60 episodes is something of a milestone for any anime, and as I marvel at yet another stellar episode it makes me inclined to reflect back over the last five cours. It’s frankly pretty amazing how consistent Hunter X Hunter has been – practically every ep over the last nine months has fallen in a range between excellent and jaw-dropping. Of course the bulk of the credit has to go to the guy who wrote the manga, but anyone who’s been an anime fan for long enough knows that a good source material is by no means a guarantee of a good anime, and the transition from “great” to “great” is even more tenuous. Forget a lull – right now we aren’t even getting a pause.
The nature of this arc is becoming clear, and it’s obvious that it’s a significant tonal shift from York Shin. If you ask me whether I like a great Trappist ale or a great Pinot Noir better, the answer is going to change depending on the day, and even my mood – and so it is here. Togashi is so good at the dark, brooding and introspective that it would have been easy to forget the ridiculous flair for the GAR, raw, martial energy he displayed in Heaven’s Arena. If you like, it seems as if Greed Island is – like Heaven’s Arena – “pure” shounen. I get the same sense here that I did there, that Togashi is a geek at heart – someone who loves strategy and mind games, minute detail and back story so much that it just comes bursting out of him in stories like this. When it comes to Greed Island Togashi if fully in “taking dictation from God” mode again – as if he’s transcribing something that’s already finished, rather than making it all up from scratch.
The symbolism of saying goodbye to Leorio and Kurapika could hardly be more apt – especially Kurapika, whose persona dominated the tone of York Shin as much as his history did the plot. He in fact leaves without saying goodbye, which is very much like him – and it’s very like Gon to be the one that’s hurt by it. As for Leorio he gets a benediction from Melody, who tells him that he has the most soothing heartbeat in York Shin and that he ought to be a doctor. Leorio sadly always seems to be a bit of an accessory figure, and so it is here, as he goes off to finish his training. Meanwhile Zepile is off too, but not before getting Gon his 100 million Jenny back, and with it the ability to buy back his Hunter License. And having seen what such a thing can fetch at a simple pawnshop, he dreams of getting one of his own to sell at auction – the ultimate get-rich quick scheme for a man who’ll always be a schemer at heart. But I fear he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into.
It’s a good thing Gon came up with his alternative plan, because no matter how many grifts he and Zepile pulled off it would be hard to imagine they’d have made enough to beat out Battera – who won his copies of “Greed Island” for anywhere in a range between 27.8-60 billion Jenny. Gon would never have had a chance, and neither did Milluki – who was stymied by Battera’s seemingly endless wealth in his quest to obtain even one copy. But the funny thing is, for all the “smoke coming out of the ears” gags, Gon is very often the one who comes up with the right answer. He was right about how to try and gain a spot as a player, and he was right about how to beat Tsezguerra’s exam, too. It was a classic display of Gon and Killua at their most Gon and Killua-esque – Killua puzzles over every possible ramification of what he sees, trying to figure out the trick, while Gon simply trusts his instincts and figures it out without any self-doubt to get in the way. This earns him the respect of fellow candidate Puhat (Futamata Issei, who also plays the narrator), who proves he’s no slouch in the street smarts department himself and qualifies as one of Battera’s hired guns.
When it’s Killua and Gon’s turn, they do what they’ve made a habit of – astonishing adults with their ability to master Nen abilities in ridiculously short periods. Killua shows off his electric personality – with a very suave “Family reasons” as his explanation – and Gon simply does what he does best. i.e., “BOOM!” The strategy has already gone into hyperdrive even in the selection mode, as Puhat has figured out that only about 20 players (in fact, it’s 21) will be chosen, as Battera needs to leave a few slots free (by my math he has 24 to work with) in case any exceptional players show up. The rest of the players we see mostly in group shots, but it’s easy enough to tell from the OP and ED which ones really matter. They all sign a simple contract from Battera – you can’t sue me if you get hurt (or your family, if you die), anything you find I get to keep (surely his main reason for laying out half his fortune for all the copies of the game) and if you clear the game, you get 50 billion Jenny.
At this point the stage is set for the shounen arc to end all shounen arcs – we have the greatest game ever designed, and a boy’s quest to get closer to his father. Really, it doesn’t get much more shounen than that – and Togashi will surely draw this scenario through the shadowy cobblestoned alleys of his mind and come up with mind-bending complexity and psychological warfare. There’s even a message from Ging once Gon enters the game – which he does using the save file Ging left for him, apparently just so he could leave him the message. There are no heartwarming words – just a welcome and a sort of “catch me if you can” challenge which, one suspects, Ging realized would be the ultimate motivation if his son was anything like him. The infodump about “Greed Island” starts fast and furious too – 100 numbered slots, “Book” and Gain” spells, et al (thank goodness for the G.I. Tutorial). Bring it on – I can’t wait to see what Togashi and Madhouse do with this premise.
Greed Island Tutorial: