Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 87

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If you were expecting Togashi to keep the morality of this arc simple, you were definitely barking up the wrong tree.  The guy doesn’t do simple.

There was really no way the “Chimera Ant” arc could remain as relentlessly dark and morose as it was for it’s first ten episodes or so.  Those episodes took Hunter X Hunter to places it’s never been before, not even during the very seinen-like and existentially depressing “York Shin” arc.  Those ten eps were creepy, scary, tragic, suspenseful – you name it – and I have no doubt that H x H is going to top itself in those areas many times before this long storyline is said and done.

What I always figured was that “Chimera Ant” – like “York Shin” – couldn’t be an unbroken chain of horror and sadness.  There’s simply too much positive energy stored up in Gon, and positive emotion in his relationship with Killua, for some of it not to come out.  They didn’t 180 the atmosphere here just by appearing as they did in YS – for one thing, they’ve been a part of this arc since the beginning, and for another their roles in this arc have been much more subdued as they’ve displayed a sense of maturity that was absent in York Shin.  But you knew, sooner or later, there had to be something more than death and tragedy in “Chimera Ant” and Hunter X Hunter’s credentials as a forward-thinking adventure story would assert themselves at least for brief stretches.

The irony isn’t lost on me that this change has come about on the heels and as a direct result of the most personally-felt tragedy of this arc, the death of Kaitou – nor that even as the tone with Gon and Kil has brightened events with Pitou are taking the story into potentially its darkest territory yet.  But change the tone undeniably has.  Part of that is the arrival of Bisky, who immediately instills the story with a jolt of comedy and whose stern maternal concern frees up the boys to act like kids again.  But Knuckle Bine is  a big part of it too.  He’s a classic Togashi character in that his appearance belies his nature, and he too is someone whose presence is a catalyst for Killua and especially Gon to show off the more noble and idealistic sides of their nature.

It’s been clear since the first meeting with the dog in the park that Knuckle was a brash talker with a heart of gold.  One of the fundamental tenets of the H x H universe is that animals and their instincts are to be trusted more than people, and like Gon Knuckle is beloved by beasts.  But he’s also sentimental to the point of public displays of tears which clearly embarrass him, and takes his role as a Beast Hunter seriously enough that he dislikes the idea of a mission to eliminate the Chimera Ants until more is known about them.  It’s clear Knuckle’s reputation as a “softy” both precedes him (it’s likely the reason he was left behind) and is obvious to keen observers – Killua has already pegged him as one.

It’s easy to mock Knuckle’s view about the ants as naive and it’s likely to be proved wrong, but as with Morel’s lecture to Killua I don’t believe this is something Togashi intends to be viewed as a black and white, right or wrong issue.  As I’ve said before the Chimera Ants are fundamentally different from the likes of the Phantom Troupe or Genthru in that their basic motivation is simply to survive and expand their species.  Their goals put them fundamentally at odds with humans, we find their actions horrifying (from our perspective they certainly are), and there are those among them who behave cruelly for the pleasure of it – a trait they mostly inherited, it must be said, from their human genes.  But for the most part they’re more than anything else a rival – a rival for humanity’s place at the top of the evolutionary totem pole, and one who uses humanity’s best and worst traits as part of their arsenal.  Togashi has created an utterly fascinating conflict here, even by his lofty standards.

In purely practical terms, Knuckle represents an obstacle for Gon and Killua, plain and simple – each has something the other needs to proceed – and sentiment (Gon clearly comes to like him quickly and vice-versa) can’t change that fact.  Knuckle makes the same mistake most make – he takes a look at the boys and radically underestimates their strength, to the point where he offers to let Gon punch him as many times as he wants to try and make him move a single step, after which he’ll surrender his token.  In this case it isn’t simply a matter of size but the fact that the kids are clearly exhausted – Biscuit has sent them to him immediately after they’ve utterly drained themselves finally mastering their three-hour Ren exercise, with instructions on how to effectively cheat and rig the contest in their favor.  But will power is Gon’s strength even more than Nen, which Knuckle finds out to his great discomfort.  Fortunately Gon is as sporting as he is strong and not only declines to take a token he hasn’t won in a fair fight, but drags Knuckle back to the hotel to sleep it off and eat a hearty breakfast (I suspect Kil would have gladly taken the token if it’d been up to him, but Gon and Knuckle appear to be soul-mates).

Gon’s decision proves to be as fortuitous for us as it does for Knuckle, because it gives Madhouse a chance to show off still more of the astonishing “Sakuga” animation that’s marked every fight in this series.  If this one isn’t as tense as some of the others because we know neither Gon nor Knuckle would go so far as to kill the other, the action itself is still spectacular – and it proves that even two-on-one, Knuckle is more than a match for the boy prodigies.  What we know of course is that the both of them are relentless and learn with astonishing speed (and as Knuckle observes, they take huge leaps of confidence with every threshold achieved) but the wild card is (presumably) Shoot McMahon, the other assassin Netero referenced.  He seems to be cut from quite a different cloth from Knuckle, and has correctly guessed that Knuckle has taken a shine to the kids – and it’s clear he intends to act on his own as soon as Knuckle sends them on their way, beaten, to keep training for another day.  We know almost nothing about Shoot but given that both he and Knuckle are disciples of Morel it would hardly be surprising to learn an intense rivalry existed between them – at the very least he seems unburdened by any sentiment that would give him pause in doing whatever was necessary to take the boys’ tokens and get into the game as quickly as possible.

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21 comments

  1. N

    You wrote a lot! You are really a huge fan of the series.

  2. n

    As a fellow fan of the series, Enzo's posts are always an awesome read.

  3. C

    I wish they would start making 1 hour episodes, because 20 minutes simply isn't enough anymore. HxH is clearly above that. >_<

    As for the episode, I don't like that they excluded Knuckle's 2nd line when punched by Gon.
    He was suppose to confirm that his trust wasn't misplaced ("You didn't let me down") when making the suicidal assumption that Gon would go for the gut. Without that, the moment seemed impossible to understand until I referenced the manga.

    Also:
    I'd like to say this is my first time posting with a blogger-profile. Made it specifically for your site.

    I loved your insight on how Kite's gripes about his own ability was actually his reluctance to kill. That had never occurred to me at all. Keep it up. :)

  4. G

    Each week HxH is the fastest 20 minutes of anime. It always goes by in the blink of an eye.

    The long haired scary girl seemed surprised that Knuckle liked the food. Did she cook it? I wonder if she and knuckle will come to like each other?

    The flying ant (forget his name) and the penguin ant seem like pretty decent folks and if not for the fact they are eating humans under different circumstances they could have been friends with Gon and Kihlua.

  5. Thank you, nosajj and Cheshire. I agree, that line does make a difference – I'll have to go back and listen again to see whether it was omitted altogether, or just from the subs.

  6. d

    I wouldn't group Genthru and the Phantom Troupe on one side and the Chimera Ants on another. The Phantom Troupe are from Meteor City which means they're throwaway people from a town for discards. Meteor City is the stand in for the favelas and slums of our world. The rules of existence are different. What is the moral scale of a first worlder in comparison to a measure from that life? Excluding Feitan and Phinks, the Phantom Troupe get the same pass as certain Chimera Ants (some like Rammot, not so much). Their motives run in contrast to the rest of the world; what they both do is upset the status quo. From a different angle, I agree; Togashi won't do easier either. Sometimes there's that suggestion that heroes are unwitting lackeys of the powers that be.

  7. Well, you're right in that the P.T. is quite different than Genthru in myriad ways, and I didn't make that clear. However, I would argue that they get a pass from some viewers, to some extent, based on being extremely charismatic. Yes, they come from the refuge of society, but they're still brutal mass murderers who steal for a living. Having their background and their internal sense of loyalty makes them much more interesting, but it doesn't morally excuse their lifestyle, IMHO.

  8. U

    This is not too important but as of this episode the official subs have declared Pitou a female.

  9. There's nothing "official" about them – Togashi and Madhouse have no control over what CR does. All it means is that the CR subber thinks that, or more likely that they think that's what the English-speaking audience wants to hear (which is pretty common for CR subs).

  10. C

    Those aren't official subs. lol

    This is just another case of unofficial subs opting to what they believe instead of trying to keep the message 100% accurate – Perpetuating the misinformation people prefer because of their comfort zones.

    Here's to hope of an English dub line that explicitly questions Pitou's gender so that those fans can have their minds blown further. 😛

  11. N

    Pitou's gender is not official. It's logical to think it's female. Those who claim it is male base not real arguments. If MH really wants to be faithful they won't change its gender like that and it looks even more feminine in the anime so Pitou is surely female.

  12. I've already dealt with this, but I'll restate my thinking just one more time for anyone that missed and after that, I'm done with the topic unless there's new information.

    1. The official H x H databook (which has Togashi’s name on the cover) refers to Pitou as “he” (I’ve seen the pages in question).
    2. Pitou in the manga uses “boku”, a generally masculine pronoun, to refer to himself.

    Therefore, absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I assume Pitou is male because that was Togashi’s intention. And given his history of drawing feminine-looking males, it’s hardly a surprise. What CR says is irrelevant. If Madhouse were to make it indisputably clear they’ve changed Pitou’s gender for the anime, I’d start referring to Pitou as female. Until then I defer to Togashi’s wishes.

    So yes, the gender is "official" – a book with Togashi as the credited author says Pitou is male. If you don't think he wrote (or even read) the actual manuscript, fine – but not only is it official, it's the only official word on the subject. For me, case closed.

  13. A

    Pitou's gender topic is really tiring. People spend pages and pages discussing Pitou's gender in forums, even with all the interesting things happening in this arc.

    It was kind of funny to see her having his little Dr. Frankenstein moment this week. I wonder how he got all the machines.
    And you gotta love Biscuit and her trainings "Ok, you're exhausted, now get going".

  14. T

    Wow this episode went by so fast… I want more!

    What I truly love about this series is how I can't predict what will happen next and I can even see the previews!(because they trick you). Togashi you are magnificent!

    OK now to employ some thinking: Enzo, knowing how Hunter X Hunter isn't truly shounen, do you think Gon and Killua will stand a chance against the strongest of the chimera ants after they are finished with their training? personally I don't think so. their aura training is progressing nicely, but even after they have completed it, I just can't see them getting close to Pitou's level. In terms of Nen abilities, again, I can't see them mastering something powerful enough under a month. good now to my point. ever since I saw that the chimera ants can utilize Nen, I saw the only way this arc is gonna end with Gon and Killua's victory – is by introducing the dreadful Deus ex machina. knowing Togashi, it will be done thoughtfully, but it will still be a Deus ex machina. What do you think?

  15. A

    Well, the strongest Chimera Ants can be defeated by Ging or somebody. They don't need to be defeated by Gon and Killua.

  16. I'm reluctant to wade into that, Tomar, because it seems to be spoiler-baiting. So I'll defer except to say I certainly don't expect Gon and Killua to defeat the top boss on their own.

  17. T

    Thanks for the reply Enzo. I forget to mention that I don't read the manga but I understand your reason not to comment on that.

  18. e

    *clinging to the oh-so-transient blessing of a decent connection to pull a watching marathon* in the deep of the night I'm deeply taken by DAT PUPPY. Those impossibly shiny aww-moe round eyes. They heal my soul. (Btw: what does the animals reaction says about Hisocchi if there ever was any need? I still remember how far away any creature ran back in complete terror in episode #16. Save for the blood butterfly… ) . And those manly tears. How precious. Also food! Giant human meatballs and Palm's culinary prowess, each carrying their own brand of delish and menace according to one's mileage and species.
    The episode pingponged in tone very smoothly from the Ants &Netero squad (Kite in a test tube. And blood vials. This isn't going well…) camp to the boys&Biscuit one, an as usual it nailed all the little details like both analogies and differences in Gon and Killua's ways of thinking (and the related facial expressions. Ahah).

    Of course LJ is under maintenance now of all times that I'm trying to post my comments. Joy. Time to copy&paste under every post of interest. Sorry for the possible pseudo-spam effect once the site is back up Enzo.

  19. e

    P.S.: Ashita no Joe iconic moment nod spotted! http://lh5.ggpht.com/-VGE5VlKUo3Y/UdkRzjHN-oI/AAAAAAADQX8/GMRDOcNUZOs/s1600-h/Hunter%252520X%252520Hunter%252520-%25252087%252520-22%25255B2%25255D.jpg
    I wonder if it was in the manga already or it's a Madhouse quirk.

  20. In the manga. AnJ seems to be a "mangaka's manga" – a favorite of many inside the industry.

  21. e

    It makes sense. It was huge and affecting in Japan… and among European kids too in the same decade. I barely made it in time age-wise to watch some of it while it was still broadcast on local channels and those few episodes still managed to leave a mark among thousands of series. You can actually date people – in sensibility if not always by ID age – by their iconic anime/manga. I belonged more to the RoV and '80s Studio Pierrot's titles than to the AnJ-Grendizer-Matsumotoverse one but I still enjoyed the episodes I managed to stumble upon. And Ribon no Kishi.
    AnJ is one of those titles that's quite a darling of a few comic artists and manga publishers here as well :). It's quite fascinating to see how truly seminal and shared some titles are isn't it?

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