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.