Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 95

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That’s pretty much how you do an anime episode, just like that.  Got it?  Good.

The vagaries of the anime schedule are what they are – every week brings its ebb and flow, its ups and downs.  But then there’s Hunter X Hunter, which doesn’t torture us with three-minute recaps and brain-dead and offensive omake cartoons and clumsy expositional speeches.  All it does, week after week, is be great – and sometimes, like this week, completely and utterly glorious.  If the last episode amounts to what passes for an off week, that’s only further evidence of just how thoroughly this show is raising the bar.

Really, this ep pretty much had it all – sakuga animation, humor, tight-as-a-drum pacing.  And it had some of the strongest emotional moments we’ve seen in 95 episodes.  It’d be hard to overstate just how much it nailed every detail, all the way down to Palm.  I confess I didn’t notice her on the train and it was only when I saw her in the cafe that I rewound and looked for her.  And there she was, off by herself, her little black hearts floating into the ether as she stared at Knov.  That and the way Toritaten signed off after its 30-day assignment with Gon provided the biggest laughs of a pretty serious episode – proving again that no detail is too small for Togashi and Madhouse to go the extra mile and get it just right.

This episode was impressive in its scope, too, covering an astonishing range of plot without feeling rushed or overwhelming.  For starters there was the showdown between Knuckle, Morel and Cheethu – in which we learned at the very least that whatever human gave Cheethu part of their DNA liked baseball.  This was a pretty splendid battle, beautifully choreographed and animated, as each said felt the other out and sparred verbally as much as physically.  The turning point, as you’d expect, when was Knuckle managed to use Morel’s smokescreen and Gyo trickery to attach Potclean to Cheethu – it’s really almost an unfair attack in a way, so effective it is against those who don’t know about it.  His first taste of a Nen greater than his own definitely throws Cheethu off his game – it completely unnerves him, in fact – but his speed still presents a real challenge for Morel and Knuckle, and Cheethu’s fate is left somewhat surprisingly for another day.  The beast has been tagged, and now its movements can be tracked.

With that we turn to the main event of the episode, which is the meeting of Gon and Kaitou.  It’s fascinating in so many ways, not least because it reveals so much of Gon’s greatest strength and how it’s also a weakness.  Also revealed for the first time is Shoot’s true ability – “Hotel Rafflesia“, where he can capture all or part (like the eye of a young boy) of an opponent.  This is a hard scene to watch in many ways, both for its unsparing depiction of just how terrible is Kaitou’s fate, and for what it does to Gon.  Where other – and more experienced – Hunters would be able to harden their heart to such things, Gon not only feels them as deeply as ever but seems to revel in doing so.  This childlike purity of spirit is essential to Gon’s identity – it’s simply who he is, and while it’s certainly a vulnerability it’s also the source of his strength, and what draws others to him.

What makes this scene especially effective for me is the way the direction is very spare and simple.  Mostly, it’s just a focus on faces – first Gon’s, as we see it reflect a pain of the type it hasn’t before, not even when he broke down after losing to Knuckle and staying behind as the others returned to the NGL.  But Knuckle’s face is almost as memorable, because it reflects the compassion he feels for Gon.  Knuckle’s problem has been well-established – he’s too nice for his own good – but the pain he feels in watching Gon suffer is just as real as Gon’s pain, and does Knuckle a world of credit.  It’s not easy watching Gon allow Kaitou (or what remains of him) to pummel him mercilessly (thinking back to when Kaitou punched him when they first met), but the sense is that Gon is not just assessing what stands before him but punishing himself for what he sees as his own failure in allowing Kaitou to be lost.  Every blow strengthens Gon’s resolve to make this right, and he makes it very clear with his very un-Gon like declaration to Killua -“I want that one myself” – that he’s not the sort of person you want to piss off.

With that, the only question is whether the boys will be allowed to accompany the others back into the fray.  Morel weighs in on this – he says they’ve become “tigers” now, ready to take care of themselves – and even defends Gon when Knuckle and Shoot worry if he’s as ready as Killua is.  “He’s inconsistent” they argue, but Morel replies that he’ at least “consistently inconsistent” – and that he’s saving up his anger and energy to unleash it on the one who defiled his friend Kaitou.  When the moment comes, though, he demands one more demonstration of resolve from Gon – and in the process gets altogether more than he bargained for, including an apology from Gon that he “really was about to kill” Morel before Killua stepped in.   As for the matter of going against Netero’s orders in allowing the boys to fight, Knov falls back on the technicality that this order applied only to NGL, not East Gorteau.  That’s all well and good, but the old man does indeed, as Morel says, have long ears – just how he manages to know what’s being said about him from hundred of miles away I don’t know, but he still needs email to communicate the final plan to Knov.

It’s too early for this final battle to be the final battle, of course, but for now the stage is set – the others will split into three pairs (I might nitpick that there are actually seven of them, including Palm) and draw the Royal Guard away while Netero targets the King.  Showing adroit deception the royal party has used Pitou’s Nen control to animate the leader of East Gorteau and use him to order everyone in the country to gather in the capital “Peijing” (I guess Togashi-sensei is covering all bases with this satire) in ten days for what Colt has told the Hunters he believes is a screening process to harvest the Nen users among the populace, and to kill the rest.  But in the meantime, surprisingly, it seems we’re going to have a jarring change-of-venue to what I assume is Meteor City for a story centered on the Phantom Troupe.  Just how this ties in to the “Chimera Ant” plot I haven’t deduced but it’ll be interesting to see that lot again.  Oh, and the fujoshi-bait in the preview voice-over reaches a new level of innuendo…

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  1. P

    Guessing from the preview, I'd say that some of the wannabe-king Chimera Ants have found their way to Meteor City. If Cheethu could hold his own in a fight with two of the Hunter Association's elite, then we're in for some real fireworks when several of Chimera Ants of the same level run into the Phantom Troupe. It'll be interesting to see what they do in response — their loyalties obviously lie with the humans of Meteor City, and all humans face an existential threat from the Chimera Ants, so the obviously reasonable thing for them to do is to join forces with our heroes.

    Who knows, maybe we'll even see the return of Kurapika. I've missed him.

  2. Me too, but not as much as I've missed Hisoka…

  3. P

    It's obvious that Hisoka would be an amazing addition to this storyline, so I assume Togashi is just biding his time.

  4. e

    Eves makes one wonder something big must be happening somewhere else for Hisoka NOT to have jumped into the fray yet.
    Hisoka where art thou? I'm in elastic love withdrawal.

  5. K

    Remember Hisoka is busy with Chrollo.

  6. S

    Did anybody really get the impression that the Troupe cared about anybody but themselves? Sure, their loyalties are with Meteor City, but they never really came across as Meteor City's personal attack squad. Besides, given everybody's reactions to the needle in the previous episode, if the Troupe came out of nowhere and stomped the King and pals into the ground, even I'd be crying foul. And I was ok with the needle business!

  7. L

    My impression on the Troupe showing up sounds more like a reminder on what's going on the other parts of the world. The Ant influence had spread quite far that even the Troupe had the chance to encounter them. The Troupe aren't fighting the Ants for humanitarian reasons but rather more as a territorial issue or maybe even self defense.

    Judging from the Kurapika oneshot manga, they are extremely protective of their "belongings"

  8. F

    One of my favourite moments from this episode was when Kunckle asks Killua what did they do to change so much in such a short time. Killua's response is especially chilling 'They're the ones who changed us'

  9. Yeah, that was a good line.

  10. F

    This arc looks to be all about Gon and Killua growing up and finding themselves. Killua's first step was to break free of his families hold, now he needs to deal with his psychological issues and move forward. Gon first step was to accept his weakness, now he needs to grow strong enough to forgive himself. Bring it on!

  11. M

    I was thinking just the same. It's such a powerful line!

  12. H

    Looks really good. Need to start watching this…soon!

  13. G

    It's going to kill me when this series ends. I know I can always look forward to a great series on Sat. nights. I don't read the manga and we are now way past where the old series ended so are there any other arcs for this series once the Chimera Ant arc ends?

    Also I thought Palm's little black hearts were for Gon, didn't occur to me it was for her master.

  14. There's a small arc after this one ends (no details please, manga readers) but nothing that would keep the show going for too long.

    As for Palm, it seemed to me that by the end of the last ep, she was saying "Knov is the only one for me" so I just assumed they had his name on them.

  15. i

    'brain-dead and offensive omake cartoons' – uh greed island?

    GE I really think you should stop trying to predict HxH, it is absolutely unfathomable. And considering how Togashi likes to break apart genres I can see him doing much the same in this arc. 3 pairs for 3 guards you say? Togashi will surely introduce a few more on both sides.

    There's only one way to predict HxH and that is to read the manga or spoilers.

  16. I certainly found the Greed Island omakes neither offensive nor brain-dead – I though they were generally hilarious, in fact.

  17. e

    @Ishruns: I was positive Enzo was actually hinting with that at another beloved series he also regularly blogs and at its recent grief-inducing additions…

  18. e

    Correction: the series hinted at must be at least two. That one and another big one :p

  19. Actually, I only had one show in mind with the brain-dead and offensive omake comment. And you probably know which one.

  20. i

    So what you're saying is that though both are Omakes, one is brain-dead while the other is hilarious?

    Well that's your opinion, but I generally find all Omakes involving Chibis stupid.

    @elianthos80, I don't watch 'specials' or 'BD/DVD extras' unless its a full episode so I wouldn't know what series you're talking about.

  21. e

    @Enzo: the omake bit is pretty clear*, the recap&speech bit made me think more of another series I'm admittedly a few episode behind watching so it might have improved on that front in the meantime…
    *and every time by contrast I'm sorely missing my Shirokuma Café :,).

    @Ishruns: the series in question has the omake included in its regular TV broadcast already. Truthfully I can't reall atm if you're watching it too.

  22. e

    Thou shall not made The Green Hotpants Cutie angry. Evarrrr.
    I tend to find Killua a pretty transparent character and Gon much harder to read. Not this week. Gon and his emotional intensity here actually reminded me of a few childhood moments… maybe is a good thing we don't have Nen to backup our own nuclear souls.
    Shoot's ability as finally shown more in detail is peculiarly creepy. But when Kite – or rather his shell – came out the creepy joined the devastating. Togashi dammit D,:.
    On the Kil-now-sans-needle front it was a very good touch (sorry) the way he stopped Gon.

    Palm and her little black hearts – I managed to spot her at once ahah – cracked me up. She's back to 'normal' it seems. Am I missing something or she's not officially in any team? Is she going to tag/stalk along? ^^"
    I'm pretty curious to see her going full power for non-insane reasons I admit. We've just only glimpsed at her abilities so far. And who knows she could display some serious emotional development and humanizing too along the way just like you seemed to hope for last week Enzo.

  23. T

    For me the funniest moment was when Gon apologized for getting ready to kill morel, toriten didn't do much for me sadly~

    As far as Omakes goes, I generally don't think much of them, either I laugh or I don't, they only last a few seconds anyway so I don't really care. When I think about it I have a lot of apathy for things that seem to piss off most anime fans…

  24. K

    I know Morel was abiding by Gon's desire but, is it really smart to pair Gon and Killua against Pitou? Morel and Knov are the strongest there and they're fighting one guy. No doubt Palm will be there too.

  25. It did occur to me that Morel and Knov should, at the least, split up so that one of the strongest is with one of the students. But it seems as if those two have abilities which especially complement each other.

  26. L

    well morel and knov are up against someone who can read thoughts so i can imagine the reason why they might want to team up. Maybe even Palm's rather unstable mindset playing a role in this one

  27. A

    The inclusion of the sound piece when Gon faced Killua was masterful, so fitting to the setting. Do you know what track is it? It's not in the latest soundtrack compilation.

    And this episode was monumental. The fight with Ceethu and of course, we finally get to see Kite in his current state… powerful stuff..

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