Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 76

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It’s pretty rare in TV anime that we truly see history being made, but this is one of those moments when we do.

OP3 Sequence:

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In some ways, you could almost say that the 75 episodes of Hunter X Hunter Madhouse has produced have all been the prologue, leading up to this moment.  After all, the story told in those episodes has been told on-screen before, although not all of it in series format and arguably none of it with this caliber of production quality.  But that wouldn’t be doing justice to that glorious year-and-a-half of anime – those 75 eps represent one of the most consistently brilliant manga adaptations in anime history, a triumph in every respect for Madhouse and the catalyst for the continued thriving of the H x H franchise despite Togashi Yoshihiro being on hiatus for most of that time.

Nevertheless, this is undeniably a hugely important moment in Hunter X Hunter history.  As a devout fan of Rurouni Kenshin I can only imagine the emotions that would be running through me when, after 15 years, the first frames of the “Jinchu” Arc were finally brought to the screen (we’ve seen FMA and H x H get their full re-tellings – when will RK finally get its due?).  This entire adaptation has been a revelation to me as someone who hadn’t read the manga or seen the Nippon Animation version, but it’s met with its share of hostility from some of the old audience – though even many of the critics seem to have withered under the relentless brilliance of Madhouse’s work here.  Now, though, with the weight of expectations so overwhelming, the task faced by Koujina Hiroshi and his team has never been more difficult.

In fact, the Madhouse version of the “Chimera Ant” Arc already starts off in a different place than the manga version did, because some of what we saw in this episode actually takes place at the beginning of the manga.  There, a meeting takes place between Gon and Kite – a very important one, in fact – in the earliest stages of the story.  While there was a meeting in the anime version too, Gon was quite unaware of who he was meeting with at the time – it was merely a strange man with long hair who saved him when he stumbled into the territory of a foxbear with her cub and needed saving (and scolding).  And rather than seeing that meeting in its chronological place in the timeline, here it’s presented as a flashback when Gon (with Killua in tow) and Kite are reunited after Gon uses “Accompany” in the aftermath of his victory in Greed Island.

I’ll leave it to others to debate the merits of the change, because this is the version that I’m writing about – and in this version, things make sense just the way they are.  Somewhat cruelly, Gon has once again been denied the chance to meet his father.  Ging had Elena rig it so that only if Gon used “Magnetic Force” would be be taken to Ging.  If Gon used “Accompany” he would be taken to see Kite (Ikeda Shuuichi), yet another friend set up as a kind of way-station on Gon’s road to Ging.  Ging’s reasoning is that if Gon used “Accompany”, that made him “gutless” because he needed friends with him for the meeting – while Elena counters that it’s really because Ging is “shy and weird”.  The most telling moment of this exchange comes, it seems to me, in the aftermath of Gon leaving the game, when Elena thinks to herself “I feel sorry for Gon-kun” at the prospect of trying to deal with a father like Ging.

There are many striking things about this episode, which starts with the fated meeting between Gon, Killua, and Kite.  The tone is starkly different from any other arc so far, even “York Shin” – I would describe it as “somber”.  This is reflected in the new OP animation (“Departure” remains, but the visuals are dark and somewhat reflective) and even more so in the new ED.  Things are quieter, more thoughtful, sometimes sinister – while Kite comes across as a decent and even warm person, there’s an unsettling feel to many scenes, and the new BGM interspersed with older tracks also reflects this.  Of the “Chimera Ant” that reflects the arc’s title we see only snatches, but they’re enough to be thoroughly creepy – the dismembered head that takes a bite out of Killua’s thigh, and the Queen (74 year-old Ikeda Masako) we see sitting in a sea cave, wounded and feverishly feasting on fish, desperate to survive long enough to “give birth to the King”.

Hunter X Hunter has faced many critical casting choices over its run, and Kite obviously represents one of the most important.  In reaching out to an anime stalwart like Ikeda-san they’ve hit another home run.  Ironically Ikeda has already played one of the great mentor characters in manga history – Kenshin Himura’s Hiten Mitsurugi-ryuu master, Hiko Seijurou – and he brings the same sort of world-weary gravity to Kite.  Ikeda has a personal connection to this series – he’s a close friend of Han Keiko and Han Megumi (Gon) has described him as being “like a father” to her, which completes a sort of circle than began when Han Keiko was given the role of Gon’s Aunt Mito, the closest thing he’s known to a mother.

It’s easy to see that Gon and Kite’s relationship is going to be a deep and complex one – in a sense, Ging has given Kite the most important role of all in leading his son to eventually reunite with him.  Kite’s reaction when he destroys an ant nest to save the unwitting boys from being attacked – “Man, forced to take another life…” – is the same as when he saved Gon from the foxbear, and immediately stamps him as someone who’s well aware of the precious and fragile nature of a living creature’s existence.  The story he tells Gon is of a hardscrabble life in the slums, which Ging saved him from, and of the search to find him that Ging set up as the final test of Kite’s readiness to be a Hunter – a story that further stamps Ging as a friend of the outcast and despised, and as a man whose true nature is impossible to grasp.

Ging’s ability to manipulate people and events is the stuff of mythology at this point.  It’s clear that much of what we’ve seen in the series is a direct result of his machinations, not least of which the entire Greed Island scenario and Gon’s meeting with Kite.  Could it be possible, as Gon suggests, that even his friendship with Killua was the result of Ging’s manouverings?  It’s too early to tell – it seems unlikely, but with Ging it would be unwise to declare anything impossible.  But this series, ultimately, isn’t about Ging – this is Gon’s story, and it starts and ends with his friendship with Killua.  We see over and over again the dedication to the other that they share – Killua’s instant instinctive reactive to save Gon first being only the latest example.  If Ging truly saw reliance on friends as Gon’s weakness he was surely incorrect, as his bond with Killua has only made him far stronger – if anything it seems as if Ging’s inability to fully trust anyone may be his only weakness.  If the premiere was any guide “Chimera Ant” is going to take them – and the series – into darker and more challenging places than it’s gone before.  But millions of H x H fans all over the world are ecstatic to finally see that happen on-screen.  It’s pretty rare in TV anime that we truly see history being made, but this is one of those moments when we do.

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ED4: “Nagarebushi☆Kirari -Yuzu Version- (流れ星☆キラリ -ゆずバージョン-)” by Yuzu

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33 comments

  1. i

    Wow it sounds like some greatness in the making.

    Just want to say that the Queen Ant is an accurate anime version of the Alien from the 'Alien' series. Creeps me out just like those movies.

  2. G

    The actress that plays the Queen also plays Aunt Sharon in Ucchuu Kyoudai.

    In most arcs there is someone that becomes Gon's teacher (last arc was Biscuit) and perhaps Kite is going to teach Gon about Nature?

    The OP is nice but I wish they changed it to something different.

  3. I was thinking about this too, and I think it goes even a little deeper. In every arc some adult steps up to more or less look after the boys. In Hunter Exam and Zoldyck it was Leorio (who looks like one, even if he just misses legal adult status by Japanese law). In Heavens Arena it was Wing (and yes, even Hisoka). In YS it was Leorio again, with help from Zepile. In GI it was obviously Bisky. And now we have Wing.

    One of the reasons I think H x H is as successful as it is, is because no matter how freakishly strong Gon and Killua are as prodigies, Togashi never lets us lose sight of the fact that they're self-evidently still irreverent and reckless 12 year-old boys. I think his pairing of them with caring adults in every arc is a subtle way to make sure this impression remains anchored.

  4. j

    Wait, so that flashback meeting happened before in the manga? When? Also,I'm diggin the new OST tracks, but as for the OP&ED…Damn, it was to be expected it wouldn't quite reach GI's. That's personal taste of course, but ohhhhh boy nothing got quite like those two. At least they got the same band that did REASON (or at least that's what I thought from the vocals).

    As for this arc, I cannot wait for things to start rolling. For me, HxH is infamous for its slow build-up until we reach those final eps, for which you could almost kill so as to not have to wait another week to see what happens next.

    I've spoiled myself quite a bit reading certain stuff from the manga, and man, it was disturbing(ly good). I cannot wait to see the events that led up to those scenes.

    Also, one huge complaint I have is the Chimera Ant King's design from the OP (I'm guessing that's the top boss King, at least, since all the baddies bow to him). I know this is just Madhouse adapting this very old manga, but couldn't they alter the King's design juuuust a little bit so as to not have Dragonball Z's Cell's twin in HxH? Dat tail…It screams Dragonball Z 🙁

    Having said that, I'm so excited for this arc. Yet, it's a painful pleasure – you like it very much, but you also know deep inside that this is all an incomplete story because of the author's hiatus (probably never coming back!). I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but how long has it been since Togashi picked up the HxH pen again?
    Man, I'd be so pissed if they just ended it after the Chimera arc. No matter how you look at it, fighting insects, no matter how epic and outlandish it can get, is no way to end a series like HxH. I know there's some content afterward, mainly the next big arc's prologue (already spoiled haha), but it's…just that. Truth be told, I don't know every single event that's about to come after this arc (and WOULD NOT LIKE TO KNOW TY), but I doubt it's enough to put a closure to everything.
    I'd be more than willing to see if Madhouse has the balls to create their own original ending to HxH. They've been animating and writing HxH for more than 75 episodes (6 seasons, dammit!) – those pros have better acquired a sense of what HxH is all about, so that they can create their own ending.

    Of course, most probably, none of that is going to happen. But eh, one can dream. It just greatly, greatly pains me if all of the threads HxH has created (countless characters and individual stories, Killua's family, the Phantom Troupe and Kurapika's story…) end with a 'TO BE CONTINUED 🙂 ' or, even worse, an open ending.

  5. j

    As for my reason for this being "no way to end a series like HxH", that's mainly because series this big need to have all the characters brought together in a well-written final arc. Take FMA:B for example: that last arc was so good because characters kept popping up, fighting/saving others/dying (even though that final showdown was a bit anticlimatic imo, but that's not the point here).

  6. As I understand it, there's a meeting between Gon and Kite in chapter 1 of the manga, and it's handled somewhat differently. The manga is out there if you want to know for sure, but I'd rather commenters not go into too much detail here.

  7. S

    There's nothing to say really. They just did not do that in Episode 1, and instead moved it to this episode as a flashback. In the manga Kite and Gon spoke a little more and he gave him an object which was never of any importance anyway, so there's little difference.

  8. s

    @justinnm

    Luckily for us, Togashi did pen one more arc (right around the time they announced the anime) that would leave the series with a pretty decent "ending".

  9. A

    To be honest, I'm not sure what to say here. Once more, Enzo, your posts pretty much cover all what I wanted to touch on after watching the episode, and I feel I will simply be retreading the same things you mentioned.

    So instead, I want to talk about how I felt watching this episode, as a huge fan of the '99 series.

    This episode came across as being somber, without a doubt due to the sound design and the BGM used. Yoshihisa Hirano's composition is getting better as the show goes on, but that shouldn't come as a surprise given how this show had been steadily and surly improving as well. (More on that later)

    But there was an additional reason why this episode gave a somber feeling to myself, because it felt like the moment when you had waved farewell to an old friend, and it only just hit me (a week later) that they were gone.

    I was first introduced to the '99 Hunter anime back in 2000/1, which means it's been over a decade I had been a HunterxHunter fan. I have nothing but good memories of watching and enjoying that show, and I am grateful that it introduced me to the manga and got me to re-read YYH and Togashi's work catalogue. The '99 series will always hold a special place in my heart as an anime, in retrospect, I had fallen in love watching, as corny as that sounds.

    Which is why I kept on feeling somber through out my watch. It was the moment where, having already accepted that this version was undoubtedly better overall months earlier, I've been hit with the realisation that the series I once loved was over. It's been over for years, I knew that, but I always thought, even if jokingly, that some day we would get a continuation from the point where that series ended to this ark. I understood it was impossible the moment the remake was announced, and that was reinforced with every passing week, till the weeks became months and the months became years, and we got to this point, the start of where the OVA ended.

    I didn't realise just how much time had gone by, or to be more accurate, I didn't comprehend just how long ago had it been since that series concluded. It only hit me the moment I hit the play button and the opening came around to show me of what I waited to see for so long, did I realise that the '99 series was truly, irrevocably over. We would never have a continuation of it, it will never be revisited, unless as a source of comparison between it and the other two tales.

    It's a strange feeling to have when I'm only 24, but when something had been on your mind for so long, had been a part of your life for more than a decade, putting it on a pedestal and so close to your heart … and then when another version comes that is better, that with each passing week you can't help but enjoy watching, remembering the fond memories and adding some new ones, and is constantly showing you week in and week out how great it truly is …

    I'm looking forward to what is going to happen from here on onwards. I have no doubts going by the previous 75 episodes that the upcoming ones will be of similar if not higher quality. But even then, I can't help but feel sad where I should be feeling happy.

  10. Thanks for that interesting reaction – I confess it's not one that had really crossed my mind. I'm trying to imagine if I would feel the same way the second the Jinchu OP started – I don't think I would but then, how can I say if I haven't experienced the moment?

  11. Y

    I would also put myself across as a fan of the '99 series. To this day, I can't help but think the first 62 episodes of that adaptation enjoy greater elegance than Madhouse's realisation. I love that show from the bottom of my heart. I do feel somewhat similar to Arabesque AS, as a result, then. But if I could try to help dissolve some of that melancholy, I think it could be said that we have reason to be happy, in the end.

    The part that first series that I loved was the one that was under Furuhashi's guiding hand. I miss its naturalism; I miss its effortlessly poetic marrying of visual movement with music; I miss its vast musical score which had a note to nuance every occasion; and I miss its resplendent backdrops, from its purple sunsets to its photorealistic vistas which made me feel like I was holidaying in a real world. I always felt that it was so lovely, while following a character like Gon who was so at one with nature and animals, that we got a naturalistic sort of production that made me feel every bit as at one with nature as Gon did. I guess those are the sorts of things that I loved about the '99 series–things that embodied the cohesion that Furuhashi and Nobuaki Kishima commanded over those 62 episodes–and I regret that those things didn't survive the loss of the first series director. Afterwards, we got to enjoy two very solid OVAs, but the strength was fleeting, and the shifting of staff in between the stops and starts of the OVAs created a sense of unease and lack of uniformity which made the show uneven. Before long, the momentum of the exalted Phantom Troupe arc had been lost, and when G.I. Final finally rolled around, it really didn't feel like anyone was interested anymore: certainly not the anime staff, not the actors, not the viewers, and not even Togashi himself. It was the start of that dark time in the manga's publication where sketchy chapters were starting to become routine, the page count had declined to a steady 15, and the irregular publication schedule–paired off with all that–was so aggravating during an arc that felt, at worst, like a bit of a side-show to the grand scheme of things which had embodied York New. From my own perspective, it seemed like everyone was disillusioned with HUNTERxHUNTER at that time. It was the rapport between Gon and Killua and their respective voice actresses–whose Hunter Radio shows and real-life friendship made Gon and Killua seem all the closer–that kept the interest alive.

    So Gon and Killua, in the 2011 series, have been so fortunate to get 75 episodes, reams of omake, and behind-the-scenes production footage of Han and Ise to recreate the rapport that scaffolded the '99 series. It's because they've had those 75 uninterrupted episodes and extra stuff that we have a fresh sense of momentum to enjoy this arc as best we can, with all the heft of their journeys still fresh to contextualise all that we might get to see. I'm glad that 2011's been able to enjoy the cohesion that the '99 series couldn't have–the cohesion that I saw in those first 62 episodes and coveted ever since it was lost in 2001. Not many of the special things I saw in '99's first 62 episodes are there in 2011, but the uniformity and tightness are–and those are things that I think Furuhashi would have wanted to do for the series overall, but would inevitably never get a chance to, once the anime caught up with the manga in 2001 and faced either interminable filler, fractured OVAs, or an incongruous ending that wouldn't have the portent allowed by injecting earlier material with links ahead to an original ending. In 2011, that sort of vision has been able to come true at last, ironically through the strength of a different director's and a different studio's arms. I think that puts some of the misfortune of the past to rest–and for that, I find myself happy.

  12. i

    I never watched the original so I can't understand exactly how great this episode is for those who did but I am happy that so many people enjoy this immaculate remake and now original anime.

    I felt much the same in 2009 with FMA Brotherhood and if D. Gray Man ever got a reboot then I would be over the moon and like Icarus burning near the sun.

    As anime fans don't we all have a handful of series that we would give nearly anything or everything for to see back on the screen after being cut short?

  13. n

    Fantastic post, Yuri. I wholeheartedly agree with you. 1999 had that special quality that makes it stand the test of time. Furuhashi is amazing.

    2011 is not as artistic and enthralling, but it has been a great adaptation especially starting York Shin. I'm just glad there's something to look forward to every week and will be really sad when it finishes (which it will considering Togashi's schedule). Really looking forward to the ant arc.

  14. e

    Man, you did it again. What is left to comment here that you haven't covered? :,)
    Let's try anyway…
    Cool callback to end of the previous ED both in the bgm and in scene in the actual beginning of the episode (post recap and OP) with Kil and Gon standing in the mist with the floating petals. For a second I thought that if the dude was not Ging he might be hiding nearby concealing his aura and just watching (Accompany brings you within 20 meters from your target after all) but that would have been too simple, ahah. Oh Togashi <3.
    – That ant got to bite the holy creamy thigh! Ecchi little bugger.
    – Upcoming Wardrobe Upgrade in case there were not enough clues already yeah? = s**t gonna get really serious. Also goodbye shorts, goodbye ye shotacon bait gums :,)
    – DAT FREAKY CLOWN THING aaaaaaah. Again some Togashi-Takeuchi osmotic phenomenon? The lady built a whole season around crazy circus nightmare space villains on top of having a Hisoka expy among them :,D.

    Tl;dr: pumped and a bit scared of the giga-ant(s) but bring 'em onnnn.

    P.S.: 'a story that further stamps Ging as a friend of the outcast and despised, and as a man whose true nature is impossible to grasp'. and he has an affinity with animals. Must run in the family…

  15. Well, as Kite says Ging told him, animals tend to love gifted Hunters.

  16. K

    The meeting did feel awkward. But it's better they write around it instead of just sticking the flashback it there. There is no need to waste time on that this far in. But they made up for it by fleshing out Kite's character. But this was more of a transition episode than anything. Kind of like the episodes before YorkNew. But really Gon barely knew Kite in the manga. It makes just as much sense here. The only thing is that Kite told Gon, Ging was alive and he was a hunter.

  17. It honestly didn't feel awkward to me in any way – it seemed perfectly natural. I think Madhouse made a conscious decision that since Kite's relevance in the story comes now, it made more sense to introduce him now rather than introduce him and then abandon him for 74 weeks, and hope the new audience remembered who he was.

    Now, you can certainly take issue with that choice – it's obviously a change from the manga. But I can tell you that for me at least, it worked perfectly fine. And it's also a tipoff than Madhouse knew pretty much from the beginning that the series was going to be covering the entire manga.

  18. K

    Oh I agree. It's just that initially it did because of my familiarity with the Nippon series and little bit of the manga. I was just waiting for Gon to say "Kite" the whole time lol. But felt better as it progressed. The most important aspect is that Gon sees Kite as a hunter his father respected.

  19. T

    I think that it was a much better choice to put Kite only in this part of the story. I watched the first version of HxH and the only thing that Kite's appearance in the story matters for is the final scene of the first version is Gon and Killua using accompany and they see Kite fishing. By putting him in the beginning you know that it isn't Ging that they find and leave you with a tease.
    Madhouse knowing that they are going to do the Chimera Arc don't need to leave that tease of accompany not going to Ging and putting all of the character development of Kite into the arc that matters is a much better choice in my opinion.

  20. A

    To me it was awkward, even from a non-manga reader point of view.

    The awkward part was how they handled the little flashback of Kite helping Gon in Whale Island. It was just a bunch of disjoint pictures. And it also was kind of pointless.

    I mean, if they were going to change the events, I think it would have been better to fully change the manga and make this the first encounter between Gon and Kite.
    But that little flashback made this weird, because they didn't explained, and made the characters have a sudden amnesia.

  21. B

    It makes sense to have disjointed pictures as flashback actually. Not all of us could remember long events from childhood vividly. Only some parts, and the longer the story the more it becomes inaccurate and saturated by external bias.

  22. I pretty much agree – that flashback was just about how I imagine it would be. Gon was even smaller then – he's not going to have a perfect recollection of all that. It worked fine for me – YMMV.

  23. e

    Enzo, out of curiosity, have you watched/considered watching Yu Yu Hakusho? If not, I'd highly recommend it – it shares the same mangaka as Hunter x Hunter, and many consider it to be just as good as it. Pretty sure you'd enjoy it considering how much consistent praise you're dishing out to HxH week after week.

  24. I haven't read the manga but I saw the anime in the dubbed version many, many years ago. I should probably give the subbed version a try as I wasn't too impressed at the time, but I knew jack about anime then, it was the usual crap dub and I'm sure I would feel differently now. It's really just a question of time.

  25. e

    Eh if you've already tried the dubbed version and disliked it you shouldn't bother with the sub, as YYH is one of the extremely rare cases where the general consensus is that the former is vastly superior to the latter. It's your choice though, hopefully you feature it in a small blog post in the future if you do happen to enjoy it.

  26. Dub better than the sub, really? Well, I suppose anything is possible. Dislike is definitely too strong a word – it's more along the lines of not making much of an impression. But as I said the question is really whether I can ever find the time, and I can tell you it won't be anytime soon.

  27. n

    After getting into Hunter X Hunter, I seeked out Yu Yu Hakusho and Level E as they were from the same mangaka. I enjoyed Yu Yu Hakusho immensely (although it wasn't as good as Hunter X Hunter, it was still pretty good and shared quite a few similarities). Level E on the other hand, was utter garbage after the first few eps.

  28. h

    Out of curiosity, did you get to episode 3? I'm surprised if so you'd be the first person who didn't like what Togashi pulls off there O.o

    Level E is a comedy series but is similar to HxH in the fact it changes its style completely every new story arc

  29. I thought Level E was brilliant personally, one of the greatest troll series in history.

  30. e

    @nosajj: truthfully I thought the Rangers sentai style episodes in Level E were relativelay weak but the first and last arc in the Level E anime were a riot for me. After checking the manga I'm a bit bummed they didn't animated the epilogue – either as an OVA or by shortening the sentai arc – as the manga coda would have made for a very strong episode: that unanimated story brims with troll mastery, gore, humour and tension on top of giving you that satisfying 'a few years later..' picture :D. Now that I recall that final part in the Level E manga I trust we'll have some entertaining stuff in the Chimera Ant arc here, ohoh.

  31. Sacrilege – the Color Rangers episodes were pure genius.

  32. e

    Good concept, the execution could have been tighter. It felt slightly draggy compared to the rest for me ( for all that matters I spammed the Level E anime to a few of my anime lovers acquaintances as if it was the new psychotropic wonder and doesn't matter the difference in taste among us they all thought the same thing about that part) . But most of all they could have trimmed it by 1 precious episode to sneak in that awesum!coda :,).

  33. n

    As a matter of fact I finished all 13 episodes of Level E, but I found at times I forced myself to watch it. Didn't really enjoy the series overall

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