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I remember, mukashi mukashi, when Kurapika was thought to be androgynous by some viewers – it seems like such an innocent time looking back on it. Togashi has always loved his gender-bending male characters, but I believe this is the first time he’s ever confronted the matter so openly. And each succeeding Zoldyck sibling we meet seems stranger and stranger, building up to this last (though not youngest) and certainly creepiest brother.
But as highly anticipated as that character’s formal introduction was, there are other matters addressed first in this episode – namely the powder-keg of tension that is the Chairman election. Another round of voting has taken place, and again fallen short of the required 95% turnout required for validity. It did, however, see Pariston’s vote-share increase over the first round, and the tension in the conference room is amped up even higher as a result. Togashi is using these argumentative sessions as a way to slowly peel back the covers and reveal the essential nature of the Zodiacs.
The fault-lines are clearly becoming visible here, with Cheadle acting in the role of organzing the last line of defense against Pariston’s ascension. Mizaistrom is opposed too, though he seems to have his own agenda above and beyond opposing Pariston for its own sake – he’s a mystery, and clearly a man to be reckoned with (he would have been a welcome presence on the field when Brazil played Colombia in the World Cup). Pariston is biding his time, goading and baiting the more manageable of his colleagues into doing what he wants and waiting out the others, that smile never leaving his face. What Cheadle is doing appears to be delaying the inevitable, and both she and Pariston seem to know that – she even wishes that Ging were present, an acknowledgement that she lacks the wherewithal to stem Pariston’s tide alone.
For his part Beans is allowing himself to question Netero’s wisdom in making Pariston Vice-chairman – an act the old man said he committed because putting someone he couldn’t stand in the role would be far more interesting than planting a yes-man there. In the heady pre-Chimera Ant days boredom seemed Netero’s greatest enemy, but it’s tempting to believe Beans might be right – though of course it still seems more likely that Netero was simply seeing so many moves into the future that we haven’t reached the endgame he envisioned yet. The rule changes Pariston and Cheadle eventually settle on will likely drive the turnout up to 95%, but there’s nothing in them to suggest the overall direction of the flow of events will change.
The main event of the episode, though, is the return of Killua to the Zoldyck compound. The Election Arc has more callbacks than a casting agency, and this time we see a couple of welcome faces from the “Zoldyck Family” arc – Seaquant and Zebro, two good-hearted family guards who think highly of Killua-bochan. Seaquant is a Hunter, of course, and he reports to Zebro that Killua hasn’t shown up to vote in the election – only to have Zebro tell him that Killua has already arrived home, and to ask Seaquant to tell Gon that Killua looks distressed. This is quite a sad and touching moment, really – Zebro always was a sweetheart when it came to Killua and his friends. But neither man is in any position to help the Bochan in his current crisis.
Kil has, as we know, returned home to seek help for Gon. And that help comes in the form of the sibling he refers to as his little sister, Alluka (Uchida Maaya). Alluka has been referenced twice in Hunter X Hunter – once in a photograph (in Episode 97) and once in a verbal reference to “five brothers”. And indeed Alluka is a boy, younger than Killua but older than Kalluto – this is quite clear, yet Killua and only Killua refers to Alluka as a girl for reasons that haven’t been explained as of yet (though if nothing else, Alluka performs the remarkable feat of making Kalluto – who I initially mistook for a girl – look veritably masculine). It’s also obvious that Killua looks upon Alluka as a family member while everyone else is more in the line of a monstrosity – when Killua meets his father Silva refers to Alluka as a “thing” and “not human”.
Whatever else one might say about the Zoldyck clan, it’s always seemed plain that Silva values and probably loves his children – so for him to take this attitude should be a clear signal something is seriously amiss. And indeed, in a way, Alluka may be the out-and-out creepiest character in the series’ annals. Via flashback (ingeniously framed) we see what makes Alluka so terrifying. We meet him as a cute and seemingly normal little boy, playing with butler Mitsuba. When she grants three of his innocuous requests (“Lift me up!”, et al) his face changes into a terrifying death mask. Little Killua (and seemingly only little Killua, and just how that came about is interesting to ponder) is aware of this phenomenon (Bullseye!) and explains it to his worried parents after Mitsuba spills the beans – if you complete three of Alluka’s requests Alluka will grant you a wish and his face will return to normal. But if you refuse four requests in a row, you – and the person you love – will die. And that’s the fate of Mitsuba and another butler (presumably a lover) after she complies with mother Kikyo’s order to refuse Alluka’s requests as an experiment.
We’ve seen a lot of strange Nen abilities in Hunter X Hunter, but in Alluka Togashi has given us one of the strangest and most seemingly random – and one that’s apparently completely inborn in Alluka. As always there are various supplemental rules – the greater the wish, the more difficult the requests (which leads to ones like “Give me your duodenum.” to the poor woman Illumi selects to be a guinea pig after one of the butlers greedily asks to be made a millionaire (next time talk to Regis). And the person whose wish was granted need not be the one cursed with the subsequent requests – or the cost if they’re unmet, which apparently expands exponentially to include more people as the previous wish’s scope expands. I wouldn’t seeing some sort of rationale behind all this at some point, but for now it stands as one of the scariest and weirdest abilities in the entire series.
It’s plain to see where this is headed, and it’s certainly unsettling given that what Killua seems likely to request is a much bigger deal than having a million Jenny fall out of a passing airship. He’s effectively wishing for the return of a life, no less – and though Silva relents and allows a visit to Alluka when Killua recalls his words about never betraying a friend at the time of their last meeting, the cost for granting such a request would be almost unimaginable based on what we were shown this week. There’s another story here too, Alluka’s story – that of a child seemingly totally isolated from human contact and loathed and feared by her family (who don’t fear a hell of a lot, it must be said). Only Killua seems to really care for Alluka, and given who Killua is now thanks to his friendship with Gon, it’s unthinkable that he’d walk away and leave Alluka to that terrible fate whatever else happens.