You and I have met here before, Dear Reader, and danced this dance. Incredible suspense, spectacular character modeling and combat animation, perfect pacing – blah, blah, blah. But my not saying it again wouldn’t make it any less true. Madhouse is pretty much in Roger Federer territory at the moment as far as long-term adaptations are concerned – when it comes to consistency and sheer quality, everything they’re doing at this point is just adding to the record books. I suspect this series is going to be held up for a generation as the standard which all shounen adaptations should aspire to reach – but it’s going to be a hard one to live up to.
For the record, yes – when I saw this photo in the ED I thought it might be Gon’s mother, despite the fact that we’ve heard precious little of her in the series and Gon’s loyalty to Mito precludes his asking. The fact that it’s Battera’s lover – and that the series doesn’t gloss over that fact – is certainly an interesting direction. In hindsight of course this is the most logical explanation for Battera’s sudden decision to bail on beating Greed Island. His story is the slightest of subplots in the larger H x H framework, a siding that diverges from the main track and runs only for a few meters, but it’s the key to everything that’s happened in this arc. And I certainly don’t blame Tsezguerra for wanting an answer, considering everything he and his team have been through to reach this moment.
One thing that can be said about Hunter X Hunter is that among the main cast, heroes and villains alike, pretty much everyone is really smart. That’s why battles such as the three-way contest between Team Tsez, Team Bomber and Team Gon are so much more interesting than in almost any other shounen battle series. Make no mistake, Tsezguerra is a very, very clever man – someone who, as Goreinu describes him, is “incredibly cautious”. That’s why even as he and Genthru match wits, he’s never at wits’ end – and why he had a backup plan for eventualities such as not being able to take out Genthru in the outside world. Unbeknownst to the bomber he’s faked the 30 most important cards in his team’s binders, and passed the real cards on to Gorienu – effectively allowing him to surrender his own chances by not returning to the game within 10 days. This places all his hopes on Goreinu’s shoulders – both the he might be able to win, and that he’ll be as good as his word if he does. A desperate strategy to be employed only as a worse-case scenario – which is exactly how it was used.
The net effect of this plan is that Tsezguerra has delivered Gon and his friends – upon whom everything relies – the ten days they’ve been promised. The decks are cleared for the grand three-on-three clash, one which Genthru isn’t as prepared for as he thinks. He may be a very smart man himself, with an incredible power, but he’s not as careful as Tsezguerra and his arrogance is clearly his blind spot. He still thinks he’s dealing with three kids substantially weaker than he is, and he couldn’t be more wrong. Nevertheless he’s still stronger than anyone Gon can take out head-on – which of course is what necessitated all the planning Killua and Bisky have been doing for those ten days while Gon has been doing handstands and trying to develop an Emitter attack.
We still don’t know the ultimate nature of Killua’s master plan – though Gon getting his sense of timing down to 1/100th of a second is the clue added to the mix this week. But apart from continuing to convince Team Bomber that they were hopelessly outmatched kids, the second part was clearly to split the fight into three separate locations. I was interested in Genthru’s comment that he would take the spiky black-haired kid “assuming we’ll need to use force” – does even Genthru have enough of a soul that he’d rather not kill three children is he can easily avoid it? In any event, while the strategy to get Bara and Sub to split from their boss is simple enough, I’m not sure how Kil and Biscuit were so certain Genthru would choose to take on Gon himself. Given that this seems central to Killua’s scheme it looks like a pretty big variable to leave to chance – though I admit that it seems like the most likely decision Genthru would have made, given that Gon’s past behavior towards him stamped him as the seeming leader of the team.
I’m also wondering, based on the results of Bisky’s battle with Bara, why she didn’t simply try and get a battle with Genthru herself – she’s clearly the strongest of the three team members. Of the three-way battle itself I can only say Madhouse had me slack-jawed with awe yet again. Truly astonishing animation and choreography, this time for a three-tiered battle that lasted half the episode – I don’t know how they do it, time after time. I mentioned last week that Bisky was a woman about whom there were still many mysteries, and I did so because it was feeling like time to blow the lid off a few of them – as indeed happened. Biscuit’s true form (if Biscuit is indeed a tribute to Togashi’s wife, that really makes you think) is quite a shock, to say the least – I can quite understand why she prefers not to be seen in it, and I’m rather glad the boys didn’t have to see her that way. She truly is a beast, and a rather ruthless one as well, as Bara finds out at the cost of his life.
Then there was Killua’s bout with Sub, which marked a very interesting contrast. Killua, of course, still has serious injuries to his hands – but I rather suspected he wouldn’t need them against the likes of Sub. As always Killua relies on his strategic sense as much as his strength – Nen or otherwise – and he even trots out some old Zoldyck assassin techniques to test the strength of his opponent. What he doesn’t do, however, is revert to being a Zoldyck – and I suspected that might be the case. He uses Sub as a chance to test out his “Lightning Palm” attack – quite successfully – as well as his 50 KG yo-yos. But he doesn’t kill Sub – and as I think back, I don’t believe Killua has killed anyone for quite some time. I don’t think there’s been a promise made to Gon that he won’t kill again, and I don’t doubt he’d do so if Gon’s life were under threat. But it also feels as if Killua looks at killing like an addict – if he gets a taste of it again, he might never be able to stop. And as much as he yearns to be a person that’s worthy of Gon’s loyalty – as Killua sees it, at the very least – I think he wants to avoid taking anyone’s life again, if it can possibly be helped.
And then there’s the main event. Bisky has made it very clear to Gon that he can’t beat Genthru based on strength, and that’s one of the best things about H x H – as strong as the characters are, they have limits, and their age and lack of experience do matter. No, Gon’s job is very simple – to lure The Bomber into the trap they’ve laid for him. But Gon’s pride is, as always, both the great source of his power and his vulnerability – the prospect of being manhandled (calm down, Hisoka, that’s not what I mean) by Genthru has him so riled up that he determines to make Genthru show his ability rather than be defeated simply through brute force alone. This is obviously a terribly dangerous ploy, though at least Gon hasn’t forgotten the ultimate goal – and it does work. Genthru is ultimately faced with the same reality Hanzo faced way back in the Hunter Exam – Gon is simply not an opponent that will be defeated through pain and punishment (“You’re insane… And not my kind of insane.”). Unlike Hanzo, however, there’s no core of decency in Genthru that will stay his hand at killing a little boy – and no rule in place that will keep him from achieving his goal if he does so. It all rides on Killua’s plan – and on Gon holding out long enough to give it time to work. Genthru’s decision to use his power is a sort of respectful nod at Gon’s strength – but that doesn’t make it any less deadly.
Greed Island Tutorial: “Archangel’s Breath”