Unless you’re one of the contingent who soured on Hunter X Hunter during this arc because of the narrative structure and narration itself, you’ve been utterly spoiled like me by the astonishing – and astonishingly consistent – run the series is on. So when we get an episode like this one that’s merely very good, it’s too easy to overreact and dismiss it too easily. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t as deeply moved or driven mad by tension as I have in varying degrees with pretty much every ep in the last couple of months, but there was still some amazing stuff here (including possibly the all-anime debut of octo-barf).
We get a brief but scene-stealing appetizer of Killua and Youpi and a digestif of Morel and Pouf (that actually sounds like a real thing) but for the most part, the wheel of plot stopped on Ikalgo this week. His fifteen minutes of fame isn’t as compelling as the A-list cast, or even some of the B-list – but it’s fascinatingly different. Watching Octobro and Lobster Montana (Say hello to my little claw…) is quite unlike any of the other titanic faceoffs we’re seeing, for several reasons.
First things first is the A-lister, Killua. The episode picks up right where last week’s left off, with Killua apologizing not at all sincerely to Menthuyoupi and looking very Super Saiyan as he revs up the amperage. This is the true debutante ball for Killua’s “Godspeed” ability – the crowning achievement of his meticulous and harsh training with Bisky. We see both “Speed of Lightning” and “Whirlwind”, which in combination effectively allow him to move at the speed of the electrical impulses in his brain (we saw this briefly in the darts episode) and hard-wire his attack pattern to fluctuations in his opponent’s aura. It’s one of the more fascinating Nen abilities Togashi has dreamed up, and one which makes its wielder seemingly invincible.
Of course everyone is vincible, as we find out in due course. But before that we have Youpi’s reaction, which I find fascinating. Rather that lash out in blind rage, he whispers an appreciative “Fukai!” (“Deep!”) and laughs. Youpi is blown away by the coolness and complexity of this whole Nen thing, and it’s startling to see how much he’s grown mentally and emotionally in a tiny span of time. Youpi is distracted enough that he doesn’t notice the fading of Hotel Rafflesia, which either means Shoot is dead or unconscious (hopefully it’s the latter) but he certainly notices when the weakness in Godspeed reveals itself. Fittingly for a lightning-based attack, the Achilles heel is its short duration – and once Kil has used up his power supply, he’s smart enough to retreat and seek cover under the shield of Meleoron’s Perfect Plan. But there’s a price – Youpi, again showing his growing cunning, correctly deduces that one of the enemies has the ability to make themselves and others disappear and reappear.
Back down to the cellar we go, where Ikalgo and Brovada are engaged in a battle of wits. Ikalgo, truth be told, simply doesn’t have a Nen ability that’s the equal of the others in the attack party (which, I suspect, is partly the reason Morel chose this particular task for him). He’s here because he wants to prove himself, and no doubt his ability has proven useful – but in a straight-up fight, he’s no match for even a strong captain like Brovada. As a result Ikalgo has to rely on cunning even as he’s battling his own self-doubts. Brovada has the brute force option – he wisely uses it when the elevator traps him for not having a passcode and is about the “restrain” him with sleeping gas. Ikalgo has retreated to the guards’ control room, where he’s using the various bulkheads and the sleeping gas to try and trap Brovada like a rat in an ever-changing maze.
It turns out that those bulkheads are strong enough to withstand Brovada’s massive firepower, but there’s another way out – Ikalgo has thought of it and I thought of it, so Ikalgo’s guess that Brovada (who isn’t stupid) would too, eventually, is on the money. When an attempt to isolate Brovada in a corridor fails Ikalgo launches a dangerous, “MacGyver”-esque plan using cheap whiskey and a disposable lighter – and an armored assault vehicle – to block the elevator (which tips off Brovada about the way out, but too late). This works in part because of Octobro’s ability to squeeze into tight spaces (cephalopods actually have that amazing skill), but also because Brovada refuses to accept the possibility that his enemy could have intentionally trapped himself in order to trap Brovada as well.
Ultimately, as interesting as Ikalgo’s struggle with Brovada is (and it’s another example of Togashi’s relentless obsession over every detail of the story, large and small), this chapter is really about Ikalgo’s struggle with himself. Ultimately, Ikalgo isn’t a killer – and even if the best plan is to kill Brovada once he’s been neutralized and take over his body, this is fundamentally against Ilkalgo’s nature. We’ve seen the compassion of the Hunters and their allies assert itself over and over during this operation, and it’s yet to be revealed whether in the end it’s a strength or weakness. Several times – Netero (no less) pausing to allow Pitou to begin treating Komugi, Killua restraining Gon, Knuckle refusing to allow Shoot to die (or his honor be sullied) – they’ve taken actions that go against tactical sense and even logic. Yet we’ve also seen that this side has a unity and mutual loyalty the other lacks, and this has often allowed them to see things the independently operating ants (again, huge irony there) miss.
Again, there’s no Gon and Pitou at all here, or Netero and the King. If I’m getting a sense of Togashi’s narrative structure I suspect it’s going to be another week or even two before we focus on Gon – and even longer before we switch to the top dogs. Morel and Pouf have been relegated to brief check-ins for the last few episodes – understandably, because Morel has basically been staring at a cocoon and waiting – but I’d bet something is going to break there very soon, and I expect it to propel that thread into the spotlight next week.