Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 135

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Togashi.  Koujina.  Madhouse.  Nothing else really need be said.

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, even if it’s remotely possible to view it as a minor spoiler. Thanks for your cooperation.

That really isn’t fair, creating an episode like that and expecting me to say anything meaningful about it.  Not after all the ink I’ve spilled over the previous 59 episodes of this glorious, difficult, contrarian and brilliant arc.  Except that calling it an “arc” doesn’t really do “Chimera Ant” justice – on its own it’s longer than most anime and many shounen manga.  It stands apart – not just from shounen and from anime/manga generally (Hunter X Hunter as a whole does that) but from Hunter X Hunter.  It seems to me that “Chimera Ant” is the story which saw Togashi Yoshihiro take his own limiter off and take advantage of his status and track record to try everything he might have been hesitant to try earlier in the series, or his career.  And thank goodness he did – and that we had Madhouse to bring it to the screen.

If I’m not mistaken (I might well be) this is the first episode of Hunter X Hunter 2011 to forgo the OP and ED themes.  Given the emotional tenor of the episode and the intensity of the content it seems entirely appropriate (I only wish Koujina had also waived the usual preview music and irreverent content, which were rather jarring arriving when they did).  I don’t know whether to call this the finale of “Chimera Ant” or whether that technically comes next week, but that’s clearly going to be a postscript (that all of the main cast should be a mere postscript says something about how unpredictable and unconventional this story was) – this was the true denouement of “Chimera Ant” and it’s only right that it shouldn’t be treated like other episodes.  60-episode storylines don’t come along every day, never mind ones this historically brilliant.

Above and beyond that, I sincerely don’t think there’s much point in my adding anything.  In the end “Chimera Ant” turned out not to be about suspense but fate – not about action but quiet reflection.  There was no question as to how this episode was going to play out – the die has been cast for a couple of weeks.  It was indeed as Eliot said, “not with a bang but a whimper” (poor Shaipouf’s end was especially ignominious – both he and Menthruyoupi died off-camera, but Pouf’s was the more forlorn and wretched).  But there was so much quiet power in that whimper, so much meaning and so much feeling and so much perspective.  It’s so audacious of Togashi to choose this route – to make the arch-villain the emotional protagonist in the end.  To conclude not with a titanic battle, but with the slow and tragic aftermath.

There are some larger themes I could touch on here, such as the extent to which Togashi uses “Chimera Ant” as an intentional subversion of shounen tropes, and the extent to which Meruem’s spiritual journey is meant to mirror that of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).  I don’t want to cheapen the emotional triumph by “dissecting gossamer” too much, but in my view both of those aspects are very real.  There’s also the matter of “Chimera Ant” as a contemplation of the nature of humanity – one of the themes I’ve been feeling for the longest.  And it’s really in Netero’s role that we see all three of these elements brought together.

We didn’t see much of Netero in this arc, and not at all over the last ten episodes for obvious reasons.  But his presence is crucial, and he casts a big shadow – right up the finale, in which we see his final message and the impact it has on Beans.  He underwent a spiritual journey of his own, of course, and it’s no coincidence that it was shown to us in such detail.  And he climbed the shounen ladder in his battle with Meruem – bringing out every one of the Nen abilities that made him the strongest human in the world.  And when that failed, resorting to sheer brutality – the worst that humanity could offer.  But when the big punches and the bigger explosion couldn’t kill the big bad, Netero (and Togashi) didn’t take the “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” storytelling approach typical of shounen.  Netero’s plan had already worked – we just didn’t realize it, and neither did Meruem.  He was right – Netero had him at checkmate all along.

In the final analysis Meruem simply wasn’t as good at being human as Netero.  Netero was no idealist – he was fully aware of the depths of humanity’s capacity for cruelty and deception, and how it manifested in himself.  Netero – he of the “mind like a plant” – had a lot more experience at this than Meruem.  It was a very old and supremely clever man against a very young and supremely clever child, and Netero simply saw around more corners than Meruem did.  I wouldn’t say Netero was proud of what he did, but neither would he be ashamed – he knows he’s the same man who relished the chance to finally go all-out and try to kill someone after holding himself back all those decades.  He recognized that in himself, and acknowledged it.  And he did what he thought had to be done for humanity, because he knew there was no one else who could do it.

This is a very important part of the story in “Chimera Ant”, I think.  Netero wasn’t wrong in what he did – in fact, if he hadn’t done it there’s no reason to think Meruem wouldn’t have enslaved and consumed humanity for his own purposes.  Meruem was simply acting for the advancement and propagation of his own species, but that ideal was incompatible with the future of humanity and Netero knew it.  But once Meruem discovered the truth, there was no anger or judgment in him – only acceptance, and a desire to spend his last moments with the being he now realized he loved.  Komugi was certainly responsible in-part for Meruem’s transformation – but Netero no less so.  And the Royal Guard, too, as Meruem came to understand the meaning of loyalty and love.  Without any of it, he would not have died as the enlightened being he was.

Siddhartha too was poisoned, and he too felt no anger towards his (accidental) poisoner.  Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who lived a life of luxury where the world was at his beck and call, and seeing the suffering and pain that existed in the world changed him fundamentally.  Empathy and humility are awesomely powerful agents of change, and the final moments of Meruem’s story are a study in their effects.  He came to believe that his entire life’s purpose was to sit across that crate from Komugi and play Gungi – that this one moment of enlightenment was more meaningful that world domination could ever be.

Of course, staying with Meruem to the end was in effect an act of suicide for Komugi.  I was curious as to whether Meruem was going to tell her this or not, but he did give her the opportunity to leave – albeit halfheartedly, as I think he knew she would never do so.  There’s so much irony here – this most humble and meek of the humans he encountered changed Meruem so much, and this monster who saw Komugi only as his next disposable source of entertainment was the one who finally brought meaning and joy to her loveless and lonely existence.  “Chimera Ant” turned out to be a love story in the end, on top of everything else – a musing on the power of love to assert itself even in the most hostile and unlikely places.

I don’t want to sully those final moments between Meruem and Komugi with too much analysis – they speak for themselves.  That so much emotion could be generated from these characters is a testament to how “Chimera Ant” defies all convention and predictability. The first moment that really hit me hard was when Komugi said she wanted to thank the Royal Guard for saving her after Meruem deferred credit to them, and he replied “I’ll relay the message – I’ll be seeing them soon.”  Her use of “Kokoriko” is a tribute to Meruem, though he’s not aware of it at first and even displays a bit of his old imperiousness.  He never does beat her at Gungi, but that was never really the point.  In the end their love story is one of acceptance – of the flaws in others, and of fate.  It’s as purely Buddhist a moment as I’ve seen in any anime, or film for that matter – including ones about the Buddha himself.  It’s a beautiful, terrible sadness – exquisitely truthful in the writing and brought to life with great care and skill.

Another interesting element in all this was Palm’s role.  She knew the truth from the moment Meruem found her in Bizeff’s bunker, and he as soon as he’d seen it in her Nen.  Yet she resisted, and when Meruem went to take a knee and beg her to bring him to Komugi, she tried to stop him.  Why?  Because part of her was now a chimera ant, and that part of her couldn’t bear to see Meruem reduced to that.  It’s an acknowledgement of the trials Palm has already and will continue to endure – she’s been changed forever, and even as Meruem marvels at the beauty of her aura it’s impossible to ignore the prospect of great difficulties in her future.  When she accedes, Palm has only one request – she wishes to see Meruem and Komugi’s final moments.  Why?  There’s the strategic reason of course – as a representative of the Hunter Association she needs to verify that Meruem has died.  But the real reason is deeper and more sentimental, and it’s perfectly consistent with the Palm we’ve seen from the beginning – a beautiful soul that’s riven with instability and anger.

Well, there I’ve rambled on again as I always do with this series – my apologies, I really did mean for it to be different this time.  This story isn’t over, of course, and whether you view the next episode as the end of “Chimera Ant”, an epilogue or the start of the next arc, it has a lot of ground to cover.  The world of humans has been saved, but many chimera ants remain – creatures who surely have the right to make some sort of lives for themselves.  And Gon has been left in a terrible state, bereft and full of self-loathing that’s so unlike him, perhaps powerless.  Meruem has found peace in the end, but Gon (and Killua) must live on, and carry with them all the pain and regret they’ve accumulated on this dark journey.  Even if “Chimera Ant” has often turned its gaze elsewhere it’s that journey that remains the eternal spine of Hunter X Hunter, and it too has ventured to a place where no shounen series has ever gone.  On top of everything else “Chimera Ant” is the tale of the end of childhood for Gon and Killua – and as it ends, Hunter X Hunter becomes a tale of the difficult road that lies ahead for them.

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ED8: “Understanding” by Hirano Yoshihisa

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  1. G

    , did anybody notice kokoriko(a gungi technique) means King itself? This technique try to win the game by making King piece isolate. But komugi tells him this technique is Shiro(road to death) a while ago ( ep 104). Isolated king must die. But she shows him a new tactics to save king in ep 135. It means "king doesn't have to die". In reality, king didin't be killed by Netero's nuke attack. But king counterattacked her and shows that isolated king must die after all ( by poison). Komugi finds a new counterattack and said "I'll go with you". King is not alone anymore. Meruem tells her he can't win even once(He couldn't beat kokoriko). It means Kokoriko is not shiro anymore. She saved the isolated king.
    The black screen at the end has a couple meanings The dying king has lost even his sight. His mother named him Meruemu as "Light shining on everything". It's stated that "His en shined into the palace as if it's sunshine" and "He manipulated light particles to search Palm in a house" a while ago. He got a god-like light power at that moment. But black pages suggests that he doesn't have any light now. This is a view that Komugi was seeing from the beginning. She couldn't see any light. To her, he was just Meruem.
    After all, those pages show us that he lost everything but gained what he trully wanted. He didn't need any soldiers, palaces, countries, power, strength, even his sight(as Komugi). He just wanted to play Gungi with Komugi.
    This is the same to her too. She had nothing besides Gungi. Nobody loved her and couldn't play Gungi as well as she did. She was lonely Gungi King(Queen?). But she gained Meruem. That's why she cryed when he counterattacked her new kokoriko. She once needed to create and kill tactics on Gungi by herself. But she gained the perfect opponent and can create tactics with him(I guess to create tactics suggests to create a baby as she said kokoriko is her baby.)
    The one "Light shines on everything" loved (and was loved by) was a blind girl. What a story!
    They started a new(the last) game in darkness. "1-5-1 king". "9-5-1 king". Then it was stopped. These two king pieces don't go anywhere anymore. Two kings (King of living things and Gungi King) are together forever.

  2. G

    This was not so much a regular episode of HxH as it was an event. This episode elevated this series above all others out there IMHO. I actually cried when it ended.

  3. R

    Fuuuuudge that was not ok I'm going to cry again.

    I got the basic imagery from the Gungi tactics, with Komugi using the same tactic that she had crushed before with the isolated King, but definitely didn't think that far into it.

    Now my heart hurts.

  4. That sounded like a spoiler.

  5. K

    First off, thank you show much for linking the ED song. Personally, I can't remember another episode that emotionally affected me as much as this one. I had tears streaming down my face for most it, it was beautifully adapted (the manga version was great too but Madhouse absolutely killed it). I love Chimera Ant so, so much.

    Guessing there's no longer any question about your favorite arc. I remember you said Heaven's Arena was right up there for you (along with several others). Where does Hunter x Hunter rank for you now though & was this your favorite episode of the arc?

  6. Yes, it would be #1 with Heaven's Arena #2. As to favorite episodes, I suppose I'll muse on that when it's over – it's in the top three for sure, of this arc.

  7. S

    All this, of course. But I can't help but notice that a small, final ironic jab by Togashi seems to have passed under the radar – the scene that flashes for a moment a sight of the true Supreme Leader Diego, musing philosophically about humanity on his retirement after he evidently left the place to a double. It made me think about Pennac's "The Dictator and the Hammock" (which was focused on a similar situation, a dictator of a small country who left his place to a double – who in turn left his place to a double, etc.). Just one more little "nothing is as it looks like" moment.

  8. That was indeed interesting – to be honest I wasn't 100% sure what I was seeing. Did Diego in fact retire in secret to live a life of simplicity? Maybe he was ousted and exiled, and replaced by a double?

  9. S

    I think he willingly retired, otherwise why hiding it? And it's not like spoiler-ish knowledge helps me in this case, the matter will literally never be touched upon again. I just think it was a fun addition though; all this squabbling over power, and yet wisdom and happiness are to be found in unexpected places far from it.

  10. Again, a manga spoiler. Just because something wasn't used here doesn't mean it isn't going to be used – the anime has changed the order of events many times.

  11. S

    Just a hunch, but I'm not entirely sure that Koujina has had much of a part in these latter episodes. I get this feeling since the tone (and even the style, somewhat) has undergone constant changes, and also because of this show being a long-runner. I may be completely wrong, of course.

  12. Absent any actual evidence to support that notion, I don't buy it. There have been plenty of long-running series where directorial changes were noted in the credits, so I don't really see any reason why Madhouse would have to do it on the sly.

  13. S

    I see, that makes sense. I assume this because his only notable work is of the first episode – as if he was mainly in charge of "pitching" the show.
    Sorry for pulling this out from nowhere. I type on these forums and blog-posts with the intention to learn a few things, though.

    Shin'ichirō Ushijima, the latest assistant director for the anime, is in charge of quite a portion of the next episode, as he was at the start of Meruem vs Netero (ep. 122). That was one polished-looking episode! The upcoming one looks to be just as striking.

  14. R

    The only other time I can recall a change in ending was during the Uvo requiem sequence way back in Yorknew. That sequence still holds as one of my all time favorites. Brutally beautiful, choreographed to Mozart's requiem. Even then it was only the ending that had a new OST playing over it. Here they omitted the opening entirely and changed all the ending animations.

    This episode really hit the nail on the feels- I mean head. To think a grotesque ant-monster and a blind, snot-spewing girl, who'd be considered very ugly by any normal standards, could create such a masterfully, beautiful love story. I'm not sure whether to be happy that they were finally able to be together, or sad that their relationship had to end in such a tragic way. Either way, this obligatory end card ( makes it that much better. ;-;

  15. u

    I like to think that, in that short time together in that room, that they were well and truly happy in a capacity most people don't get to experience. I know it's tragic that their time was cut short and all and that you could, arguably, say that Meruem was aiming for a peaceful co-existence after he heard Komugi's name. But, I can't help but see it as a happy ending for them. Strange as hell, I know. But, that's how I feel. Still cried like crazy, though.

  16. S

    I guess it's the idea that what hold the most weight for someone is the end probably the most impressionable phase of anything and regardless of what happened their end was content, satisfaction in being at it's utmost.

  17. J

    My peanut brain didn't get it: why was North-Korea-leader still alive? The "real" one? Wasn't he killed when Meruem arrived at the palace? [/question]

    As usual, I waited for 3 weeks to marathon this like a small HxH movie. I had spoiled myself that the King would die at 135, but oh man was I unprepared for what I saw. I already started tearing up at 134's end with Meruem's speech to Welfin, and I cried like a little baby throughout the entire 135. I didn't know Komugi would die too, the drama was excellent. Too bad Madhouse put that preview at the end.

    All in all, even though I think there were some big inconsistencies in this arc, mainly regarding Gon and Killua's stories, this has been the greatest arc in a shounen for a villain. I kept rooting for them till the very end, hoping they would kill the good guys and become the MCs. The music was spot on, and from the very first seconds of this episode in which you didn't see the opening you'd feel that ShitJustHitTheFan sensation.

    I wish Shounen Jump would have more stories like these and less action DBZ/Naruto clones, but then again I guess not everybody has the brains to know how to hook the audiences like Togashi did here. Probably one of the best things in this episode was that poem near the end: human life being too long to be devoted to reproduction, but too short being devoted only for learning.

    Hopefully HxH will be able to keep the bar raised like it has been doing up till now, and that's no small feat to be done…

  18. S

    See above. It says that he retired 30 years ago. It is heavily implied that he just got tired of all the annoyances that come with being a tyrant (what with all the people trying to murder you, the constant paranoia and all) and just decided to retire and leave a double in his place.

  19. G

    I hated Naruto. But I love Shippuden. The time warp matured Naruto and made it into a different series.

  20. e

    It was a beautiful episode in avery possible sense. Truly. Hat off, Kleenex at hand. a brimming heart and slow clap to all the ones involved. You too Enzo, congratulations for a blogging job well done.
    I'm finding commenting a bit hard, and both you and the previuos commenters have covered the meaningful aspects already.
    Thank you for confirming the man reflecting on the porch with his dog was the original Diego btw. I wish they had translated the writings in that sequence in the subs I watched, if anyhting to see if they cleared his identity and if there was some extra reflection beyond the voice over.
    The special ED was really fitting, but as in other key moments in the series they also nailed the silence. The epilogue was perfect in this sense as well. And so was the choice of rendering the King's En as purple (murasaki… the color of nobility) and its particles as resembling fireflies: the symbol of love, souls, and passing (and of end and beginnings) among other things. (On fireflies this post and related references is a quick recap: )
    Beautiful. Beautiful.

    EDIT/P.S.: on the Chimera Ant's front next week we still have Gyro's deal to solve – I hope. Pink koala (possiby? Yes please?) and Colt with Ant baby (more likely. I do trust Togashi to tie the loose ends – and going by Killua's said empty eyes in the preview I'm expecting we'll be told – if not shown – somehing about Gon's condition…

  21. S

    I hope at least that most of those loose ends you mention will tie up before the anime ends.

  22. "Let us drink.
    Drink to the human race.
    In every age, there will be good and bad humans.
    Human life is too long to devote to reproduction,
    Yet too short to devote to learning, in the helix of time.
    Perhaps that is why humans succumb to desire, and seek release.
    Despite the fact that life is complete,
    With the sun, the land, and Poetry."

    – Supreme Leader Diego (Real), in his 30th year of retirement in an unnamed country

  23. e

    @Shigy Amoto: well I'd appreciate some clues either way next week. We'll wait and see?
    @ Enzo: thank you.

  24. S

    Btw, now I need a Diego spin-off to know his story.

  25. A

    That episode was… Well, it almost leaves me speechless, to try to describe, to even try to praise it feels almost like desecrating something sacred. All I can say is that the anime has transcended the manga much like the manga transcends genre conventions. Heartbreakingly beautiful and beautifully heartbreaking. Bravo Madhouse, bravo.

  26. S

    I must commend Neferpitou who was valiant in her efforts to aid Komugi acknowledging her as the symbol of the final Meruem who as Netero would say choose his human side after all. The whole memory loss must have been to highlight this fact of what Komugi represents. This also means Pitou was the only royal guard who truly cared about Meruem himself and not the "Mighty King" she was completely loyal never doubting him at all…

  27. T

    You can see it even as far back as episode 108; when the king asks his guards about his name, Youpi says that his question is "beyond my capacity to answer" and Pouf only cares about the "Great King" as you said, but its Pitou who says "Your feelings are what matter most your majesty. You should choose a name that is pleasing to you"

    Pitou for best royal guard who would totally watch over Meruem and Komugi's blissful gungi days with a smile.

  28. S

    Loyalty so gorgeous I mistook it as a cherry blossom that had escaped from the heavens…

  29. w

    I was under the impression Palm was also intended to be a mate for Meruem, which would have made her loyalties doubly conflicted here.

    I don't feel like I appreciate this show enough sometimes, I get really caught up in the emotions and tend to miss all the themes and symbolism.

  30. S

    *@Your second paragraph*


  31. n

    >Nothing else really need be said.

    Yet you added 12 more paragraphs. 😉

  32. Hey – I apologized…

  33. R

    Hey, no one's saying it's a bad thing.

    You said nothing a lot better than I ever could have.

  34. A

    You exceeded your record in the lavish praises yet again, Enzo. Heh.
    The ending to the arc is so beautiful after all the dark events that had happened. Have we seen probably the best shounen conclusion to an arc?

  35. m

    I think your exceptionally long episode review here came at the best time. By time, I finished, I pretty much ran out of tears, crying as I did from the start to end.

    Hunter x hunter is such a beautiful anime, Chimera Ant exceeded the other arcs in so many ways and levels. I can't even imagine not seeing the Chimera Ants from here on.I wonder if we'll see Colt again (pls dont spoiler though, just wondering)

  36. K

    Some amazing pictures from Takehiko Abiru, paying tribute to the ending of episode 135

  37. B

    If the bittersweetness of the second half of the episode made me smile/cry, the epilogue completely destroyed me. Who knew that the conclusion to Meruem's story would be a slow and quiet death, playing a game with a loved one?

    I'm not sure we deserved something this good.

  38. N

    I wonder if Pitou could, in theory, cure the King from his radiation sickness. And if that was a possibility, why didn't the king go after him? He did not know Pitou was dead, after all, unless he glimpsed that knowledge straight out of Palm's mind with his En.
    (I have a feeling Sai Fujiwara would have enjoyed this conclusion..)

  39. I don't know if he could have or not – it's clear that this isn't quite the same as radiation sickness, but a fictionalized version of it. But I do get the sense that everything Palm knew, Meruem knew – so since she knew Pitou was dead, I assume he knew too. Don't forget his comment to Komugi – "I'll be seeing them soon."

  40. K

    I was moved…

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