I’m beginning to think my request to Nanika would be “Make Hunter X Hunter go on forever.”
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.
This isn’t getting any easier, I can promise you. When you find yourself tearing up during the opening credits, that’s a bad sign – and the next two weeks are going to be pretty rocky. It’s just hard to accept that this series is really ending, not just because three years is an enormously long time to bond with any set of fictional characters, but because Hunter X Hunter is so unique in anime. There just aren’t shows that do what it’s done for this long – it simply doesn’t happen. I know Madhouse is going to give H x H the sendoff it deserves because they’ve done pretty much everything brilliantly with this series, but that’s not going to make the moment any easier.
I can say with certainty that Hunter X Hunter continues to defy expectations right up to the end, which is fitting because Togashi is at heart a troll, and that’s why he writes great troll characters. Last week’s preview was a bit of a misdirection, because I certainly didn’t expect Gon’s tears to be accompanied by “Because of me, Kaitou turned into a little girl!” I could see where the reunion between father and son would be anti-climactic for some, because it certainly didn’t follow the conventional path. But since when do we wish Hunter X Hunter would follow the conventional path?
In reflecting back on that scene, it strikes me that Gon’s reunion with Leorio was much more like a father-son reunion – which is fitting, because Leorio (among others) is much more like a father to Gon than Ging is. Gon doesn’t call Ging “Dad”, and that’s as it should be – Ging isn’t his father in anything but the biological sense. And their reunion was much more reflective of the image of Ging that Gon had built up in his mind than any traditional paternal role – Gon was upset that he’d let Ging down by causing Kaitou to die, by not being strong enough. If he was upset because his father had avoided him for his entire life and never even visited him in the hospital, he didn’t betray it – but one suspects there was a whisper of that in Gon’s tears.
Let the record show, my heart is with the assembled Hunters who called Ging out for the douchebag of a dad he is, and it galled me to see Gon apologizing to Ging when it should have been the other way around. But the funny thing is, for all that their relationship is bizarre you can still see that they’re father and son in the way each of them is discomfited and unsettled by being in each other’s presence – no matter how much both of them try to pretend their biological relationship doesn’t matter, it does.
Togashi defuses the tension of the moment with a lot of humor, and keeps the focus on Ging’s command to Gon about how to apologize to a friend (and it’s not Kaitou with whom we’re going to see it most powerfully followed – Gon is fully aware that he has unfinished business with his most important friend) but the fact is, Ging was already planning on escaping before Gon could return from the errand he was sending him on and it was only the angered intervention of the other Hunters that momentarily at least caused him to relent. The most heartbreaking part of all this to me is the way Gon reveals just how much of a child he still is, his eagerness when he tentatively asks if he might speak more with Ging after he gets back – as if that were some onerous request. It’s very good that Gon has the friends he does, because I don’t think his relationship with his father is ever going to be emotionally rewarding, and Ging certainly isn’t going to be a mentor to see his son through into adulthood.
Once again Togashi ties in Gon’s drama with that of the election, which is still foremost on the minds of Pariston and Cheadle. Cheadle sees opportunity here, to try and exploit Gon’s adorableness and popularity to create an emotional groundswell for Leorio – but as usual Pariston is many steps ahead of her. He intercedes and effectively asks Gon to be the one to choose the next Chairman, recognizing both that in the heat of the moment his choice will sway the voters and that he’s likely to choose Pariston. He tells Gon Netero is on an “extended vacation” (I’m surprised he didn’t say “gone to a farm in the country to play with other Hunters”) – an obvious lie Cheadle might have stepped in and corrected but didn’t. Maybe it’s better that Gon doesn’t have the guilt of Netero’s death to deal with on top of everything else just at this moment, but the truth is still going to hit him hard when he hears it.
It’s not a surprise when Gon chooses Pariston – he’s shocked even to hear that Leorio is running, and Leorio (truthfully) denies any interest in being Chairman. Gon’s reasoning is perfectly Gon – that’s not Leorio’s dream, and it’s more important that he follow it than become Chairman. And it’s no surprise that afterwards, the vote is lopsided for Pariston (72.1%). What Pariston does next is a surprise on some level – hell, even Ging admits he didn’t see it coming – but in a sense, perfectly in-character. He appoints Cheadle (not Mizaistom, who he’d earlier touted as the best candidate when it suited his manipulations) as his Vice-chairman, then resigns. The master manipulator, a troll to the end. In the final analysis, Pariston really did have no interest in dealing with the headache of being Chairman, just as Ging said – he just wanted to manipulate the process and have a good time.
If you look at the “Election” arc as a story of manipulators in Pariston and Illumi, this seems to be the difference – with Illumi, the manipulation is directed towards the goal of gathering as much power as possible. With Pariston conventional power is irrelevant – the power he enjoys is the ability to mess with people, to pull their strings for its own sake. There doesn’t have to be a reason for it. It’s clear there was an understanding between he and Netero on a very deep level – that the two of them are more alike than those like Cheadle would care to admit. For now Pariston is content to leave the Chairmanship as a tainted prize for Cheadle, but with a promise that if she lets things get boring, he’s going to take her down – and it’s one that if I were in her shoes I would take very seriously. In a sense Pariston is even more dangerous than Illumi because it’s his lack of ambition that makes him powerful – ultimately the actions of someone like Illumi can be predicted more easily than someone like Pariston, because he has a specific and conventional goal in mind.
In fact, Togashi has saved the biggest emotional moments of the episode not for Gon and Ging, but for Killua and Alluka (and Nanika). There’s a certain inherent limitation to this for me, as I don’t have the long-fostered investment in this relationship that I do with Gon and Killua or Leorio, or even Ging – whose presence has always been a major part of the series, even when he wasn’t present. And there’s still a bit too much of the plot device in Alluka’s character – Alluka’s nature is not easy to justify within the series’ mythology (at least not without a better explanation than Togashi has provided), and Alluka’s power is a bit too convenient for the purposes of what Togashi needed to accomplish in this arc to be fully believable.
If the scenes between siblings are not as emotionally powerful for me as the true blockbusters of the series, they still pack a punch. For me it’s less about the relationship than about Killua himself and what it says about him. It seems Killua has indeed left Gon’s side before he woke, at least nominally to deal with Illumi – though it seems very likely he also simply wasn’t ready to deal with that moment. As Illumi theorizes about the nature of Something’s power, Killua and Alluka wait inside the pop-up hospital for his arrival. There’s no confirmation that Illumi’s theory – the crucial element of which is that when Killua (and likely only Killua) issues commands instead of making wishes, there is no resultant cost to be paid – is correct. But the lack of denial makes me suspect he’s effectively on-point. And with the ability to manipulate this power Killua is basically omnipotent – which makes Illumi that much more desperate to in-turn control Killua.
It must be said that we have no reason to suspect that if he’d wanted to, Killua couldn’t have simply ordered Nanika to kill Illumi – to erase his entire existence. But instead, he orders Nanika to send Illumi home, leaving him as a potentially deadly threat to the life he hopes to lead with Alluka at his side. Killua still views Illumi as a brother, and as we now know he’s one of the most sentimental people in the cast. That’s what makes his next order all the more agonizing for him – he commands Nanika to never appear again, convinced it’s the best thing for Alluka’s happiness. This despite Nanika’s repeated declarations of love for Killua – as “Killua”, not “Onii-chan”. It rips Killua’s heart out to do this, but by now Killua must have more scar tissue than heart left, given how many times he’s done that to himself.
In the end it’s Alluka who convinces Killua of the error of his ways. The message here seems to be that Nanika is very much as “real” as Alluka is – that where the true sibling begins and ends is not so easy to see. Was Nanika created by Alluka as a way to try and please Killua, to earn his love, as Killua theorizes? Who knows – there are still far more questions than answers with this character(s). The point is that here and now, both Alluka and Nanika are real and both love Killua – and that Alluka considers Nanika a separate and distinct person, and one whose feelings are worth caring about. In the end Killua – as usual in his post-needle form – elects the more difficult and dangerous but potentially rewarding course, that of allowing both Alluka and Nanika to exist in the visible world. There’s far more to this story than what’s happened so far, though how much of it we’ll see depends on Togashi-sensei’s health.
All of this – Leorio, Ging, Alluka, the Chairman election, Hisoka and Illumi – all of it is preamble to what’s indisputably the main event of this arc. That of course is the reunion of Gon and Killua, and to say that it’s a crucial moment for Hunter X Hunter is an understatement of biblical proportions. If the quest for an absent Ging was the literal driver of the series, the relationship between these two remarkable children is its heart and soul, a real and tangible thing, present through almost all of the story. Really, there can be no more deferring to bigger things ahead, no more deflection – for Hunter X Hunter, even as it continues in manga form, this is the climax. That makes next week’s episode fundamentally different than every one that’s come before, and given what this series has already delivered that thought is hard to wrap my head around. Even when I think I know what to expect from H x H I’m often surprised, and next week I don’t even know what to expect. The only thing I can be sure of it that it’s going to be an emotional experience that’s going to hit like a ton of bricks, and no amount of steeling myself for the moment is going to dull the impact.