Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 121

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You know, this show is actually pretty good.

Hunter X Hunter really is the gift that keeps on giving.  There’s seemingly no end to the ways it can entertain and astound me.  To those who complain that “Chimera Ant” is too paced too slowly I can only ask – why?  Why would you want something this brilliant to be any different, much less be over faster?  Every episode is tense, exciting and gripping even if it only covers a few moments of real time – and a lot of them, like this one, are genuinely deep as well.  If you haven’t figured out by now that the fights – as great as they are – aren’t the real point, maybe Togashi just isn’t your cup of tea.

There are some major plot advances this week, that’s for sure, and a fair amount of time spent dealing with the characters on the A-list (or at least the B-list).  It’s an eventful ep, starting where the last one left off – with Shaiapouf walking in on the strange scene in between Gon and Neferpitou.  Pitou is terrified about what might happen; Gon is cold and unwavering in his rage, Pouf quietly seething about what he sees unfolding.  Pouf initially believes he could have killed Gon if Pitou hadn’t spoken up – Pitou quickly disabuses him of the notion that Gon was anything but completely aware of his presence.  Gon may be seriously pissed off at the universe, but he’s dialed in – he’s fully in the moment now, and determined to get what he wants.

It’s really fascinating how each of the Royal Guard has completely defied expectations once the attack started (and in Pitou’s case, even before).  Who would have believed we would see Pouf be the quiet and menacing one here, intent on killing the enemy, rather than rushing off to the King the moment he was free to do so?  Or that Pitou would bargain and put everything on the line in order to save a human girl?  These creatures really are a textbook of evolution at warp speed – clearly, none of them had any real sense of just who they were when all this started (especially so in Menthruyoupi’s case, as we’ll see later).  They’re children – children blessed with ridiculous power but not with any context of the world in which to find their place and understand their existence.  And that’s what makes them so fascinating.

Pouf initially tries to scam Gon by using his wing scales on him, but the boy will have none of that.  Plan B is to pretend to play along while Pitou discreetly tips him off as to everything that’s happened, but even if Pitou is willing to risk that – which I have serious doubts about – Gon is too razor-sharp and too pissed at the moment to allow it.  Pouf and Gon both are itching for a fight, it seems to me, and Pitou is the one caught in the middle and well aware of that.  The situation in that room is unbelievably tense (“Just shut up” has never sounded more like a challenge)  but that’s a tension that suffuses through the entire episode.

The scene between Killua and Meleoron is only a brief one, but it packs a lot of weight and reveals much about both of them.  I wondered after Episode 117 just how much of what happened between Gon and Killua Meleoron had seen, and the answer is revealed here – he saw all of it, and none of the significance was lost on him.  “I have everything under control.” Killua tells him – so classically Killua, the boy who desperately needs to convince himself that he always has things under control.  Meleoron isn’t fooled for a moment.  He knows how scared Killua is for Gon, and Meleoron – who I really believe is the kindest (to a fault, quite literally) being in this story, along with Knuckle – sees Killua as a kid in pain rather than just a powerful fighter and fellow soldier.  But Meleoron – more so than Knuckle – seems able to suck it up and face painful realities in order to help the larger cause.  He leaves Killua to his own devices and goes off the check on Knuckle and Morel.

This is where the meat of the episode plays out, and it’s some of the best material of the entire series.  Youpi’s clock is ticking – Potclean will bankrupt his Nen in 3:50.  But in this struggle that’s truly an eternity, and Morel is at the end of his strength.  Youpi is systematically eliminating the last of his puppets and Morel has no way to generate more.  Meanwhile Youpi is undergoing yet another transformation – his evolution, both physical and emotional, has truly been the most astonishing of the Royal Guard – as he finds a way to channel his rage by effectively splitting himself into two beings (manifesting as a kind of centaur with an extra oni head) and storing his rage as if it were in a gas tank.  The last of the fakes is disposed of, and there’s nothing left between Morel – now too exhausted even to stand – and death.

But here, yet again, things take a surprising turn.  Youpi affirms that he’s going to kill Morel, but makes it clear that he’s developed a profound respect for these enemies who continue to fight even when all seems hopeless.  Developing at a staggering rate, Youpi has come to understand both the endless depth inherent in Nen and the power the enemies’ humanity has given them.  He’s no longer the ant who kills the fly – he understands the difference between these enemies and himself, and how much of what defines him comes from the part of him that’s like them.  This is what Knuckle wanted all along, really – an acknowledgement that the Hunters were an enemy that was worth killing once defeated.  But just as Youpi is about to deliver the killing blow to Morel, Morel disappears – we know why, of course, but the surprising thing is just how correctly the seemingly simple-minded Youpi has deduced the nature of his opponents’ powers.

Meleoron has saved Morel, of course – but he wasn’t able to reach Morel before Youpi’s scythe deeply wounded him.  Not even Perfect Plan can hide a trail of blood, and this makes tracking his opponent a simple matter for Youpi.  Meleoron has already resigned himself to the reality that if Youpi moves to strike again he’ll have no choice but to leave Morel to die, but Knuckle scrambles the deck by revealing himself.  He challenges Youpi to a straight-up fight, no more running, as long as he’ll let the others escape – but Youpi has leveled up intellectually way too much to fall for that uneven exchange.  He’ll agree – but only if Knuckle pulls Potclean off him.  Youpi may not know exactly what Potclean is, but he knows it’s the reason Knuckle has been doing so much time-wasting.

This is yet another incredibly tense moment, and we can basically watch everyone’s thought process playing out as it happens.  Calling off Potclean would be a disaster, undoing all that’s been accomplished – Morel certainly knows it, but crucially, so does Meleoron.  Kind, ultra-bro Meleoron knows the hard truth and he knows the risk of Knuckle taking Youpi’s deal, so he takes it upon himself to put an end to the situation – and to Morel – by revealing Morel’s presence.  But this backfires, for the sight of the bleeding Morel is too much for Knuckle.  To Morel’s anguish, he cancels Potclean and leaves everyone’s fate in Youpi’s hands.

This scene, I think, cuts to the very heart of what the Chimera Ant story really is – an exploration of humanity and of identity.  The irony has never been lost on me that it was the humans that went into this final battle with great solidarity, while the supposed insects were each going their own way.  Youpi seems to have had an epiphany here – he understands that in a very fundamental way he’s just become much more human, but not just that – he also grasps that he’s both gained and lost a great deal in the process.  Youpi, who had less of a sense of self than any of the Royal Guard, now finds himself acting based on his curiosity about the creatures he’s fighting and their Nen and the respect he’s developed for them.  The right decision if the welfare of the King is all that matters?  Kill all three of them on the spot, without question.  But Youpi doesn’t – he sticks to the deal he offered, even encourages Knuckle to get Morel to a doctor, and says he’s going off the find the King.  He’ll fight them later, if they want – as equals.

It’s hard to know just what to make of all this.  Perhaps, in the end, Knuckle wasn’t completely foolish after all – because he acted based on what he head Youpi tell Morel, which resonated with his sense of honor as a warrior.  And he was vindicated by Youpi’s actions, though he’s still surrendered what amounts to likely the only chance to take Youpi down.  It’s here that Knov appears again – looking utterly ravaged and ghastly, clearly terrified at being so close to the palace again but forcing himself to do what has to be done.  It’s he who takes Morel away for treatment, just as he did Shoot, and he informs the others that Zeno has passed along a message – Netero’s plan has succeeded in isolating the King.  Even if the Royal Guard left immediately, they would be too late.

In a sense, then, this is mission accomplished – and with both Morel and Knov effectively incapacitated, it’s left to Meleoron and Knuckle to decide their own course.  There’s never a doubt for a moment that they’ll stay.  There’s the unknown fate of Palm, of course, but they won’t allow themselves the luxury of worrying about her yet – there are still two Royal Guard in the palace, and two young boys whose mission there is not close to complete.  For all Knuckle’s flaws lack of loyalty is obviously not one, and the inevitable pairing of the two ultimate bros is finally here – they’ll be whatever help to Gon and Killua that they can.  As the standoff between Gon, Pitou and Pouf continues to balance on the knife’s edge of disaster, it seems that at long last we’re going to catch at least a glimpse of the two most powerful figures of all – and it will be interesting to see whether Nagai Ichirou’s voice still speaks for Netero, or whether the recording of next week’s episode already occurred too late.

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  1. R

    Little Correction: Gon and Pitou are not in the throne room. The throne room was where Morrel and Pouf had their little standoff over the last few episodes.

  2. A

    Did they have a name for the room they are at? Or perhaps… Komugi's Resting Room? ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. F

    eagle room?

  4. i

    "The irony has never been lost on me that it was the humans that went into this final battle with great solidarity, while the supposed insects were each going their own way."

    I think the even greater irony at this point is that the Hunter's quest to eliminate the Ants has only thus far succeeded in causing the Ants to evolve and become even more dangerous than they were. You write a lot about the intensity of the change through which all three of the Royal Guards have gone (and through which they are still going). All this has been because of the Hunters who attacked, because of humans. They came to destory; instead they have, in a sense, created.

    As far as the pacing goes, I'm still aghast at the continuation of the complaining in the community over the pacing and the use of the narrator. It's sad, really, that this is something that has diminished people's enjoyment of the show, because it seems they can't see the genius of the craft that is able to balance such a multi-faceted story in so many different place, and all the while refusing to neglect even the villains as characters. It's astounding how good this show is.

  5. A

    There's a reason why brainless-fighting filled anime has their markets.

  6. s

    I wouldnt say some of the fanbase cant see the genius of the craft; i would say it more has to do with different strokes for different folks. There's a different between conventional story-telling that is crafted with care and intelligence and taking a different approach to story-telling with an inventive twist; HunterXHunter is doing the latter, and while that result is filled with intelligent writing, the process may not come off to some people as something they find exhilarating.

    When you take a different approach to story-telling, you run the risk of being divisive, even if approach ended up being really intelligent. Heck, I think serial experiments Lain is one of the most, if not THE most intelligent anime i have ever seen but that series veers so far off conventional story-telling that if someone was to tell me they didnt like and explained why, i would assume that the story-telling style just wasn't their cup of tea even if they could acknowledge its intelligence.

    I also think that fans feel that this arc of HunterXHunter, regardless of the multi-faceted stories and character detail that is going, could be paced better; and while im ok with the status of this series at the moment (i tend to enjoy slow pacing most of the time), the argument that this arc could have been paced differently definitely has legs. Take an American series like Game of thrones; there is some very intelligent writing going on with that series with so many scenarios running congruently with each other, but the pacing is very deliberate and strikes a great balance in the speed of which it delivers its content. Every ep feels like great build-up with a slice of pay-off which inadvertently leads to eps peppered within the season's run that capitalizes heavily on said build-up. I guess what im trying to say that some fans feel like this arc has not been capitalizing on its build-ups the way its should, or that a lot of these eps have focused on fleshing out characters primarily instead of providing the best combination of build-up , character exploration, and pay off. Some string of eps focus on fleshing out characters and less on build-up; some string of eps focus on long stretches of build-up without a break for pay off and that can understandably turn some people off.

    I think the problem some of the fans have (ive only seen some comments so this is just me inferring off of those) is that there isnt this perfect marriage of build-up, pay-off, and character drama and so not a lot seems to be happening and its starting to feel as if the series' is dragging on a bit. All these "problems", compound the fact that this is a 20 min, weekly series and fans take that into consideration when watching this series (Ive said this before, but perhaps things would be different if this arc was being watched in one sitting…probably). I dont think it's the fact that people cant see the genius of the work because they can, it's just not to their liking and that seems legitimate to me. I personally am alright with whats going on but my only complaint would be the narrator's prominent role in this arc but not because of the pacing, but because i dont like being told things as if someone was reading off a manual. I like to infer things on my own and interpret what i am watching. I feel the narrator takes away from that but other than that HunterXHunter is still something i consider a really good anime series and this arc's dark tone is really doing it some good.

  7. z

    Excellent post. I think I've seen you or similar people post such comments about the division in HxH fans and casuals.

  8. s

    Thank you; the way i see it, there is almost nothing objectively bad (as objective as you can get when analyzing creative media anyway) about the way this arc of HunterXHunter is playing out. This isnt a case of poor writing or terrible narrative (like what happens to some shounen or shows in general that overstay their welcome or when an anime catches up to the source material so things have to be boorishly dragged on; this is just a scenario of togashi having a vision of the way he wanted to tell the story (with good writing no less) and madhouse adhering to that vision. If this arc is not your cup of tea, then it isnt, but i think my opinion differs from those who are just outright calling this arc a fall from grace because again, i dont think there's anything specifically wrong with most of what's happening. But with that, i think ive said all that is needed

  9. z

    In my opinion people are also rating this arc lower because of the low-quality animation (and by extension direction). There has been a noticeable usage of speedlines, still shots pass by's and 'pose' shots. The problem is that in a manga, the reader's mind fills the blank of suggested action shots and motions. In an anime there are budget costs and you end up with generic, essentially coloured in manga panels. A manga-only viewer plus is that the anime has nicer drawing and expressions than the manga. Thankfully the arc is tying up the loose knots and tightening the plot's focus so tension should ramp up and have a satisfying climax for those discontented right now.

  10. s

    I agree in what you mean in regards to the animation but i think what you mention about a reader filling in the blanks when reading manga also applies with animation. A big reason why anime can get away with taking shortcuts most of the time (so as long as those shortcuts arent just downright excessive) is because the mind does the same thing; it infers a lot and fills in the blanks; Im very sensitive to detail but also very forgiving (isnt that the most backwards combination ) so the animation, while i do feel takes those usual shortcuts, is still a joy to view and the series knows when it needs to kick the animation into high gear. The art really hasnt lost its detail either (to which madhouse is usally good at doing; their typical art usually consist of good shadows/lowlighting ) so that certainly helps keep the series looking lively.

  11. S

    Happy 2-Year Anniversary of the Latest Hiatus.

  12. b

    Minor correction, it's 3 mins 50 seconds, not 3 mins 15 secs, until Youpi bankrupts from Potclean.

  13. w

    I'm not sure there is anyone who can beat Youpi in a straight fight, he has to be by far the physically strongest ant outside of the king. On top of that he's closing the mental gap scary quickly. I'm fairly sure sure my heart stopped when Knuckle removed potclean.

  14. e

    Pouf and Gon might be both itching for a fight, but at least in Gon's case there's only one fight he might be interested in… in case he finds out Pitou is lying – and we already can tell Pitou has been partially lying (about Komugi's surgery required time). On my part I believe he is lying about Kaitou as well.( I rest my case dude's a corpse since that shot his head in Pitou's lap in shallow water = Kitty beheaded him) – . Sharp senses and all but a fight with Pouf would require for Gon to take his eyes – dem eyes! – off Pitou and he does not seem to be interested in that. We weren't even shown him blinking once if I recall correctly ;). In Killua's (my babyyyyyy T_T) words, 'once he's in that state he won't budge'.
    Now, knowing รจ [we watchers] about Pouf's clones ability he could bypass Gon's order while technically a part of him still stands in the room. Wouldn't Gon notice though? And in case then what would our green boy do? Yet somehow I doubt Pouf and Gon will end up engaging in a fight.
    And in any case… sucks to be Pitou :p.

    Now… Youpi. I don't know if I'm gladder at his bushi display (a-ha! The Nen is profound really ended up as a trigger 8D) or madder at Knuckle. It's good writing because yes we can see both sides' reasons but for all this noble warrior respect development Knov – good heavens the poor man – still nails the end issue: as son as the King waves his baton the honorable warrior Ant will turn on mankind. And for how far/unreachable the Netero&King duel location might be things there have been already enough things not going according to plan TL;DR: what if Youpi – AND Pouf – actually make it in time?. Removing Potclean still smells of bad idea to me :,) . But by the same virtue the human factor harboring inside the top Ants might lead them towards good end unpredictable rather than bad end unpredictable. Gah. This wait is agony. And I would not have it any other way.
    Damn you Knuckle. Thank you Knuckle. You and you effing BroFeels. GAH!
    Talking of feels: aaah the preview. Those two kids :,).

  15. I agree, it was a bad idea. But I'm not convinced yet that it might not be quite as bad as we originally think, and Togashi is gently suggesting that.

  16. e

    It might not be as bad as we think but what the overall loss vs gain due to Knuckle's decision will only be clear in hindsight. In this sense if Togashi is gently suggesting that then yes there's some reason to be optimistic. Before we get there though… he could unleash on us a world of pain and suffering. And being the writer he is we wouldn't wish to skip one instant of it, yeah? I'll be visualizing Togashi in his Usagi-pigtails dusting his collection of cake stands around the house… just to cope :,D.

  17. K

    It's already been announced that Banjo Ginga is the new voice for chairman Netero.

  18. Yes, I know. I reported it here.

  19. K

    Those news reports from last month stated that episode 114 would be the final appearance by Nagai as Netero.

  20. Did they? I missed that detail. I'm surprised they hadn't recorded farther in advance.

  21. M

    Well, it really isn't so surprising.
    Voice recording is one of the last stage in anime production, and given how long it takes to produce an anime episode, it's only natural that there is only 3 or so episodes recorded ahead of the last release.

  22. K

    Yeah. Here's the article I read:

    Episode 114 is mentioned in the last paragraph.

  23. K

    And no offense to Mr. Ginga's considerable talents either, but I would have really liked to have had Mr. Nagai finish his work as Netero before he died. It would have been awesome.

  24. L

    Someone told me the past 10 episodes have been amazing, so I caught up—and they sure are. Probably the best anime i'm currently watching at this moment, too. Holy crap, the way it's slowed down and narrated makes it feel like a grim storybook or something, almost surreal.

  25. I've never felt more disconnected from the mass opinion on an anime than when I see all the criticism of the current arc of H x H. Subjectivism aside, it's hard for me to grasp it.

  26. d

    "I've never felt more disconnected form the mass opinion on an anime than when I see all the criticism of the current arc of H x H."

    Except for, perhaps, E7:AO, heh.

    I was in the minority on that one, as well.

  27. Certainly, in the case of AO I was in strong disagreement with a greater percentage of the audience. But I could more realistically understand their opinion, even if I completely disagreed with it. In this case the disconnect is total for me.

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