“Sasuga x and x Sakuga”
Just as it has the finest opening episode, I would argue “Heaven’s Arena” has the best closing episodes of any Hunter X Hunter arc. And the stuff in-between is pretty great, too.
I’m including these two episodes as a single milestone, because they’re effectively one long, perfect narrative. They’re bridged together by Gon’s fight with Hisoka, of course – a fight which to this day remains my favorite action sequence in H x H, and in my top 5 of all-time. Not only is the animation seriously off-the-charts spectacular, but the BGM is as well – and so is the 15 seconds of silence inserted to great dramatic effect after Gon has landed his fated punch on Hisoka.
I’m not at the stage where I could name my absolute favorite episodes of this show, but I know I’d be hard-pressed to find any I love more than these two. They have everything – humor, incredible intensity, Nen geekery, Hisoka at his most perverse and creepy. Episode 36 effectively acts as a bridge connecting Episodes 16 and 35, the two best in the series up to that point – an absolutely ingenious dramatic construction.
Among other elements that make these eps crucial are the introduction of the six Nen classes (and Hisoka’s “blood type” personality test). That’s directly linked to Wing’s bombshell that learning Nen to this level was actually the final stage of the Hunter exam – which he provides along with an update on the progress of the others who passed (including Kurapika and Leorio). And then there’s that fight, which showcases Gon in all his GAR-driven shounen determination and Hisoka at his most disturbing. What a strange relationship that Togashi has given us here – a ruthless killer who’s clearly a pedophile, and a strange and freakishly gifted boy, each obsessed with each other for their own reasons.
If there were any worries that Hisoka’s more unsettling character traits would be toned down in this version of Hunter X Hunter (which there shouldn’t have been by this point) this episode conclusively dispelled them. His reactions (verbal, facial and physical) during the fight with Gon are some of the most hilariously disturbing in anime history. Creeper isn’t a subtext with Hisoka, it’s just text. But he’s a fascinating character for all that, and even as he’s pummelling Gon (and being pummelled a bit too, which he seems to enjoy even more) he’s teaching him too – Gon may have learned more useful lessons about Nen and combat in this arc from Hisoka than he did even from Wing.