Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 122

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Time is definitely an elastic concept with Hunter X Hunter.

Among the many things I must credit Togashi and Koujina-sensei with, it seems one is temporal manipulation, because there’s no way in hell that was 22 minutes.  In terms of real-time it seems as if this might have been one of the more stretched-out episodes in recent weeks, but just as those episodes that only covered 15 seconds did, this one felt like it was over as soon as it started.  Compounding that is my own like of time at the moment, forcing me to rush through this already-delayed post when I feel like I should spend hours writing it.  This episode was unbelievably deep.

And tense.  Boy, was it ever, even by this arc’s standards.  I suppose we need to start by talking about Ginga Banjou, the 65 year-old seiyuu stalwart who had the unenviable task of stepping into the late Nagai Ichirou’s shoes in portraying Netero starting with this episode.  I won’t say “replace” because you can’t replace someone like Nagai-san – but the show, as they say, must go on.  For my part there was definitely an initial disconnect – how could there not be?  But the highest compliment I can pay Ginga-san (and the writer and director) is that by the end of the episode I wasn’t thinking about the change, only the moment.  Ginga’s Netero isn’t an impersonation of Nagai’s, which is a good thing. He projects just as much stature and power, but to my ears with a bit of a harder edge – there was a whimsical note to Nagai’s Netero that I didn’t hear in Ginga’s (yet).  That said, the situation hardly called for it.  It’s a sad moment for Hunter X Hunter, but despite that I think this ep showed Netero is in good hands with Ginga-san.

Ginga could hardly have asked for a tougher moment to take over – talk about needing to hit the ground running.  This was a watershed episode for Netero’s character, not just the first time we’ve seen he and the King in many weeks but the first time (apart from “The Last Mission”) where we’ve seen him display his true ability.  If you were thinking the same about the King, you’d be mistaken – but how could it be Togashi without a major event surprising us?  Apart from defense, the King showed none of his real power, and things – as usual – took a very different direction that the one we might reasonably have expected.

There’s only a very brief look-in on the scene between Gon, Pitou and Pouf – and during it Gon utters not a sound.  Pitou tells the truth, making sure to include information new to Gon to keep him focused on the narrative and not Pouf.  Pitou accomplishes two things here – tipping off Pouf as to the King’s general whereabouts (“He left through that doorway”) and making Gon waver – just a bit – in his certainty that he’s got the enemy figured out.  We’re seeing this motif play out over and over – each side being forced to reconsider the nature of the other.  It’s driven by the incredible mental and emotional evolution of the Royal Guard and even the other Chimera Ants – their outlook changes as they develop, and that development changes the way the Hunters and their allies see them.

We know, of course, what Shaiapouf will do here – send a little of himself (6/7 in fact, needing only 1/7 to maintain his facade for Gon) to search for the King.  On the way he spots Menthuthuyoupi on his own (quite deliberate, it seems to me) way to do the same.  There occurs what can only be called a tense staredown between the two of them – Pouf is pretty freaked out that both of his colleagues seem to have changed substantially (“You’ve grown up” he mutters to Youpi), and of course, no one has changed more or more quickly than Youpi.  Youpi is afraid, too – afraid of how quickly his perspective is evolving, and how much less certain of things that makes him.  He agrees with Youpi’s resolve that what they must do is immediately go to the King, but it’s clear that the relationship among the Royal Guard has been fundamentally altered, likely for good.

That tense staredown is nothing compared to the one between Netero and the King, though.  Here we see the depth to which Komugi has changed the King – “You humans were as mere livestock to me, but now I see that there are some humans worth keeping alive.”  He ranks Netero among that group, offering to spare his life – an offer Netero obviously cannot except – and not only that, refuses to fight him.  This is the fascinating and unexpected nature of the showdown Togashi has given us – the King sitting down and refusing to fight, leaving Netero to try and goad him into battle rather than engaging in a frank philosophical discussion.  There’s no seeming possibility that this could be a ploy by the King – such trickery simply seems utterly beneath him.  He sees no point in fighting someone who cannot defeat him, and no has no desire to kill someone he deems worthy of sparing and of possible future value to him.

It’s hard to overstate just how strange and compelling this encounter is.  Netero curses internally at the “newborn brat” in front of him, and indeed, that’s exactly what the Chimera are.  He uses the same thought process we saw Youpi use only moments before – he must act quickly because if he doesn’t, his own resolve will waver.  The King’s words are cold, seemingly emotionless, but cut straight to the point.  What the sense in preserving a world where children starve because of a line on a map, while scum live a life beyond the dreams of avarice while doing nothing to deserve it?  “I shall crush that madness, and create a world so fair that equality has no meaning.  I have learned what power is meant to be used for…  To protect the weak that deserve to live.  Power is not meant to be used to torment the defeated!”

Wow – just wow.  This isn’t simple anymore – but the truth is, it was never simple.  The seeds of what we’re seeing now were planted months ago, near the beginning of this arc, but to think that they would bear such fascinating fruit as they have is truly remarkable.  Netero is, by his own admission, in a difficult position.  He’s a peaceable man by nature and he’s been asked to do dirty work and take the blame for it, yet he sees no means of accommodation with the enemy before him.  He plows ahead before his resolve can waver too much, and we finally see the true nature of Netero’s Nen ability – the “100-type Guanyin Bodhisattva“.  This is the result of the years of devotional silence and isolation we saw depicted many weeks ago – the fruit of a lifetime of mastering his own thoughts and emotions and grooming the strength inside him, a terrible and awesome power.  And it has so impact on the King whatsoever, apart from a bit of a bloody lip.

In all my years of watching anime and reading manga, “You will only influence me by using words” may be the most fascinating battle cry I’ve heard.  This is a showdown like none other, a complete rejection of shounen convention and a direct challenge both to the heroes and the audience.  Netero is resolute – he’ll fight rather than talk, and we’re asked to root for the man who chooses violence over dialogue against the monster who’s changed so much in so little time and now refuses to fight.  The wily old Hunter has one more trick up his sleeve – he knows the King’s name, and the King may only be able to learn it from Netero if in fact the others who know have already been killed.  This information Netero uses to coax the King into fighting – the challenge to defeat Netero without killing him, in which case he’ll tell what he knows.  For the second time in a few weeks, Madhouse and Togashi have given us a long-awaited showdown that’s both confounded and exceeded expectations in every way – and the though of waiting a week for what feels like a few seconds of reward is sheer torture.

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  1. O

    I simply couldn't believe this episode. I felt anguished watching two of my favorite characters duke it out, with one or the other potentially not making it back. One of them being the main "antagonist" is what reminds me that Togashi is a genius at bending genre conventions. I can't wait to see next weeks episode. That one animation director is doing the work (I forget her name) and it seems to be an Ikalgo episode. Putting the budget for an episode about what's going on with him and not Netero intrigues me more than anything.

  2. A

    It's not going to only be an Ikalgo episode, the preview is intentional misdirection.

  3. O

    That's good to know, though if it was going to be ikalgo only I would definitely not have minded.

  4. S

    Not necessarily, I didn't watch the preview but they could have changed the order in which the events are shown compared to the manga in order to concentrate the other stuff in a single run of consecutive episodes. It's all happening at the same time anyway.

  5. S

    I was a bit baffled by that translation – the original manga one I read was "I will create a world where everyone is so equal, the word equality will not exist any more." I think it had a nicer ring to it and was less direct, and it became one of my favourite manga quotes ever. It just makes you shiver.

    There's so many callbacks here. First, this is a situation much similar to the one Netero himself put the Hunters through during their exam – fights where you must make the other surrender rather than kill him. A fight of determination, not one of strength or skill. Then, there's the inevitable parallel – Netero got here with the help of a hitman, but what is he if not a glorified hitman himself, someone paid and sent by the rich and powerful of this world to end a threat they see becoming too dangerous for their own comfort? And isn't this the confirmation that this Ant King is, indeed, a threat to them, yet in an entirely different way than one would have expected? Is the King being too naive in his young idealism, like a Light Yagami who thinks he can make the world a better place just by killing all the bad guys? Is this what Netero is trying to prevent? Or is he just duty bound, or readier to take upon himself the burden of taking this life now rather than risk that there will be no chance to do so any more, or simply boiling with warrior pride and enraged by this "brat" who's looking down on him so casually?

    Probably all of that. All of that just in expressions, actions, and a few lines of dialogue. I think this fight consolidated Netero as one of the best characters in anime I can remember, he really FEELS like he has all the weight of wisdom, experience and knowledge (and possibly cynicism) that comes with a life as long as his.

  6. "He has a mind like a plant…"

  7. S

    Ah, right XD. Indeed.

  8. C

    *SHIVER SHIVER SHIVER SHIVER SHIVER* one of my favorite bits of dialogue! but my favorite is yet to come :3

  9. h

    using the name really amazed me,great writing from togashi and again and again,the king and the royal guards are the one growing on me

  10. G

    the position the King used when he sat down. It's immediately very similar to the same position used by someone else in this arc: Gon. Virtually identical, in fact. That in itself draws a very clever parallel between the King and Gon, the antagonist and protagonist of the arc, respectively. They are both in similar situations that are reversed. Gon is sitting down, he himself perfectly willing to fight while his opponent, Pitou, is not. In the other case, the King is sitting down, unwilling to fight, while Netero is reacting aggressively. Again, it highlights the contrast between the two, how one has become more inhumane and the other the opposite. In the both cases, ironically, it is the humans who are pushing for conflict.

  11. A

    Great observation, didn't even see that at all.

  12. S

    As I'm not well versed in Seiyuus, and it's been months since I last heard Netero speak, I didn't even realise it was a new voice actor. Take that as you want (I won't take offense if you call me retarded), but I think it should be taken as a great credit to Ginga-san. I did feel noticed that we now had a much harsher Netero, with none of the delightful whimsicalness he had before, but I just thought it was because of the seriousness of the situation.

    Enzo calls it the worst possible time to change the cast, but on the other hand, we're lucky Netero hasn't said anything for several episodes (=months). People who marathon the episodes when they're done won't be so lucky.

    Also, that post by Gustavo Bruce above is golden.

  13. J

    I find it strange you didn't tackle the elephant in the room Enzo, why do you think Netero refuses to talk things through instead of fighting? No matter the argument I don't see what's wrong about it.

    Anyway, I kept myself from watching HxH for 3 weeks and just watched 3 episodes in a row. I highly recommend others to do so if they find that those weekly 25 mins are not enough. Don't suffer them, just save it all up for one glorious day in which you treat yourself to a one hour special of HxH.

    With the good guys screwing up so much and determined to kill before talking, I watch this show now to see what happens to Pitou, Youpi, Pouf and the King, now that they've matured they're the good guys, simple as that. Well, except for Pouf, maybe. They're changing moods constantly, this show is so good.

  14. Honestly, I think it's pretty self-evident why Netero feels talking isn't an option – it doesn't seem to me like any effort is being made to disguise it.

  15. J

    Then I'm sure I must be missing something quite important and look like a fool by insisting, but why exactly is that?

    Much like Netero explained, the King is a child that is still learning, and right now can be turned into a hero or a villain.

    Surely talking to him about this would teach him valuable things to consider for the future? Surely he can join the good guys if he learns to control his darker side? Youpi learned to control his rage, and even Colt's now a good guy. Why exactly must the King be eliminated? Because world leaders ordered the Hunter Association to do so and they have no other choice but to obey?

    I really don't know what's the logic behind this, if anyone could clear this up, I'd be really grateful.

  16. I would caution anyone answering that to be very careful about manga spoilers, because it strikes me as dangerous territory.

    For me as someone who hasn't read ahead in the manga, it seems to me that Netero has concluded that even if the King is evolving from his initial "kill 'em all" mentality, his worldview is fundamentally incompatible with that of the Hunter Association. Even if the King's perspective is changing, any scenario he envisions will always have himself at the top of the pyramid. Whether his goal is to exterminate the human race or merely bend it to his new order, it's not a place Netero feels he can allow him to go – and Netero doesn't feel the King will ever abandon that fundamental point.

  17. h

    yeah,in noway humans (leaders or commoners) will allow an alien to lead the world,heck,see how we kill each others in competition for the chairs and you want people to just give him the world keys to rule it,ofcourse not,the onlyway for that is war till the king become at the top of the pyramid then he could apply his view,and for that to happen millions and millions will have to be sacrified,Netero had no choice but to eliminated him

  18. J

    The current situation is understandably impossible for Netero to accept: even if the King may mean to do good things, killing anyone who's "not worth it" according to him is wrong.

    So, why not sit down and tell him these things? If the King really meant to do good, he'd accept the idea of starting from the bottom of the pyramid and build his way up "with words". If his belief of him "being chosen to be the world leader" is really true, then no matter where he starts from he'll end up being world leader. He would learn that every life is valuable in its own way, even if the person is ultra-evil, much like he learned three days ago that there were lives that were worth saving.

    Netero is fighting because he fears his "heart will waver", but if the King does agree to all this, why fight at all? If the conversation turns for the worse and the King says "no, I'll just start from the top and kill everyone who's not worth it" then there's the resolve Netero needs to fight.

    If someone could clear this up I'd really welcome anyone to do so. If Netero hasn't revealed his true intentions yet (you know the spoiler policies here, don't do it), then by all means tell me I should wait and see. But as of right now, I think this is yet another bad logic from the author. It's not the first time this has happened, I see people often worship Togashi as the unmatched best, but more often than not I find myself thinking it's just blind faith.

  19. That crossed over the line for me, sorry. Err on the side of caution.

  20. N

    At the beginning of this arc, with the long, long exposition of the ants, I thought Togashi had no clear idea of what he was doing, that he was just brainstorming on deadlines. But damn, either decades of writing have made his intuition ineffable, or this is one calculated bastard (probably both). This is not Chekhov's Gun, this is Chekhov's Arsenal. The only thing I'm missing is that pink Koala ant, but I'm sure he'll reappear when least expected and most effective.

  21. N

    (I meant "infallible", I don't know what "ineffable" is, but since that's what the auto speller spouted, it probably means something)

  22. S

    "Ineffable" means something that can't be felt/perceived. And yeah, the guy's a calculating bastard indeed (though in terms of ability to scatter hints years before they are actually useful to the plot, I think Eiichiro Oda and his One Piece take the cake).

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