Strap in – it looks like yet another amazing ride is about to begin…
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.
When the OP alone just about makes your head explode, you know things are going to get pretty intense. That OP was a reminder that Hunter X Hunter is yet again embarking on a new phase of its illustrious history – the Election Arc is finally being animated, and it will almost surely be the last arc we see for a very long time (which is a horrible thought). The OP is an amazing sequence – it’s clear we’re not going to ever get a new song in this version of the anime, but the animation was a parade of fascinating imagery – faces old and new, building up anticipation almost to painful levels (even a new logo). We got a new ED sequence too, (and for the first time, the narrator doing the preview voice-over) though “Hyourittai” carried over from “Chimera Ant” in remixed form – a very simple but pretty montage of stills, followed by a gut-wrenching framed photo of our separated four heroes in happier times that now seem very, very far away.
It should go without saying, but it truly is astonishing how Togahsi Yoshihiro is able to shift on a dime without losing any momentum – surely, he’s the most versatile mangaka in shounen history. This episode marks a complete turnaround from “Chimera Ant” even as the transition is utterly seamless – from the death, existential despair and moral contemplation we move into a cross between a political drama and a caper flick, and with a completely new cast of characters at its center to boot. That we already feel as if we know these twelve people is a testament to the groundwork Togashi and Koujina have done setting up this story, and the faith they’ve earned that every new character we meet is worth paying close attention to.
In the interests of time (mine) I’ll direct you here for the casting of the Zodiacs, making special note of Ohtsuka Akio (who earlier played Uvogin) as Mizaistrom Nana (“The Ox”), because he utterly commands the screen every time he speaks, and Takahashi Hiroki as Pariston Hill (he played Hisoka in the 1999 version). Of course Koyama Rikiya is back as Ging (“The Boar”), and it’s he and Pariston who immediately emerge as the prime movers of the gathered Zodiacs – though it’s clear that their fellows have little love for either of them.
The atmosphere in that conference room is really something – so tense that the air is positively crackling with electricity yet run through with a sense of whimsy we haven’t seen from Hunter X Hunter in months. Togashi is superb at this sort of material – snappy dialogue laced with subtext between formidable adversaries, underhanded machinations and trickery, battles of wits and wills. It’s a glorious return to a face of the series we haven’t seen for ages, yet also takes it into a new realm that feels totally fresh. One of the first questions that pops into my mind is why the canny Netero would have included Pariston – “The Rat” – in this inner circle of trusted subordinates. Even in a group full of iconoclasts he clearly stands as the odd man out – the only one, it seems, who didn’t step into the role Netero laid out for him.
Pariston seems the villain of the piece, to be sure – a self-serving and smug “Prince of kickbacks” who’s been laying the groundwork for his own advancement. He defends himself as someone who understands the weak, whereas the other Zodiacs and Netero were too strong to do so – and there’s a well-established syndrome of field Hunters scorning anyone who sullies themselves by working in administration. So there’s more to this than meets the eye, that’s certain, and given how many moves ahead Netero could clearly see I’m certain his reasons for choosing Pariston will become clear (perhaps precisely because he’s a hedge against all the others). The one thing everyone in the group can agree on is that Pariston should be stopped from becoming Chairman – until Ging’s declaration (a bluff) that he’ll run gives them two things they can agree on.
Togashi, as ever, drops fascinating clues about the past and the future here – for example, Mizaistrom’s pointed mention of the fact that 18 Hunters have gone “missing” since Pariston became Vice-chairman. There’s also a gloriously venemous exchange between Pariston and Ging where the former digs at the latter with the fact that Gon is in critical condition, and appears to make a veiled threat against him if Ging continues his campaign – to which Ging replies with amused contempt couched in politeness. The logical and persuasive Cheadle Yorkshire (“The Dog”) proposes that the rules for the upcoming election be set by drawing lots, with each Zodiac making their own list of rules – but Ging has foreseen this development with unerring accuracy, and gamed the system by meeting with Beans ahead of time to make sure his rules are picked.
That the seemingly honest and reliable Beans – who may be the closest thing to a figure all the Zodiacs trust – should be willing to cheat on Ging’s behalf is a sort of compliment about Ging’s character, I suppose. In a series full of enigmas he’s possibly the biggest one, and his claims that he’s only interested in making sure the election process is fun can’t be taken at face value. His rules are pretty simple – 95% turnout required, runoffs if no one reaches 50% (starting with the top 16 vote-getters) and, most interestingly, that all Hunters (there are 661 in total) are candidates and that no anonymous ballots will be accepted. For someone who sees as far as Ging does, it can be safely assumed that no rule is coincidental or unimportant – and those last two are definitely worth keeping a close eye on.
The first round of the election (held on August 8, which is the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, possibly not a coincidence given how “Chimera Ant” ended) is a cavalcade of old friends streaming in to cast their ballots – we see pretty much every major face in the Association from the earlier arcs, with some notable exceptions like the four main cast members (Leorio’s arrival is clearly imminent). Included is the long-overdue and rapturous return of the incomparable Hisoka (in a new outfit) who makes his presence known with a “May I put it in?” (everything sounds dirty when Hisoka says it, but I’m glad Gon and Killua weren’t around for that one) about his empty ballot paper. The results show Pariston in first but with only 37% if the votes, with a few interesting tidbits like Gon receiving one vote and Bisky six – but only 87.7% turnout, which renders the entire thing invalid anyway. Start again…
As always, Hisoka’s presence is fascinating. He’s there to see Ging – presumably as a potential worthy opponent – and also for the rare opportunity to size up the vast majority of his fellow Hunters in one sitting. He ranks them, most quite harshly, but when Illumi shows up he gets 95 points. Clearly this is one of the few in the world Hisoka considers worth listening to – maybe even considers a friend – and Illumi brings interesting news on many fronts. He correctly assumes Hisoka was clueless about the entire Chimera Ant fiasco and chides him for missing an opportunity to fight (“That would require stopping to think”) while he was out “chasing Chrollo”. The most riveting bit of news for Hisoka? That Gon is in critical condition, and that Killua is racing home to talk to their father – and that “at this rate both of them will die”. This brings us that rarest of sights, Hisoka being dead-serious – and Illumi talks of “another younger Zoldyck brother… I want to get rid of him.”
Oh, my… For a Hunter X Hunter fan this episode was an orgiastic feast for the senses on so many levels. The reset button has been pushed, and we transition from the most epic of all arcs to one that’s totally different, utterly fascinating, genuinely fun and promises to take Hunter X Hunter to places it’s never gone before. I loved the way Togashi gave us “Whale Island” as a breather after “Heaven’s Arena” and before the intensity of “York Shin”, but this kind of instant transition to a new story is exhilarating and incredibly hard to pull off (for a normal writer). Just like that, the table is set with a mouth-watering display of new possibilities, and I can hardly wait for the feast to begin.
Incidentally, if you’re looking for a gift for the Hunter who has everything, check this out: