Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 116

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Do I really need to say anything?

I needed some time after watching that episode before I could even begin to give order to my reactions.  Not least of which because I was physically shaking when it ended – even now I’m still trembling a bit.  It’s truly astonishing that an anime – even this one – could have that effect on me, but the sheer intensity of what went down in the last ten minutes was almost inconceivable.  It’s hard for an episode to get off to a much worse start than with a three-and-a-half minute recap, but the rest of it was…  I don’t even know.  How can I possibly do it justice?

We all know how great a writer Togashi is – and in case you forget for a second, I’m constantly reminding you – but this ep more than most is a testament to how great this anime is.  The way the faces – Gon’s, Pitou’s and Killua’s – were drawn.  Koujina-sensei’s choice to use no BGM for the last several minutes.  Han Megumi’s staggering, career-defining performance as Gon – so much pain, so much rage, so much pure emotion (and Ise Mariya and Fujimura Ayumi’s work as Killua and Pitou, respectively).  It was all just so perfect, and the results so powerful – truly, this is the anime every great manga deserves but so damn few ever get.  What an achievement by Madhouse.

I have no idea where to begin, what to say and where to end – apart from that, this post is a piece of cake.  It’s not as though this moment hasn’t been teased for a ridiculously long time – and the tease so glorious it’s made us love being teased.  And in truth, this is still the buildup – we haven’t even had the confrontation yet.  But this was a monumental event beyond what any mere fight could aspire to.  This was raw, savage, existential despair.  It was fear, it was frustration, it was pure rage.  And the most powerful and savage moment wasn’t even between Gon and Pitou – it was between Gon and Killua.  That seems fitting, somehow.

So what do we have, really?  We have Pitou utterly and totally defenseless, and Gon and Killua walking in and finding him in that state, with Doctor Blythe fully engaged.  Exactly as I expected, Gon saw what was happening and assumed the worst – because that’s exactly what he should have assumed, based on what he’d seen.  Killua – who’d been expecting the other shoe to drop ever since the puzzling news of the King injuring himself – saw past the obvious and desperately tried to put the pieces together as Gon’s rage built.  Killua was afraid to say anything to his best friend in that moment, knowing that the wrong choice of words could lead to disaster.  Pitou was helpless and desperate.  And Gon’s rage grew, and grew, and grew.

Here’s the first thing I want to put out there.  Gon wasn’t wrong in the way he reacted.  He wasn’t wrong to assume Pitou was up to no good, he wasn’t wrong to be enraged at being told to wait, and he wasn’t wrong not to trust Pitou.  And he certainly wasn’t wrong when he was furious at learning that Pitou was healing Komugi, after all that he’d done to Kaitou.  None of this is fair, and none of it is right.  Pitou hasn’t earned Gon’s trust, and he hasn’t earned Gon’s forbearance.  And Gon has earned his anger, and the right to his revenge.  But life isn’t fair, and sometimes the right thing – the thing that must be done – isn’t the fair thing.

Sadly, it’s Killua who’s forced to be the bearer of bad news here.  As I’ve said as recently as last week, there are times when both Gon and Killua are stripped of their insane strength and revealed as the vulnerable children they still are – but this may be the first occasion when we’ve seen it happen to both of them at the same time.  Gon’s loyalty and sense of justice is too pure for anyone but a child to still cling to, and he’s totally unmade by the sheer injustice of this moment.  And, childishly, he lashes out at Killua – a classic shoot the messenger scenario – when Killua tries to talk sense to him.  Gon didn’t want to hear logic and restraint preached in that moment, and he shouldn’t have had to – but he needed to, and Killua knew it.

Here, Gon was wrong, obviously.  The circumstances were extenuating, but he said an incredibly hurtful and terrible thing to Killua – “You have it easy, Killua.  You’re perfectly calm…  Because you’re not involved.”  It may have been the most hurtful thing he could possibly say to Killua, in fact.  These two boys are closer than brothers, they’ve suffered and celebrated so much together – yet they understand so little about each other.  Killua casually calls Gon “Idiot” and has no idea of the depth of Gon’s thoughts and feelings.  And Gon could hardly be more off the mark in saying anything is easy for Killua – his life is a constant battle with himself.  And to say “you’re not involved” to Killua, after all this time…  It’s brutal, heartbreaking.  My heart breaks for both of them in that moment, because of everything that’s at stake and how much each of them are being hurt.

In the end, I think I hurt for Gon more than feel anger towards him because I understand his feelings at this terrible instant.  It would be impossible to overstate how much Kaitou means to Gon – he represents Gon’s thus-far fruitless feelings of love for his father, except that Kaitou is kinder and gentler than Ging by a long way, it seems.  And Gon blames himself for Kaitou’s plight, because he was so weak that Kaitou had to sacrifice himself for him.  Yet Killua deserves so much better – he’s always thinking about Gon’s welfare, always (probably more than Gon needs or wants, in truth) acting as his safety net and voice of reason.  The way Killua was framed in that moment – his body quivering slightly, his lip trembling, silent for just a moment…  It’s utterly heart-rending.  As Gon weeps tears of rage, Killua doesn’t spare himself the luxury of tears – no, the little guy sucks it up, swallows his pain and tells Gon what he needs to hear even if he doesn’t want to hear it.  How can you not agonize for him in that moment?

It seems almost sacrilegious to talk about Pitou here, what happened between Gon and Killua was so elemental and powerful.  But Pitou’s role in all this is utterly fascinating.  What a transformation has taken place as a result of the King’s humble display of trust.  All the savagery and playful cruelty is gone from Pitou’s eyes, leaving behind desperation.  All must be sacrificed – even Pitou himself – to save Komugi.  I’ll say again, I see no reason why Gon in his position should have trusted Pitou here – and frankly, I still don’t trust Pitou.  Will he really follow through on his promise to go with Gon and heal Kaitou after an hour spent treating Komugi’s critical injuries?  Probably, I suppose – but I’m with Gon on this.  Should he really be content with “probably” and “likely” after what Pitou has done to Kaitou – and countless others?

My answer is no – he shouldn’t.  But he has to, because Gon, for all his almost-insane amounts of rage and unique view on the world, isn’t a savage.  He isn’t crazy, he isn’t cruel, and he’s not a beast.  There’s no way this is fair, in any sense of the word.  If the situations were reversed Pitou – at least the Pitou from before the events of the last few minutes – wouldn’t hesitate for a moment in taking advantage of the situation.  But they’re not reversed, and Gon isn’t Pitou.  So he has to wait, and he has to trust – to a point.  That’s the burden of being decent rather than being savage and cruel.  And Killua has to be the one to bear the brunt of Gon’s fury at the injustice of it.  It obviously hurt him very deeply – so much so, in fact, that he seemingly couldn’t bear to be in the same room with Gon once the imminent threat of disaster had passed.  And I don’t blame him a bit.

Was this worth all the wait, all the buildup?  Oh, hell yes – and not just because that buildup was itself so magnificent.  This was powerful stuff, among the best (and probably the most intense) anime I’ve ever seen.  There’s still so much happening here, as time has finally starting moving again – – there’s drama in every corner, lives and possibly the fate of humanity on the line.  But as a testament to the brilliance of Togashi’s writing, in spite of all that the most compelling storyline is Gon and Killua, and the damage Gon’s cruel words have done to their friendship.  I believe what they share is strong enough to withstand this and that they’ll overcome it and become closer than ever as a result, but not before some rough moments – nerves have been left raw and exposed, and there are things left unsaid that will likely have to be brought into the open before they can get past this and move on.

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  1. R

    I was basically in the same state of mind after the episode as you were. Episode literally brought a tear to my eye, the sheer weight of emotion in that one moment between Gon and Killua was truly heart breaking. Megumi Han's voice acting also rather surprised me. I never thought she was bad, but man oh man was this amazing beyond words. Can only applause everything about this episode (cept the recap ofc).

    Togashi is brilliant, but episodes like this one seal just why Madhouse has made this an even more amazing experience.

  2. I agree with all of that except the level of surprise with Han Megumi. She's been fantastic as Gon all through the series, though I don't deny she surpassed herself here. Having seen her in tears about H x H just because she loves it so much, I can only guess recording this took quite a toll on her.

  3. A

    I keep refreshing your page to know what your thoughts are after seeing this episode… and here it is.

    The wide spectrum of emotions waved through seeing Gon in rage. Props to his VA for making Gon so visceral. Gon is like a bomb waiting to explode, you actually fear for Pitou there.
    The expression on Killua's face after being told this means nothing to him.

    How long is this in real time again? The first strands of the ED came out of nowhere when you're so immersed and it's cruel. The scenes in the ED are now effectively depicted as well.

    This is also one of the longest post you've ever written on an episode, Enzo. You encapsulated everything that needs to be said.

  4. Heh, actually 114 was one paragraph longer…

  5. l

    HxH might just be the only shonen series justified with an extended recap in the beginning, considering the phenomenal presentation following, not to mention the recap was of equally glorious content (summing up to be an enjoyable MAD, if anything).

    It's only February, but I think this episode has secured Hunter x Hunter for series of the year for me already, this episode being an obvious contender for the respective title for individual episodes. Ever since the show's timeslot change and my new school term, I've been watching new episodes on my school campus during my two hour break after my first class of the day and I swear, even two hours is not enough to quell my state of shock after each airing. I also wonder what passersby think of me as I stare wide-eyed into my laptop screen, body trembling.
    Damn, what a blessing this adaptation is.

  6. R

    What an intense episode..!! If the recap is meant to save budget to animate this episode then I don't mind. This episode deserve the best production value as possible.

    Btw what is the pose Pitou did in this episode called? Never seen it before, is that Japanese thing?

  7. K

    I think the recap was that long to make sure they only did Gon and Pitou this episode.

  8. It's almost like the episode would have been too intense without the recap. Is that even possible? It was overpowering as it was – maybe it really needed the breather at the beginning because there's only so much the viewer can take.

  9. S

    I don't know who to feel bad for more, out of the four featured characters in this episode…

  10. A

    "It would be impossible to overstate how much Kaitou means to Gon" that's Madhouse's fault since episode 1

    "- he represents Gon's thus-far fruitless feelings of love for his father" that's Madhouse's vision. In the manga Kaito is a mentor, a catalyst for Gon to become a Hunter and nothing more. Gon has never seen Kaito as a father.

    Two bad decisions from Koujima. The interaction was great in this episode but imagine if Gon and Kaito relationship had been built since episode 1. The emotions, the raw power of this scene = over 9000

  11. K

    It says something when I feel just as hurt as a character. When Gon said that to Killua, it was like he said that to me. Capped off by the ending where Killua isn't there.

  12. L

    This was the episode I was waiting for. This insane, intense and powerful episode. So much emotions and you, as always, hit it right at the center(you made me tear up reading this one! 😮 ). Ever since I read this part in the manga, I just can't wait for it to get animated. And d**n was it so good and worth the wait. The VA's were so amazing, the animation, the bgm, everything!

    I was really waiting for that part where Gon said those words to Killua. I was heartbroken when I read it, and I was tearing up watching it. That intense moment was what made me respect and love Killua more than ever. He decided to take it all if it means getting some sense back to Gon. I don't really feel mad at Gon cause I understand the pain and frustration, but it was unfair for Killua. And Pitou was so helpless I felt sorry for him/her for a second there. Now I can't wait for more amazing episodes like this. Oh well, hoping next week comes sooner.

    Thank you for another great read Enzo (two thumbs up!)

  13. M

    I only have one word for that and that word is FANTASTIC!!!

  14. A

    Fantastic episode in nearly every way- but the thing that really gets me about this adaptation is the sheer animation quality. Has there ever been a series that's run this long, yet still looks this good? It feels unreal.

  15. R

    Right? It's as if Madhouse saving its budget only for this series.

  16. If there is another one, I haven't seen it.

  17. s

    It depends on what you mean when it comes to animation quality…the art has definitely sustained itself for the 100+ eps which is impressive for a long running anime in and of itself. The thing with HunterXHunter is that it uses its budget when it really matters so that it can look impressive when it counts and have decent animation when great animation is not needed so that it can conserve its budget. HunterXHunter doesnt necessarily have truly impressive animation, but it knows how to use its budget..something that many many many studios lack the know-how, which is why it still looks good even after 116 eps

    Gotta give it to Han Megumi on this one; I always got the impression that anyone could play Gon even though she was doing a good job but as of late she has started to own her role as Gon. She knew when to abuse her pipes when Gon was frustrated without it sounding like what i like to call "shonen shouting" and did it almost perfectly. When she needed to show reserved anger, her delivery was not ice cold like some seiyuus do when they are trying to act pissed and angry; you could her her voice shake in anger, but at the same time sound bold and confident. In that moment, i feel like Megumi embodied what it means to be a talented voice actor.

  18. m

    @sonic I completely agree with you about Megumi. It really has been an all time great Seiyuu performance, especially considering it's a woman playing a boy. Yeah it's difficult for a man to sound like a little boy in regards to tone of the voice, but it's always easier to play a male role for a man bc you can draw on your own experience. Good actors/actresses play the same roles often bc the type of role fits their personality. Brad Pitt is a really good actor, but he always plays the cool guy (for the most part), but Edward Norton is a great actor bc he can play so many different types of people that it's not just him being himself. And that's what makes Han Megumi's turn as Gon all the more impressive. To be able to get into the mindset of a little boy who is so angry at the difference in the treatment of this girl and his friend that he's shaking/crying from holding back his anger so well that, as you noted, you can hear her voice shake is nothing short of incredible. If this doesn't earn her an award or at least a lot more big roles it would be a shame.

  19. s

    @maverick Its interesting that you mention female seiyuu portraying male characters; a lot of the time i actually find it sort of distracting because most female voice actors dont really pull it off convincingly. I give Gon a pass because he actually looks like a kid who hasnt quite hit that stage of puberty yet (plus he's twelve so it makes sense for his voice to sound a little girly) but on average males between 13 and 15 have already gotten the base in their voice so i always find it distracting when a female seiyuu voices a character of that age group and doesnt sound all that convincing (Yuko Sanpei's renton from eureka seven comes to mind). One female seiyuu that comes to mind that actually portrays a 14 year old male and sounds like a male without forcing it is megumi ogata who voices shinji in evangelion and i think she does it wonderfully.

    And yes I absolutely agree that versatility is very important in acting whether its live action or versatility and Megumi demonstrated that she has that emotional versatility. Again i find that quite a handful of seiyuu either like to oversell the emotion or shout vehemently into the mic during emotional scenes and that's not my cup of tea. Sell the emotion through the nuances in your acting is what i say.

  20. This is actually one of my original pet peeves going way back to my early days as an anime fan but yes, generally speaking I'm not a fan of females playing boys. Compare the original E7 with Yuko Sanpei (who I actually think is better than most in this respect) with E7 AO with an actual kid, Yuutaro Honjou – it's night and day.

    You mention Megumi (must be the name) Ogata and yes, I find her to be far better than most (and in that role especially). Kobayashi Yumiko may be the very best, though her range is pretty much limited to pre-teens. But Han Megumi really did something that almost defies description in this episode. It's just a raw, elemental and incredibly authentic performance.

  21. B

    "But life isn't fair, and sometimes the right thing – the thing that must be done – isn't the fair thing."

    I loved this. This is a throwback to episode 2.

  22. C

    The only issue I have with HunterXHunter's continued rise to greater and more ridiculous levels of epic, is that once I watch it I lose motivation to watch anything else. I mean…what the hell could possibly top this episode? It's moving close and closer to being THE anime in my week.
    I mean gosh there probably aren't enough awards in the world to acknowledge this masterpiece.

  23. That actually is a real problem. Something this good inevitably points up just how insubstantial everything else airing is compared to it.

  24. m

    I told you that this was going to be the scene that defines Gon as one of the (if not the) best battle shounen leads ever. The best part is that the scene isn't even over yet. The way this anime has perfectly captured the manga, and even gone and improved it in the way that only moving pictures, music, and words can is incredible. The manga was written so perfectly and somehow this became one of the extremely rare examples of TV/Movies being better than the original works. I can only really remember one time where that's happened and it was the movie Fight Club (even Palahniuk said he was embarrassed having written the book after reading how good the script was). Full credit to Koujina and the rest for taking what was already a masterpiece that blows away all other battle shounen manga and turning it into the definition of perfection.

  25. w

    That was outstanding.. The best episode of any series in I don't know how long. Too good, even. I actually hope next week relaxes a bit because I don't think I'll be able for another like it for quite some time.

  26. m

    You really get the sense that if that was anyone other than Killua stopping Gon that he would've killed them on the spot. As good of a person as Gon is, he was 100% willing to kill Komugi (at best you could call it letting her die) to get his vengeance. That's really not something you see often from Jump MC's unless it's a much darker antihero type. It's usually that Superman-like absolute dedication to what is right and no killing for any reason that makes for such a boring cookie cutter MC, and this side of Gon that has that temper, and even the part of him that loves the challenge of fighting, is what makes him so great.

  27. K

    This episode also takes me back to when Gon told Killua in York New that "you're supposed to stay cool and calm to stop me from doing something stupid" And then Gon basically craps all over it when he doesn't want to hear his reasoning.

  28. That Gon hadn't seen the shit go down that this Gon has.

  29. m

    Yeah but that's the type of realistic hypocritical thing a real person (especially a child) would do. Which is a large part of what makes HxH so amazing. Just b/c the setting is fantasy doesn't mean your characters shouldn't be realistic in nature.

  30. F

    Watched it three times . . . can't get over the feeling of helplessness watching Gon hurt Kil like that.

    Makes me wonder if maybe the reason Megumi was in tears at WSJ was because she had already voiced this episode and was still impacted by the power of it.

  31. e

    Killuaaaaaah T_T. Alright, now that I got this out of my chest and of my lacrimal ducts…
    it was indeed a fantastic episode. It was so absorbing it was hard to believe your ears when the ED started. Felt like the most intense and short anime episode I've ever watched.
    With a colder mind I understand a commenter from last week about enjoying our off and on-base speculations alike. It does seem a few were quite spot-on. Personally I could not have imagined Pitou to go to such extent as ripping his/her own arm off as evidence/token of reliability last week. When it happened it was surprising but also was right. Ditto on his words. Like the whole script and mood achieved this time.
    I can only agree with the praise for Han Megumi's job here. She had to convey a universe of emotional range and she hit all the notes. Plus the animators' job on the facial expression and body language… top stuff.
    In some ways it was also an agonizing watch. Not only because of the attachment to the characters built up all along the series but also for very personal reasons. Let's just say I coud believe and feel Gon's emotions but also Kil's packed his own brand of haunting here.
    It will be a long long week until the next episode…

  32. K

    Maybe a kind of weird thing to notice, but this episode really put into perspective how much Gon has grown just physically over the course of this show. Kinda crazy seeing him now compared to the start of the series.

    As for the actual episode itself, totally speechless by the end. This is some intense anime.

  33. Indeed. as I mentioned a few weeks back I watched the first ep recently, and it's startling how much Gon and Kil have grown physically (as well as in terms of Han Megumi's performance). I think it's like a child or sibling you see every day – you don't notice their growth because you see them every day, but if you have a cousin you don't see for two years and they's a foot taller, it's a shock.

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