Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 111

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After 111 episodes of brilliance – and a preview full of spoilers – Hunter X Hunter can still utterly surprise me.  That’s brilliant writing and direction, plain and simple.

Here’s the truth – when this episode ended, I broke out laughing for a good five seconds.  It’s not as if anything remotely funny had happened – it was just sheer amazement at what I’d just seen transpire.  There’s no GPS in the world that could keep up with the number of unexpected turns Togashi takes, and no imagination in the world that could see where they take you and not be blown away.  The adjectives may be running out, but the brilliance is seemingly a bottomless well.

There was another Hunter-related laugh for me this week.  I’ve been catching up on the Watamote manga (it’s not like there’s any point in saving myself for another season), and got to Chapter 41.  Tomoko, in yet another fruitless attempt to improve her lot, brings a copy of Shounen Jump to class as a conversation starter.  One of the boys asks her hopefully (in tiny print you’d almost miss) “Is Hunter in this one?”  That sums up the experience of being a Togashi fan pretty well.  And here’s my honest opinion – if it takes him ten years to write another arc as good as this one, I’ll happily wait ten years.  We may bitch about Togashi taking ten years to do it, but there’s not another mangaka who could do it in a hundred or a thousand – so really, we should be grateful for what we have.

I don’t know what you’d call the direction Togashi took the story this week – bodacious, audacious, definitely something with an “-acious” in it.  Last week (well, two weeks ago – last year) we got an episode where the B-part took place in real time.  This week we got an episode that lasted 22 minutes and depicted two – and most of that, really, was a matter of a few seconds.  Almost all of the dialogue was narration, and most of the rest was narration that happened to be by a character on-screen – one we haven’t seen in months.  It was, effectively, the slowest-paced buildup episode ever.  And yet it was one of the most riveting anime episodes in years.  Don’t for a moment think Madhouse and Koujina-sensei didn’t pull off a miracle here just because the writing was Togashi-level – what happened in this ep must have been unimaginably hard to translate to anime.  But they pulled it off, again, stunningly well.

I’m pretty much at a loss for words to describe what I can only call “The Interview With an Assassin”.  In fact it seemed like something the anime might have added to break up the flow of narration but I checked and no – it is in the manga.  If you saw the preview last week you knew Zeno was going to show up (don’t watch this week’s preview if you haven’t already – it’s even worse), but damned if I could have predicted how he’d be used.  I assume he’s the second man who jumped along with Isaac (and that the “Thousand Dragons” is his contribution, though I don’t recall seeing him use it before), though we’re never explicitly shown that, but his main role here is to give the audience a framework for just how strong Netero is – and how he got that way.  We’ve seen something of Zeno’s own power, so when he says “He’s always had the upper hand, every time” you take it pretty damn seriously.

This whole scene is a marvel of quiet understatement – Zeno in a lavishly decorated parlor with a table full of Chinese delicacies, an old but fearsome man reminiscing about an even older man he clearly both fears and admires.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it in anime, and it certainly does the job of setting the table for Netero’s entrance.  His asides tell us much about the man – “He was a geezer when I was sucking my mother’s teat” for example.  “His Nen is frighteningly quiet.  He has a mind like a plant.”  Zeno even reveals the name of Isaac’s signature move – the “Hyakushiki Kannon” (though if you saw The Last Mission, you were already spoiled on that).

Netero is truly the big dog here, the one we’ve never seen use his full strength.  The very first time we met him he was fighting Gon and Killua literally with one hand tied behind his back, and he’s been metaphorically doing so ever since.  It says something about how seriously he takes this threat that he should ask Zeno to help – they presumably have a complicated relationship to say the least.  We get a glimpse of how Netero found his true strength, the four year “path of gratitude” that brought him a power we’ve seen from no one else in this superpowered cast.  Netero is over 110 years old now – how much over we don’t know – and by his own admission, he’s somewhat reduced from the height of his power.  But he’s still the last person in this series you’d want to face with death on the line.

Most of Netero’s first move, in fact, is seen from the perspective of Pitou.  As Morel and his attack force count down the final two minutes Pitou – with pure animal instinct – detects a threat coming from above.  This causes him to pull all of his En from inside the palace and project it upwards – his first mistake, and a boon for Morel’s team that we can now see was part of the plan all along.  Pitou is conflicted here, and we see the wonder and joy on his face as he sees the dragon, and later witnesses Netero in action – this is a being that relishes the battle, and admires great strength.  But he’s also hard-wired to protect The King at all costs, and Netero’s arrival prompts him to go straight to his top attack “Terpischora” (details still unknown).  It only takes 1/10 of a second to engage, but that’s plenty of time for Netero to somehow, effectively, stop Pitou’s time – and to utter the memorable “Bad move, Little Ant”.

If Pitou’s signature move is of an unknown nature (sine he’s obviously a Specialist it could be almost anything), so in Netero’s – we know the name but not the nature of his ultimate attack.  But we do see he launches an enormous wave of Nen at Pitou with the intent to blow him so far away that he’s out of the fight, and it would have been successful if not for Pitou’s quick thinking in using Doctor Blythe as an anchor to stop his progress.  This leaves Pitou some distance away, plummeting to Earth – remember, he has no ability to fly – counting every nanosecond that he’s unable to protect his King who’s presumably under attack.

There you have it – an episode that lasts twenty-two minutes, depicts two minutes and spans sixty years.  What a construction.  It leaves us with all hell finally starting to break lose.  Morel and his team have entered the palace and – thanks to the King’s tantrum – found Youpi on the stairwell instead of where they expected, at the King’s side.  Pitou is somewhere close enough to get back into the game – but we don’t know how quickly.  Shaiapouf has disregarded his King’s orders (and threats) and rushed to his side at the moment Neferpitou’s En was redirected.  And Palm is… well, we have no idea what’s happening with Palm, or with Welfin’s plan, hatched last week.  The only thing certain is that all of the machinations of the last months have been building up to this moment, and we’re finally seeing the collision of great and powerful forces that no one can build-up to – or execute – like Togashi and Madhouse.  If you’re not excited now, you might just not have a pulse.

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  1. e

    wait, did togashi really draw that?

  2. As far as I know it's seemingly legit.

  3. B

    No it's not from Togashi. It's from an awesome artist called Alderion-al.
    You can find her on tumlbr. I could point you to her awesome works, but since she read the manga, some of it could spoil you some events.

  4. Yeah, so I hear. Too bad – it was a nice dream, anyway…

  5. M

    I don't think you're in a position to criticize the vast majority of frustrated HxH fans since you caught the train late. Waiting those 10 years is an excruciating reality for most.

  6. B

    Fantastic episode and for an outsourced episode it looked pretty great. If this is what their worst animation team can do at their best I can't wait to see what they've got in store for us.

  7. A

    What do you think about the Maha reference?

  8. He hasn't even appeared in this series, has he?

  9. C

    Bless Togashi and Madhouse with all the good things for HunterXHunter and especially that new years special πŸ˜‰ I swear I wasn't breathing after this episode and I've already read the manga! Personally I believe things are better in Anime form and I am so freaking happy this one is back.

  10. k

    It's all very very faithful to Togashi-sama's work… There are three manga I've always wanted into anime, Vagabond, Shigirui (the entire series) and Hunter x Hunter (this final section of the Chimera Ant Arc). In reversere order. The Anime Production team did NOT disappoint.

    "After 111 episodes of brilliance – and a preview full of spoilers – Hunter X Hunter can still utterly surprise me." Contrary to you G.E, I am not surprised.Each year my siblings passed another gruelling, mind-numbing year of Med School, my late grandfather would dismissively congratulate their their result with the most innocent naivety;

    "But it was expected"

  11. K

    I wish I had not read the manga. Some of the best moments were ruin to me by spoilers. It is as you say wonderfully done!

  12. A

    Maha has appeared 2 times in the Madhouse adaptation:

    The first one during the Killua's Mansion mini arc in shadows along with his woman and other memebers of the Zaoldyeck family (remember this scene:

    The other one along with Illumi and Karuto before defeating the 10 godfathers (York Shin arc)

    And now, Zeno states Maha is the only human to stay alive fighting Netero, really remarkable isn't it?

  13. Yeah, I clearly remember that shadow photograph now you mention it. But he hasn't spoken, at least I'm pretty sure of that.

    Actually, if I'm not mistaken what Zeno actually says is that Netero was the only one who fought Maha and survived, not the other way around, unless I'm mistaken. A pretty important distinction…

  14. A

    Sorry, you are right: "He's the only human to have ever fought my grandpa and lived to tell about it" Maha is a beast too O_O

  15. S

    Actually in Madhouse adaptation Maha wasn't with Illumi an Kalluto in Yorknew city. That's was just in the manga.

  16. A

    That's true, I don't get why Madhouse didn't show Maha in that situation like the manga did.

  17. A

    Great coverage as always Enzo!

  18. l

    Out of curiosity, does Blogger support sharing via Tumblr? I'd love to share your weekly HxH posts on my blog.

  19. Honestly, I've no idea – you're the first one that's asked.

  20. S

    Two details:

    1) no need to assume that Zeno is the second man jumping, he's actually shown for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, riding the shining dragon down with Netero before it split (and yeah, Riding the Shining Dragon would make an excellent Chinese Metal band name), and

    2) Netero didn't stop time for Neferpitou, they just refer to the perception that martial artists are supposed to have of time slowing down in the moments when their senses are at their keenest. In other words, Neferpitou only needed 1/10 of a second to prepare to fight, yet in the same time Netero managed to get into his fighting stance and throw a fuckton of Nen at her. Bad move indeed. Old man's a nasty Emitter, from the looks of it.

    And yeah, a great episode indeed. By the way, from this specific episode I now have this song stuck in my mind whenever I think of Netero XD:

  21. Well yes, that's what I said "effectively". But yes, it does seem likely that Netero is an Emitter based on what he did here (maybe we already knew that and I just forgot) and I could say more based on something that happens in a non-canon movie most people outside of Japan haven't seen yet, but I won't…

  22. A

    It's confirmed that Isaac is an emitter and I think we can see in the flashback how Netero became grandmaster of Shingen-Ryu Kung Fu academy in which Biscuit, Wing, and Zushi all practice.

  23. N

    Amazing episode as usual. Fair play to Madhouse for being able to adapt these chapters so well! I thought they would be tricky to pull off but Madhouse has donee it again.

    Curious, what did you think of Gon's eyes turning black and Killua being the only one to pick up on it?

  24. S

    That preview…

    They have been throwing giant spoilers in the preview the last weeks.

  25. L

    As a manga reader, I sometimes think it's such a shame that I already know what's going to happen but then again waiting sucks.. I can't wait for the next episodes since it's gonna be the best parts of this arc(well, for me) πŸ™‚ Oh and btw, I was kinda expecting you'd say something about the part about Gon's eyes. I was waiting for that scene for so loooong. Haha.

    And like you, I was so excited that I just stared at the monitor right after the episode ended and then I realized I had to wait for another week to watch another epic episode. Sad.. Anyway, another great read from you! Thank you again Enzo!

  26. e

    *grin* oh yeah this was great and they really pulled off the temporal density/dilation effect.
    And now on top of Netero and Zeno we have Gon in serious mode ( uh-oh I trust the kid will amaze us and make us worry to death ) and that effing preview. Bring da goodness on!
    Next week nao :,D.

  27. e

    P.S.: Pitou's ability should involve sound and dance if we go by its Muse-y name. Hmm…

  28. S

    I'm always a big fan of this blog but I'm really loath to read it at the same time because I just want to blow everybody's mind by telling them how off they are with their predictions. It's certainly a testament to Togashi's writing abilities that he constantly keeps everybody guessing. Next episode might just have my favorite moment in the entire series, and I'm betting that nobody will be able to correctly guess what goes down. I'm really looking forward to the next episode.

  29. Y

    I laughed rather frequently in this episode–the popping sound after "BAD MOVE" flashed up on screen, wedded to Netero's malign facial expression, just tickled my fancy to the point of vocally expelling a laugh, for example. But the bit that really set me off was Zeno implicitly describing the meaning behind the slowed episode direction and the new narrative style. "It's just like time slowing when you're about to die," he says–and we've got Pitou's leap up at Netero which is teasingly protracted, underscored by repeating Netero's movement before attack."You can hear what the other person is thinking," he adds. And sure enough, there's the narrator pervasive throughout, flagging up all emotions from Killua's perception of Gon to Pitou's thought pattern. That act of quasi-fourth wall breaking was so out there and so confident–I'd love to see more of that sort of thing.

  30. F

    This remains the only show that sets me on edge before I get a chance to watch it. I care about the characters so much and I just know that their plans will not go smoothly so it takes some time for me to work up the courage to view them. I watched these last three in one go and it was almost more than I could handle.

    I know, I'm pathetic.

    Can't wait for Gon and Killua to retake the limelight!

  31. m

    I'm not sure if you or anyone has read the manga up to the current release, so I won't give anything away, but the ability of HxH manga/anime to have so much tension and excitement in the parts that are just build up to the climax is what sets it apart from the other long running Jump manga/shows. With Naruto/Bleach/One Piece you get your great moments, but its just riddled with parts that are blatantly there to extend the manga/anime longer (and that isn't even counting the filler eps). It's the obvious difference between something made to be an engaging story, and something made to make money. You can tell that the storylines always are thought out in advance and aren't extended to make more $$$ bc it lacks the glaring plot holes and forgotten details that the other "big 3" are riddled with.

  32. h

    since the zoldecks are here so I remembered something,don't know it you know it
    Enzo,can you guess the name of the last zoldeck son?
    there is a code pattern in the names πŸ˜€

  33. C

    I know you've discussed this before, but Pitou is clearly a girl. Just listen to her voice in this episode.. Plenty of girls call themselves "boku", and remember, she's an ant who doesn't really know who she is. She doesn't care, which is why we never see the dillema, but I really doubt that it's actually a boy at this point.

  34. S

    WOW. This episode was so fucking intense and amazing and amazingly intense. I spontaneously burst out laughing while the credits rolled, but why!? Possibly because it makes me feel a little bit like Gon: seeing something so overpoweredly amazeballs but instead of being afraid (which a lot of mangakas and anime directors should feel), you burst out laughing in awe/amazement.

    also: "There you have it – an episode that lasts twenty-two minutes, depicts two minutes and spans sixty year."
    A great line and a great review for any anime at anytime, but still it pales in comparison to the episode itself.

    Well I've almost caught up. I needed this break to gather my thoughts a little bit before pushing onwards.

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