The eternal question of “which is the strongest Spider?” is one that’s surely been volleyballed about by H x H fans for well over a decade, and it’s one which for me is still hard to answer. A few things do seem clear, though, the first of them being that we really haven’t seen most of them use their full power, including in this skirmish with Zazan and her Chimera Ant splinter group. But they all, to a Spider, seem content to give their allegiance to Chrollo. And Kurapika managed to best Chrollo in their confrontation, so what does that say about him?
We have many centers of power in the Hunterverse. We have the Phantom Troupe, and of course the Hunters Association – another group we haven’t seen the best of yet, surely, and the Netero we’ve seen is by his own admission only half of what he was in his prime. We have the Zoldyck family and their assassin religion (which is basically what it is), and the best assessment we can make of them is having seen Zeno and Silva fight Chrollo to a draw (though there’s a sense that Chrollo held back for purposes of pirating their abilities, though it’s hard to say just how much, and just how much they held back themselves). We have Hisoka, both a Hunter and a faux Spider, who exists as a power center of one and again is someone whose true strength can barely be guessed at.
And then of course there’s the new kid on the block, the Chimera Ants. What’s abundantly clear here is that this particular offshoot was totally outmatched by the Phantom Troupe, though a couple of them actually had to show their Nen abilities in order to win. Of course this is nowhere near the peak of strength among the Chimera Ants – merely a group of rebels under the command of a aggrandizing mid-boss who saw herself as a Queen. But there are others among them who might give even the strongest among the other groups cabals for concern, and we’ll soon see just what the measure of their strength is. In the final analysis I think all of these centers of power have more in common than it first appears, which leads me to speculate on what might be the ultimate fate of the Chimera Ants when this arc is over. But that’s probably the subject for another post.
This episode certainly had plenty of nudity and near-nudity – Shizuku, Zazan, Feitan, even Gon & Killua. But the whole fixation with Pike’s anus was borderline disturbing. I think Togashi was indulging himself with some simple juvenile toilet humor here. While every member of the Troupe is unique, Shizuku isn’t one of those you sense might be the strongest – it’s not as though Pike is an especially powerful foe (though he’s pretty good) but he managed to give her quite a bit of trouble before she shed her clothes and finished him off. There was a good measure of irony in the way this fight ended – a self-proclaimed Spider defeating a hybrid spider by doing what spiders do their victims, sucking all the juices out of his body. On balance, the whole encounter was pretty darn gross.
The main event of this day, no question, was the confrontation between the strongest of this nest by far and quite possibly the strongest in this subset of the Phantom Troupe. Is it fair to say that about Feitan? It’s hard to know – but it would be fair to say that we’ve seen very few cases where anyone in the series unleashed an attack as terrifying as the one he used to finish off Zazan. The fact is that Kalluto was already stunned by how strong Feitan was, even without using his Nen – and this while bemoaning (supported by the other watching Spiders) that his skills were “rusty and dull”. It surely speaks to Zazan’s own strength that she managed to injure Feitan’s arm and eventually forced him to unleash his Nen and with it, the fires of Hell. She was pretty darn good.
The sight of the Spiders scampering away in fear is a definite first for Hunter X Hunter, but so they did as soon as Feitan responded to Phinks’ smartass offer to tag out by powering up. In the end Phinks literally picked up Kalluto and carried him to safety (loyalty to the fellow members of the Troupe again, I suppose) as “Pain Packer” was unleashed. Feitan has always seemed like the nastiest of the Spiders, but this attack felt like a pure embodiment of his rage and cruelty. Yamaguchi Kappei is obviously one of the all-time legends of the business, with a huge range, but his performance during this scene was surely one of his best. The soundtrack was spot-on, too. There may very well be stronger attacks among the Spiders, but this seems like the strongest that we’ve actually seen used.
Almost but not quite lost in the grandiosity of Feitan’s solar display is Kalluto’s internal monologue during the fight. At first it’s astonishment and dismay as he sees the gap in power between himself and Feitan (the non-Nen, rusty and slow Feitan). But then he shares the reason why he’s doing all this – to “get his brother back, no matter how many years it takes.” I take that to mean he’s on a mission for his mother, to whom he seemed especially close during the Zoldyck mini-arc, and this image does nothing to discourage that line of thought. It’s also an interesting picture because there are five siblings pictured here, including one facing away from the camera – a sibling with long hair, but dressed in boy’s clothing. Has Chekov’s gun been drawn from its holster?
In the aftermath of all this, it seems we have a new temporary leader of the Spiders, assuming they hold true to their bet. And in truth it’s Feitan who I would have expected to step into the role, anyway, though Phinks is the louder and more brash. It’s a grim and terrible scene at the nest after Zazan’s end, with the mutants she enslaved now free to beg for death – a death Phinks refuses to grant them with a “Fuck, no! I don’t do mercy killings.” In his way I think Phinks was being merciful here, allowing these tortured souls to die fighting – a kind of expression of the Spiders’ twisted honor code. There are some light moments to finish things off – Feitan and Shalnark teasing Phinks for crushing on Chrollo like a little girl, and the omake. which leaves in Ise Mariya cracking up as she loses to Han Megumi in a contest to say “Meleoron the Chameleon” three times fast. And next week, it’s back to the main event as Gon and Killua skinny-dip their way into East Gorteau, with 9 days left until their fated encounter with Neferpitou.