Who knew the scariest opponent Killua has faced so far would only have one arm?
I know some of the manga audience has been complaining about the pacing of “Greed Island” in this version, but for me it’s been rock-solid – to be honest if I didn’t know what I’d missed I wouldn’t have known I was missing anything. I will say, however, that this episode was one of the few times in the 66 episodes of Madhouse’s Hunter X Hunter that I’ve been aware while watching that things were happening blisteringly fast. It was still vastly entertaining and I never felt bewildered (apart from the speed at which the new cards were being introduced) but I think I strained my neck a little trying to keep up with events whizzing past me.
The funny thing is, when I went to check on the manga to see just how much had been cut out (I sometimes do that after watching an episode, while never reading ahead) it turns out that it really isn’t all that much. There are details omitted here are there – like Gon refusing to use the hammer the woodsman offered him against the tree with the “King Great (isn’t that redundant?) White Beetle” – but they amount mostly to color, rather than substance. I was dead-certain Killua’s Hunter Exam (this year’s examiner looked like a biker Andy Warhol) must have been hacked to pieces (last week I said “I have to assume pass or fail Killua won’t be gone for too long, but the Exam arc lasted almost 20 episodes, so there’s only so much that can be hurried along without losing a touch of realism”), but even that was almost the same length as it was in the manga. Surely that has to set a record for the greatest gap in length of the exam from one year to the next. I’m not sure Killua even noticed “Rookie Crusher” Tonpa unti after he’d zapped him, but I thought his attitude towards Zepile was rather cold to be honest – he was a huge help to the boys in York Shin, and I would have thought maybe Kil would have favored him with a “Don’t tase me, Bro!”, but nope – Killua remains a cold little man, although at least he isn’t killing anybody unnecessarily anymore.
Just a few of the giga-developments that happened this time:
- Gon and Kil have “graduated” the first phase of Bisky’s training, and she actually lets them start playing the game
- Chrollo’s name on the “Contact” list
- Hisoka shows up in Greed Island
- We get a glimpse of Kurapika
- That glimpse also gives us a glimpse of Nostrade and Neon – the former in a panic because the latter has lost her ability to predict the future
- Genthru and Tsezguerra maneuvering to try and beat the other to the finish line
And yet all of that happened almost as quickly in the manga. What I think this points up is that “Greed Island” is quite a different arc from any that have come before, even “Heaven’s Arena”. It’s not that Togashi took so much longer with most of the material (though some things have certainly been cut) but that the nature of manga is quite different from that of anime. When we get ten new cards introduced one right after the other we can stop reading and analyze each one, and the way it might impact the game. You can stop a video too, of course, but the effect is much more disjointing than simply pausing in a manga. It’s in the depiction of actually playing the game of Greed Island itself that an anime adaptation has the most difficult challenge, rather than the training and the dramatic developments like Genthru’s machinations. In some ways I think this is the first arc that really combines elements of all the arcs that have come before – each of them has a direct link to the events happening in this one. This is a challenge many studios have faced and few have done as well as Madhouse is doing so far – how do you make watching other people play a game as much fun as actually playing it?
We certainly know this – Gon and Killua continue to advance at an almost frightening pace. Certainly Killua’s knowledge of Nen was a huge advantage over non-Hunters, and he was skilled enough to have passed the exam without it the first time, just not disciplined enough – but I didn’t expect him to effectively cancel the year’s exam in an hour and a half. Gon and Killua, who arrived inside Greed Island pretty much helpless despite their skills, are now blazing a trail through it with enough dispatch to attract the attention of veteran players like the douchebag who took the Sword of Truth from the boys in Antokiba. Bisky’s training certainly helped, but even she’s clearly surprised at the speed at which her gems took to the polishing she was giving them. The forces that have effectively cleared the decks of challengers – or so they thought – are going to be taken by surprise when a new force sneaks up on the outside and threatens to pip them at the post.
In terms of game play, there were two really fascinating elements that stood out this week. The first is the concept of trading, which we haven’t seen much of. We get a look at a small-time deal that goes smoothly when Gon trades with the thief – he’s actually disappointed that he got stressed out over nothing – and there’s a much bigger negotiation going on between Tsezguerra’s faction and The Bomber’s. One suspects Tsezguerra knows full well who Genthru is and doesn’t care – he’s just trying to get to the finish line first. What’s really intriguing here is the strategy involved. Tsezguerra is offering what seems like a deal lopsided in Genthru’s favor, yet Genthru has to consider the possibility that by helping his opponent he may be hurting himself, even if he seems initially to be helping himself more. It’s all about what cards you need to complete the set, not about how highly they’re ranked – and it’s a chess match between the two sides to figure out who really benefits from this potential deal.
The other wrinkle I really liked was the “Risky Dice” card (any D & D players will certainly have had flashbacks). 19 sides are good luck and only 1 bad – but if bad luck comes up, it will wipe out all the good things that have happened from the other rolls (including any that benefited the previous owner). It’s a sort of high-stakes “karma’s a bitch” card, and the implications are really cunningly presented, especially once the true risks are made clear. Genthru – a really sadistic bastard – forces a captive to use it to try and pair it with the “Lottery” card (which changes into a random card when used) to get a card he’s missing. The highlight comes when Killua decides to use it when playing the slots in Dorias, where a winning pull can get you a restricted slot card – normally only a 1/10,000 chance. Gon is clearly frightened at the prospect of what might happen and values his friend’s safety over any card he might win, but Kil proves he has the soul of a gambler – despite the stakes it was pretty hilarious watching him turn into a casino granny. All that was missing was big pink sunglasses, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, a filthy ashtray and a half-drunk Cosmopolitan. Even after seeing what a bad roll did to another addict Killua couldn’t stop – fortunately he couldn’t stop Bisky’s fist of sleep, either, and with that it was on to the next stop.
Never to be forgotten, of course, are the Spiders – who hover around the fringes of every “Greed Island” episode, but perhaps not for long. Both the boys and the Spiders have noted “Chrollo Lucilfer” on their contact lists with some surprise – and in the boys’ case, alarm, which is why Killua popped back into the real world to touch base with Kurpuika. But Shalnark has already figured out what Kurpika tells his friend – there’s no way that’s really Chrollo, as his Nen can’t possibly have been released yet. But Chrollo has been following Neon’s verses, which led him East to find the one who could remove Kurpika’s chains – to Greed Island. It was denied to him by the front door – no Nen – and by the back, by Razor. So he hired someone to enter the game for him and find his savior – who else but Hisoka, apparently, with the logical conclusion being that Hisoka’s pay will be his promised match with Chrollo. What a killer of a wild card that is – Hisoka has the same goals as the Spiders for now, and their focus now turns from winning the game to finding the man who can cure their boss (who seems very likely to be Abengane). But Hisoka never really works for anyone but himself, and we know from the OP that he’ll be joining up with his favorite objects of fantasy at some point soon. It’s a deliciously complex web of a plot that Togashi has woven here – but then, there’s no one who can do that quite like he can.
Greed Island Tutorial: “Lottery”