Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 78

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Even for a Togashi series, it’s incredible just how much the tone of Hunter X Hunter has shifted seemingly in the blink of an eye.

I hate to keep using the word “somber” but it just keeps leaping into my mind unbidden as I watch the “Chimera Ant” arc unfold. I could use for others, too – sober, subdued, other “S” words…  But you get the point.  The only thing I can really compare this to is the early part of the “York Shin” arc, with the run of episodes that focused almost solely on Kurapika.  But there are two major differences: first, it seemed at the time as if the absence of Gon and Killua was a large factor in the dark tone.  And second, the pervading emotion in “York Shin” was anger – Kurapika’s burning hatred which drove his lust for revenge, which in turn drove the entire arc.  And of course that was the very definition of a personal battle, while events in “Chimera Ant” clearly have much more far-reaching implications.

In this arc, rather than anger what dominates the mood is creeping fear, unease and sadness. There will be no Gon and Killua showing up the brighten the mood as they did in YS – they’re already here, and swept up in the darkness.  And Madhouse knows full well what’s happening in the story, and are a willing participant – the BGM is quieter and dominated my minor key pieces, the coloring is subdued and the world is full of shadows.  Gon and Killua’s own behavior reflects this – as if sensing the nature of what’s about to unfold it’s like they’ve grown up overnight, leaving the carefree boys they were behind on Greed Island and joining the world of men.  Given as on top of everything else this is their first real job as professional Hunters, that turn in the writing is likely not coincidental.

There’s just no denying that what’s happening with the Chimera Ants is creepy and incredibly disturbing.  Last week it was the existentially brutal scene where Kurt and Reina were taken; this time around it’s entire villages being rounded up like herded cattle and taken away by businesslike human-ant hybrids.  Damn that restless brain of yours, Togashi-sensei, for coming up with yet another brilliant premise, this the most horrifying one yet – insanely clever just like all the others, but seeming to hit all the bullet points to make me shudder to the very core.

Going inside the Chimera Ant colony – getting to know them – makes things worse, rather than better.  That’s because there are no recognizable villan traits here – they aren’t criminals like the Phantom Troupe, or greedy psychotics like The Bomber, or even out to get off by fighting strong opponents like Hisoka.  No, this is all about simple survival and expansion.  We’re watching the Chimera Ants evolve before our very eyes, and it’s a frightening prospect.  They just go about their business, rounding up humans as food, preparing for the birth of The King, doing The Queen’s bidding without question.  As to that last part, though, it’s not literally true – they do ask questions.  Not of the Queen’s authority, but of the world – and they have initiative.

I feel a little tickling inside my mind telling me that the moment when the tortoise squadron leader (who naturally enough doesn’t have a name yet) asks the Queen if her officers might have names is a crucial one.  It feels like a sea change and she seems to recognize it herself – musing that she might have some human blood herself to find it so fascinating – though she seems not to sense the threat to her in it that I sense. As she says, the squadron leaders (and when did they feed the Queen Wonder Woman, anyway?)  becoming individuals – proposing ideas of their own, challenging each other to contests for human harvesting, reading books – and we see that Colt clearly even has some memory of his life as a human, because he recognizes his mother and spares her when his squad goes to his old village to harvest.  Once ants become individuals, can a colony exist as a single unit?  At what point does unquestioned obedience begin to waver, or nagging doubts about The Queen’s single-mindedness begin to take hold?

As to that colony, it appears most likely to be in a place called NGL – Neo Green Land, a county of Luddites who’ve not just fled modern civilisation but made possession of any of its accoutrements a capital offense.  This is, as Kaito* explains, the worst possible scenario in many ways – NGL is a secretive land with sealed borders and no known means of communication faster than a written letter.  When epidemics strike they let nature run its course rather than fight it, and even in the unlikely event they asked for help in combatting giant ants, it would take a long time for that request to reach the outside world.  Naturally Kaito decides that there’s no alternative but to go there and investigate, despite the risks above and beyond any potential chimera ants – and not just Kaito.  Old friend Pokkle has gotten wind of a possible giant insect attack, and he’s determined to see for himself – and he’s with Ponzu, too, whose special talent with bees is oddly relevant to the matter at-hand.

There are also signs that Togashi might have intentions of taking the story into more political waters than it usually sails.  NGL is obviously more than it seems – they’re rumored to be producing massive quantities of a newly popular drug called D², and for a country without technology their soldiers are equipped with something that seems suspiciously close to a machine gun.  After their troops have a run-in with Tortoise’s raiding party – only the leader escapes – mention is made of “Gyro” as their leader.  It’s obvious that Gon, Killua and Team Kaito (and Ponzu and Pokkle, for that matter) are headed into very dangerous waters here.  Kaito, as you would expect, asks the boys if they’re sure they want to risk it – but I’m sure he knew what the answer would be.  His condition is that the boys be able to fight for themselves, and that they leave Kaito behind and save themselves should they get into trouble.  This prompts Gon to some uncharacteristic silence and reflection, though the answer he shares with Kil is the only one Gon could ever reach – he’s not abandoning Kaito under any circumstances.  As for Killua, he cheekily declares himself “a spontaneous guy” and says he’ll decide his course when the moment comes – but in truth, his actions are no more difficult to predict than his best friend’s.  Wherever Gon is Killua will follow – and if that means being at Kaito’s side, that’s where Killua will be.

*Yes, I know I’ve used “Kite” up to this point, because that’s what he seems to be called in every English translation I’ve seen.  But given that “Kaito” is the far more natural Japanese pronunciation of his name, especially since H x H basically uses no native Japanese (i.e. Kanji) names anyway, I decided it makes sense to translate the name as it’s spelled out in Katakana.

Also – is that a Chimera Koala I see in the preview?

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17 comments

  1. i

    GE I've gotten so used to there being an H x H post when I wake up on Sunday that I was scared you'd been shot by a surprisingly common magical bullet or fallen angel. Guess not so that's good.

    H x H really is brilliant and I think part of it is because it is somewhat self aware and yet feels very real. Can't explain it properly.

    Anyway is it me or does the king shown in the OP look a bit like the leader of the spiders?

  2. j

    Chrollo? I'd say he looks a lot more like Cell from DBZ haha.

  3. B

    They share similarities, like segmented limbs, tail and colour (just a to throw it in). But, they do not look alike XD

  4. j

    buildup buildup buildup buildup buildup buildup buildup

    As for the somber tone this arc, gee, just look at the character designs of some characters in the OP/ED that haven't appeared yet: there's a woman that looks like the girl in The Ring, some guy who I think fights with his hands chopped…

    Oh well, I liked Kite better, but that's your decision sir.

    Man, with all this talk of leaving someone behind should they be in mortal danger, and with the new tone in this arc, I'm seeing all the bad scenarios this can end up being. I also found it amusing that tsun tsun Kil said he was 'spontaneous'…Sure, you think things through a lot more ma boy, but if your dear Gon is involved in the situation, I'm sure you'd throw logic by the window.

    I'm wondering if they'll ever start the ED as the episode finishes, much like they did with the previous two EDs? Maybe they're saving it for tragic scenes, since the song is so dramatic and sad.

    I hate that there's so much buildup right now – it'll make it that much more painful when shit hits the fan, and I don't know if my fragile heart will make it through :'(

  5. j

    Kazuhiro, I know it's not that big of a spoiler, but I would have preferred you not say who they were ;(

  6. Sorry I didn't see it until just now. I just don't understand people sometimes…

  7. G

    More and more I get the feeling all these people we are meeting will NOT be alive by the time this arc ends. There is such a feeling of dread and forboding that you can cut it with a knife.

  8. j

    Enzo, don't worry – it was pretty obvious whose side they were on anyway.

    Gary, I'd most definitely agree: especially the old man, just look at dat back of his in the ED. That screams 'farewell!'

  9. k

    The chimera king is Togashi's homage to Cell of DBZ,so no wonder they look alike xD

  10. A

    Not just a chimera koala, but a badass pink chimera koala xD

    Gyro wasn't mentioned this early in the manga, but it was nice to hear about him now. As you said, Togashi will put some politics into the mix this arc…

    Also I liked your reflexion about how the ants aren't really "villains". They are just working for the survival of their species. The problem is that as the get feelings an individuality, they can empathize with humans. It could no longer be ethic for them to kill us.

  11. G

    A couple of the ants feel like they could be potential villians (especially the wonder woman ant).

  12. w

    i feel like this arc of HxH is going to be more violence and dark the yorkshin arc. We can feel the creepy vibe from the last couple episodes. I hope madhouse wouldn't censored a lot in this arc and ruin the serious tone in chimer ant. For me personally, im okay with some slow built up. But then punch hard later. ^^

  13. K

    I think the scene in the Airship was foreshadowing that Killua would run. Remember when Gon was in trouble with the Troupe Killua couldn't do anything in the face of overwhelming power. I think when push comes to shove the same thing might happen again.

  14. C

    I'm currently rewatching Yu Yu Hakusho, and it occurred to me that you can retroactively apply Nen classes to the series:

    Emitter: Yusuke, Chu
    Enhancer: Elder Toguro, Younger Toguro
    Manipulator: Rinku, Kurama
    Conjurer: Kuwabara, all of Team Ichigaki save for the one guy who is an Enhancer
    Specialist: Hiei, arguably

    Seems Togashi has had his vision for quite a lot longer than even Hunter x Hunter.

  15. C

    Actually, you could arguably say that Kurama and Karasu are actually Specialists, since they both generate kind of obtuse abilities and Specialists easily bleed into Manipulation anyway.

  16. A

    You could also say that all of Team Masho are transmuters with their elemental powers.

  17. l

    Holy crap, the low blows from Madhouse (or Togashi is he structured it himself this way). The part when someone was describing the first squadron leader's earnest as if he got the trait from the human that the Queen ate, and then the scene immediately switched over to Kurt and Reina's mom in mourning. Sonuvabitch, my feels.

    This episode was just about where I had to say, "Gee, I hope things get more eventfully exciting next week." But although I was kind of tiring from the unending discourse, I do have to admit that this episode had some fascinating material on the Chimera Ant's philosophy, existentialism, and whatnot. You could really get a feel of their split origins, inheriting traits from others species (specifically humans, I'm assuming that the ones who look purely animals still have some human genes in them because of their ability to talk and the mass amount of human abductions they have been doing as a colony) but still being born from a purely Chimera Ant Queen (although she says herself that she too feels a small gleam of humanism in her, and with the way Phagogenesis works she may not be so pure). So as I commented last week, I can completely see how expansive this arc's narrative can get. The first squadron leader, who still remains unnamed, even showed potent sentience. That being said, I am also starting to notice some nit-picky discrepancies, such as the penguin Chimera Ant leader being so knowledgeable by reading so many books so quickly. I guess I would prefer to skip over extended explanations of such things so we can get to the main course of the arc's story quicker, served a la shonen.

    Regarding your remark on Gon and Killua's absence attributing to the darkness of York Shin's first half Enzo, I think the opposite can be true as well. The last parts of York Shin were my favorites in that they accomplished somber tragedy one after another. (Uvogin's death, Chrollo depriving Kurapika of his life objective by faking the Spiders' deaths, and lastly, Pakunoda's sacrifice.) I was totally feeling for all the characters, prominently, the antagonists. It's hard to describe, but it just burned. So I definitely think this fore-boding, somber mood that has shrouded the past few episodes is not going to just be a tease. Things definitely feel like they are heading into a shit-storm. Or maybe we're already in the eye of the storm, and we will soon find out we cannot escape, not with torment at least.

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