Update: Phantom Rouge opens with ¥457 million ($5 million) on 257 screens. That’s an outstanding opening – well below One Piece, of course, but trouncing the likes of Bleach and Naruto theatrical releases. It definitely beats projections, and provides a real boost for the H x H franchise. Not that we’ll get any H x H product in the Jump Shop, mind you.
This much is clear – Hisoka is even more of a creeper when he’s twelve feet tall and staring down at you.
It’s been a huge week for Hunter x Hunter – and a huge day for Madhouse and Han Megumi, who had the Phantom Rouge and Chihayafuru premières within a few hours of each other. That Han-san can play both Gon and Sumire is an amazing thing. In fact, the giant Tatsuya bookshop across the street from the theatre had a big endcap that was half H x H, half Chihayafuru. Talk about one-stop shopping.
In addition to the movie premiere today, I finally found some H x H swag (and my attire for the premiere) at Tokyo Station’s Character Street – though heaven forbid it should have been at the Shounen Jump Shop, where they can’t afford to give up ONE FUCKING INCH of the One Piece and KuroBas shelf space. No, it was at the NTV Shop, where they had a few H x H T-shatsu, as well as notebooks and the like. 7-11 is also doing a major cross-promotion with the movie (that’s where I got my ticket) with a product line that includes this Jell-O cup (I had no interest in the Jell-o, but I liked the ceramic mug), a Kurapika “muffler towel”, various food products and even Texture Surprise and Bungee Gum.
All the screenings at Shibuya Toho Cinemas sold out by this morning, which I was certainly pleased to see (as I already had a ticket). I certainly hope the movie does well – it’s not going to do One Piece or Eva numbers, obviously, but it seems H x H has a big fan base among many age groups (I didn’t see anyone who looked less than early 20s at my screening tonight). They were handing out free copies of “Volume 0”, the special edition manga with Togashi’s Phantom Rouge prequel story.
On to the film itself. I’m very reluctant to try and do a detailed review of a movie I watched raw, so I’ll just give some highlights. Having read the prequel chapters definitely helped, and I’m able to follow enough of the language now to have a general idea – but there are certain elements I’m not sure of, even so. This review, such as it is, is not spoiler-free. In fact, it’s full of major spoilers because the major stuff is all I’m really sure of. So if you’d rather go in fresh when you see the movie, please stop reading here!
- Kurapika loses his eyes (sort of)
- Gon gets a girlfriend (sort of)
- Killua gets jealous of the girlfriend (sort of, but pretty obviously)
- Leorio uses Nen (sort of)
- Gon and Killa get their butts saved by both Nobunaga and Hisoka (not sort of at all)
- Killua has a final battle with Illumi (not really)
- Hisoka and Chrollo fight (not really)
Generally speaking, I thought the film was very strong. Because of the pacing – basically 4 episodes rather than Togashi’s usual 20-episode arcs – some of the details are lost, inevitably. But in general it’s exciting, energetic, dark and very much in-character. It looks great too.
The basic premise surrounds a man named Omokage (Fujiki Naohito), who’s a sort of puppet master – he has the ability to make perfect copies of anyone (including dead people, crucially) including their Nen abilities. Where it gets a bit dodgy is the timeline, since this is a story that’s not in the manga’s canon. Omokage appears to be Spider #4 – he certainly has the tattoo, and the rest certainly know him – which might place this before York Shin, at the time Hisoka takes over the #4 spot himself. But it’s very clear that Uvogin is dead (though he appears as one of Omokage’s puppets), which would place it after York Shin. I’m guessing this is probably a language issue and I would know the answer if I’d seen it subbed, but I’m honestly not sure.
There are two other major new characters. First is Pairo (Kawashima Umika), the Kurta boy from the manga prequel. His story is one of the saddest in the Hunter x Hunter annals (as you know if you read it) and he’s involved in some of the movie’s best scenes. The other new character is Retzu (Hirano Aya) who seems to be Omokage’s sister – though Gon doesn’t know this when he befriends her. The dynamic between Gon, Killua and Retzu is very interesting – it’s really the first time we’ve seen them interact with a girl their own age.
To be honest I was expecting the movie to be extremely Kurapika-centric, based on the trailer and the promo art. But while his story is certainly the catalyst, it’s very much Gon and Killua who are the main characters. In fact it’s actually Killua who has the most and longest dramatic scenes, and his psychological trauma surrounding Illumi is at least as important thematically as Kurapika’s tragic back-story. Gon and Killua’s friendship is at the center of the film, just as it is for most of the TV arcs – in a way, you could look at this as stylistically a cross between York Shin and the Hunter Exam. We also see the Phantom Troupe in a somewhat different light than we’re used to – at the very least, they fulfill a different role than they do in the anime canon. That’s most especially true of Nobunaga – it’s more clear than ever that he’s the most “sympathetic” of all the Spiders, and that he has a liking for Gon and Killua just as Hisoka does. As for Hisoka, his awesomeness really needs to be seen – I couldn’t really do it justice with mere words. He’s not a friend, he’s not an enemy – he’s a Hisoka, and there’s no one like him. And he sure isn’t someone you’d want to piss off.
As for the big announcement that was promised after the credits, we got good news – though I suspect many were hoping it would be different news. It wasn’t an announcement of the manga re-starting, but rather of a second Hunter X Hunter film. The only character who appears in the very brief scene is Netero (looking rather smug, in fact) and there are no details beyond that. Is Togashi writing it? Is it based on another “lost” manga story? At this point your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile we wait for Togashi-sensei to restart the manga – which I hope he does soon, as the anime will be at risk of catching up otherwise. But I guess anything less than a year doesn’t really count as a hiatus when it’s Togashi-sensei.