Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 80

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Once again, that’s 10:55 AM.  On Sunday.  Sleep well tonight, Kids.

Hunter X Hunter continues to pretty well re-define excellence, in ways old and new.  Of course it’s still brilliant both in terms of writing and the execution of the adaptation – but that’s been true for the last 20 months, so nothing new there.  But despite doing something radically different in the “Chimera Ant” arc than it did in the 75 episodes that preceded it, it’s now doing this better than anyone else is doing it.  The schedule is packed with series trying to be terrifying and thrilling, in the full range from very good to awful, but none of them can really match H x H for pure fearless brutality and horror.  It’s not this easy – it can’t be – but this show is making it look effortless, and making the rest of the field look bad by comparison.

I thought for a while that this might be the first episode of H x H where none of the four main cast members appeared.  As it was, we didn’t see Gon’s party until the 18-minute mark, more or less – and it didn’t stop the episode from flying by in what felt like seconds flat and every one of them thrilling and profoundly unsettling.  In fact, the first several minutes of the episode were spent chronicling the backstory of a character who’s either dead or about to be, NGL’s “Shadow Don” Gyro.  It was beautifully told, too, in a world of shadows and monochromatic backgrounds that reflected just how bleak and terrible it felt to the person in question.  Gyro had it pretty miserably, all right, especially given who he was cursed with for a father.  But some might reasonably argue that it was excessive to spend so much time on a character who’s never spoken and seems to be doomed, in any case.

I have my own ideas on that, and it all ties in to the fact that with the Chimera Ants, death isn’t forever.  It’s one of the many terrifying things about them – their victims live on, but in a grotesque and twisted mockery of the beings they were.  We’ve seen this most profoundly in the backstory of Curt/Colt, which should be proof enough for anyone that Gyro’s backstory is very much relevant.  But we also had Kaito’s words at the end of the episode that Chimera Ants and the NGL would be the “worst combination possible”.  When considering Gyro I can’t forget for a moment that the Ant King hasn’t been born yet – the Queen is still carbo-loading on human genes – and that Gyro set up the NGL to “make everyone’s lives as miserable as his was”.  Is this the strain of human desire that’s going to provide the core of the Ant King’s personality and motivation?

As if that weren’t an ugly enough scenario, you can add Nen ability to the mix.  The ants are learning frighteningly quickly – they’re using the guns they took from the soldiers they killed, and Peggy and Colt are puzzling over the methods used to kill the soldiers Pokkle defeated with his Nen arrows.  It seems that they – at least some of them – are able to see aura and Nen (I’m not sure just why this is possible – could be spider eyes, though it seems very likely they’ve already eaten the Hunters that entered the country before Pokkle and Ponzu).  There’s been little doubt what fate was going to befall Pokkle’s group, but my goodness it was terrible to see.  First a beheading, with the victim living long enough to scream in terror, then a head bitten off by Pike (Yamanaka Masahiro).  Pokkle does his best with his somewhat modest Nen ability, seemingly getting the better of Pike, but Zazan’s sneak attack seals his doom.

In a way it seems as if poor Ponzu is the lucky one – she, at least, was shot to death before she was devouredShe gets off a message (the use of the Japanese Yuubin Kyouku logo on her bee-mail would be cute under other circumstances, but here it’s just tragic) before she meets her end.  Sadly Pokkle had the right idea – he knew he was overmatched and was just trying to escape the NGL and warn the world of the danger.  Pokkle’s fate is seemingly to be devoured by the Queen herself, with probably disastrous results.  What a terrible construction these creatures are – even in the case of Colt.  He retains the purest of his noble attributes – he’s smart, loyal and fiercely protective.  But now instead of Reina – whose name he remembers this week – it’s to the the Ant Queen and her terrible struggle.  He more than any of the Chimera Ants seems to at least have the potential for a real internal struggle – perhaps he’s retained enough of his humanity that as he remembers more and more, he may come to rebel against the cause he now gives absolutely loyalty to.  It’s notable that he’s already shown mercy to humans on two separate occasions.

It should be no surprise that an episode even an edgy and psychologically dark series like Hunter X Hunter titles “Evil x and x Terrible” would be a brutal one indeed.  It’s a measure of just how bad things are that after Kaito receives Ponzu’s final message, he flat-out asks the boys to go with him.  You know in his heart he’d like to keep Gon and Killua safe (he does send Stick and Podungo away, superficially to get a message to the world but mostly because he knows they’re too weak to face what the road he’s following holds), but he realizes things are so bad that he can’t possibly spare their strength – and I would imagine he’s quite torn about not just allowing them to accompany him into what he knows will be a horrible situation, but asking them to do so.  Even knowing their precocious strength my stomach churns thinking about what Gon and Killua are going to face – it’s surely going to be hard to watch, and Togashi is not a sentimental mangaka.  I don’t think we’ll be spared much, and this journey – while it’s likely to be riveting every step of the way – is going to be the hardest not just for the boys, but for viewers who’ve come to care for them about the last 80 episodes.

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  1. G

    There is such a sense of dread and death all over this arc.

  2. f

    Indeed. Despite the opening song just screwing up all the tension, the music for this episode was very depressing, esp when Botan(Ponzu) got shot. Definitely sounded like a "Game Over" music in a rpg =0(. The kicker was that they made it seem like she'd gotten away at first. And she was SO cute too (T.T)….

  3. a

    Seeing this arc animated is a dream come true for me, but maybe a nightmare for others? The tone of the manga really doesn't let up for a while.
    The black and white effect used for gyro's flashback did the scene full justice, I must say. Still, like you say, there's no getting around the fact that emotionally this arc is intense/about to get even more so. While this may disturb some non manga readers, it may also attract a new type of viewer; one who likes their shonen with a dark touch. Which one are you Enzo? New viewer to Chimera ant arc or manga reader?

    On another note, I don't remember Ponzu's death actually happening on screen in the manga. I own all this arc in manga format and if I recall correctly, she's running away and manages to hide and send off her message using her bees. It's then left upto the reader to presume whether she escapes or not. Togashi probably left her fate in the manga open ended so that he didn't kill two popular characters in one swoop. Once again, I'll have to check to be sure, though.

    Either way, nice review as ever and awesome adaption so far Madhouse.

  4. l

    The Hunterpedia wiki has a picture of her being shot in her biography, I believe

  5. This is new to me, so please religiously avoid all manga spoilers.

  6. n

    Check to be sure because the anime is faithful to the manga in regards to her death, although they added some bits that made it much more brutal.

  7. P

    There is a pretty big panel of her getting shot in the manga as well, she is dead alright.

  8. l

    I had a bit of a hard time staying in that zone of discomfort (excellently done otherwise) because of some random inclusion like the horse having comedical wide-eyes watching the three take off at full speed. Did anyone else feel the same at all?

  9. Any small bit of H x H levity to break up the relentless sense of doom is welcome for me, actually.

  10. And just FTR I did check, and the horse gag is in the manga too. Looks a lot better in the TV version, though.

  11. l

    Ah, I see. I don't know what to say at this point. This arc…

  12. a

    Apologies, you guys are right. What happens in the manga volume is this: Ponzu runs away and then there is a black panel at the bottom of the page. Then the first panel on the next page shows that spiky dude shoot someone offscreen (you only see the persons legs who is shot) leading me to think this scene was unconnected and happening elsewhere. The next panel shows the shot persona as nothing more than a rough sketch with blood coming out of her neck (its really hard to make out who has been shot, but thankfully the anime clears this up). Then the spiky dude rips out chunks of bloodstained skin and eats it immediately after killing her exclaiming, " Hunting is so much fun!"

    It's also generally accepted that the manga is far more brutal than the anime and some scenes will have no choice but to be censored down the line. However, madhouse will handle this no problem just like so far. I love their adaptation of this 100%.

  13. J

    oh god, the anime has reach this part already, the manga chapter that gave me nightmares a few years back.

  14. s

    Oh man this ep was just unsettling.

    "It's not this easy – it can't be – but this show is making it look effortless, and making the rest of the field look bad by comparison."

    HxH knows how to build worlds better than any other show I've ever watch. While most anime go with the "wonderment of exploration" this is the other side of the coin. Shows like Attack on Titan rely heavily on the "fear of the unknown" to build dread, but Togashi shows his hand as the Master by put it all out there for the audience. He gives us just enough for us to draw our own conclusions then solidifies the terror by having it play out on characters we have investment in.

    Just think, this is just the tip of the iceburg.

  15. j

    Oh my–I had spoiled myself Pokkle's fight as I skipped through the manga chapters and looked at a few pictures a few months ago, but I didn't remember Ponzu also died…and in such a gruesome way too! Well, I guess at least hear death was painless…

    This arc is turning out to be outstanding…I was also shocked at how Madhouse didn't censor anything at all – in any case, it seems as if they made it all the more gruesome. People keep saying there'll be a lot more deaths that are even more cruel – can't wait to see what THOSE will be like :O

    Also, when the blonde guy's head was chopped off and his head screamed Theyreheeeeeeeere, I didn't know whether to laugh or be horrified XD

  16. j

    Kill all the ants my Gon! FOR PONZU!!!!!!!!!

  17. M

    gaah, i hate and also love this episode, man it was just so dark, especially for the gyro part and those hunters. For me personally, this episode is better than attack on titan this week. Poor kids if they are watching this episode, i hope they sleep well.

  18. C

    1. SAVE POKKLE. He's one of my favorite characters now.
    2. Togashi's fetish for destroying his characters by giving them just a little bit of faith and then taking it away continues.
    3. Spider Guy was awesome.
    4. Who has two thumbs and correctly predicted that Pokkle or Ponzu would be killed? This guy.
    5. Ponzu's murder was.. shockingly violent. She got straight up executed.
    6. Is Togashi making fun of Dragon Ball Z? Seems like it.

  19. f

    I'm not sure about how much of what I'll say here is true or me just feeling something that doesn't exist but I feel as if you are not totally convinced about this arc yet.
    I mean there is really still no reason to be. After all, 5 episodes in and we only got: Kaito having some conversations with the boys, specially Gon, which I really liked; the ants way of reproduction and their apettite for humans; ants becoming individuals due to their new found human nature and a bunch of shocking, violent scenes.
    Don't get me wrong though I'm having lots of fun watching it and you may be as well and it's just hard to blog this series right now due to it's slow pace and not much happening up to this point.
    But, I feel that from what I've seen you usually like (character development and interaction over plot, correct me if I'm wrong..) you are not liking this as much as the other HxH arcs even though all this is only build up still, since most happenings were revolving around the ants or around some unknown character that doesn't seem to be important or that only serves as ant food after 5 minutes on screen.
    And now after all of this text, I will get somewhere (I hope), I'm a manga reader but the manga's pace is much faster besides I marathoned through this arc. So after realizing we're 5 episodes in and not much really important happened I went back for the manga to see if this arc really was as good as I remembered it to be. And I was blown away by how good this arc turned out to be and there were quite a few moments I think you're going to really like in the near(?)future :)
    And now, I don't really think this will be of importance to you, seeing all of this was very personal and it all began from a thought I had that you weren't liking this arc so much as of now. But, it was probably just me being crazy and mistaking not having much to blog abou with actual enjoyment. Either way it's all slowly getting better from here and at one keypoint in this arc and on it is simply going to be an incredible increase in quality and it's from those moments I really hope to see your opinions and posts which I am loving for the last months :)

  20. That's interesting, because I don't feel as if it corresponds to my feelings at all. It's different, yes, but I'm more or less in awe of it so far, if anything. I'm wracking my brain trying to imagine what I've written that could have given the impression I was disappointed, and I really can't come up with anything.

  21. f

    I was actually expecting that. It was just something very personal. You didn't really show disappointment it was just something which crossed my mind as I read your 77-79 episode reviews, you praised it as always but they felt as if they were talking about the same episode which is understandable as all of them covered the reproduction of the ants and the indiduality they inherited from humans.
    If anything your posts made me realize how little happened in these last episodes and I connected that to you not been enjoying it, in my head (go figure..). Also, I never had this experience of eagerly awaiting for the next episode neither for HxH or any other anime. That makes me think a lot more about what I've just watched and if I actually liked it.
    I try to think as if I weren't a manga reader and I probably wouldn't be completely satisfied by this episode. The protagonists were barely shown in trade for another massacre of some not really important character (I got surprised at how many people loved Ponzu seeing she only appeared 3 times, maybe, in the entire series IMO the kids death was much more of a kick). It WAS very well made, just like the flashback which I really enjoyed but both are not that important to the plot as of now and that personally bothered me, even though the episode itself was really good. But, I'm happy to see I was wrong in that anime viewers or at least you would not been enjoying this as much :)

  22. e

    Blessed be the horse gag. I really needed the wtf-lol moment after all that had come earlier.
    This was GRIM – and it hit a tad too close to home at times for comfort -.
    And we're just at the start. With a toppling of fear and awe. More Hunter Sunday Sundae please!
    P.S.: I'd have some extra Colt conflict cream on that.

  23. s

    Seeing this arc animated hits my emotional chords hard. T_T

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