“Hunter x and x Hunted”
This was the one – the episode that changed everything and started Gon (and me, in truth) on an amazing journey that’s still continuing. In any list I’d chosen to compile for these special posts, using any criteria, Episode 16 would have made the cut. It’s one of the very best in the entire series.
Even better than two years later I can still remember how watching the events that played out here made me feel. It was Episode 16 that erased any doubt that Hunter X Hunter was like any other shounen, and clued me in to just how much I’d been missing the boat all these years. I’ve said that in my view there are fundamentally three relationships that the entire series is built around – Gon and Killua, Gon and Ging, and Gon and Hisoka. And this one is all about Gon and Hisoka.
In this ep we see Hisoka for the great anti-hero he is – cruel, terrifyingly powerful, yet possessed of a sort of honor code that if nothing else, he follows because it amuses him to do so. And we see just the extent to which he’s becoming fascinated with Gon, the “unripe fruit” which seems to bear so much potential for later enjoyment. Gon proves his mettle by tracking Hisoka without his knowledge (and without using Nen – knowingly) and in doing so stamps himself again as a remarkably talented kid – but he forgets the most important lesson, that the hunter is never more vulnerable than when he’s focused on his prey.
In the end, Hisoka saves Gon’s life – but in doing so, teaches him a hard and cruel lesson that he’ll truly never forget. Hisoka has, in a funny way, served as a kind of mentor for Gon, albeit for his own prurient and selfish reasons. And this is not entirely one-sided, because while it’s true that Gon feels a fear in Hisoka’s presence that he’s never felt before, it’s obvious that he’s becoming addicted to that fear – Gon is an adrenaline junkie, without question, and the terror that Hisoka represents makes him feel more alive than he’s ever been.
I’ll never forget the sight of Gon hiding in the bushes hugging his knees after Hisoka and knocked him out cold with a single punch. Those eyes. one half-swollen shut – they’re truly one of the indelible images of Hunter X Hunter (and indeed, we see this motif play out multiple times later in the series – though never so powerfully). In a sense this was the episode when we came to truly know Gon for the first time – though he still had many more secrets to reveal, and has never stopped being a fascinating enigma.