Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 142

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It’s easy to see who the real master manipulator is here, and his initials are “T.Y.”.

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.

It’s pretty much a given that when Madhouse trots out the great Abiru Takihiko as Animation Director, you’re going to get at least one showcase fight scene and a great-looking episode.  And this was certainly no exception, though it came with a considerable amount of sadness – and the real headline (as usual) is the plot machinations and character intricacies which make this series so remarkable.  It’s not surprising (though certainly gratifying) that last week Hunter X Hunter became the first late-night anime in over three years to break into the Top 10 in TV ratings in Japan.

It struck me watching the last few minutes of this episode that Togashi Yoshihiro might just identify with Illumi Zoldyck more than any character in this series.  Using pens instead of needles, he manipulates his characters with remarkable precision – he’s the puppet-master.  Either he’s as good at long-term planning as any mangaka we’ve seen, or a remarkable improviser – it really does seem as if the seeds for everything that happens are planted long, long before they sprout, and in many ways the “Election” arc is shaping up as the true conclusion of the “Zoldyck Family” arc.

I won’t say there was a lot of suspense in the headline bout that started off the episode, because when Hisoka starts off a fight with killing intent it’s pretty much a given that his opponent is going to die.  It’s always a charge to see Hisoka go full-out, but that’s tempered with the fact that Gotou was a heck of a likeable guy and a true friend to Killua-bochan.  After the character has been somewhat softened by recent events, this is a good reminder that as charming as Hisoka is, he’s like a dangerous wild animal that you don’t want to start treating like a pet – this is a wicked and ruthless man, make no mistake.  It’s easy to understand Hisoka’s desire to fight someone strong because the truth is, we haven’t really seen anyone give him much of a challenge yet.  Just how strong is he?  We really have no idea – and the only way to find out would be to see him face off against someone who forced him to test his own limits.  It makes you wonder how he would have reacted if he’d had the chance to see Gon-san live and in-person…

Even within the Zoldyck family, there are so many competing forces and permutations that it’s a challenge to keep them all straight.  I’m struck by how many close-ups of Canaria’s face we see every time Illumi’s name is mentioned, especially knowing (or at least having been told) that there’s a mole somewhere inside Killua’s retinue right now.  There are only so many possibilities for who that might be, and it’s interesting that Canaria seems to be a step ahead of Amane (who gets some serious moefication for her struggles this week) all the time, given that Amane is the flesh-and-blood of the unquestioned leader amongst the butler corps.

Speaking of Tsubone, she’s forced to reveal one of her abilities when Killua’s full-power Godspeed proves too fast even for her.  She converts into a Nen motorcycle, which Amane and Canaria “ride” and bolster with their own aura.  This forces Killua to go off-road, but Tsubone (and Canaria – though not Amane) have figured out where he’s headed.  That’s the airport from which he intends to take an airship to the vicinity of the hospital, but Tsubone and her charges beat him there.  Here we see Canaria use her wiles to once again outsmart Amane, distracting her and allowing Killua and Alluka to escape. In the end all of them are at least nominally working together here to evade Illumi, but in the Byzantine power structure of this strange family, alliances are conditional and temporary even if certain rules are sacrosanct.

An interesting parallel is being drawn by Togashi here between the Zoldyck Clan and their complex hierarchy and rules and the Hunter Association (and one could easily extend that to the Phantom Troupe, too).  And indeed, the coup de grace of his storytelling here is the way he slyly reveals that in fact, the election and the Zoldyck/Gon story are the same storyline.  Killua’s choice is to turn this into an all-out war with his brother – to use the power of the Association to battle Illumi (who’s a member) and to take him down once and for all.

Illumi’s response to Killua’s plan of sending off a fleet of decoy blimps is to create an army of “Needlemen” to go after them – which Killua was fully expecting him to do.  Killua’s makes the case to Morel that Illumi’s actions are in such gross violation of Hunter protocol that they justify treating him as a criminal and fugitive – that in effect, he no longer “family” either to him or the Association.  Morel is a bit shocked that Killua would “sell out” his brother, but Killua responds that he “won’t forgive anyone who tries to hurt Alluka”.  This conversation is a fascinating one, not least because it further deepens the intentional confusion Togashi is sowing around Alluka’s identity – Morel specifically refers to Alluka as Killua’s “younger brother” (otouto).  Of course he could only have heard that from Killua himself, which means that in speaking with Morel Killua referred to Alluka as a boy – yet in speaking with his own family, he refers to Alluka as a girl.  There’s another implication to this conversation, too, and that’s the possibility that Killua has decided that Illumi – with his complete lack of restraint in piling up innocent victims among the general public – is the greater threat to the Zoldyck family that Alluka or anything else.  It seems possible to me that the likes of M***, Zeno and Silva could be persuaded of this too, in time.

And so it all comes together, in breathtaking Togashi form.  The Zoldyck conflict finally brings clarity to the Chairman election, and the true opposition to Pariston emerges as Morel mobilizes to fight Illumi’s needlemen.  The leader is Teradein Neutral, the 7th-place finisher in the last voting and “reformer”.  He’s aided by co-13th-place Bushidora Ambitious, the disciplinary officer, and the man tied with him, Loupe Highland (who’s played by Narrator Futamata Issei, adding to his many roles in this series) who’s searching for the missing Hunters.  This “Anti-Chairman Faction” and Morel have a mutual interest in cooperating here – Illumi is a perfect test case for them to argue their message about reforming the Hunter Commandments and changing the rules for admission to the association (and trying to win the election for Teradein).  And they’re the shock troops Morel needs to fight off Illumi’s zombie army before they can help Illumi kill Alluka and foil Killua’s attempt to save Gon.

This is classic Togashi.  While the Zoldyck Family arc provides much of the context, the sense of great forces about to collide calls to mind the epicness of York Shin.  We have a brewing political struggle with the Teradein faction casting themselves as Netero’s spiritual heirs and urging all their support to be thrown to their leader, and pledging to re-create the “Seirin Group” – which is a name I believe we’re hearing for the first time – a legendary team of Hunters to which Netero once belonged.  And we have Killua and Illumi effectively declaring all-out war on each other, with the lives of Gon and Alluka – and perhaps the future of the Zoldyck family – hanging in the balance.  Two great struggles, intertwined, with each being used as a weapon in the other while the hero of the series lies unconscious and near death – with Hisoka lurking out there, giving us the tantalizing mystery of just which way his ultimate loyalties will fall.  Is it next Wednesday yet?

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  1. w

    I wish it was next Wednesday, it feels like the episodes end right when they begin lately.

    The real danger with Hisoka isn't his strength, but how friggin clever he is. Always a few steps ahead, and always has a back-up plan. He always plants his trump card at the start of his fights. Err, literally..

    I also feel like Gotou isn't actually dead. I mean sure, he looks pretty dead. I honestly can't see how he couldn't be dead. And I know Togashi isn't in any way sentimental when he kills off his cast. But it just doesn't feel like a death. I'm probably crazy. Also while throwing theories out I'll hazard a guess that Tsubone has disguised herself as Killua's blimp.

  2. That did occur to me too, it was pretty blunt and unceremonial.

  3. S

    Square. Can we have a discussion about possible events without you shooting down theories with freaking spoilers? Just so you know, anything in the manga that wasn't in the anime is a god damn spoiler.

    on a different topic. Didn't Illumi say that he had a bird whispering secrets from Killuas party? Is that a canary bird he's talking about?

  4. w

    Togashi named her canary years in advance for that single pun…

  5. I was on the fence, but in the end it's probably not fair to anime-only viewers to leave a comment like that up. If the anime hasn't made something clear one way or the other to a viewer's satisfaction, it's not a manga-reader's place to use inside information to prove what happened.

  6. N

    "There's another implication to this conversation, too, and that's the possibility that Killua has decided that Illumi – with his complete lack of restraint in piling up innocent victims among the general public – is the greater threat to the Zoldyck family that Alluka or anything else. It seems possible to me that the likes of M***, Zeno and Silva could be persuaded of this too, in time".

    Interesting interpretation but I think that he would be willing to crush anyone for trying to kill Alluka, even if it was his father or one of his friends. Killua would not think about innocents this much IMO. The Zoldycks are not trying to remain hidden, they live differently from the others.

  7. I don't think it's a question of being concerned about innocents, but about the way Illumi's reckless disregard for collateral damage might bring ruin to the family. Remember what Zeno said in Chimera Ant – how he never killed anybody if it wasn't for a job?

  8. S

    Yeah, but as Enzo puts it – there's only so much collateral damage you may cause before even those who grant you impunity get real tired of your shit. Sure, the Zoldycks are strong, and taking them out would require too much effort – so much that it's not worth it if all they do is mind their own business and kill on contract every now and then. But bringing mayhem on such a scale it threatens to upset the order of things is another matter – the Chimera Ants tried that, and they were dealt with with extreme prejudice.

  9. N

    I mostly wanted to say that Killua is actually someone willing to kill anyone as long as he is hostile to Alluka, even his own brother. Illumi doe'snt seem to go against the family rules, it is an inner mission, a competition between family members and they can kill anyone but the family members, Killua is aware of that and used the consequences of Illumi's over the top actions to stop his brother by using other Hunters.

  10. But it's clear that Zeno at the very least (and most likely Silva and M***) personally disapprove of Illumi's methods. A reasonable person could look at Illumi and say he's a risk to bring trouble to the family sooner or later. In terms of pure self-interest if nothing else, I could see them formally turning on him if they decide that risk becomes too great.

  11. j

    The thing with Hisoka is…I don't think he has any loyalties to anyone. As long as he has toys to play with he'll side with anyone, given that they spark his interest.

  12. M

    That begs the question: Will Hisoka turn on Illumi if the opportunity presents itself?

    That'll be a fun fight to see if it happen.

  13. I wouldn't be surprised, and it would be a hell of a fight. That's why the final line of the post.

    Ultimately, I think Hisoka's only loyalty is to himself. And his equation is simple – "Which course of action will lead to more enjoyment for me?" I've always gotten the sense that Hisoka seen Gon and to a lesser extent Killua as potentially the most enjoyable toys in his chest, and I'm skeptical he's going to end up taking any action he sincerely believes will lead to either of them dying.

  14. s

    Rest in peace, Gotoh. I always liked you and already feared the outcome last week, but that's not really a pretty way to go. At least he was smart enough to actually threaten Hisoka in a way, though that didn't last long.

    In a way, Tsubone's Hatsu actually fits perfectly. Yes, she can't use it to fight on her own. In a way it's to support others though, just as she supports the Zoldyck family as the head butler. Since it was proven that Canary has Nen, I'm curious as to just what her Hatsu is. I don't really expect her to be the mole, given her relationship to Killua. At least I don't think she's knowingly the mole, if she is at all. As always, no manga spoilers on that one please!

    I just can't take Illumi's needlemen seriously, though. Especially that couple that still hugged each other cracked me up for some reason. Then again, those hunters sent after them do look a lot like fodder, so there's that.

    Speaking about that, the Seirin group. I didn't think the focus would shift to Teradein, Loupe and Bushidora, but they are intriguing. Though given the narrator's previous track record in terms of voiced characters (Puhat, Peggy) makes me think they're going to kill him off again. Or maybe he survives because the narrator also voices Botobai, whom I can't imagine dying at all. I'll just have to wait and see.
    I do think Morel's not too fond of the Seirin group, though. Don't know, that one facial expression he had when the group had their briefing looked more like he fears they don't take the needlemen too serious. Might just be me, though.

  15. e

    Uhm. It does looks like Gotoh is dead. He seemingly had his neck sliced off (what's with death by head damage in HxH? Kite, Peggy, Pitou and now this ). Unless it's a magician trick and he's going to save this toy for later in this arc (?). We can't really tell. Because his loyalties lie with himself and he has quite the whimsical side to begin with. The preview did a good job in making our expectations rise about this aspect too hasn't it? :p Next week now please.

    Ah, family fuckery. Can be so intriguing whan you're obserbing it safely on the other side of the screen. if the events unfolding were not enough we have Morel's sweat sealing the deal.
    On Canaria… I still believe she's not working for Illumi. At worst she's either unknowingly sending info (a bug of its Nen equivalent she's not aware of ) or she's double crossing Mr. Needle.

  16. If Canaria had a needle in her head herself, she could be double-crossing KilKil without even knowing it.

  17. e

    D: .Based on what we have witnessed it could only be a 'fine' needle like the one Illumi plated inside his otouto's brain rather than the standard 'lollipop' one. Otherwise as we see for the Needlemen a) the needle would be sticking out of her head b) pseudo-zombie effect. If so the one best equipped to detect&remove it would be Kill himself.
    I'm hesitating on this particular scenario because it would seem strange for Kil not to have considered the chance of his brother's trademark needle control over any of the accompanying butler squad members so far…

  18. e

    … if he has not expressed concern over such a detail – last week thinking to himself during Illumi's call for instance would have been a perfect moment – it's because there's no reason to be concerned.

  19. How could he possibly know for certain not to be concerned? If Illumi could do that to him, why couldn't he do it to someone else?

  20. e

    Terrier style of questioning?
    I dont know how he knows for certain. I can ony observe he is not concerned/has not expressed any concern about needles-in-butlers, not even in his thoughts – and heaven knows he tends to overthink if anything – . He knows Illum and his family's methods better than we do. We as watchers for sure don't even know how Illumi proceeded to plant his needle inside him without Kil noticing btw don't we?
    But precisely because of what Kil knows and has been through I find that what he does do and does NOT do (or think ) to be a valuable clue. Illumi can probably do that to someone else. Well, needle nen control it's his thing.
    But do you really think, having we as watchers being exposed to how Kil's mind works and analyzes every chance, that the kid would overlook such a possibility/risk? With the lives of Alluka and Gon at stake? We do not know what Illumi might or might not have done to Canary, Amane or Tsubone. But we do know and see what Killua has done and thought and what he has not. Any concern about needles-in-Canaria so far? Nope. Do **we** have material evidence of needles-in-Canaria? Nope. Could Illumi try? Yes. Killua knows he could try? Yes. He was subjected to that himself. Has he asctually done it to canaria? have we evidence of that? No. Just speculation.
    But when in doubt regarding material evidence I'd trust the characters themselves. Because the author has earned my trust first.
    The one fact I'm certain of is: Kil is not concerned about that kind and target of needles control. The only needle control we see him concerned about is the standard one on the Needlemen one. For me that implies 99% there is no other needle control at play, at least so far.

  21. G

    I wonder what Silva is going to think of his son Illumi and Hisoka killing Gotoh and possibly more mayhem to come?

  22. e

    About the more mayhem bit I agree with Enzo and Simone's replies to Nero's comment (2nd comment thread from the top).
    About Gotoh: technically Hisoka was the killer. If Illumi's request is not discovered or confessed he could even come out clean. Furthermore we have already witnessed the butlers being sacrficed for the family's greater good (testing Alluka's powers ) by the family. They're willing loyal tools. Silva's opinion and reaction may vary based on how Illumi's frames Gotoh's death. Provided Silva gets much bothered at all beyond 'that's unconvenient' basically.
    At the end of the ordeal will Gotoh's death will be considered unnecessary or wrong – hence punishable as waste of a good tool – or else? If 'else' Milluki is the one we saw bestowing corporal punishment on 'guilty' relatives back during the Zoldyck arc and nursing a genuinely petty mean streak in one of the flashbacks of this arc. Although I suspect his methods and level of pain would feel like a slap on the wrist to Illumi ( the latter's Guttarakur disguise is basically a human pincushion after all ^_^" ) . On the other hand if the family decides on something worse I trust them to have adequate ways. Lots.
    But we can't forget last time Silva's seemingly accepted to let Kil go and act on his own it was later revealed he knew about the failsafe needle in his son's brain all along. In other words Silva and Illumi (and Zeno, Mommy, Kalluto, Milluki) back then were at least accomplices as long as Kil's safety and eventual return among ranks were concerned, Kil's mental health and freedom be damned. As long as they had de facto control over his mind let their precious asset out on a trip… Gotoh's death could be considered a minor collateral in the grand scheme of things. Blood family and trade protection first – a form of amoral familism fo you wish- . And his it's a death the Zoldyck can quickly cover up – it'll never make the news – , unlike possible needlemen slaughter. He is a competent butler but still just a butler. He's repleaceable. <— To quote Enzo some comments above '… it was pretty blunt and unceremonial.' :,)

  23. G

    Sometimes I get the feeling Silva wishes Killua did not follow in the family business and lived a normal life.Clearly he is not like the other Zoldyck children (Gon probably has alot to do with that).

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