It’s a milestone week yet again for the best anime on TV, as Hunter X Hunter reaches it’s 100th episode. I’d rank this alongside the first episode of the “Chimera Ant” arc (the first step into unadapted territory for the anime) as the most important in terms of historical significance – 100 episodes for any anime is a big deal. This is also, by the way, the first 100th episode of any anime I’ve blogged, and it seems very fitting that it should be this one that I love so damn much – and equally fitting (though totally unsurprising) that it should have been yet another classic H x H episode.
Seriously, I could hardly believe this was 22 minutes – the episode felt like it was 10 at best. It’s almost unfair that this series only airs once a week, because it just isn’t enough – and when you consider that this is a stretch that’s considered the weakest part of “Chimera Ant” by many fans of the manga, it’s all the more credit due to Madhouse for the way the pacing and excitement of the arc hasn’t wavered a bit. There’s so much going in this week that screams out for resolution that it’s almost like an episode in the middle of a great game arc of a sports anime – that gut-wrenching feeling when the ED credits start to roll in the midst of the action.
That action plays out on three fronts this week, mostly centering on the boys (especially Killua) but with an interesting intercut of Knuckle and Shoot and their attempts to finish off Cheethu. In fact Knuckle has laid a trap for Cheethu using Potclean, a clever ruse to use Cheethu’s speed against him (I like the subtle reminder of how Shoot still gets scared when he’s about to fight) by hitting him before Potclean’s interest rate changing gives away the presence of the Hunters. But Leol’s eye-in-the-sky, Flutter, tips Cheethu off despite the fact that they’re nominally not allies – a critical point because this gives Leol the leverage to draw Cheethu into his (actually mostly Neferpitou’s) plan to take out the saboteur who’s taking out Pitou’s puppets.
While Gon tries to shake the pursuit of the mysterious
Jail Meleoron, that saboteur in short-pants is about to face his first serious challenge since beginning his campaign of sedition. Flutter’s main job is to track Killua for Leol, and so he does – forcing the pint-sized assassin to flee into the jungle to try and lose him. It’s definitely “Plan B” time for Killua here – the locals have turned on him now that Dear Leader has appeared on TV, and his options are narrowing. Going back into hiding seems like a good idea but he can’t shake Flutter’s wide spy net, even hiding under a massive tree root (this scene put me in mind of Gon holing up in a tree after his brutal encounter with Hisoka in Episode 16, perhaps an intentional allusion by Togashi). When Flutter calls on new allies hiding in the forest, Killua’s options are narrowed to one – fight.
Basically, this sequence amounts to massive fanservice for Killua’s legion of, well – fans. It’s all here – beheadings, impaling, twist-off necks, bloodied hair blowing in the wind… It’s Kil vs. an army, and Kil wins pretty easily (since he’s already devastated the East Gorteau human army I guess a chimera ant one should be no different). The only thing that slows him down is when the leader of the forest forces unleashes his killer flatulence – he is a dung beetle after all – but then the big guns are called in. This is an opportunity for Togashi to once again unleash his ability to imbue side characters with distinctiveness, and it comes in the form of Ikalgo (Horiyuchi Kenyuu, who’s fantastic here and already made a mark as Koala). First we see him as the human corpse he’s animated, who launches flea-bullets using his “Fleadom” ability (a giant biological air-gun), all the while giving a running commentary in a kind of Bing Crosby sing-song that’s all the more hilarious because it seems so bizarrely out-of-place. Those fleas are nasty – when they hit directly, the bleeding doesn’t stop – and Killua is forced to endure several direct hits before he uses his genius to triangulate where the shots are coming from, and heads off to deal with the source of the problem.
Farts and fleas, it’s definitely a gross-out week for Togashi. This is where things get really weird, as Ikalgo lures Killua into a trap, a cave – except Killua proves faster than his opponent predicted. He “kills” Ikalgo’s host but the body falls into an underground lake which is apparently filled with chimera killer-fish, but Ikalgo is revealed to be an octopus (save the tentacle jokes for Comiket), and Killua cuts off two of his arms, using the suckers to grab the walls of the cave and save himself. It’s a strange scene, and even if it doesn’t display Madhouse’s finest work in terms of animation, the entire sequence starting with the duel in the forest gives them another chance to show they can deliver the goods using choreography as well as sakuga.
As Killua and Ikalgo are literally left in a cliffhanger, so it is with Gon too, as he finally forces Meleoron to reveal himself (again, literally). As usual Gon displays his own form of off-the-cuff genius, fleeing into a featureless desert when he can’t catch a glimpse of his pursuer any other way. Meleoron finally de-cloaks, saying that he doesn’t want to allow Gon to die of thirst in that desert (and that his own stamina is wearing down). Meleoron is a mystery figure so far, though his general role can be guessed at through his place in the ED (as can Ikalgo’s, in fact). Now, at last, he shows his cards – it seems he’s interested in Gon because he, too, wants to fight the King – though both the veracity of this statement and his reasoning are still unclear.
What’s really interesting here is that Gon, after initially quite logically assuming Meleoron was simply waiting to get him truly isolated before attacking (did I sense a little irritation in Gon’s voice when he said “You thought I’d put up less of a fight than Killua!”) does a complete 180° after Meleoron starts to explain himself. Is this simply Gon’s perversely singular behavior kicking in – is he trusting his instincts completely after hearing something he trusts in Meleoron’s voice – or is there something else going through his mind? As usual, the worst part of any H x H episode is that it ends – because now we have to wait another week for our answers, and for another 22 minutes of brilliance.