Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 128

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Well, damn – I hardly know where to start with that one…

This is a snippet of what I wrote two weeks ago, after the blooming of the miniature rose:

I’m very, very reluctant to try and dig into the deeper meaning of what we saw…  It will simply invite a flood of spoilers, some tagged, some disguised as jokes or hints, some just laid out for all to see.  I have my own notions about all that, but I’m going to stick mostly to what we saw on screen and the symbolism of it.

And here we are.

It’s fair to say I pretty much expected Meruem to be alive.  Let’s be honest – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to kill off the top boss ten episodes before the end of the story – even for a maverick like Togashi.  And as much poetry and symbolism as there was in Chairman Netero’s actions (rife with contradictory moral and ethical implications to a staggering degree), that just didn’t feel like the way The King was going to go out.  But wow – Togashi and Madhouse sure pulled out all the stops bringing him back.  That was…. out there.

I hardly know whether to start with the implications of this development (both for the past and future) or the development itself.  I suppose it makes sense to start with the latter.  We’ve seen some pretty edgy stuff from Hunter X Hunter before, especially since the beginning of “Chimera Ant” – acts of unspeakable violence, children being terrorized and killed – but for outright ballsy outrageousness it would be hard to beat the first ten minutes of this episode.

In essence (no pun intended – I was going to say “in a nutshell” but that would have been even worse) what we saw was Shaiapouf and Menthruyoupi feed themselves to The King.  But it was so much more than that – it was graphic, it was homoerotic, it was loud and long and absolutely unapologetic.  The soundtrack of orgiastic moaning and screaming from the seiyuu alone (honestly, it’s almost impossible to believe this is really the normally comatose Hatano Wataru) must surely have made the scene even more impactful than it was in the manga.  If there were any worries Madhouse was going to tone down anything in this arc, I would think this would put them to bed and turn out the lights.

Truthfully, I’m not sure if I believe it was absolutely necessary to take things quite this far – it speaks of a certain amount of mischievous defiance from Togashi and Koujina as much as anything.  But the effect is undeniable – make no mistake about it, Meruem inspires absolute loyalty among his followers (the Royal Guard, in any case).  Even as Meruem himself is moderating his views (more or less) we can see that for the R.G. this is effectively a cult of personality.  The intense jealousy of Pouf and Youpi as they compete with each other to see who The King finds more delicious is testament to just how unreservedly and passionately his elites love him, and an ominous reminder of the lengths they (most obviously Pouf) will go to in order to jealously hoard his love.

All of this is contrasted with the increasingly Buddha-like imagery of Meruem himself as he ingests his followers, becomes shrouded in golden light and eventually begins to regain his strength.  The Meruem that emerges is dramatically different from the one that fought the duel with Netero, in ways whose import we cannot yet begin to judge.  He’s developed a taste for this food, delicious beyond all others – how will that play itself out?  We’ve already seen the impact this has on Pouf and Youpi – presumably there’s a finite amount of themselves they can feed to Meruem.  He’s lost much of his memory, though it seems as if that’s largely or entirely a temporary impact.  And he’s come back even stronger than before, having survived humanity’s best shot, emerging from his charred cocoon with elements of both Youpi and Pouf’s powers, seemingly.

Let’s consider that one.  The King was already so strong that he survived what was effectively a nuclear explosion – what in the world can the Hunters or anyone else throw at him now that he’s even more formidable?  Not only that, but this turn of events seems, on appearances, to have rendered Netero’s last act of self-sacrifice futile – a sad legacy for the old man, if indeed that turns out to be the case.  Netero threw the best Nen attacks humanity had to offer and when those failed, turned to the most powerful of its mundane weapons of destruction.  Surely that’s not the ending Netero had in mind for himself, but I wonder if he engaged the possibility that even the miniature rose would fail.  He was an incredibly clever , experienced and meticulous man – I wouldn’t doubt he had some sort of contingency plan that he left behind just in case, but one wonders if this is simply a greater enemy that Netero had in him to defeat.

Indeed, I see one weakness with Meruem and one only – Komugi.  Pouf sees it too – now that he and Youpi are linked to The King they sense his confusion directly – though petty jealousy is as much guiding his actions as that concern when he decides to take advantage of The King’s loss of memory to send his clone to the palace to kill her before Mereum has a chance to remember her.  “It’s a gamble” Pouf muses – ya think?  Pouf has proved himself a rash and fearless wild card, capable of almost anything – but there may come a time when it’s not only he that realizes Komugi is Meruem’s greatest (only?) weak spot.  What would the “good guys” – the Hunter’s party – do with that information, once they realized it?

Those answers, for now, remain a matter of conjecture.  Pouf’s plan, if it succeeds, will not do so smoothly – when his clone arrives back at the palace “two or three minutes” ahead of Meruem, Komugi is missing – along with Neferpitou and Gon – and the clone is attacked by a cloaked Knuckle.  He slaps a Hakoware on clone Pouf’s ass, which promptly causes Potclean to appear behind the Pouf clinging to The King’s tail.  Not only that, Palm, because of the fact that she’s seen Pouf before and her Ants-formation, can use her “Wink Blue” ability to see Pitou – and his clones – wherever they are.  That means she now knows that Mereum is not only alive, but returning to the Palace at high speed.

It seems hard to envision any scenario now where Meruem can be beaten with physical force.  That means if he is to fall – or at least be stopped from world domination – it’s going to have to be for another reason entirely.  Persuasion, compassion, deception, despair – through some combination of these or other like factors Meruem is going to have to be compelled to effectively stop himself, because it’s more clear than ever that he’s the only one strong enough to do so.  And there’s not a shadow of doubt in my mind that Komugi is the key to all of that, practically and existentially.

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  1. N

    I was always half expecting Gon (with the possible help of Killua) to face off the king in the arc finale and kick his ass shounen style. That now seems not at all likely, and thank Togashi for that. There' s nothing predictable about this show.

  2. S

    That scene. With this arc it's like Togashi went "Nightmare fuel? I'LL SHOW YOU NIGHTMARE FUEL" and just threw every possible disturbing idea his mind could conceive into a single storyline. Chimaera Ants are as alien as it could be, and I guess that scene proves it better than a hundred humans eaten or brains probed.

  3. m

    that was dramatic… the series seems to bring the VAs to life

  4. K

    I don't know if you've seen this Enzo, but the some of the reactions to this episode have been really disturbing for me. It's like some people just hated the first part because of the homoerotic tone it had. As if the slightest hint of it scares the hell out of some people. It makes some of the people complaining about the Ant arc even more ridiculous.

  5. U

    Mind that for me and for sure a lot of others it was disturbing but at the same time it doesn't mean I (or they) think it was unneeded or bad. It's part of the story. It's part of who characters really are. It's disturbing cause, well, it shoul be.

  6. K

    No I agree but I've seen some people literally say that the first part was bad because it was "gay"

  7. I saw it and of course it's revolting, but let's be honest – given the sorts of comments we see from the anime fan community every day, how can you be remotely surprised?

  8. G

    I didn't like this episode. I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I disliked a HxH episode. I never for a second even thought it had homoerotic overtomnes until just reading that now. The majority of the episode came across as creepy (and not in a scary good way). Like eatting a sandwich that has spoiled meat in the middle.

  9. x

    "Netero threw the best Nen attacks humanity had to offer and when those failed, turned to the most powerful of its mundane weapons of destruction."

    Isn't it explicitly pointed out that the Rose is merely a cheap, mass manufactured, small scale weapon of mass destruction and that bombs of ten times the yield have been used against humans?

    If that's what humanity can do with "cheapo" bombs produced in bulk and mostly employed by terrorists or third world countries ruled by dictators, I doubt the King could stand up to a state of the art high yield explosive intended for warfare.

    That said, I doubt this is gonna end with "we need a bigger bomb". I do not doubt however that the King is gonna be dead before the arc is over. HxH isn't like those Shounen where the villain sees the error of his ways, apologizes and suddenly no one cares about the hundreds of people he killed anymore.

    Meruem has declared himself, through words and actions, an enemy of humanity. Whether he still remembers that(or will remember it) or not, the government officials backing the Hunter Association sure as hell do. They're not gonna be content with a "oh well, he said he's really sorry and he won't eat humans anymore, he totally changed his perspective because of this blind girl who's good at board games". They're gonna want him dead. No matter what.

    *How* they're gonna kill him without a bigger bomb, I have no idea. I agree that none of the Hunters currently present is gonna best him in physical combat. Hakoware doesn't seem like such a swell equalizer either anymore considering how it fared against the much weaker Youpi(it would simply take far too long to be feasible). We'll see, I guess.

  10. A

    A bigger bomb would not have made any real difference, the miniature rose is pretty obviously a small tactical nuke, but all nukes have about the same intensity at the center of the explosion, bigger ones just hit a wider area.

    Now for my reaction to the episode itself: Wow. Those first ten minutes are pretty much the gayest thing I have ever seen. I asked a gay friend who watches HxH and he agreed and said that it was gayer than having actual gay sex. I ended up giggling my way through the whole sequence, I'm not sure the creators intended that but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    I don't think Pouf will manage to harm Komugi, she has too many powerful people protecting her.

  11. A

    "A bigger bomb would not have made any real difference, the miniature rose is pretty obviously a small tactical nuke, but all nukes have about the same intensity at the center of the explosion, bigger ones just hit a wider area."

    … Huh? That's nonsense, a hydrogen bomb *requires* an atom bomb just to force the compression of the hydrogen enough to ignite fusion. The yield scales are orders of magnitude different. The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima eventually was compacted small enough to fit inside a W19 shell, a one foot shell with a 15kiloton payload. A hydrogen bomb could go up to 50 megatons (the Tzar bomb was originally planed to be 100 but Russia decided 'you know that is kinda crazy'.) That's over a thousand times more energy.

    The reason the blast hits a wider area is because such an explosion releases a LOT MORE ENERGY. It atomizes anything even relatively close to the blast radius. A small 'tactical nuke' does not begin to compare to the type of energy released from a hydrogen bomb. They are not in the same ballpark.

    … The really really scary thing is that I'm not talking about fictional weapons, in the real world, the bomb that destroyed heroshima isn't just small, it's *tiny*. As Netero said, "never underestimate the human potential for evolution/malice".

    As a side note, we probably could in the modern era build even more fearsome bombs than the 100MT Tsar bomb, but countries have mostly collectively agreed that once you get to a certain point, bigger bombs just don't make sense to produce.

  12. A

    Yes, I know all of that, but just because there is a larger energy release with a larger bomb does not mean that matter at the very epicenter gets any more destroyed that it would be by a smaller bomb. Either bomb is still rendering everything down to atoms at the range the king was at when it went off.

    The bigger bombs were mostly built to create a shockwave that would travel further, increasing the range of the damage inflicted by the bomb, not to make stuff caught in the epicenter more dead than it would be already. Hell, everyone has moved over to MIRVs because the focus is on hitting as wide an area and as many targets as possible. Big bombs are just an inefficient waste of materials or just for PR like the afore mentioned Tsar bomb.

  13. A

    I still don't think that's very reasonable. For one, the King wasn't at the very center, and even two meters away, if we assume a W19 type weapon, the core will be on the order of half a foot. The King would have been at *least* 10 times the distance from the centre as the core. So we're at 1/100 the energy released at the distance the King was at, since it roughly obeys a power law.

    Since we're dealing with 15kilotons, that's now just about a kiloton. Still *massive*, conventional big missiles typically can't get yields more than 10 tons, but 'the king's nen can allow him to remain a charred husk if 100 missiles are launched at him' versus 'the king is able to remain a charred husk if 100,000 missiles are launched at him' are very different statements.

    I cannot agree how utterly stupid the concept of megaton+ nuclear weapons is. They are mind-boggling, a fission weapon isn't going to be spending much time splitting apart atoms beyond the uranium chain reaction and the initial fast neutron release… a hydrogen bomb, heh, just try to stay a whole atom! Let alone avoid atomization.

    … We don't need weapons like that. At all! Holy fuck! Plus yeah, humanity has a lot of these, if you really want you can litter an area with hydrogen bombs and vaporize anything and everything nearby. As I said, "king survives 100 missiles" is not the same as "king survives 100,000", or if we go more extreme, "1,000,000,000.

    … The size of actual payloads in this world is frightening.

  14. J

    Who's to blame the King is still alive? Knuckle!

    If he had hidden like he should and possibly let Morel be killed by Youpi, Bankruptcy would have nullified Youpi's Nen, making it impossible for him to rescue Meruem :-) Netero's plan was A-ok, it's just too bad his underlings didn't do as they were supposed to.

  15. m

    This show makes it hard not to spoil things sometimes. You see the bomb go off and you want to talk about how Meruem is still alive, but you can't say anything or you'll ruin it for others. Everything in this arc is done so well you just want to keep talking about it. Though the manga version of the King eating Youpi and Pouf was not creepy like this one. Yeah it was funny, but not so erotic. Just kind of typical chimera ant loyalty.

  16. The thing is, if Meruem was alive he was alive. We have no way of knowing that he wouldn't have revived eventually on his own.

  17. S

    The R.G. were feeding THEMSELVES to the King, not their Nen.
    The results would be different.

  18. s

    " Let's be honest – it doesn't make a lot of sense to kill off the top boss ten episodes before the end of the story"

    Id say in this case it'd be a bit unexpected because the "true boss" of this arc is Gon's descent into someone those around him dont quite recognize. You know there are times (although rarely) the true antagonist of a story isnt necessarily the antagonist that is considered the big boss, but rather the major themes involved in the story and the protagonist battle with those themes. Had Meruem not survived, i still feel like Pitou is the bigger boss due to the affect that androgynous bastard has brought upon the protagonist. The central character arc and themes has now made Pitou the big bad essentially rather than Meruem so I'd say killing him off regardless of his status as a chimera ant would have made sense; it would just have been a bit unexpected; but that's just my feelings on the arc as a whole

  19. A valid perspective, though I don't really agree in this instance. Pitou is undeniably Gon's "white whale", but I still think Meruem has been developed into the singular face of the enemy on the whole.

    In a sense, Gon is operating in a wholly separate plot. This has become so personal for him that his arc is like a parallel track with the larger struggle. You can make a case for either as the "main" storyline but it's certainly unorthodox…

  20. e

    While you are right in that the central thematic line of the arc is Gon's transformation, you're wrong in that you seem to think that Meruem sits tangential to that arc.

    One of the most brilliant things about this arc is the fact that, despite Meruem and Gon barely existing on each other's radar, they are intimately connected – not through plot, but through theme. Meruem is Gon's foil, sitting on that same thematic line, though he is traveling in reverse, it seems – we are watching him grow into a human being, while at the same time watching Gon become something arguably inhuman.

  21. s

    I agree with what your saying, but let's say meruem did die, dont you feel like the face off and resolution between Gon and Pitou would still make for a much more powerful conclusion to the arc regardless. I tend to find the antagonist who can bring the story to a crescendo and push the protagonist to his/her limit as the true boss and i have a strong feeling that pitou will deliver the goods. But it is as you said, Meruem is pretty much like the embodiment of what the chimera ants represent; from their desire to eliminate the hunters to their evolution and identity as living beings, which is also an important theme in this arc.

  22. Meruem is indeed set up as the philosophical foil to Gon here, as witness the fact that their seated pose being the same is shown so often. Pitou may be the most important physical obstacle for Gon, but Meruem is still the most important character in the overall story.

  23. s

    @e.e story; it's not that i dont think Meruem sits tangential to Gon's arc; while i agree that meruem's development runs in reverse of Gon's thematically, I disagree that he is Gon's foil. If i can make a comparison to the dark knight, the joker is the main villain despite….hmm..well for anyone who has yet to see the movie i dont want to spoil it for them but there are are two villains in the movie, one of them who challenges batman and essentially has him being pushed to the limit to the point where he begins to rethink his morals. Joker is an example of a foil to the protagonist, personally pushing him to his limits. In the case of HunterXhunter, meruem is more of a foil to the hunters as a whole; i guess when you look at it that way, he is the central big boss of the series, to which im not arguing against; I agree with the importance of his status. I just feel that the conflict with Pitou is more critical to the protagonist. I would use the movie The Raid: berandal as an even better example due to the roles the antagonist play in that movie but again, I would be spoiling it for whoever hasnt watched that amazing movie. But yea, i hope i was able to get my point across. In the end of the day, I can definitely see the side Meruem defeat a more important development than Pitou's.

  24. s

    *it's not that i think Meruem sits tangential to Gon's arc* sorry…long day

  25. Well – to your point perhaps "foil" isn't the best word. Maybe shadow covers it better – they're basically both on spiritual journeys that frame the entire arc.

  26. s

    See, now that i absolutely agree with

  27. e

    Perhaps "foil" is the wrong word, sorry. Maybe "mirror reflection" or, as Enzo says, "shadow" would be better.

    [Spoilers for The Dark Knight ahead] I like you're creation of a comparison with The Dark Knight, but I disagree in the positioning of Neferpitou as the Joker in this equation. For one, just given the trajectory of Gon's development, I would compare Gon more with Two-Face than with Batman – the killing of Kite being analogous to the killing of Rachel, Neferpitou then been analogous to Joker/Batman/Police – everyone Two-Face blamed for her death, with none of them being the foil to him.

    In this way, I don't see her as a foil to Gon. In no way, thematically or personally/psychologically is in opposition to him. Only physically, and arguably emotionally (though the emotion is only one sided). If a comparison between Batman and Gon in the series is to be made, the best analog for Neferpitou would be the man who killed Bruce Waynes parents in his childhood – a catalyst for change, but not a foil.

    I do also agree with you that, if Meruem were to have died here, we still would and could have experienced a suitably climatic final showdown between Gon and Pitou. It's similar to the Konoha Exam arc of Naruto Part 1 (when it was still good, in my opinion). There was the "big" fight between the Hokage and Orochimaru – with Orochimaru being the "big boss" – but the final fight was between Naruto and Gaara, with Gaara serving as the climactic fight for our hero, and thus, despite being under Orochimaru, was still, arguably, the "main bad guy" of that arc.

    Also, my girlfriend, who is reading this thread over my shoulder, argues that Neferpitou makes her mark as a more villainous character, with greater antagonistic presence, both within her relationship to Gon, and outside of it. What with her killing of Kite (a narrative achievement in villainy that the King has not been able to trump), to the hype given to the strength and fright of her aura throughout the arc, Neferpitou makes a stronger presence as a villain and antagonist.

  28. s

    two-face and Gon character arcs have their parallels, but the comparison i was making more has to do with the roles protagonist and antagonist have towards each other which is why i made the joker/pitou gon/batman comparison (it's funny how we're relating this to the dark knight haha). Im aware of the comparisons that could be made with Gon and two-face (and about two-face, I would disagree that nobody was a foil to him; that's all ill say about that because again, I dont want my interpretation to ruin the movie for someone who didnt see it, but just think back to the events of the movie in the beginning) but the question here is what truly defines a main antagonist, or the one with the most antagonistic presence; to which you and your girlfriend beautifully elaborated on.

    Joker pushed batman to his limits, enough for it to have significant character effects on him, the way pitou's actions and current situation has pushed Gon to his limits and made him the character we see now. Also notice how i was careful not to mention pitou being a foil to gon, only to argue that Meruem was not the foil to Gon either and was more like, as you two have wonderfully articulated, a shadow or inverted image. Yes, the joker was batman's foil (to which i only mentioned because it's true and i wanted to highlight what makes someone a foil. ), but what truly made him the one with more antagonistic presence was the fact that he pushed batman to his limit, which essentially made him "the big boss". Being a foil to the main protagonist doesnt necessarily make you "the big bad"; Draco malfoy was Harry Potter's foil arguably more than voldermort was and yet he never reached that level of antagonistic presence. Arguably, the antagonistic with the most significance to the protagonist in a story would be the big obstacle that we as the audience expect the main character to overcome, hence "the big boss". I agree with your girlfriend. But yea, never thought i would making all these analyses; this was a fun talk : )

  29. S

    Gon and Meruem have an interesting "dichotomy", maybe?

  30. w

    I really couldn't believe it. I kept expecting Meruem to suddenly crumble to ash. Right up until the moment he sprouted wings. I'm scared.

    I don't think there's any doubt Meruem is going back to the castle specifically for Komugi, though he doesn't realize it yet. She's clearly the 'answer' he expects to find there.

  31. A

    I may be late to the party but I believe I should emphasize, the King did NOT survive humanity's best attack. "The bomb was low budget and compact" implies countries do still have weapons that are "high budget and require national infrastructure". The fact that the bomb was a favourite of dictators confirms this.

    If humanity really *REALLY* needs to, there are still countermeasures. It just requires a much larger multi-national effort, something they clearly wanted to avoid. "Do not underestimate humanity's potential for malice….evolution".

  32. S

    One of the best-looking outsourced ep's of the show, next to episode 111!

    I cannot express how content this show makes me feel.

  33. R

    First off, I'm still 100% sure that, had Youpi and Pouf not found him, Meurum would have died. So he "survived" humanity's best attack only by a certain interpretation of the phrase.

    That being said, I knew this was coming. I was kind of wondering how they would adapt this part. It was hilarious in the manga and it was just as hilarious in the anime. Maybe Togashi was going for an overdramatic sort of creepiness but it didn't take for me. The only thing it did was give me a stomach cramp from laughing too hard.

  34. p

    I agree–I didn't think of it as creepy at all, but truly hilarious. I hope that's what he was going for. It spoiled the episode for me in the sense that I just ended up taking all of them less seriously.

  35. Well, I found it both creepy and hilarious, and I believe it was supposed to be both. They certainly aren't mutually exclusive!

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