I’m a big fan of anime characters who don’t speak all that much, but when they do you damn well better listen. Kaitou is rapidly stamping himself as one of those. He’s a pretty low-key guy by Togashi’s standard, not big on raising his voice or making GAR speeches. He says what he means, and he has superb analytical skills – as he evidences by his internal observations about Gon and Killua. And it occurs to me that when he’s been saying “Bad spin” every time he brings out Crazy Slots, those words do not mean what I thought they meant.
Kaitou has also been the one who’s been making the most cogent statements about the chimera ants. Last week he noted that “Chimera Ants have always been aggressive. But it seems that consuming malicious humans has made them even more evil.” This week’s nugget was even more on-point: “While the ants inherited individualism from humans, they’ve lost the unity that’s characteristic of ants. I hope we’ll be able to take advantage of that change.” At this point I want to refer back to something I said after episode 78:
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 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 him 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?
I’d like to take some credit for being especially astute, but there’s really none to take – because it’s all on Togashi. He writes with such astonishing clarity and internal logic that the importance of the moment becomes obvious of its own accord. I practically squeal with glee every time Kaitou makes one of these observations, because he’s giving voice to all the thoughts I had as I watched this arc unfolding. The sheer genius of this premise is really almost beyond belief – the perfect destructive power of these creatures and their methods of reproduction, combing the worst qualities of man with the most frightening qualities of hive insects. And then, the mixed blessing that is individuality – that aspect played out against the backdrop of a human nation that’s artificially trying to simulate a hive society in the NGL. Their system is a lie, a failure – yet it’s their very individuality that most impacts the chimera ants, that gives them their fearsome power – and ultimately, I suspect, will be their undoing. Togashi, I can only salute you – this is true genius at work. You are indeed to the art of writing manga what Shinkai Makoto is to anime as a visual medium.
There’s much happening on many fronts, with major implications for what’s to come. Kaitou’s team (they have a tablet – I bet that wasn’t in the manga) has worked out the chimera ant social structure, and it’s a terrifying prospect indeed – once the King is born, this genie will be very hard to put back into the bottle. The powers of the world have gotten wind of what’s happening in NGL, and turned to the Hunters Association for help. That means Netero’s return to the series at last (though he did appear briefly in “Greed Island”) and the news that a “punitive squad” has been sent by the Association to NGL – though who’s a part of it and whether they’ll arrive in time remains to be seen. Netero also notes that the Association is being set up to take the blame for whatever happens by the world governments, but I suspect that he knows full well how great the danger is and that can only be a secondary consideration for him in deciding how to respond.
Back at the nest, Rammot continues his transformation (this development is likely the cause of Kaitou’s growing sense of unease), much to the astonishment of Colt and Peggy (and Hamazoe Shinya continues his astonishingly scary seiyuu work). Colt even uses himself as a test for the strength of Rammot’s new power, allowing his soldier to punch him with all his strength. In many ways Colt is the best of both worlds – he’s as loyal as any ant, yet has the agile mind of a human. It’s he who figures out that it was Gon’s attack that allowed Rammot to learn Nen – it indeed looks as if the effect is something like what was described in the Heaven’s Arena arc. And recognizing this he realizes the importance of Pokkle, who may still be alive in the “storeroom”, not yet having been eaten by the Queen. Further disturbing developments seem to be afoot here.
The main event is once again a showdown between Kaitou, Gon and Killua with the chimera ants – once again a chance for Madhouse to show off their sakuga skills at length. This is where Kaitou makes the observation about individuality, and it could hardly have come with better proof. If the ants had simply attacked en masse, they’d have likely overpowered the humans (if they’d gotten lucky with Kaitou’s spin, anyway), but they’ve inherited both arrogance and sadism from humans. Instead, the group of Captains under the leadership of
Sgt. Captain Frog decide to allow the humans to fight them one on one. Why? Because the main reason they kill humans is because it’s fun. It’s becoming quite clear that ants of the Captain level are no match for Gon and Killua, never mind Kaitou. There are a number of wonderful moments here, starting with the quick Janken match between Gon and Killua (sorry Kil, that’s just Gon’s game) over who would fight first, and Gon’s offer to allow his opponent to surrender if he wished, so that he wouldn’t have to be killed. I also found the moment when Frog flashed back to his “first” death when facing Kaitou – “murder via overwhelming force” – quite powerful both on its own terms and as a metaphor for the nature of the larger conflict.
Gon and Killua are fearsomely strong – Killua seemingly stronger at this point. After his opponent brags that he’s “ten times stronger” than the one Gon killed, Killua brashly asks “You got anybody ten times stronger than him?” after dispatching him. Killua’s arrogance is a danger, but so is Gon’s innate innocence. Kaitou scolds him again – it’s become quite a regular event – that he can’t have any sympathy for these creatures. But when Gon responds that he couldn’t feel sorry for “bugs that call each other trash” Kaitou again disapproves – silently this time – for fear of what will happen when they run across the ants displaying less abhorrent human behaviors, like caring for each other. Again, it’s as if Kaitou is giving life to all the ideas that presented themselves early in the arc, the special dilemmas the chimera ants present. These are sentient creatures that Gon and Killua are learning to kill, and I feel that presents a great danger to both of them – though for very different reasons.
For Kaitou, it’s clear that he’s aware of every life he takes – and the term “Bad spin” is his way of mourning for himself and those he’s about to kill. And #2 is indeed, a very bad spin – “Silent Waltz, Grim Reaper’s Dance“. The rules of engagement are out the window – Kaitou simply annihilates the ant captains with one swing of his scythe. He has no choice – once he calls forth a weapon he must use it. The Conjurer ability seems the most perverse and psychologically convoluted of any Nen specialty to me – what does it say about Kaitou that this is the special attack he’s chosen for himself? It’s a curse as much as an attack – in much the same way Kurapika’s chains are. Conjurers and their techniques are a tangle of interesting contradictions – power based on limitations, a need to kill seemingly born out of an aversion to violence. If “York Shin” was a reflection of the roiling confusion and need for revenge in Kurapika’s soul, it seems as if Kaitou is very much the ideal observer to guide us (and the boys) through the “Chimera Ant” arc – a man who’s tasted evil and knows full well the depth of cruelty the human animal (and those created from its nature) are capable of.