Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 96

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Meanwhile, in Meteor City…

Come on, surely you’re going to trust Togashi-sensei unreservedly by now.  With most authors, leaving the main story at one of its most suspenseful junctions ever right at the close of a fantastic and emotional episode would seem to be folly.  Not to mention abandoning the cast you’d been following for months to touch in with side characters who’ve been absent for the entire arc, and antagonists at that.  Crazy, desshou?  But this is Togashi, and we know two things for sure about him if we know anything – he’s utterly brilliant, and he rarely does anything conventionally.

The Phantom Troupe is a pretty remarkable auxiliary cast, that’s for sure.  Villains without a doubt, but such utterly fascinating ones – even without the presence of their most fascinating member, Chrollo (who’s sadly not a part of this plot twist, apparently, and neither is Hisoka – who’s presumably searching for him).  Togashi introduces so many truly great characters that you wish they could all find a place in every episode but that’s obviously impossible – he’s basically ignored half of what looked to be the main characters for over half the series, after all.  But I think he sensed an opportunity here that was simply too good to pass up.  In a single turn of the pen, he can:

  • Show the extent to which the Chimera Ant menace has spread
  • Give us an origin story for the Spiders, bringing us at last to their legendary birthplace of Meteor City
  • Give several Spiders a chance to show just how damn GAR they are
  • Showcase Kalluto Zoldyck, who’s been briefly teased as a character in both the “Zoldyck Family” and “Greed Island” arcs but never truly gotten a chance to show off
  • Take a breather from the preposterously intense (both in terms of action and emotion) main story and show us something that’s undeniably dark, but has less a sense of despair and consequence

It all makes a ton of sense, really – it’s just that few mangaka would have thought of it, and fewer still had the kintama to follow through.  But that’s rarely a problem with the Phantom Troupe, who have plenty to spare.  It’s fascinating how we generally see the Spiders in subsets, rarely all together – there are various fault lines hinted at, such as seniority and – less obviously – a general sense of who the more and less “evil” of the bunch are.  In fact of the original members I believe only Feitan is with the group we see here, who also seem to generally identify as the more wicked of the bunch – certainly Nobunaga and to a lesser extent both Machi and Franklin (all absent) seem to have more of a sense of conventional honor than the others, though despite obvious tensions in the group there’s clearly a powerful loyalty to all their fellow Spiders.  All of the Spiders we see this week were also in “Greed Island”, as it happens – though in this instance they’re engaged in a somewhat more high-stakes mission.

The role of the Spiders as benefactors in Meteor City has been suggested directly, and here we see the proof – when Meteor City comes under deadly attack from Chimera Ants, the local authorities call on them for help just as Mitene called in the Hunter’s Association and the Mafia Dons the Shadow Beasts.  Meteor City is a refuge for the refuse of society, garbage dump for the world, off the grid, and home to millions who survive by scavenging the refuse that’s dumped there.  Phinks (sporting his immodest Pharaoh garb), Shalnark, Feitan, Bonolenov, Shizuku and Kalluto (who seems to have grown quite a bit) arrive to help, and find that the Chimera Ants aren’t just killing their victims, but turning some into hideously mutated slaves.  This is the work of Zazan, who’s set up her nest in the ruins of a castle and calls herself the Queen.

It’s worth noting that when the Troupe (as is often the case with this faction, Phinks acts like he’s in charge) comes a-calling, they go through the front door – disdaining stealth as both unnecessary and beneath their dignity.  Basically, this ep is a chance to show off just how beastly the Spiders are, including some – like Bonolenov, who haven’t had much of a chance to do so before.  Of him we learn that he’s a Bapu warrior, from a tribe who have holes drilled in their bodies at three years old so they turn into human musical instruments, using sound as both a battle hymn and a weapon itself.  He’s a creepy one, is Bonolenov.  We have seen Phinks and Shalnark fight before, but they reveal attacks we haven’t yet seen.  For Phinks it’s the “Ripper Cyclotron“, an Enhancer skill where he winds his arm to add strength to his punches (15 times is “more than twice” as much as needed to dispatch a Chimera Ant captain).  For Shalnark it’s “Autopilot” (clearly an homage to DBZ) – a last resort attack where he uses one of his own needles to control himself to perform a specific task that would normally be beyond his abilities.  It’s easy to see why he prefers not to use it.

Shizuku and Feitan are in action as well, and Feitan has actually found his way to Zazan herself, while Shizuku is taking on our old arachnid friend Pike – but the focus of the latter part of the episode is on the new #4, Kalluto.  First, though his Chimera opponent (as I did at first) calls him a girl, Kalluto is definitely established to be a boy – albeit a rather elegantly-dressed one.  We’ve seen little if any of his abilities (he keeps them secret even from his newfound allies, as Phinks points out) but he’s apparently a Manipulator and origami master, using paper as his weapon of choice.  Through tiny scraps he keeps tabs on his fellow Spiders – Phinks has promised that whoever kills the “Queen” first will be temporary leader – and he uses confetti and his “Meandering Dance” (or Serpent’s Bite) to slice and dice his opponent.  He also flashes us a chilling smile as he finishes off his victim – something we see rarely from the Spiders (Hisoka is an exception though no longer – and arguably never – a member, and Shalnark just smiles all the time).  Kalluto is still very much an enigma, but he’s already established himself as a scary little man.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s the same one the Shadow Beasts learned – don’t mess with the Phantom Troupe.  Shizuku and Feitan are still in combat and Zazan is still alive, but it seems pretty obvious how this battle is going to turn out, and I expect it will probably wrap itself up next week.  The Spiders fill quite a unique role in Hunter X Hunter – or rather, they fill many roles.  Enemies they are, certainly, but as always with Togashi it’s not so simple.  More than anything, perhaps, they’re a center of power – one of many in this mythology that we’ve been introduced to, none of which can claim to have a clean moral slate.

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  1. i

    I have waited for spiders for so long but this… this isn't right. I wanted Hisoka to be bearing down on the royal guards or the chairman. It was awesome but I really want to see Hisoka coming into the picture. He's too awesome to not be included in an arc like this. Or maybe he just dislikes bugs…

  2. N

    Hisoka is no longer a spider. In fact, he was never one. They are just associates because they both want to help Chrollo .

    @Enzo: Feitan is not the only original member. There is also Phinks and Shalnark.

  3. Every source I've ever seen lists 7 original members (Chrollo, Nobunaga, Feitan, Franklin, Machi, Pakunoda and Uvogin), and Phinks and Shalnark aren't among them.

  4. S

    Enzo is right, those are the original members.

    They are seen in Pakunoda's flashback in York Shin arc.

  5. K

    I was confused by that because Paku even said Phinks and Shalnark were "Founding members"

  6. N

    Me too. If Paku said herself they were original members it must be true. Why would she lie in such a situation? I know it makes the reunion odd but nothing says it was their first.

  7. M

    Actually Pakunoda says she can shoot a maximum of six billets, which was enough for the founding members. By enough that still means she can have leftovers for the others members that aren't founding members.

  8. K

    Shizuka, Bonolenov, and Kurotopi weren't included in that though. The way it worded just made it seem like she meant everyone she shot was a founding member which is why she addressed them by name.

  9. S

    I actually enjoyed this episode more than in the manga.

    I agree with Enzo about the reasons and advantages of this sudden move away from the main story, but even so, reading 6 chapters of Ryodan fights in the manga was a bit boring.

    Instead, the anime can show this in a pretty dynamic way, and the fights become much more enjoyable. Also the soundtrack was really well used this week.

    By the way, at this point Togashi started naming the chapters by the numbers of days left for the final fight. This were the "10 days" chapters. Then it goes "9 days", "8 days", etc.
    Hope Madhouse keeps that in the anime somehow, maybe with the narrator, it set up a lot of hype in the manga.

  10. L

    Well, with this episode I'm officially caught up with HxH after a 2-week marathon. I'd praise it, but then I'd just be saying how Togashi is similar to Oda in terms of art and storytelling (which is a good thing). So… fun show, good characters, catchy music, fluid animation, etc.

    The one thing I have a problem with though: it's cool that Togashi likes games, but to use games and tests with arbitrary rules (as creative as they are and as necessary they are to the fun, whimsical atmosphere) so often, it's getting tiring. When Netero told Gon and Killua to go back and participate in the test to take down Knuckle, me and my friends' reaction was "WHAT? ANOTHER TEST??" It seems Gon's getting babied a bit, which IMO is just a veil for easy development and progress.

    There were many ways for Togashi to approach these, but several training arcs and tournament arcs later, I'm apt to knock Togashi down from brilliant to just great.

  11. K

    I wouldn't call it babying. Netero has shown he likes Gon and he clearly showed that he had a reason to fight them. So he was just doing what Gon was going to do anyway by giving him a way to prove himself. And it's not like he won either he made small improvements.

    If anything Togashi is brilliant because he doesn't let training arcs over power Gon or Killua. This episode showed how far they still are from the Troupe.

  12. L

    Yes, it's babying with justification, but I would still call it babying on Togashi's part, not Netero's. In other words, you forget that many others have played the same role throughout the anime so far, all following Togashi's inclusion of function-specific characters, like the mouthless suit guy, Wing, Biscuit, and Biscuit-again in almost back-to-back arcs.

    And avoiding power-inflation is a given with writers at Togashi's level; it's the overuse of the same plot device that I'm calling out. Whether he's brilliant or great depends on your tolerance of stagnation, but as of right now, I'm getting tired of it. And If the Chimera Ant king or Netero starts another of competition, I'd be even less likely to place Togashi near the top (because then it'd be another consecutive arc that's using the same device).

  13. T

    Well it sure beats Oda's never-ending power of will/friends and "he reminds me of Roger" stuff.

    How is testing them a bit babying? Togashi prefers storytelling to action, so instead of making them power-up instantly and go in for revenge immediately is not something to do in HxH. And having him actually lose 29 times to the guy?

    No. A 'veil' for easy development is having a certain jinchuuriki just decide to become your friend, it's powering up on the spot, it's the power of will found in every shonen bar HxH. Not A whole month of testing them and ANOTHER month for losing; 2 months for development. This is what keeps HxH way above third-rate shonen such as one piece and fairy tail.

  14. M

    I disagree. Many authors have a concept that they execute several different times. In that case it would be impossible to call anyone brilliant. It all matters by how you execute it.

  15. L

    Besides the Naruto thing, mostly everything else you say is off the mark. Oda and Togashi both use will and "reminds me of X" liberally (though Oda arguably uses the latter less often and has named a particular Will of D, but that's out of scope).

    Togashi isn't testing "a bit," he's using it very often. And you can argue that anything in a series is storytelling, but I think a more accurate way to phrase this is "Togashi likes training arcs over natural exposition." But I didn't have a problem with HOW Togashi handled any particular training arc, since he usually makes them fun and full of mindgames. It's just that I wish he'd use more varied methods, like he did in Yorknew City: the stakes were high, it was a look into professional Hunters' field work, and there was little sympathy between enemies WITHOUT the use of games, tests, competitions. The other arcs were: an exam with a tournament at the end, a tiered tournament, a game where spells can't directly harm a player, and a sequence of conditional, friendly fights between rivals-turned-friends. I understand it helps build HxH's fun atmosphere, but writers at Togashi's level shouldn't need to reuse the training+tournament arc this many times.

    As for the last paragraph: You've got the Naruto stuff right; you've got the HxH stuff wrong. Over my 2-week marathon, there have been more than a few times when willpower kept Gon and Killua up (and quite literally said so), so I assume you forgot it. (dunno what you're referring to with the 2 months thing).

    The other possibility is, looking at your name, you're trolling me and I realize that I might've taken the bait. :/

    I've said already that Togashi makes his repetitions fun, so what's the problem here? Besides this one gripe, the series is pretty nice and exciting; the world's expansive and persistent, the characters are top-notch.

  16. T

    1) How is training "unnatural", especially when it is needed to fill the immense gaps between 2 fighters?

    2) What is natural exposition then? When did one piece ever have it? Is it the random power of nakama?

    3) The difference between the 2 is that HxH incorporates the fighting into the context of the story; when fighting occurs, as little as there is, it is because the story calls for it. One Piece on the other hand has the action disjointed; it's "just there."
    You can tell just by looking at the recycled material in One Piece, every single arc repeats itself and has to, for some reason, just place a line-up of fights at the end, with no real purpose or justification more than a shallow "this is a boss fight."

    If HxH takes time to actually develop characters so that the fights don't seem like random filler, and that winning would make sense, that means the fighting system is valid and the intensity and excitement aren't nerfed by redundant power-ups that only 'look cool' to shonen fans.

    If this 'tournament" argument is all you got then I could easily say OP is one big tournament arc to find One Piece.

    So the first arc was the Hunter Exam, how were the stakes not high? Or Greed Island. How is it really any different? You haven't really explained how having these little games not 'storytelling', and the thing is that the environment alone was a game, NOT the stakes between fighters, Genthru did not just tell Gon to follow certain rules and go to greed island to fight, they just happened to be in such circumstances; in fact, GI is a summary of the structure of all One Piece, so I don't think you can even argue one piece isn't a tournament.

    Going back to my previous point (incorporating fights into the context), this is why even a friendly/training match like Knuckle vs Gon has better writing than the most serious fights in OP (Marineford, EL)
    Not to mention that those 'games' actually feel more dangerous than OP's 'real world' as you put it. (with no justification)

    As for willpower, no, they use it to mean actual will power, not giving up, as we saw with Gon not giving up when Hanzo beat him. Did he get stronger? No. Did he win? No.
    When I said power of will I meant the power-up of will used in other series. You know natsu going Nakama power and Luffy beating Lucci, etc…

    And the two months are the time they needed to play catch-up instead of simply waltzing into NGL again. That's what I call development.

    This doesn't just go for OP, though, I'm using it as an example, FT, Bleach, Naruto can be applied here too since they're all the same mostly.

    I'm not gonna reply to your last paragraph which is quite immature.

  17. L

    Dammit, I didn't know there was a 4096 character limit for Blogger comments.

    1) You're interpreting things the wrong way. The examples I used aren't opposites and are just varying ends of Togashi's spectrum of narrative tools. There's nothing unnatural about training, it's just not letting things unfold in the real, professional Hunters' world (which is what I meant by natural exposition). What we see is something like college, where Gon is instructed by industry leaders and top figures—not the same as real world experience.

    2) I typed this in (1) already, but let me add that One Piece almost exclusively shows Luffy and co in a hectic world that doesn't let them have training arcs—the training that's done is already part of their character or is mentioned briefly in flashbacks. Training isn't used as a device to develop their characters, which I like. So to answer your question, One Piece and its characters develop with real-world experience as the story naturally progresses, as opposed to training arcs. Your definition of natural may be different, so let's leave our opinions unsettled.

    3) I admit that the fight lineup is pretty common, but that's not much different from HxH, if you're thinking it is. Instead of simultaneous, overlapping fights, HxH seems to have sequential fights more often—the exception I know being the Phantom Troupe vs Chimera Ant fight lineup this episode. Let's just say that this is a shonen staple between series that are both influenced by Toriyama. As for the arcs, One Piece has as much (or more) variation than HxH, but that's also because OP has twice the number of chapters out. When it had ~230 chapters, OP was also in the same position: it only had the intro arcs, Alabasta saga, and Skypeia saga out. But as time kept going, it ended up much like one of those Greek epics, like (for lack of better example) the Odyssey. There was lots of repetition there as well, but mostly for the sake of continuity.

    4) Some of OP's antagonists are just as developed (I'd say there are just as many as in HxH, but also tons of undeveloped villains). Neither series has powerups for the sake of Rule of Cool. The powerups in OP, just like in HxH, are manifestations/manipulations of an individual's base ability and operates following specific constrained mechanisms. There's no problem here with both series.

    5) One Piece is NOT a big tournament arc to find One Piece. That's one of the silliest retorts for the sake of retorting I've seen this year. And yes, I did say that the test/game is the main problem I have, so I think you're overreacting to this.

    6) As I said, anything in a series is fair game to be called storytelling. I didn't say that there was any lack of danger in the Exam or in GI, so don't misread me on that part. I was only describing the combination that made Yorknew work for me.

  18. L

    7) I'm not going to comment on GI being the same as OP because you seem totally lost on that and have tournaments confused with something else.

    8) If you're going to compare a friend-friend fight to anything in One Piece, I'd pick the Luffy-Usopp fight instead of the fights you listed, because they're standard villain fights (as satisfying as they are). I don't remember seeing such a direct clash of friendly intentions in HxH, but it's very close to the kind of conflicts Togashi seems to like. However, only one of them was as heartbreaking as some conflicts in OP can be (the Gon x puppet-Kite hug, ;_;), but that might just be me.

    8) I admit the levels of danger are comparable, but I attribute that to Togashi including a Kill-is-OK clause in some of the arcs. The tournament rules in the Exam said killing meant disqualification and Greed Island had spells that could not directly harm players, but anything else was fair game, which meant Togashi is able to kill fodder and important characters alike (RIP old-Kite). One Piece is more subtle with the danger, since it's not just death that indicates danger but the sum of the terrain and characters present (in other words, danger/risk are not the same as mortality). And don't worry, there's no need for justification when it's just our opinions. I only refer to some because I like to make observant comments instead of hating for hating's sake.

    9) Will is powerful, even in reality. Epinephrine can be one hell of a rush, man. And if you want an example where Luffy's will almost led to his death (dehydration, mummification, live burial) look no further than the times that Luffy got up and failed against Crocodile. The only reason he won after several tries was because he accidentally figured out that water-containing substances like blood can prevent Croc's intangible body from dispersing. No powerup. And please, One Piece and HxH are tiers above Fairy Tail, Bleach, Naruto.

    10) I respect that you like the 2 month training arc and view it as development. There's no reason for me to call you out there.

    11) I'm not going to reply to that because you didn't catch the lighthearted tone.

  19. U

    It appears Bonolenov is a conjurer and I think I figured out why he wears his bandages and boxing gloves.

    He appears to have to make certain music notes to conjure certain things, I am guessing a limitation to his power is that he can't turn it off. So he wears his getup to avoid making music notes that would conjure things by mistake while just moving around.

  20. P

    For some dumb reason,I couldn't take this episode seriously cause each time Bonorenov spoked an mental image of Uchiyamada from GTO popped in my mind …

  21. C

    That was meant to be a reply to this comment.

  22. C

    How dare you not take an episode with a moe vacuum-cleaning lady fending off a moe old-man spider seriously.

  23. T

    Man I have madhouse using Jupiter by Gustav Holst during Bonorenov's fight was genius. I was having trying to figure it out the whole time and as I go well duh it is Jupiter a massive planet crushes the bug validating my thought. It is just another of the nice touches that Madhouse is putting in this show.

  24. Heh, good catch – I was thinking "Jupiter Symphony" at the time and as soon as I realized it wasn't I just assumed it was original, I didn't even think about Hoist. But then, his Jupiter is "Bringer of Jollity" which somehow doesn't quite fit…

  25. T

    The whole "Bringer of Jollity" business was not a very good fit thematically but the way they wrote the arrangement was amazing. Keeping the main chorus intact but making it darker and more haunting was awesome.

  26. S

    I never understood why'd Holst make Jupiter the "bringer of Jollity" in the first place. I mean, you got this huge-ass mass of liquid and solid hydrogen, completely inhospitable, so enormous it could swallow all of the other planets whole, with a gravity force so beastly that it possibly crushed a nearby planet turning it into a mere asteroid belt (true, Holst probably didn't know all of this), named after the Greek King of the Gods. Jollity? I'd rather go with Majesty or something similar.

    [/inconsequential classical music rant]

  27. i

    Is this sort of stuff common knowledge or am I just wholly ignorant?

  28. S

    Ignorance defeated :D.

    Listen at the very least to the first 7 minutes, a.k.a. "Mars, the bringer of War". They are absolutely awesome.

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