Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 101

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Never underestimate the power of bro-hood, ~degeso.

It seems only fitting that Hunter X Hunter 101 should be a survey course in great anime.  It’s all here – the ruthless, chilling and jet-black hilarious brilliance that makes H x H the masterpiece that it is.  We also got a fair dose of Togashi geekery as he continues to try and prove there’s no subject he won’t obsessively exploit for story purposes, and a taste of his rare ability to turns the strangest of characters into memorable and even endearing parts of the cast.

I confess that, for all that it pains me deeply that H x H was demoted from its choice Sunday morning timeslot, there have been times when I’ve seriously wondered whether the series should be airing at that time.  Probably the most horrifying moment of the series from an existential standpoint was the demise of Kurt and his sister, but there have been many others – and it’s damn hard to watch Gon and Killua suffer, especially.  We’ve seen Gon get his arm severed in the fight with Genthru, but I think it was even rougher to see the indefatigably cheerful bozu in utter despair after what happened to Kaitou, and when his weakness undermined his ability to help his friend.

With Killua things are a bit different, because Killua has divorced himself from the shield of childhood emotionally in a way Gon hasn’t.  Given the milestone nature of last week’s episode I went back and watched the premiere, just to see if Gon and Killua had really changed over 100 episodes.  And it was astonishing to see just how much they had, both in terms of the character design (they’re both far more buff and have less childlike chubbiness to their faces) and seiyuu performance.  Mariya-san and Han-san have tweaked their delivery far more than you’d think – it was quite obvious this week when Gon delivered his “It’d be easier for me…” speech to Meleoron.  Yet Killua, for all his cold ruthlessness and maturation, is still very much a child, and in fact one who’s taken it on himself to protect Gon’s innocence (as Killua perceives it) if necessary at the expense of his own.  We saw him at his emotional low ebb during the Ramnot fight – now we see him, for the first time, physically tortured to the point where death is close at hand.

That near-death comes at the hand of the Ortho siblings – Brother (Aizawa Masaki) and Sister (Ohmoto Makiko).  But not before a very interesting exchange between Killua and Ikalgo, in which Killua offers Ikalgo the chance to be spared if he’ll spill the beans about Flutter and who he’s working for.  Ikalgo reveals a sort of honor here – and he’s not the first Chimera Ant to do so – by refusing to sell out.  He also reveals an intense dislike of being called an octopus, and an aspiration to have become a squid instead.  In the end he refuses to betray his comrade, electing to drop to his death at the hands (well, teeth) of the blood-crazed chimera-sharks below.  But Killua spares him – because he “seems like a cool guy”, and “in another life we could have been friends”.  The irony here is that for all his assassin’s detachment and dispassion towards killing, it’s an act of mercy that ends up saving Killua’s life.  Leave it to Togashi to turn a hipster chameleon and an octopus with tentacle-envy into standouts, but so he has here – as absurd as Meleoron and Ikalgo are (their very absurdity makes them stand out all the more in this grim and bloody arc) they’re fascinating additions to the cast.

As for Killua’s life, it needs saving because of darts – specifically spearfish fired by the Conjurer Ortho siblings.  After their comrade Coburn attaches the “Bar Double Bull” badge to Killua, he turns the boy into a human dart board – a board which the brother attacks by firing Nen spearfish at him which have no physical substance until they enter his body.  As Nen abilities go this one is a bitch – it’s nasty, and damn hard to counteract.  As usual no detail is too obscure for Togashi, and he exhaustively explains how Ortho-san inflicts damage to Killua using the rules of Double-in/Double-out 501 (which anyone who’s spent any time in pubs probably knew already).  So does Killua – he mastered the game when he was six (or was it seven?) as part of his training, and as such he’s prepared for the final attack because he knows where it’s coming –  a double-20, right in the middle of his forehead.  It’s only Killua’s astonishing skill and versatility (he uses his electrical ability to send an impulse directly to his arm to grab the dart as soon as it touches his skin) that allows him to survive and only pretend to be dead, thus tricking the siblings into lowering their guard and losing their heads (but not before bragging to Flutter that they’d eliminated the target).

This is not easy stuff to watch – a young boy we’ve come to care deeply about subject to horrific wounds that cause so much blood loss that he’s just about beyond saving – but it’s classic Togashi.  The blood is red, and there’s a lot of it.  Killua’s last thoughts are of the idea this encounter has given him to get stronger is his fighting (foreshadowing check), and naturally of Gon, and how he wishes he could have been more help to him.  It’s here that Killua’s act of kindness (some would say an uncharacteristic one, though I wouldn’t) towards Ikalgo saves the day, as the octopus decides to betray his allies and save the boy who saved him.  It’s been tipped off for a while that he’d end up fighting in the Hunter camp, and this just about confirms it.

Meanwhile, not to be forgotten, there’s Gon – having the aforementioned conversation with Meleoron (who might just be my favorite chimera ant).  This scene is short but impactful, and pure Gon.  Meleoron asks Gon why he trusted him, and the boy answers matter-of-factly (as he always does) that it was because Meleoron swore he was telling the truth.  Meleoron’s reaction is a quite literal eye-roll, as he lectures Gon on the dubious nature of promises and questions his putting his fate in the hands (foreshadowing check again) of such a naive kid – but it’s Gon’s response that matters.  With a smile that’s not at all beatific he tells Meleoron that if in fact he’s lying it’d actually be easier, because then “I won’t have to show you any mercy – I’ll be free to destroy you.”

In an instant Meleoron sees that this is not the “clueless boy” he imagined seconds earlier, but someone his instincts were correct about.  It’s the fact that Gon sees no contradiction between his trusting nature and his willingness to unleash his full killing potential that makes him who he is – he simply sees the world differently from everyone else.  He can be the idealist he is and still be ruthless when he has to, just as he can manipulate Palm’s feelings without an ounce of deception by being the boy she wants him to be in exchange for getting what he wants from her.  It’s this skewed but simultaneously straightforward worldview that for my money makes Gon, in the end, scarier and more dangerous than Killua.

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12 comments

  1. T

    I couldn't agree more with your last paragraph describing Gon's scene, that was actually my favorite part of the episode (Also Meleoron my favorite ant too, with Ikagalo as a second). I think one of the things I like about HxH is that despite how borderline seinin it appears to be this is still pretty shonen in nature when you really think about it, just advanced and cranked at the correct notch. As I read the paragraphs describing Killua's entire segment, I took a moment to realize that while I was seeing a child be brutally injured, it was by some fishmen looking chimera ants right after he saved a talking octopi. It's a tad silly when you take it out of context in hindsight, but I actually love stuff like that, I may already know what'll come but I can't wait to see the rest animated!

  2. i

    I think this episode, low key in terms of plot by HxH standards, shows the difference between Togashi and his peers. No other mangaka would create as suspenseful a battle with a dart game, have it make logical sense and stick to some of the key themes of the characters. I mean when I go to a bar to play with darts (I've seen people get hit by drunks when the bartender isn't watching, so I avoid staying anywhere near it now), I play darts. Apparently Togashi thinks it would make a great attack and sits down to take notes. Same with the IRS nen power and numerous other examples.

  3. N

    Read Jojo then. Even Togashi has been inspired by him.

  4. N

    By Araki I mean.

  5. e

    I was watching this while eating. Not the wisest choice. Eh. But that's the Togashi magic. I swallowed. All that geekery coating *รง* – and pubs! we have bo pub culture here it's all import but very scarce still – .
    Ikalgo managed to be both funny (the sparkly borderline old school shoujo eyes coupled with old school shonen eyebrows during his unbereable octopusness of being elegy) and heartstring-tugging. Aw friendship pouah. Welcome to the squi– I mean squad.
    Meleoron is cool but hey you're preaching to the choir here :p.
    I agree about Gon being the scary – and unpredictable – one, Kil is much more transparent to the viewer/reader in his duality.

  6. This is way before my time (yes, time really does go that far back) but when I look at Ikalgo I think of Edward G. Robinson.

  7. e

    C'mere you sexy Methuselah you ;p I have bungee gum candy for the ripe fruit…

    Oooh I see what you mean.

  8. m

    i didn't see Killua sparing Ikalgo's life as anything close to a charity act or anything. Isn't it just like how he got to befriend Gon – the simple fact that Killua took an interest in Gon, finding him cool in some way?

  9. m

    so for me, i thought it was pretty characteristic of Killua. I hope to hear the reason for which Enzo-san thinks this too :)

  10. Pretty much the same. While he have seen Killua kill(ua) capriciously (the worst example being Bodoro) it's only been when he was effectively under Illumi's control. I see the last conversation he had with his father as firmly establishing what he values above all else – loyalty – and it's when he saw that in Ikalgo G. Robinson that he decided to spare him. Very much in-character.

  11. a

    Wow! First time being here and you're reviews are spot on. I've watched reviews on youtube about this episode and most reviewers ignore the conversation between Gon and Meleoron and pass it as normal and didn't go depth on it. They're too occupied on the actions and moments between Ikalgo and Killua. I like the depth of your reviews. Well done!

  12. Thanks, amethyst, and welcome to the site. It's funny you bring that up, because a few weeks ago there was a Youtube "reviewer" who read my entire H x H post out word for word and passed it off as his own.

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