapika too, as even in the midst of his current dilemma he’s still worrying over his friend and what might happen if he discovers the Spiders – at least two of them anyway, as far as Gon knows – are still in town. But Kurapika has decided he must leave town with Neon, who’s decided she’s had enough after seeing what Squala’s death did to Eliza (and her scarlet eyes stolen). But he still manages to give the nudge that leads Gon to call Wing (Osu!) for the hint he needs. This episode is heavy on the Nen geekery, another throwback to Heaven’s Arena – as Gon follows the trail of bread crumbs Wing leaves for him Killua focuses on a rather shocking ability that seems well-suited to his specialty.
First episodes of major shounen arcs can sometimes be a bit of a slog, but not surprisingly this one really hit the ground running. The plot is already well-established – that it dovetails perfectly with the end of York Shin certainly helps – and in terms of entertainment value things never miss a beat. With Ging involved things were sure to rise to epic proportions anyway, but we also have the fact that Hisoka is clearly going to play a large role in the story (I found this the most interesting moment of the new OP sequence) and the Spiders aren’t going away either – Feitan and Phinks had more than a passing interest in the auction after all, and they – and possibly two of their fellows – are going to be joining the action inside Greed Island too. All in all it should be one hell of a ride.
ED3: “REASON” by YUZU
Greed Island Tutorial: