To say this has been a busy few weeks for Hunter X Hunter would be an understatement. We had the milestone 100th episode, the demotion to late-night, and the leaked image that started a wildfire of speculation that the manga would – at long last – be returning in December. None of this has been confirmed by Togashi or Shueisha and may not be until Monday, but leaks of this nature reported by the sties reporting this news have historically proven accurate most of the time, and there seems to be widespread agreement that the image isn’t a fake (update: as of 10:45 PM JST on 11/6, CR says there’s nothing in the advance copy of next week’s SJ about a 12/13 return for H x H. Stay tuned – it may be a while before we know what’s really happening here).
If we assume something is happening with H x H in SJ starting in December, the big question is of course just what that is. It’s certainly big news with wide-ranging implications if the manga does return to weekly publication, but the timing only muddies the waters – with the second film opening in December, this could easily be another one-shot to tie-in with “The Last Mission”, but it just as logically could be the perfect time to re-start the manga proper and generate cross-platform buzz with the movie. Most importantly for purposes of the anime, a relaunch of the manga means incentive for NTV and Madhouse to keep producing the TV series, at least through the conclusion of the existing manga chapters.
Whatever this news turns out to be, it should be welcomed – any new material from Togashi-sensei is vital to keep the franchise going strong, so assuming the leak is genuine this is a great day for Hunter X Hunter fans. The timing could hardly be better, coinciding as it does with the release of Episode #103 and the introduction of a character who’s very prominent in the ED. Komugi is played by Aya Endo, the latest in a succession of big-name seiyuu to join the H x H cast. Any time an important character appears it’s a big moment, but there have been very few prominent female characters in this series so Komugi’s debut is an even more significant one.
It’s pretty clear right from the beginning that Komugi is an oddball to say the least. Apart from the fact that she’s blind and has two rivulets of snot perpetually dripping from her nose (I could do without seeing that constantly, to be honest) Komugi has a bizarre manner of speech, tossing in a few “-su” and “-ska” but mostly just mangling everyday words. In her own words she “can’t do anything” but play Gungi, and when Meruem tells her to shut up and let him concentrate (on the rulebook) she shuts her mouth and forgets to breathe, passing out in the process because her nose is so stuffed up. It’s tempting to toss an “idiot savant” label on her but I suspect we’re only scratching the surface of Komugi’s character, and she’s got more to her than simply the ability to play Gungi.
That said, play Gungi she definitely can. Whether it’s her own skill being greater or the fact that the game itself is subtly far more complex than the others (most likely both) the King can’t master his opponent the way he did with Shogi and Go. This is certainly a fascinating and strange place for Togashi to take the story, and one that reveals his endless fascination with games of all kinds – indeed, the entire plot of H x H could be seen as a game of sorts, but rarely so literally as here. Where is this leading? Mereum is obviously growing frustrated with his inability to crush this opponent – but he’t at least not bored, and I wonder if he has the perspective to realize that isn’t a bad thing. What is Komugi’s role – what is she here to bring to the story, and to Meruem’s character? If nothing else, with the Go champion having hanged himself (Togashi bright and sunny, as usual) Komugi is the only entertainment the King has left until the showdown with the Hunters begins.
This is one of those episodes where Hunter X Hunter gives very little focus to the main cast, trusting the audience to patiently embrace the setup and wait for the main event. Killua is totally absent – and still not answering his phone – and Gon’s group is only briefly featured, as the B plot actually follows Morel. We check in only briefly as Meleoron studies Knuckle and Shoot warily, deciding whether to reveal himself. His initial reactions are “chou bad!” (I love the way this dude talks), but he does toss a cookie to the Yu Yu Hakusho fans in the audience, noting that Knuckle “looks like he’s in the wrong decade”. The worm turns a bit, though, when Shoot reveals that Knuckle has been staying up all night saving every abandoned pet he can find. As I said last week, I think Knuckle and Meleoron are actually a perfect match – they’re definitely both bros – but Knuckle may just be the nicest guy in any Togashi manga. Seriously, the guy is a teddy bear wrapped in cotton candy underneath that pompadour.
As for Morel, his ability is formally revealed to us at last – “Deep Purple” (I wonder how many in the audience get the reference). Normally he can animate 216 of his smoke soldiers, but because he needs them to be especially capable he’s channeled all his aura into 50 super-smokers. This proves to be a problem with Cheethu shows up, seemingly freed from Knuckle’s Toraiten. There are all kinds of previously unknown Nen abilities on the Ant side showing up here, leading Morel to conclude his best bet is to take on Cheethu now and find out just who can do what. Cheethu’s ability appears not to be Nen cancellation (that turns out to be Leol’s flunky Hirin) but rather the ability to create a bubble of space where he can force his opponent to – surprise, surprise – play yet another game, this time an 8-hour “tag” where the only way to escape is to touch Cheethu (or, presumably, die when the time is up).
It’s unsettling that there are so many new Nen tricks popping up on the Chimera side, not least that they have a Nen cleaner of their own (as does Morel, I see that as potentially huge in the ultimate conflict) but even with his new power, Cheethu seems no match for Morel to me. Mentally this is a mismatch, as Morel has the ability to yank Cheethu’s chain any way he wants – which serves as a nice reminder that Nen isn’t everything, and I suspect will be the key to Morel eventually coming out on top. And that’s fighting basically one-handed, as he can’t afford to release he aura control of the 50 soldiers – if he could do that, Morel wouldn’t even need to worry about outsmarting and manipulating his way to victory.