When “Greed Island” started, I was put in mind of “Heaven’s Arena” more than any other arc in the series so far. That vibe was certainly stronger than ever this week, as we actually got a direct connection between the two. This was absolutely a straight-ahead training episode in what’s so far mostly a training arc, but Togashi’s writing and Madhouse’s exquisite fight choreography managed to make it feel special nonetheless.
Indeed, education is a theme of “Greed Island” so far, and this episode especially. The education of the audience about Biscuit Kreuger, and the education of Gon and Killua at her hands. In a series full of larger-than-life characters – including the main cast, in a believable way – Biscuit fits right in. She’s an oddball, right down to her very atypical preference when it comes to honorifics. “Bisky” is normal enough as a nickname in a world where a woman might be named Biscuit I suppose, but she initially declines the honorific “-san” in favor of none at all – highly unusual for a Japanese manga character – and then requests the rarely-used “-chama”. “-chama” relates to “–sama” in the same way “–chan” relates to “–san” – a sort of baby talk version – and it’s a very interesting choice for a teacher to request it of a student. “-chama” is unusual in that it connotes respect, while at the same time it’s respect for someone of roughly equal status – so in a sense Biscuit is telling the boys that while she’s their teacher, they’re at the same overall level. Of course it also carries a certain ring of cuteness to it, which is no doubt part of the reason she likes it – and then there’s Killua, who’s quite happy with “-baba”. It’s clear that relationship is going to be an interesting one.
Whatever you call her, Bisky is an order of magnitude stronger than Gon and Killua, and her contention that they’d already have died at least twice without her help is close to irrefutable. Gon seems pretty willing to take her at face value and glom onto training where he can get it – as I said last week, he simply respects strength and knows it when he sees it – though Killua needs a little more convincing. That starts with the revelation that she was in fact Wing’s Master – “that messy little boy with glasses” – and goes into high gear with the arrival of Binolt (Suyama Akio, another old pro who’s excellent here). Killua is faced with the reality that Bisky sensed Binolt while he couldn’t, and then with the fact that he never saw her diversionary cheek-slap coming despite being on high-alert. Killua seems to need to taste what strength can do to him before his pride can be tamed and he can face reality, but it’s clear here that he’s not in Bisky’s class, and neither of the boys protests when she commands them to follow her lead. Gon’s “Oh – they’re acting!” at this point provides the comedic highlight of the episode, by the way.
Binolt is no slouch himself. A bit of precursor to Edward Scissorhands, he’s a wanted criminal and apparently a killer, and Biscuit is so good at masking her power that he can’t resist the lure of attacking the three helpless kids – especially when they split up after their “fight”. He’s fast and smart, and his Nen ability allows him to tell everything about his opponent by eating their hair (well – ick) – which immediately tells him that Biscuit if 57 years old, and that he’s no match for her in a fight. But he’s really got no choice in the matter, and he mans up to take his medicine just as the boys arrive back on the scene. Biscuit has told them to walk 500 meters, then hurry back – but not to help her in the fight. She just wants them to see exactly what she does to Binolt.
I found the sequence that follows to be somewhat chilling. I was reminded of a tigress who wounds a prey animal to slow it down, so that her cubs can play with it and learn how to kill. Biscuit has certainly slowed Binolt down (at the cost of one of her twintails), but he’s still a formidable opponent – and she wants to see exactly what Gon and Killua are capable of. At first Killua suggests they fight in a rotation, taking turns resting while using rocks as missiles to stay out of range – but this is seemingly a ploy, as Gon realizes that giving the injured man a chance to rest and recuperate is the worst thing they could do. What follows really is most like a predator toying with a wounded prey animal, as the boys grow stronger and stronger and wear Binolt down, and it becomes clear to all concerned how things will turn out. Gon even stops Killua from ending the fight because he wants to keep going until each of them are capable of defeating Binolt without the other’s help – an example of the kind of detached hard-headed practicality that occasionally makes Gon a scary little man, despite his generally kind and loyal nature.
That sequence also happens to be brilliantly choreographed and gorgeously animated – some of the best extended action sequences in a series full of them. Togashi also makes the interesting choice of humanizing Binolt during the fight – letting us see his increasing weariness and desperation as he realizes he’s being toyed with by two little boys with big ability, and even giving us a glimpse of the hardscrabble life that set him off on this path. Bisky has promised to kill him if he’s defeated, but once Binolt has had enough Gon shows his kind side – expressing gratitude for the invaluable help in getting stronger and declaring “We won’t kill you!” Would Biscuit have felt the same way, if Gon hadn’t taken command? We can’t say for sure – just as we can’t say for sure than Binolt will really turn himself in – but the series of events provides a revealing glimpse of the two sides of Gon. “You’re flawless – a perfect gem. But that perfect nature could be your undoing.”
The question of just what Biscuit wants is very much at the heart of “Greed Island” so far. She says she’s in the game to chase down a card, “Blue Planet” – a perfect jewel itself, available only inside Greed Island – and it seems she has a fetish for gems. That seems to be the attraction with Gon and Killua – two rough gems that require her cutting and shaping and polishing to achieve their maximum glory. She’s a former Hunter Examiner, and like all of them she seems to have a sadistic side – she’s a damn hard teacher, as witness the brutal training she puts the boys through as soon as their fight is over, making them run to Masadora and back for digging tools, then use them to dig their way back to Masadora. But there’s a method to her madness, and the boys already learn a new skill – Shu (surround) which Gon discovers in a “Eureka” moment during the digging. She also knows Ging – or of him, anyway – who Netero described as “one of the 5 strongest Nen users”. Her primary role so far has been to showcase just how far the boys – “Rock-hard Diamond” Gon and “Cool, calm, blue Sapphire” Killua – have to go, but ultimately it will surely be to help them get there.
Greed Island Tutorial: “Blue Planet”