There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a TV anime you love on the big screen.
I headed down to Shinjuku tonight to check out Hunter X Hunter: The Last Mission. I’m not going to do a detailed review until I’ve seen the subbed version, for a couple of reasons. First, there are a few major spoilers for the “Chimera Ant” arc (which I knew going in, but c’est la vie – I wasn’t going to wait), and second, I didn’t pick up as much this time as I did with Phantom Rouge. My Japanese is certainly better now, but I think this movie is considerably more complex than that one.
I feel pretty confident a lot of fans will find “Last Mission” more to their liking than “Phantom Rouge”. The story certainly seems more “canon” this time around, the tone is quite a bit darker, and it just feels more like Hunter X Hunter (though I quite liked “Phantom Rouge”, which had its own charms). Madhouse brought in Kishima Nobuaki, one of the writers from the Nippon Animation adaptation, and I think that helped with continuity a bit. I fear that we’re going to hear this film didn’t do as well at the box office, though – it was certainly easier to get a ticket this time around, and the theater was less full (as with the H x H event at Jump Festa, the crowd was almost all adults).
The plot summary is available at the usual places, and it would be hard to go much deeper without spoiling even if I were 100% sure of my interpretation – nevertheless there will be minor spoilers below, so proceed with care…
The fact that the setting returns to Heaven’s Arena is a huge plus for me – I have a deep sentimental attachment to that arc, which represents a side of Hunter X Hunter (it has so, so many sides) that I dearly love. We’re treated to the return of Bisky, Wing and Zushi – and boy, Zushi has really bulked up. He’s participating in a “Battle Olympiad” at Heaven’s Arena, to which Wing has invited Gon and Killua. Kurapika is there bodyguarding Neon (he doesn’t realize the boys are, too) and Leorio is part of Zushi’s support team as his medical advisor. Hisoka is on-hand too, as is Netero – the former seemingly out of curiosity, and the latter to deliver the official welcoming address, as the Hunter Association seems to have given the event (which has many licensed Hunters involved, of course) their blessing.
Not having read the last chapters of the manga, I don’t know how much of “Last Mission” is connected directly to the “Chairman Selection” mini-arc. I know that a character shows up (it’s just a cameo) who hasn’t yet in the anime (I recognized the name) and a fairly major spoiler about Netero is revealed. There’s an almost FMA-like flashback to a dark period in Hunter Association history with which Netero was involved, and an almost Rurouni Kenshin-like revenge story. Lots of serious fights, lots of Gon and Killua signature moves and expressions of eternal brotherhood, and Leorio generally being his butt-monkey self (the guy really can’t catch a break – he gets teamed up with Hisoka here, who seems to treat him sort of as a pet).
Happily, the last 20 minutes is easily the best part of the movie, although there’s one major development there that I can’t for the life of me figure out in the raw film. Perhaps it involves the rather major twist with regards to Nen, which I assume isn’t canon but could be mentioned later in the manga. I think fans will be pretty happy – a non-Togashi movie just isn’t going to have the same depth as his material but this is highly entertaining stuff. What we miss without Togashi is the deep psychological underpinnings of the story – these movies are mostly action-driven. I think the behavior of the main cast is very much in character, critically – we just don’t dig nearly as deep into the reasons behind their actions as Togashi does.
Afterwards I stopped in the mall where the Shinjuku Wald Cinemas are located, and saw something I’d never seen before – actual Hunter X Hunter displays as the Jump Shop. They had quite a bit of merchandise in fact, including stuff that wasn’t at Jump Festa (we’ll see about Comiket), and the store-front was given over to H x H. That really is shocking, as I’ve never seen so much as a keychain wedged in among all the One Piece and Kurobas stuff as the Jump Shops I’ve visited. The mall also had a special display set up for “The Last Mission” (see pics) with cels, storyboards and the like – very cool.
Also, enjoy a few snaps of the Christmas Illumination at Shinjuku Terrace City, just because I took them.