Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 85

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Togashi isn’t making my job any easier.

God damn – how many gears does this man have?  How is it possible to reach into the well time after time and not only never come up dry, but with sweeter and sweeter water at every turn?  Every time I think Hunter X Hunter must surely reach a plateau, it keeps climbing and climbing.  The question really isn’t whether this is the best shounen adaptation ever or whether it’s the best anime airing – not anymore. The question is, just how much better can it get?

There is, in all seriousness, a concern in mind for me that this show has been too good, for too long.  I worry about fatigue setting in with a series that’s not just this splendid and riveting, but this intense.  How many weeks can I keep going back to it and being blown away as I have been so many times over the last 21 months without reaching a point where I get numb to it?  And more immediately, how can I keep coming up with new things to say when adjectives don’t really seem to do the job anymore?

This was the episode, I think, where “Chimera Ant” really stepped up to the next level – where it combined elements in such a way as to make it exceptional even by this show’s Godly standard.  Togashi had already served up what was one of the top 5 premises in my personal manga or anime history, and Madhouse was executing it flawlessly as usual.  But the character element hadn’t fully kicked in yet, at least not with Gon and Killua.  Their relationship with Kaitou was fantastic but playing out in the background, as most of the time was spent patiently advancing the chilling world of the Chimera Ants.  But this week that all changed, and with it “Chimera Ant” gained a new emotional resonance.

I think it’s fair to say this was the most reflective episode in H x H so far, or at least in a very long time. It also proved that not even Togashi-sensei is immune from the gravitational force of immutable death flags – when he raises as many of them as he did here, not even Togashi is willing to fight the power.  Gon and Killua looking back on their journeys isn’t something we’ve seen all that much of, especially Gon.  As Killua said, it seems as if at every turn there’s been someone there to guide them forward at just the moment they’ve needed it.  Some of that was Ging’s doing, some Netero. and some of it perhaps coincidence.  Never has the classic shounen trope of the journey to grow stronger felt so personal and authentic as it did here.

As the dots were connected from the past to the present some of the BGM from earlier in the series was recalled, but in a new form that matched the tone of this arc.  Kaitou is someone who’s appeared to be very much in harm’s way for a while now, but the moments in the first half of the episode were so emotionally transparent and so hopeful that it was impossible to escape the feeling that the worst was about to happen.  He seems to represent the best of the Hunter ideal in so many ways: his great power matched by his empathy, and a respect and even reverence for the the vocation he’s chosen and for those he hunts.  There could hardly be a better role model for Gon to follow, and surely Ging knew this and chose wisely.  If there had been time for Kaitou to train Gon, he could surely have helped mould him into a truly great hunter – but in the moment the only training Gon might receive is survival training.  The situation is worse than anyone could have imagined, and sentiment is a luxury no one has time for.

There was never a question that Neferpitou was coming for the three of them – the only question was when it would happen.  When he struck, it was quick and brutal – shockingly so – and Kaitou barely had time to warn Killua and Gon to run before he was under attack, and his right arm severed (and presumably absent Machi’s ability or an Angel’s Breath card this is a permanent situation – severed arms seem very much a theme in this series).  This was strictly a shock and awe scene – the sheer enormity of Pitou’s malevolent aura in all its terrifying force.  The reactions of Gon and Killua are of course different, and tellingly so.  Both are terrified of course, but Gon, in seeing what’s happened to Kaitou, lapses into a state of pure rage and gathers his aura about himself.  Killua reverts to the rational and seeing no other option and having no time to think, knocks Gon out using considerable Nen power and proceeds to flee the scene (much to Kaitou’s approval).

This is an important moment in terms of what it says about each of them.  When push came to shove, Killua had only one priority – save Gon.  Gon, on the other hand, instinctively acted on his need to fight evil and defend Kaitou.  Who was right and who was wrong?  I’m not sure we’re supposed to know the answer to that yet, and there may not be one.  For much of the episode I kept thinking to myself, “Where the hell is the cavalry already?” and sure enough, they were on the way.  Killua manages to carry Gon to safety and rendezvous with Kaitou’s team, who’ve brought reinforcements.  Netero himself, along with two other Hunters – Morel (Kusunoki Taiten) and Knov (the unmistakable Miki Shinichiro – it’s almost a unfair that a show could already be this good and then add Shinichiro Miki).  About them we don’t know much, yet – but as Netero says, sending in anyone except the best of the best would only make the enemy stronger, so it’s safe to assume they’re pretty damn good.

Killua is always a character with a darkness inside him threatening to break through and consume him.  Morel lectures him rather sternly that once a Hunter has run away, he’s no longer fit to be one – and it’s clear that the other two (even Netero) have no time for babysitting or even being concerned for the weak.  As Gon lies unconscious Killua reflects on what’s happened and especially what Morel has said, and he’s very surprised when Gon awakes and thanks him for what he’s done.  The dynamic between these two is absolutely the central element of H x H – it can be dormant as a theme for a while (as it was for parts of “York Shin”) but it’s always present.  I’m always a bit in awe when Togashi has one of the characters give voice to one of my thoughts, because it reflects just how amazingly he ties everything he writes together.  I thought back to my post on episode 37:

“This easy ability to slip into innocence is something that separates the two boys, and while Killua lowers his guard enough to act like a goofy kid around Gon, there’s an “old soul” quality to him that says that part of him knows it’s an act.  And it’s the desire to protect that side of Gon, I think, that motivates Killua to walk the dark path when necessary so as to spare Gon from having to do the same.”

“Gon, you are the light” Killua tells his friend this week – though like so many of his core feelings, it’s unspoken.  “But sometimes you’re so bright I have to look away.”

Gon, always looking towards the light, is convinced Kaitou is alive and that Killua’s action saved both boys from certain death.  After the heat of the moment has passed even hot-blooded Gon realizes that the two of them are no match for Pitou: “We were weaker than Kaitou, even with one arm.” Killua thinks.  “And that thing knew it.”  Most crucially Gon thanks Killua because by saving them both, he’s given them a chance to save Kaitou.  But first they must prove their strength to Netero, who’s left a challenge behind to see if the two are really serious about facing the peril before them.  With Gon’s strength to support him, there’s no question Killua will follow his friend’s lead and move forward once again – just as there’s no question that Killua is always prepared to use his strength to save Gon when he’s the only one that can.

Of course, we know the terrible truth.  Togashi is a hard and ruthless writer, but even for him this is an ignominious end for a character as carefully crafted as Kaitou (and I can’t believe we’d never find out what spin #3 is).  The facts seem indisputable but I haven’t seen the body – just the head – and in anime, nothing can ever be certain.  If Kaitou is indeed dead, I think we’re going to see a side of Gon that goes beyond anything we’ve seen up til now.  Gon is always driven by the purity of his emotions, and while it might impair his judgment at times I don’t think we’ve seen what he’s truly capable of when his rage is unleashed in all it’s raw ferocity.  Not even Killua will be able to rein him in then, and he surely won’t leave the field until the task is accomplished or his life is spent.

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  1. s

    HunterXhunter…what a deep viewing experience for a shounen…it approaches its setting with wit and proficiency that most shows outside its genre dont do; though sorry enzo, the best shounen ever is still YuYu Hakusho :)

  2. P

    RIP Char…

  3. i

    I saw the death flags but I thought next episode or in 5 episodes, I didn't think 5 minutes. I thought Togashi would milk the suspense like any author would but I forgot just why he is so amazing and the rush of attack left me senseless. I don't recall blinking from that moment on, not till the final second of the preview.

    I don't think I'll be able to think of anything else and am more ready than ever to spoil myself. I think I saw guard no. 2 and Bisky (with an adorable new hairstyle) in the preview and am now expecting all the great hunters we have met so far, including the Spiders and Hisoka (god damn how epic would that be) to take the fight to the insatiable Ants. This is the war Togashi wanted to create and like only the greatest authors can he took so much time to craft it before delivering it and without giving us an iota of boredom.

    Hisoka I expect will no doubt return to the fold, drawn to fighting these super strong guards and no doubt the king himself. It'd be hard to say exactly which was more evil but I know who everyone would back in that fight.

    In many ways all the failures of AoT are solved by HxH, lack of character, slow dragging speed, predictability. Togashi is so sure of himself that he can rush through plot without any fear of being able to run out of ideas and that is what separates him from pretenders.

  4. Well, if you cave, please keep what you find out to yourself!

    It's funny – H x H has run for 7 seasons now, and during that time shows come along that are the sensation of the moment – AoT, SAO, etc. – and the reaction for me is always the same: it's amazing how much better the writing is in H x H. No cartoon villans, no throwaway characters, no awkward pacing – just brilliance, week after week after week.

  5. i

    The only shows which I would put of the same ilk as H x H are probably SSY and Stein's Gate, in that both have brilliant pacing, better characters and the real villains.

  6. i

    In H x H's runtime.

  7. G

    As soon as he handed Gon his father's Hunters Badge I knew he was dead. To me that was the death flag that made it a done deal. I kinda almost think Kaitou knew he might not get our of this situation.

  8. m

    i can't agree. the only character that's better in steins; gate is hououin kyouma, and he isn't on par with gon on killua in characterization even. and SSY characters kind of suck, i'm sorry. but suspense in SSY is better i guess. so far.

  9. m

    gon or killua*

  10. B

    The music and voice acting was really awesome this episode. That final scene with a Gon full of hope who remotivates Killua was heartbreaking.

  11. c

    Not that this makes a huge difference to your post, but it might be worth noting that most of the death flags were added by Madhouse, not Togashi. Honestly, the first half of the episode was mostly anime-original (ie: filler), although I don't blame 'em since the ended the episode at a perfect moment. In the general, the anime has been doing a lot of things explicitly to lead up to Kite's death, that weren't in the manga. It's been pretty effective in a general sense, but as a manga-reader who knows what's coming it was kind of interesting to see all the "obvious-in-hindsight" foreshadowing added to the story.

  12. C


    My entire reaction to something I ALREADY knew was coming :'(

  13. A

    This episode was unbelievably powerful. It worked on every single level…and like Carrie.Lyn, I already knew what was happening !

  14. j

    I knew it! Last week's preview set up death flags all over the place. It's a pity Kite had to die with the 'he could have fought better if he had been alone' excuse. Then again, given how Pitou seemed pretty much unscratched, we can assume it was an overwhelming win for Pitou, so that in turn leaves you to think Kite's arm loss wouldn't have made a difference – so it's not so bad after all haha. Really though, no mention about this week's preview?

    Biscuit. That is all.

  15. A

    WHAT THE………..there are no words to describe this beauty of an anime. The way it switched the tone from inspiring to demoralizing is brilliant. The anime must be headed by a guy who knows HxH inside out. Most of the times the filler seems like Togashi wanted to help digest what was to follow, even if Togashi didn't actually write it. Madhouse, keep it up and Togashi keep on writing HxH taking as much time as you want. You are a rarity in this time of coma-inducing plot lines (looking at you, Naruto). He hits every note so perfectly he elevates a simple form of art into something ethereal.

    My favourite regular anime ever, and that is no small praise, considering I have digested almost every form of anime from DB to Gantz. But still, top will always be Truth and Betrayal OVA.

  16. A

    I saw Biscuit and a lot of new characters in the preview, it looks promising.

    I like this abrupt change in the arc. It seemed like they were going to keep hunting ants in NGL for a while, but suddenly Gon and Killua are out of the country, and the challenge is become stronger and defeat the assasins.

  17. f

    "Both are terrified of course, but Gon, in seeing what's happened to Kaitou, lapses into a state of pure rage and gathers his aura about himself. "

    You know that moment in DBZ, were the Z-fighters were getting smashed by the Cell Jr.s, then 16 got smashed? That's what that moment reminded me of; Gohan releasing total anger and power, radiating immense power. If a lost arm had that effect from Gon, can't even imagine what'll happen when he finds out he's already dead. If this was typical shounen series, I'd be reluctant to believe he's actually dead, or, there is some instant-revive type crap that can be used(there ARE all sorts of Nen users out there), but here? I think he's gone for good. And even if he has that Gohan moment in the future, it will mean moot. I randomly recalled two moments in this series; waaaaay back in the exam arc when Gon tried to give Hisoka back his plates, and in the York Shin arc, when Kurapica and Gon attempted to give chase to the Spiders, but Kuroro, Machi, and Shizuka ended up catching them(well, Gon and Killua); pride and anger amounts to nothing if you don't have the skill and stratagems to defeat your opponent. No matter how pissed Gon gets, if he doesn't get strong enough, it's useless, esp considering the times where he got the most aura off were when he calmed himself.

  18. A

    I think at that point Gon was more like Vegeta when Trunks got killed by Cell, if he went in he woulda just made the situation worse as he correctly analyzed after(like how Gohan lost his arm).

  19. D

    You nailed it at the end of the paragraph.

  20. D

    Of the last paragraph.

  21. g

    This episode was just… I dont know… Im just speechless.
    And there are people saying things are just getting started?
    The King is supposed to be even stronger than those bodyguards?

    This tension is simply killing me!

    I just can't stand it anymore. Enzo, the way you write your admiration for this series is something incredible. This week's episode plus your review were the last push I needed to go and read the manga.

    I cant believe I simply stopped following this series back then when the first adaptation ended.

  22. J

    It's funny. Here we see Killua as the one with the level head. Clearly he made the right decision in running cause when I saw Kite's arm fly off I thought to myself "you boys better be out of there". It's funny cause I think Killua has a certain level of conceit when it comes to his abilities that can put him in harms way. But when it comes to Gon, he always becomes the rational thinker.

    The friendship between these two boys always makes me laugh when I think, they're the best friends Naruto and Sasuke could never be haha.

    I still can't believe Kite's dead though. That really irked me seeing how powerful that cat was, especially since I though Kite was hot shit.

  23. K

    It's not even when it comes to Gon, Killua is a very good judge of power. He knows when he's outclassed. Killua has been shown to waver when in the presence of people with strong malice. Which is why he tried to prove himself against Nobunaga and realized he couldn't

  24. S

    Lol i know what spin number 3 was. but im not telling. I hope the popularity of the show will inspire tagashi to come back from hiatus and continue writing hxh. The best part of the chimera arc has yet to come yall dont even KNOW! dont spoil this by reading the manga. if anything go back after the chimera ant arc and read it. Best Arc in anime history

  25. B

    I think he's continuing writing, just in a snail pace. Handing it over to Shueisha and get it publish however, is another thing….

  26. m

    all manga readers are gloating LOL, makes me too excited for what's coming. i kind of regret watching this now, and not all in one shot after the arc ends.

    and to think back on how ging actually foresaw how kaitou would have been a good hunter, and he actually is… he is TOO GOOD. i really really didn't want him to die >< maybe his slot no.3 would have saved him somehow… feint death or something, i don't care if it's lame at this point

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