I don’t really know how to start this post, because I don’t really know exactly how to classify this episode. Was it the end of “Chimera Ant”, the beginning of the Election Arc, or something else altogether – a bridge? For me I think it’s probably all three in equal measure, and I suppose that’s as it should be. 60-episode story arcs don’t come along every day and you really can’t end something like that on a conventional note, especially one as emotionally devastating and complex as “Chimera Ant”. Whoever writes wikis and such is going to have to decide whether “Chimera Ant” ended at Episode 135 or 136, but apart from that the distinction doesn’t much matter.
What I know for sure is that an epic like this can’t just end with the plot resolution – a coda is desperately needed, and that more than anything else is what this episode was. It’s a mistake even good writers make more often than not, but Togashi is just too smart to forget this step. There are many questions that remain unanswered, and as always in Hunter X Hunter every arc acts as the seed from which the next one (and sometimes more than one) sprouts. But for the chimera ants themselves, to a certain extend we get closure – and again, that seems totally fitting to me.
In the aftermath of Meruem’s death, we see that an untold number of East Gorteau’s civilians have died with him. The international community has swooped in and NGL and East Gorteau have basically been wiped from the map – the riches of the latter split among the surrounding countries and the former set aside as a “nature preserve” to be overseen by the Hunters Association. This is a critical point, because the surviving chimera ants could do a lot worse than to remain there, out of sight and out of mind from a human race that would never be able to accept them as anything but monsters. It seems not impossible to me that this was the Association’s thinking all along, as the least troublesome way of dealing with the problem. There are already 5 million new human refugees to worry about, and it’s virtually certain that the Association is going to be a scapegoat – adding masses of chimera ant refugees to the list isn’t going to make things any easier.
Of course, we’ve come to know the chimera as individuals and there are those among them for whom a quiet life in an abandoned fiefdom isn’t going to cut it. Welfin and Hina are headed to Meteor City with Bizeff as their passport, Welfin operating under the assumption that Gyro may have headed there. Bizeff may be on the run as a Class-A war criminal but he deserves a much worse fate than road-tripping in an RV with those two, even as annoying as Hina is. Welfin, on the other hand, has grown into one of my favorite characters and I’m glad to see he’s come out of all this with his spirit (if not his body) intact. He leaves us popping a Heineken and high-fiving Hina – a surreal moment to be sure, but again one that somehow fits. And his last words to Brovada? “Don’t die until you’re dead.” It may be one of Gyro’s expressions but Welfin as surely lived out the truth of it as much as anyone has.
It’s Brovoda who’s involved in the emotional apex of the episode – he’s staying behind in the NGL to help the silent chimera ant who he’s come to believe is a small child. He’s paying forward the kindness shown to him by Ikalgo, or at least that’s what he tells himself as he leads her to the village she seems to remember from her prior life. It hit me a few minutes into this story who this girl really was, and Reina’s reunion with her mother was an unexpected moment of redemption – especially when her mother recognized Reina despite her grotesque appearance.
But for me it’s Brovada who’s the real heartbreaker here – he tells Welfin that he can see it in the eyes of those chimera that remember their old lives, and he’s not one of them. On top of everything that’s been taken from him Brovada has even been robbed of his past, making him even more bereft than the likes of Welfin. The story that ushered in “Chimera Ant” as one of the darkest and most tragic arcs in shounen history ends with a stunning reversal, as Reina and her villagers refuse to let Brovada walk away alone after what he’s done for her. It one last surprising turn for this arc that’s full of them, and for all the pain and despair leaves us with a feeling of hope. That, surely, is a remarkable thing.
There are other questions attached to the chimera ants’ story of course, not least of which is whether Colt with ever become Kurt again in his own mind, and join his sister in reunion with their mother. I don’t suspect we’ll ever know, but Colt does have one last role to play here – he reports to Morel that the little girl (who looks resolutely human) he adopted upon the death of the Queen and named “Reina” is protesting that this is not her name. She’s very insistent – “My name is Kaitou!” To say that’s quite the bombshell is an understatement, and I’m not even going to try and explain it yet because I can’t force it to make sense given what we’ve been told so far. But the funny part of all this is that I thought I’d been spoiled on this point, and it turns out I was almost completely wrong. It’s a case of one of those “cannot unsee!” moments where you see something and look away too late, and it turns out what I saw was so misleading taken out of context that it might as well have been (though it wasn’t) an intentional misdirection rather than a thoughtless spoiler. Go figure.
This is the moment, if there is one, where it feels as if there’s a tectonic shift and the new story begins to take shape. At long last, the camera finally returns to Gon and Killua – though we don’t really see Gon. He’s in bad shape, on life support with his doctor baffled, and a clearly-ravaged but still passionate Knov is determined to find a way to save him. That means bringing in his own specialists out of of pocket, and “rebuilding the entire hospital if necessary” (why, exactly I’m not sure). It’s Killua, naturally, who’s performing the bedside vigil but as much as his love for Gon is still driving him, it’s clear that Killua is deeply wounded by what happened. “I wanted you to ask for help.” he chides the unconscious Gon, but as always Gon ran off ahead on his own. The toll the events of this arc have taken on Killua is no less obvious than the toll they’ve taken on Gon – Killua’s wounds are different, but just as deep.
The real pathos here, of course, is that it’s Gon who’s inflicted those wounds on Killua. And of course, it’s really only Gon that has the power to hurt Killua the way he’s been hurt here. Killua pledges to Knov that he’s going to heal Gon himself, though he doesn’t say how – only that he’s going to be gone for a while. Gon hasn’t hurt Killua with malicious intent of course, only thoughtlessness – but Killua seems intent on holding Gon accountable this time. This is the true legacy of “Chimera Ant”, the end of childhood for these two, and their relationship can clearly never be the same. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you look at that relationship from Killua’s perspective.
Finally we have the pieces of the Election arc starting to move into place. Netero has ordered an election to find his replacement, to be invalid if less than 95% of Hunters participate. And he’s ordered the Zodiacs – the leaders within the Association and obviously people Netero trusted to be in charge of it. The final moments of the episode are historic indeed for H x H – for the first time we see Ging Freecs live and in the flesh (given his track record as a dad, I’m not expecting so much as a card, never mind a hospital visit). And the preview is a veritable spoilercopia of important faces old and new, promising fascinating developments ahead. We may have gotten our extended epilogue for an arc that richly deserved it, but the creative momentum of Hunter X Hunter is so relentless that the future allows us little time to dwell on the past.