Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 90

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That was definitely an episode for the Nen geeks in the audience.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.  It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and them that takes.

Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1

I have a confession to make: I spent much of Knuckle’s explanation of his power looking pretty much like this.  Unlike our little friend Gon I had the luxury of researching Knuckle’s power online after the episode was over, but in the moment it was a dizzying stream of numbers and initials even for Togashi. I continue to be amazed at the way Nen special attacks are like snowflakes – no two are alike.  It could be said that for the most part, they tend to reflect the personalities of their wielders – so was that true in Knuckle’s case?

This episode was very simply and neatly staged – the first half was Gon’s fight with Knuckle, the second Killua’s with Shoot (neither of them completed, unsurprisingly).  Of Shoot we knew even less than Knuckle, where at least we knew this – even without breaking out his special ability (and I don’t mean his killer math attack, which Gon is weak against), he was still able to defeat Gon with relative ease.  At first glance his attack (while the details were a jumble, the gist of it was clear enough) seems quite unlike him.  Knuckle is hot-heated and quick to anger – his attack is effectively an accounting scheme.  Via the use of the “Amortizing Power Redirector” or A.P.R. for short – but you can call him “Potclean“, which is cuter – he “loans” his aura to his opponent.  Problem is he’s a loan shark – 10% interest accrued every 10 seconds (!).  Knuckle’s attacks do no physical damage – they simply loan more aura to the opponent.  But the opponent’s attacks do no damage to Knuckle either – they only “pay back” the aura he’s loaned out.  And until the loan is repaid in full, no attack can harm Knuckle.

Seriously, where does Togashi keep pulling this stuff out of?  The upshot of all this is if the opponent’s debt exceeds his total aura, he goes “bankrupt” (hakoware – literally, to break the bank).  Then, A.P.R. turns into the Individual Ren Suppressor (or “Toritaten” a kind of gremlin that attaches itself to the victim for 30 days and forces them into Zetsu mode. In a sense this weird attack does seem in character for Knuckle – it’s relatively humane and isn’t in itself going to kill anybody.  And there’s no question that Knuckle (who’s apparently a math whiz to be able to do all those calculations on the spot) gives Gon yet more valuable training by telling him about MOP (Maximum aura Output Potential), POP (Potential aura Output Power) and AOP (Actual aura Output Power).  But in truth, leaving a Nen user defenseless for 30 days could be close to a death sentence, depending on the circumstances.

This is an odd fight, in that it’s very clear neither of the “enemies” the boys are facing relish the idea of hurting them.  I find myself torn about who to root for, in fact, mostly because I know Gon and Killua must eventually triumph.  For Gon the Knuckle battle is about mutual respect and continuing to learn and grow – ultimately a positive and forward-moving experience, as Gon’s struggles usually are.  By contrast, Killua’s main opponent continues to be himself – which is not to say that Shoot isn’s also formidable.  He’s a strange one, to be sure – if anything, Shoot seems even more soft-hearted than Knuckle when it comes to inflicting damage.  But his ability (Manipulator) has a disturbing, sinister quality to it.  A green aura (have we seen that before?), three floating hands, and a cage.  He says specifically that he chose an ability which “cannot be initiated unless I inflict damage.  That way I would only fight against opponents I wouldn’t regret hurting.”

Just what the heck does that mean, exactly?  I’m not sure – but we see some indication of what it can do when one of the hands lands a punch on Killua’s face, leaving behind a growing shadow which eventually engulfs his left eye.  That together with the aura makes me thing of gangrene or some sort of creeping rot, but in any case Killua’s instincts are right in telling him that keeping those hands from touching him at all costs is a priority.  Problem is those same instincts are telling him “Run!”.  His curse, personified by Illumi, is telling him always to flee when he doesn’t understand the strength of the opponent.  Meanwhile Jojo-Bisky’s voice is also in his head, telling him to stand and fight – not to search for ways to escape defeat, but to win.  This conflict causes him to react slowly, and gives the clearly soft-hearted Shoot a moment’s hesitation at attacking a potentially defenseless opponent – his own weakness, as he describes it.

It’s very Togashi-like, somehow, to spend so much of a fight focused on the weaknesses of the participants – but then, Nen itself is built around the concept of limitations (as we learned in York Shin). Killua’s struggles are always hard to watch, but when his despair is so plainly etched into his face as it is during the battle with Shoot it’s almost heartbreaking.  Bisky’s teachings really personify the concept of “tough love” – she’s harsh and seemingly cruel, but there’s a method behind it.  Forcing Killua to confront his own demons was something she had to do, despite knowing how much pain it would cause him.  It’s the spectre of leaving Gon’s side that drives Killua forward, or at the very least to hold his ground, when every instinct is telling him to flee.  What’s notable, in fact, is just how strong Killua has been despite this burden he carries – in effect he’s been fighting with one hand tied behind his back, but going up against this many hands he’s going to need every one he’s got.

This part of the story has been a respite from the unremitting darkness of the “Chimera Ant” arc – a sort of last gasp for struggles against opponents who respect you and play by the rules before returning to the living Hell of the NGL.  Knuckle and Shoot both possess the quality of mercy, and it is indeed not strained – both they and the boys are blessed by it.  But that makes them a perfect contrast to what lies ahead, and while Gon and Killua at least go into that struggle with their eyes open this time, it’s easy to be skeptical of whether they’re truly prepared to face it.  It’s impossible to forget that all the horrors we’ve seen from the chimera ants are the mere preamble, with the main event only possible after the arrival on the scene of the most powerful of them all.  If that’s not an unsettling thought I don’t know what is, and it places the civilized and almost collegial battle against opponents that Gon himself used the word “gentle” to describe in its proper perspective.

Note: Let’s avoid discussing the preview in the comments, in courtesy to those who avoid previews for possible spoilers.

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28 comments

  1. A

    It's really a good thing you didn't watch the preview. It spoils WAY too much.

  2. I did – I always do, even if I know there are spoilers. I more or less consider it part of the episode, so if they spoil they spoil. But that's no reason to ruin it for anybody who doesn't.

  3. e

    Gah Enzo that's one of my fav quotes. How strong is this Shakespeare Attack, my aura is gonna bust!
    And APR is so moe :,D *headdesk*.
    While the outcome of these two battles might look predictable – the boys have to go back to NGL and most likely they will – I trust Togashi will give us some nice little twist on the how. Between internal struggles and intriguing Nen abilities that's just so much potential.
    On the Ant side of things the Queen is a creepy as ever. But I get the feeling the King – Mr. Purple Eyes CA from the OP at 99,999999% – is gonna be born in a violently bursting, rip-mommy's-belly-open fashion. And that's another layer of horror. Togashiiiiii D,:

  4. I'm impressed with TogashI's knowledge of English acronyms. I get the impression the guy is some kind of OCD knowledge geek.

  5. e

    I get the impression you might get along if you ever happened to meet too :p.

  6. i

    I think he got ripped by some car loan and took his vendetta to manga. What a man. No one else would make a special attack based on accounting, or ever even think of it.

    "I find myself torn about who to root for, in fact, mostly because I know Gon and Killua must eventually triumph."

    Disagree, Knuckle at least is too awesome to not be involved in the fight against Chimera Ants. I think Knuckle and Killua will win but as Gon cannot continue, Killua will stay and let Shoot go. Both of the older Hunters were in the OP as well so I think they will go to NGL. Gon and Killua will surely find a way in though, Bisky might drag them in OR HISOKA (why isn't he appearing). They might even have to to escape the crazy lady.

  7. The crazy lady is lost in love for her boy in green – they have nothing to fear from her…

  8. S

    "I'm impressed with TogashI's knowledge of English acronyms. I get the impression the guy is some kind of OCD knowledge geek."

    One of my favorite subtleties in HxH is the name on Feitan's book back in York Shin. It gives you a pretty good idea of his personality outside of what we've seen.

  9. e

    @Ishruns:
    Hisocchi <3 .The Return Of The Mofo must not be uttered invain :,). Where and what he is doing who-knows-where when there are swarms of exciting deadly enemies to fight and destroy for his pleasure really.

    @Enzo: her ripping and stabbing crude sketches of them a couple of episodes ago notwithstanding… but when you phrase it like you did above can you blame her? Awesome boys in green are HHHNNNNG :,)

  10. S

    Enzo, what do you expect from the King?

  11. I expect him to basically be Gyro, otherwise there'd be no point to that extended flashback sequence of his life (and presumably, death). With that, I suspect a lot of the personality traits Gyro was shown to have. Apart from that I'm more than content to wait and find out.

  12. S

    Actually, about Gyro…the anime left out an important part of the flashback…

    http://img.batoto.net/comics/2011/08/10/h/read4e4261f0b2c54/09.jpg

    I don't know if they will include it somewhere in the future. If you are intrested the Gyro chapter is 204 (this episode adapted 211 and 212)

  13. K

    That's because they moved the flashback to earlier. In the manga, this flashback happens near this part of the story, so they will probably show it soon.

  14. M

    Regardless if they show it or not (I haven't read the manga) that doesn't mean Gyro's back story isn't relevant to the King.

  15. A

    Really, why would you tell him? You just felt like being a scumbag?
    Be patient and let him realise things watching the anime himself.

  16. G

    That long explination of Knuckle's power kinda took me out of the episode. First episode of this show I can ever remember not liking too much.

  17. d

    This is one episode makes one question the narrator's description of Shoot as a coward. It seems like Knuckle he lacks – perhaps even moreso – what here would be the virtue of ruthlessness. Ruthlessness that does not walk hand in hand with boldness and a taste for calculated gambling, together with the right skill set (see Netero), at the end of the day is reduced to that pale comparison – cruelty. Shoot seems to be much like Knuckle, truly decent. Difficult to agree with, but yes here on the way to NGL and worse, decency becomes the dangerous flaw Kite worried about.

  18. j

    I'm surprised no one seemed to love this episode as much as I did. Maybe I'm too much of a fanboy by now, haha.

    But My Oh My, Killua's fight had me at the edge of my seat. THAT'S how shounen fights should be! If your fighting to the death, you never reveal your cards to your enemy. It's part of the fun too: guessing with the hero what the enemy's attacks and weaknesses may be. Because of this, I groaned when Knuckle started explaining his powers.

    But as for Killua's fight…Gee, that was superb. The cool thing here is that the opponent knows nothing about Killua too, and they're both fighting against themselves and their fears (Shoot is clearly having a much better time conquering his fears than Killua).
    Also, Madhouse OUTDID themselves with how they played with your expectations – putting Killua's electric-guitar-theme-song when you thought he'd get over his fears and gain the upper hand in the battle, only to end abruptly when Shoot mysteriously got to know his next attack. PLEASE, PLEASE don't let Shoot explain his powers – let Killua figure them out!

    I'll guess things won't go win-win for our dear boys. Here are my bets, though some may be pretty obvious…I can't wait for next week now, dammit.
    -Killua will lose, go back to training and catch up with Gon later in the arc.
    -The scary woman won't kill Killua, teehee.
    -Gon will sort-of defeat Knuckle, but Knuckle's powers will prevent him from using Nen for some time.

    PS: Also, I never even thought people didn't watch the previews. Now that I think about it, I think I'll do the same.

  19. But with Knuckle it's not fighting to the death, I think that's the point. He keeps trying, over and over, to help Gon enough that he doesn't have to destroy him. He keeps giving Gon reprieves, and explanations, and outs. That's the essence of Knuckle's weakness, I suppose.

  20. j

    Sure, it's explainable with this opponent; I just wish all fights could get rid of that.

  21. A

    Awful spoilers in the preview, they ruined everything =S

    I didn't liked this episode so much. Knuckle vs Gon part was ok. But Killua's part was a bit "over the top". You know, like Shingeki no Kyojin, too exagerated. I think screaming like that doesn't fit Killua.

  22. K

    That was no where near Attack on Titan level stuff. I thought it made sense for the situation. Only Killua was trying so hard to break out of his habit and it became frustrating because he couldn't do it.

  23. j

    Well yeah, like Kamen Raider said, Killua was trying hard to overcome his fears, so it made sense that he did something so out-of-character.

  24. G

    btw… The Phantom Rouge moive comes out on DVD on 7/24, Wonder how long it will be before subbed copies of it appear online? I can't wait.

  25. M

    Watched it raw today actually, although I am surprised it hasn't been subbed yet.

  26. A

    Had to watch the episode twice to grasp Knuckle's explanation. Once more Togashi-sensei shows why he's one of the great mangakas..

    Also a shout out to your website, I noticed it's up there since the last week? Nice picture you chose for it, Enzo. :)

  27. Yeah, thanks – I rather like it!

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