Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 133

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Leave it to Togashi Yoshihiro to put me in mind of T.S. Eliot and Indiana Jones in the same episode.

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

 – T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Author’s Note: Please be very careful to avoid divulging any information about upcoming events from the manga. When in doubt, don’t post it – and even if it’s remotely possible to view it as a minor spoiler, please spoiler-tag it. Thanks for your cooperation.

I’ve seen a couple of websites report that The Hunter X Hunter “E*******” arc would be starting with Episode 137 – which, of course, contradicts the original buzz that “Chimera Ant” would be ending at Episode 135.  I don’t know the truth but I really hope this info is true, because even if the shape of the final act began to reveal itself this week, it’s still hard to imagine this story wrapping up in two episodes.  It’s so massive – 60 weeks by the time it ends – that it’s almost unimaginable that Togashi and Koujina-sensei would end it without some sort of postscript.

Whether it’s two episodes or three remaining, it’s an inescapable fact that Gon and to a lesser extent Killua have had an astonishingly small role in this arc.  They’ve certainly been involved in most of the most overtly dramatic moments, but it’s a measure of how good this series is that it can pull this disappearing act off without losing the audience – certainly without losing me, who’s always liked H x H best when those two are at its center.  In truth, most of the final cour of “Chimera Ant” has taken place with entirely new characters as its focus – and not even the entirely new characters who seemed destined for starring roles.  I suppose this sort of thing would only be possible when an arc is this absurdly long – longer than many entire series – because it really allows time to make these new characters indelible.  But it wouldn’t matter how much time the story had if the writing wasn’t up to the task of making us care deeply about those people.

One of the signatures of “Chimera Ant” is that it ranges from huge emotional crescendos like the breakdowns of Gon and Killua, to phenomenal action sequences like the Netero vs. Meruem fight in Episode 126, to equally memorable moments brought off in the unlikeliest of ways, by the unlikeliest of characters.  One of the quietly great episodes of this arc was #123, the duel between Welfin and Ikalgo.  It was positively Shakespearean, and Welfin delivered some of the most striking moments in the entire arc.  “Chimera Ant” is full of overlooked gems like that one, and it seems only fitting that it should be revisited now, in an episode that acts more or less as a sequel to it as well as the place-setter for the final act of the arc as a whole.

We continue to see Pouf’s hastily-constructed house of lies begin to crumble around him.  Pitou’s puppets have had their strings cut – of course Pouf doesn’t know why, and I suspect he refuses to allow himself to believe what he suspects – but that makes his job of subjugating the masses gathered outside the palace that much harder.  He’s already given “6/7” of his body to the King so his scales are less effective, and what he doesn’t realize is that Komugi is much farther away than he believes.  Pouf’s world is disintegrating around him and his already manic mien is taking on an increasingly desperate color.

Meanwhile, Octobro and Palm are moving forward with their plan to exchange Komugi for Knuckle and Meleoron – or at least to suggest that they’re willing to (Killua must have really done a number on Komugi – she’s still out cold).  To accomplish this they employ Welfin as a messenger, and Palm naturally enough doesn’t trust him – but Ikalgo stops her from using one of her Wink Blue slots on Welfin to make sure he follows through with his orders.  Welfin is already planning to bolt as soon as he’s out of sight – not willing to take the chance of having Meruem turn on him in “shoot the messenger” fashion – but Ikalgo stops him in this tracks with one simple sentence: “After you give them the message, you’re free – so go see Gyro.”

I’ve said this before, but I love Welfin’s character arc.  He’s fundamentally driven by self-interest, calculating at all times, and unwilling to trust.  But here, at the last, Octobro appeals to the humanity in him – and it works.  He’s remembered that he and Weflin were friends as humans, and even Welfin’s former name – Zaikahal – and remembered their shared loyalty to Gyro.  As such he presents Welfin with the inescapable fact that the Chimera Ants are the enemy, because they’re the enemy of the NGL, their home, however dysfunctional and horrid it was.  And Welfin, at last, is compelled to do something not as a means to advance his own interests, but as part of a larger cause.  It can certainly be said that anyone who did Gyro’s bidding was anything but noble, but both Ikalgo and Welfin have achieved a certain nobility as Chimera Ants that they never did as humans – no small irony, and one of many at play in this episode and this arc.

Ikalgo sends Welfin to the surface with the four remaining sex slaves (Welfin releases them, telling them to take a truck and flee) and Brovoda in tow, and Welfin runs into chibi-Youpi as soon as he’s outside.  Initially he carries out his orders, but he can’t help himself – Welfin is at the point now where he wants answers more than he wants safety.  It’s doubtful, true, that he would have confronted the old Youpi, but this one is clearly a shell of his former self – massively reduced in every way by his gesture to Meruem, and exhibiting a mysterious blood-tinged cough.  It seems Welfin didn’t get the answers he wanted, and so Youpi’s world ends – struck down by an underling he could have dispatched without an effort a few hours earlier.  And with him two-thirds of the Royal Guard are gone, with Pouf’s life dangling by a hair thanks to the deception he’s perpetrated against the King.

Youpi isn’t the only one exhibiting strange symptoms.  Meruem is too – blood is dripping from his nose, though he’s so consumed by the obsessive search for the memory that’s eluding him that he seems not to notice.  Even as he finds a Gungi piece and some (but crucially not all) of the truth comes back to him, it’s Palm who puts all the pieces together – both for herself and Ikalgo and for the audience.  At the moment she sees Pouf discover Youpi’s body it becomes clear to her just how correct Killua was – Komugi was indeed someone precious to the King.  Komugi is a “double-edged sword” – the best weapon (actually, second-best) they have in the fight against the King.  And Palm also reiterates what may be the single most prominent theme in “Chimera Ant” – it was that moment when the ant soldiers first discovered human prey that their fate was likely sealed.  Their species was changed forever in that moment – this is why the Royal Guard can bicker over Komugi, and when she and Ikalgo can stand there as declared and devoted opponents to Meruem’s plans for world domination.

That’s not all Palm makes clear, though.  She knows something Ikalgo doesn’t, and it’s why she says “We’re all right, now.”  Octobro is naturally puzzled, but Palm is certain – the King is going to die, within “a few hours”.  All they need to do is use Komugi’s presence to buy time until that happens – and that means crating her up and hiding her even deeper underground (if anyone asks I’m sure they’ll be told “We have top men working on it right now.”)  The intent here is clear – if Komugi is in a place that only she and Ikalgo know, she and Ikalgo must be kept alive even if Meruem is able to locate them in the love shack.  It is indeed cruel, as Palm says, but a cruel deed that must be done – and just how deep and wide Netero’s vision was is becoming more and more clear with each passing moment.

It seems, then, that Togashi has not only trumped shounen convention by using a bomb as the means of taking out the top boss, but he’s double-bluffed us into believing it had failed.  “Humanity’s infinite capacity for evolution (or malice)” indeed – Netero’s hand has reached from beyond the grave and, apparently, signed Meruem’s death warrant.  The full scope of his plan only now becomes clear – the importance of taking Meruem to a weapons testing site in order to minimize collateral damage was not about the explosion, but the aftermath.  This is the true bloom of the Miniature Rose, its sharpest thorn – and in going to Meruem’s rescue Menthruyoupi and Shaiapouf were pricked (we see that Pouf, too, is exhibiting the signs of radiation sickness).

For all the darkness and moral ambiguity of this, the darkest and most troubling work from a writer who specializes in those qualities, to have the downfall of the King seemingly come down to this is genuinely stunning.  It shows a real contempt for convention and a disdain for traditional storytelling, but if indeed this is how “Chimera Ant” is to be resolved it seems wholly appropriate.  How else can this story end but for this horror, surely among the most hideous examples of human foolishness and craven cruelty, to be its salvation?  It’s hard and cold, even by Togashi’s standards, but that could be said of the arc as a whole.  I don’t know exactly how things will play out but I think it would be foolish to look for righteous triumph or euphoria in the concluding episodes – at most, we might see a few moments of quiet redemption, as likely for the King himself as for any of his enemies.  This isn’t the sort of story that should end by celebrating victories, but rather by mourning what’s been lost – and perhaps being quietly thankful that it won’t be everything.

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32 comments

  1. R

    "We are just as bad as the Chimera Ants. No, we are worse." That line and the imagery used with it is really telling. One of the infinitely many examples of why Chimera Ant has been one of the most telling arcs of any anime I've seen.

    I'm both so sad and and joyful beyond words that this arc is almost over and it got full justice done in its adaptation. In the words of the King, "bravo". These last couple episodes will be the beauty of Hunter at its finest. I'm definitely looking forward to it. :)

  2. N

    I shudder to think what would happen if Colt ever remembers his past life and comes to think of the late queen as his enemy… poor guy.

    The real question now is which ant is Gyro. I guess The King is the strongest contender, but it is Togashi, so I hope to be pleasantly surprised. I'll be happy if turns out to be the pink koala we haven't seen in so long

  3. How could you not be sure that was a spoiler?

  4. Z

    Because it's not referring to future events, it was supposed to be covered, but was omitted by some reason :0
    It's not quite clear if MH will ever reference this bit again

  5. Z

    For those interested, it's chapter 204, and MH is currently covering 311.

  6. And if you believe there's a reason the anime might not have supplied you information yet, don't read it. It's too late for me – I saw the spoiler when I deleted it.

  7. S

    I'm not sure about why they didn't show *that* though. At this point I'm too of the mind that they'll either just skip it, or cram it somewhere randomly in a final montage of scenes to close the arc. I don't think it's a big "spoiler" per se but yeah, weird choice on MH's part if you ask me.

  8. Honestly, I'm tempted to just close the H x H posts to comments for the next three weeks.

  9. R

    I think that's probably a good idea. At least personally I wouldn't mind and I do think this arc is best going in unspoiled.

  10. t

    I understand your frustration. I know how annoying this is that there are spoilers like…all over the net. but here it's the most annoying. it's like your closest friend spill out a spoiler…why.

    actually I am surprised you've managed so far, because here at LiA, unlike RC comments, spoiler tag isn't supported (at least last time I checked…maybe I am wrong?) but still, although in RC they can use spoiler tag, they spoil much more than here (that's what I noticed in general after the last few months since reading).

    well, first of all, I think you should do what you did with Little Busters Refrain posts back then. write a bold paragraph at beginning/ending of each post warning people not to spoil just like that. not just for you, I guess there are others who aren't reading the manga. I think if you said it directly in each post like in LB, the readers will be more careful and of course they will understand the importance. you must say it's really bothering and address them not to do so.
    Also, here at LiA it's less possible, but if you have one of the other staff in RC who already read the manga, maybe he can check spoilers in the comments from time to time. like Zephy did in Refrain.

    there is no much left for this arc, but there are still lots of events going on in this arc and the following arc, which worthwhile discussing, sharing and commenting by both manga readers and anime-only in the comment section.
    I hope people will understand that it's really bothering. if they don't understand and keep doing, closing the comments is indeed legit.

  11. U

    Enzo seems to be the only one following HxH of a whole RC staff.

  12. I am the only one following it, and I've pretty much given up on reading the comments there because yes, the RC comments contain more spoilers then the ones here. I try to patrol it as a service to the readers, bit it's a lost cause.

  13. A

    It kind of blows my mind that you're the only one there watching it. I hope some of them do pick it up at some point just because it's a damn good series that I don't think should be missed.

  14. I doubt it's ever going to happen, honestly. It's tough to get someone to commit to watch a series this long.

  15. K

    Shame, I thought a great thing Hunter x Hunter had going for it was that it has no filler and it's not going to be never ending like say One Piece.

  16. w

    I thought this might happen, there was no way that bomb had been nullified. It actually reminds me a little of War of the Worlds, where the massively powerful invaders eventually fall prey to illnesses they had no means of fighting against. Granted, it was natural illness there…

    Shame they don't know the best way to distract the King for a few hours would be to let he and Komugi play…

  17. T

    "This isn't the sort of story that should end by celebrating victories, but rather by mourning what's been lost – and perhaps being quietly thankful that it won't be everything."

    Damn Enzo, that line killed me. Just beautiful. Hunter x Hunter is a brilliantly written show, and I'm glad to have found a brilliant writer to review it.

  18. Very nice of you to say, Taj, thanks. Way too much credit, but it sure is a fun show to cover (apart from the spoilers).

  19. A

    At the current pacing, it does look like we have three more episodes in CA, but who knows.

    Also, about the comments being closed off- not a bad idea. It is unfortunate that just a few people can ruin it for everyone but a lot of the spoilers have been getting out of hand.

  20. S

    It might be just me, but when you write "Shakespearean", I feel like you're giving Shakespeare too much credit

  21. G

    in episode 79… welfin was this guy as referred to by the guy with thick eyebrows who we can assume is Ikalgo

    http://i1088.photobucket.com/albums/i336/MKM03/HxH%20CA/HunterXHunter-79480pmkv_snapshot_2124_20140611_173627.png

  22. R

    A bit off topic but, Enzo, are you planning to watch the 1999 adaptation sometime in the future? Maybe after this adaptation finished its run in the next arc. I'm curious to hear your thought about it. =)

  23. I can't imagine I'm going to have time anywhere in the foreseeable future.

  24. m

    The 1999 adaptation was good, but mostly just bc the material is good. It was way to drawn out at times. Felt very Naruto/bleach like in that regard. I wasn't a fan of how long the hunter exam arc in particular was. This version is a lot better at pacing each arc. I can't even imagine how long the 1999 version would have made chimera.

  25. R

    Maybe you can think of it as placeholder of the 2011 adaptation and following it weekly like any other ongoing anime (preferably on weak season). But yeah, I understand that 60+ episodes is quite a commitment though.

    @maverick Yeah, I agree that the 1999 anime is inferior in terms of pacing (exam & G.I. arc in particular), but there are still plenty of good moments like Gon's meeting with Kite (which the 2011 kinda messed it up), Kurapika vs Hisoka or Gon vs Illumi (unnecessary, but quite a nice addition), even the filler exam stage had its moment.

    Lol, 1999 CA arc would be drawn out for sure. In that sense, it's thanks to Togashi hiatus habit that we got this 2011 adaptation, otherwise the anime would still be continue with its questionable quality after that underwhelming G.I. arc. =P

  26. m

    You have to give it to Netero for being the one to finish off the Mereum. Put's that final look he gave him before the bomb went off back into it's original light (before Mereum was revived anyway). The duality of man expressed when the bomb was brought up is also perfectly expressed in Netero's fight with Mereum. He went into it knowing he would win no matter what tactics he had to use, but still made sure to bring him far enough away to save all the people being controlled at the palace (and his fellow hunters). Knowing he couldn't beat Mereum he still chose to fight him head on, and on top of that you saw his pride as a fighter come out when Mereum was looking down on him. He was always this strange combination of kind caring old man, and vicious heartless hunter. Early on he took a liking to Gon and Killua and was pretty nice to them, but still never batted an eye at the cruelty that went on during the hunter exam arc. In that sense he was very much like Gon. Childlike and playful, but with a dark side that at best liked testing his strength in fights where his life was on the line. I won't say specifics, but personally I think the ending to this arc is perfect.

  27. K

    For episode 136, is it possible they'd pull a recap episode on us on the Hunter Exam did (twice)? I really hope that's not the case but it's the only thing that makes sense to me if I'm too believe both of what I've heard about Chimera Ant end episode & Election Arc beginning.

    Another good review, really glad you love Welfin by the way. He's probably the most under-looked characters of this arc (and when this arc provides as the most compelling "villain" I've ever see, some of the most moving development for both our main characters, among plenty others, I kinda get it) but he's definitely one of my favorites. 123 is one of my favorite episodes of this arc, it probably makes the top five for me.

  28. Indeed, both Welfin and 123 are the underrated gems of Chimera Ant.

  29. n

    ouch for the spoilers. It's been really long for me since I read the manga when it came out weekly (2 years?) so I actually couldn't remember what happen except for some notable part (the fight between gon and pitou, the fight between the king and netero etc etc). It's almost like a new show for me so i'm avoiding spoilers too :S

    One reason I read your blog is also because u have never read the manga and its refreshing to read what u feel about it

  30. y

    The next arc should be starting on July 8th. Looking at the episode count and dates, it seems likely that there's a one week break between the last episode of CA and the first of the next arc, so between 135 and 136.

    That said, I love reading your impressions, you're a great writer. Keep it up!

  31. m

    @R lawlied
    That's true. The extra length made shorter arcs like Whale Island, Heaven's Arena, and even the intro of Kaito/Gon a lot more in depth. Conversely the Hunter Exam, and parts of GI, felt too long and slow at times. I guess that's the trade off. If you extend everything then the parts that are really important, or just plain awesome, seem to have more to them.

    I thought the same thing when I responding to your post before. Or maybe he timed the end of his hiatus perfectly with the end of Chimera Ant to give anime fans (chimera had to bring in a lot of new ones) a chance to follow the manga. If so that's a really smart business decision.

    You get that problem with older shounen it seems, and often WSJ battle shounen in general. Just like they said in Bakuman "can't let a popular manga end, even if it's best for the story". I'm surprised at how many people who watch the current HxH have never seen the 1999. At this point the problem with going back is the animation quality is no where near as good. You get that firm before/after 2000 cut off point a lot with a lot of anime viewers. While searching google for suggestions, I've come across a ton of requests that included "nothing before 2000 please." I admit I'm the same too, for the most part anyway. I'll watch the "must see" older shows, but mostly I prefer the better quality animation from recent years. Calling 1999 old is pretty funny though, but technology does advance fast enough to make the ave anime from 1999 look way different than the ave one now.

  32. Z

    An upside with pre-2000 series is that you get a lot less moe and CG, greater episode counts and variation in character design.

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