Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 79

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I just want to reiterate – this is airing at 10:55 in the morning…

I was mentally prepared for the kind of sea change that was coming to Hunter X Hunter after the “Greed island” arc ended – I’d certainly read enough about it.  But knowing it and experiencing are two different things, and I continue to be really jolted by just how much more unsettling and brutal H x H has become in “Chimera Ant”.  And the thing is, it’s only just started – we’ve seen a relatively small amount of actual horror, and it all has the filter of being inflicted on basically nameless characters we don’t have a strong emotional connection to (apart from Kurt and Reina, whose story is so painful that it transcends familiarity with the victims).  That’s a pretty scary prospect, truth be told.

I think one of the things that’s so unnerving about the Chimera Ants as monsters go is that they capture a peculiar blend of humanity and alien-ness than many writers strive for, and rarely achieve.  The thing is, Togashi-sensei is basically a psychology-driven writer – he’s a master of many trades, but fundamentally I think head games are what drives most of his best material.  So he really gets what makes them so scary.  We’ve seen giant bugs in a hundred monster movies, and they’re not all that scary anymore.

But when these creatures began to incorporate recognizably human ways of thinking, that’s when they became truly terrifying.  They’re capable of laughing, being bored, feeling envy – yet they have no concept of humans as anything but food for their Queen.  They seem to retain that mentality of pure predators, that killing is innate to their nature and of no moral concern whatsoever – yet they’ve become capable of enjoying it.  They’re emerging as individuals while still retaining their ant-like absolute loyalty to the nest.  Togashi has combined the scariest elements of ants with those of humans – damn, what a clever and terrible bastard he is.

There’s one seeming exception to all this of course – Colt – and he seems to point up what’s an inevitable crisis point for the Chimera Ants (and might prove their downfall, who knows).  We can see quite clearly that Curt has a conscience – he spared his mother quite willfully (if unaware of the reason) and this week we saw him order than a child be spared for no practical purpose.  Yet he of all the squadron leaders seems to value loyalty, normally an honorable and desirable trait and one he inherited from the boy he was – yet in this case, his loyalty is to the Chimera Ant Queen.  It seems to me that the ant way of living and the human are mutually incompatible – we already see fractures forming in the ant hierarchy as individualism becomes a growing problem.

Remarkably enough we haven’t even met most of the ants who will play the featured roles in this arc (like the Royal Guard and heck, the King himself), but the ones we are meeting are making quite an impression. Among them is Koala (Horiuchi Kenyuu) who’s not even a Squad Leader, just a soldier who gets a great deal of pleasure from killing humans and doesn’t like taking orders from his boss, Meleoron (Tobita Nobuo), who’s ability to disappear seems to indicate he’s descended from a chameleon.  Even more worrisome is Yunju (Murakami Yuuya) another reptilian Chimera who’s so twisted he’s decided he wants to make Gyro’s soldiers his “pets” (and guns don’t seem to be working so well anymore).  All this business about toying with the prey and competing with each other is very un-antlike – and that’s a problem that I don’t see going away anytime soon.

I’ve gone five paragraphs into a Hunter X Hunter post without mentioning Gon and Killua, which should give you an idea of just how different “Chimera Ant” is from what’s come before it.  It’s clear they’re caught up in a much larger story this time, and that story for me more or less marks the official confirmation of what I’ve thought all along – that H x H is closer to what we normally think of as seinen than typical shounen.  The whole NGL scenario is cynical and darkly humorous – a high-tech border station set up in a cave, where applicants for entry submit to strip searches and ultrasounds and are rejected from entering if they wear glasses or have any sort of implants.  There’s talk of technology smuggled into the country in rectums and a convenient shop where travellers are forced to buy “natural clothes” to replace their confiscated ones.  And, naturally, a post set up to rent them horses at exorbitant prices once they clear border security.  All this to support the supposed natural paradise of a despot who seems to have structured the whole thing so he could use turn the country into a giant drug lab free from the watchful eyes of the outside world.

Into this madhouse (pun intended) ride the heroes – or at least, the five members of the party who passed muster at the border.  They’re accompanied by two “minders” there supposedly to help with translation and the like but obviously to keep an eye on the foreigners – a dig by Togashi at every despotic country that uses the tactic.  There’s really only one strongly humorous element in the episode, and it’s provided by Killua.  Naturally enough he’s not going to ride a horse by sitting in the saddle, no – he’s going to stand up or recline comfortably, putting on a disinterested “boss face” at all times.  Already there are Pokkle, Ponzu and their support team – and they run into the remnants of one of Gyro’s squads, who’ve been devastated by Yunju’s squad.  Pokkle recognizes immediately that he’s in over his head and that all of the Hunters who’ve been entering the country need to band together, though he manages to use his Nen to kill three Chimera Ants (one of them a cockroach – ugh) who come after his group.  There are serious death flags for Pokkle and Ponzu raised in this episode (scary thought: what happens if the Queen eats a Nen user?), and given that I expect the body count to be pretty high this time around, I’m not too optimistic about their chances.  They’re just at the right level of familiarity to be good candidates for the chop, in any case.

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  1. a

    I enjoy reading your posts on Hunter x Hunter as I can sense you're a big fan. Also, it's interesting to note that you view this as more of a senin title than a shonen. As someone who owns the Chimera ant arc in its manga entirety, I can completely agree with that viewpoint; it's dark, violent, intelligent, with a strong anti North Korea message and mature themes. Emotionally as well it is a whirlwind (but a good one).
    Also the back of the Viz media manga covers rate this as for "older teens" which is 16 and up. Do you think the series will attain such a rating for this arc? Though it's clear that the Japanese have a much higher tolerance and acceptance for violent or sexual content in their media then say Europeans or Americans. Seeing as you live over there, I'd love to hear your opinions on these matters.

  2. Alex, I don't pay that much attention to the Japanese rating system TBH. I know there were people predicting that there was no way CA could be shown on Sunday morning, and that it would be heavily censored (hell, they predicted that about YS too) and they've been proved wrong at every turn. There's obviously no way an American cartoon airing on a weekend morning would ever come close to the content H x H shows, but then the manga is in a manga theoretically primarily marketed to middle-schoolers. As always, demographics are a loose definition.

  3. A

    Getting past my own melancholy, I will admit that I'm surprised by how violent and disturbing the things they manage to show (or in most cases, imply. We never actually seen a child get eaten, just the sound of it …) the real test will be when we really hit the revolting events. But we can talk about that when we get to it.

    In terms of demographics, I'd argue that Shonen and Senin were never really good definitions to start with, and that the way anime fans had used them as blanket terms invited confusion.

    In any case, I wouldn't be too worried about showing this series (or more specifically, this arc) to my kids if I had any. If they were 12-13 that is, since given the state of entertainment nowadays, this is still small potato's to what kids get subjected to when they surf the internet.

    (waiting for comments telling me how horrible a parent I'd make)

  4. j

    Gasp! You'd make a horrible parent!

    …Actually, no. You'd be the best parent. 😛

  5. i

    I didn't find human like ants all that scary, rather I feel that some of them may change to the human side when the queen dies and if they disagree with the king. The line by the pink stuffed bear set that thought in my mind; 'How are humans and ants different'

    Also I too found the worrying possibility of nen users being eaten. Even if its weak ones like Pakke, they'd still make difficult foes when combined with ant inheritance or if several nen users were eaten to form one ant.

    But I wonder if any of the original group that couldn't enter had silicon enchancements, Surely not (carefully looking at character designs)

  6. A

    I think what was scary about the Human-like nature of the ants had more to do with how despite the monstrosity of their actions, there was a very familiar and unsettling feeling that it was actually less animal like and more human natured. In a way, the ants are acting like a mirror into our worst aspects.

    And yeah, the thought of what ants would be born with just regular folks being like this, and what would be born when a nen user gets thrown into the mix … *shudder*

  7. Why did you have to put a spoiler in the last paragraph, seriously? I felt bad deleting such a huge block of text over one paragraph, so here's the rest of it.

    oi, Enz, I'm finally caught up. What bitter sorrow is realizing that the next episode is a week away, right?

    Anyway, so far, for me, this arc has caught the tone of an old '50s science-gone-horribly-wrong monster movie to a T. I like this thing Hunter x Hunter does where each arc seems is a loving tribute to some old genre of something. Such as Green Island being a role-playing game and Yorkshin being a crazy mix of Scorsese crime thriller and Tarantino revenge flick. This guy knows how to keep things interesting.

    Also, of course (this is Togashi, after all) we have two old side-characters coming back for seemingly no apparent reason. Because if Yu Yu Hakusho is anything to go by, Togashi really likes to bring back old side-characters for seemingly no apparent reason. And I love that. For me, it helps establish the "world" a little more because it makes sense that Gon would run into at least some of those guys. There's probably not a terribly high number of active pro Hunters. There also seems to be a little something going on between these two, which is also very cool.

    Of course, since this is a monster movie, and Pokkle appears to be the more important of the two, I'm fairly certain that Ponzu will be murdered. 🙁

    And I had to put this show down for a bit after those two kids were devoured. My feelers. 🙁

    But that just makes this character of.. guy-who-looks-like-Jiro-from-Kikaider-mixed-with-Vegeta all the more interesting. I like him quite a lot.

  8. C

    It wasn't really a spoiler. I didn't say anything specific.

  9. If I could repeat what you posted, I would have a pretty strong argument. I certainly consider myself spoiled. Think about it. Did I know what you said was going to happen was going to happen? You even named a name.

  10. C

    Jesus you're strict.

    But, yeah, I wasn't happy about it. Partly because I'd been spoiled and partly because the nature of the spoiler as something that I wasn't sure I actually wanted to see happen.

    How's what?

  11. Just stop dropping hints and I'll stop deleting them – it's not complicated. I understand why you weren't happy to be spoiled. Maybe you understand why I'm not, either.

  12. C

    Yeah, like I said, I got'cha. I'm not TRYING to drop hints – I'm TRYING to be as vague as I can. But you'd prefer I be even vaguer than that, which is fine. I don't know anything else anyway, I don't really read manga.

  13. c

    Vagueness is not a defense against spoilers. If you have to go out of your way to be vague, ask yourself why it even needs to be said in the first place. Although honestly it wasn't that vague. Like Enzo, I was saddened that the otherwise good comment was ruined by a random spoiler for no reason.

  14. j

    Thanks a lot Enzo for deleting spoilers and making this a good place for commenting.

    As for the episode, as much as I love HxH, I found some stuff from this week a bit ridiculous. How come they faced all sorts of monsters during the Hunter exam, little and big and almost all of them deadly in some sort of way, and now they're dead scared with giant cockroaches? Geesus, they're hunters man…

    I suppose it's really just because Togashi's writing changed as HxH evolved as a story…but three humanoid bugs that aren't particularly strong, scaring four professionals? I found it a bit hard to believe.

    That said, I'm loving how the ants are evolving – I'm already attached to them, and not as villains, but as a learning species that is still looking for answers: Koala's line "How are humans and ants different?" was the best. Certainly, now that they've evolved this much there's no real difference…

  15. You're welcome, but the problem is I see the damn things myself before I delete them, and as much as I stop immediately as soon as I see it's a spoiler I still see things I don't want to see. I'd like to be able to watch a show without being spoiled myself, you know?

    I believe Pokkle is the only pro Hunter in that group, if I'm not mistaken. As such he'd be the only one who could use Nen, meaning he has to worry about protecting three people, not just himself.

    And I don't know… They didn't face anything quite like these in the exam – as a magical beast hunter, Pokkle will know full well that insects are stronger for their size than almost anything else in nature, so a human-sized one is terrifying indeed. And yeah, Togashi's writing style did evolve a lot – those kinds of weird creatures were mostly a feature of the first arc.

  16. j

    As for the spoiling thing, yeah, it's a pity you have to see it first before deleting. If only you could instantly forget stuff, huh?

    And in the examn, if I recall correctly, I think there were dozens of giant dinosaurs and man-eating shape-shifters and carnivorous plants, mostly when they had to keep up with Mr. Moustache Guy's running through the misty forests.

    I'll say to myself maybe part of the scare comes from them knowing these 3 are not the only insects, just a small part of an entire army – and they're right, of course.

  17. c

    Well obviously Pokkle was able to handle all three himself with no real problems. I saw it as them being very cautious more than anything else.

  18. A

    During the exam, they never had to fight directly against monsters. They only had to keep up with Satotz in order to avoid them. Even Kurapika and Leorio, who were among the strongest in the bunch (even Leorio seems vastly stronger than Pokkle, and Kurapika certainly is) never tried to fight them, they ran away instead.

  19. j

    Really? I'd argue that Leorio and Kurapika were anything but strong. Actually, Kurapika could defend on his own, but mostly he was useless until someone would mention "SPIDERS" and he went mad.

    Leorio being strong? I very much doubt so. He was almost always there dragging the whole group down, results-wise. He didn't stand a chance in combat against stronger foes. I think Pokkle and his quiver and arrows made a much stronger combo than Leorio and his knife, not to mention Pokkle does seem smarter in combat…

    Who would win between Pokkle vs Kurapika though, if we were to think this happened in the hunter exams? Personally, I'd go with Pokkle, mainly because he would be able to mantain his distance from Kurapika's close combat with wooden swords.

    haha, that was really off-topic though, sorry. As for the monsters thing, even though they didn't have to fight them, the fact that they all look as dangerous (or more) than these (in comparison) tiny bugs, really made me go "Huh?" 😛

  20. S

    When it comes to them worrying about the ants when there are already so many dangerous creatures around, I think one of the big factors is that the ants are not only evolving at an extreme rate, but also they're actively seeking out humans to abduct/kill (And yeah, the majority of the time the contestants did run away from the exam arc creatures to keep up Satotz regardless). In addition to that, not much is known about the ants so they should be dealt with extremely cautiously. Also as was mentioned by Enzo, Pokkle seems to be the only professional hunter among his group, so having to most likely protect his group on his own makes things even more sketchy. I mean we don't really know how proficient Pokkle even is with his nen, I can understand why he'd want to play it safe in that kind of situation.

  21. I would have to concur about Leorio – like the guy and all, but especially during the Hunter Exam he seemed anything but strong to me.

  22. K

    I disagree about Kurapika. I don't think he learned those high flying kung-fu moves after learning nen. While his strength increased when spiders were mentioned he seemed pretty good regardless. I think he was at least a step above Gon in general ability.

  23. c

    I'm pretty sure Kurapika is supposed to be another super-awesome "talented" guy along the lines of Gon. He's just a bit older and also a pacifist. Remember that Hisoka thought he was interesting enough to give a clue to and work with.

    Leorio… well I doubt he's a good fighter. Although the anime cut out a moment from the Zoldyck Family mini-arc that showed him to be physically stronger than Gon or Kurapika. They went back and trained with the weights until they could all open the giant door on their own, and Leorio managed to open the second set of doors.

  24. A

    Leorio is clearly strong. Maybe not as strong as Kurapika, but still stronger than most of the people who tried the exam. There is a reason Hisoka let him live while he killed everyone else during the first test. He even got turned on by him and Kurapika during the fourth test. After the exam, Netero states that, although Bodoro was more experienced, Leorio was probably a more effective fighter – and no one can say Bodoro wasn't strong. Pokkle probably has other things he can rely on (his cleverness and his prowess with a bow) but Leorio is probably a better fighter. Not to mention his amazing physical strength (stronger than Kurapika and Gon !). I'm not really a fan of Leorio, but he's just overshadowed by freaks like Gon, Killua and Hisoka.

  25. T

    I think I learned my lesson about spoilers a long time ago, so I will say absolutely nothing but that I smirked at a few scenes in this episode rather evilly.

    I seriously love how Killua just stands on the back of the horse for a bit before he leans back with that "I don't care look" Guess he wanted a good view?

    Sorry this isn't really a discussion moving post, but considering I know what's going to happen there isn't much for me to comment on other than small "oh that was cool/funny" moments.

  26. s

    While I enjoyed the episode, I did find the scene where Pokkle saves Ponzu to be a bit odd. Regardless of how ineffective they may have been in the fight, my understanding was that Ponzu's bees are supposed to be triggered by her screaming? Given that Madhouse has been pretty good with continuity/maintaining consistency I was kind of surprised and slightly disappointed because I strongly dislike the damsel-in-distress trope. I mean it's great that they spotlighted Pokkle's nen, but did it have to be at the expense of Ponzu's capabilities*?

    *I say this because from what I remember during the Hunter Exam Arc, Ponzu was quite capable, having made it all the way through to the second to last stage of the exam by her own merits.

  27. S

    I wonder if those bees could do anything to pierce an ant's chitin cuirass or poison it. But yeah, they should at least have shown up, even if it was to be completely useless.

  28. I'm OK on questioning the continuity part – I don't know why the bees didn't show up. But I don't see this as sexist. First off, they'd have been useless against those opponents. And Pokkle is a Hunter, Ponzu isn's. He was stronger then – he passed, she didn't – and now he has Nen. It's not surprising in any way that he should have to defend her in that situation.

  29. s

    Simone: Given their size and assuming that the proportion of chitin/resilin in their exoskeleton is the same, I think it's unlikely that Ponzu's bees would have been very effective against these particular chimera ants. Not all the chimera ants have exoskeletons though, so maybe she'd have more of an advantage against a different type of chimera ant?

    Enzo: I never explicitly said it was sexist exactly, merely that her being so passive in such a situation runs counter to her characterization. The way I see it, there is a difference between putting up a fight and being overpowered by a stronger opponent, and sitting there doing nothing while someone else comes swooping in to your rescue. The difference between being an agent and acting vs. being an object and being acted upon, if you will. It could have been any other character, male or female, and I still would have had an issue with it.

  30. j

    Amen suxing, amen.

  31. M

    koala : badass m*therf*cker ha ha..

  32. A

    I shudder at the thought of the Queen consuming a Nen user. She was absent in this episode, would have liked to know more about her.

    The air of the episode always hangs heavy, and it will probably be a long long time before we have a light episode in this arc.

  33. Heh, she wasn't entirely absent…

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