“The x Perfect x Team”
Episode 71 is one of those that fans of the manga and the 1999 series had circled on their calendar even before they knew what episode it was going to be. In short, this was the legendary dodgeball game – probably the most talked-about sequence in “Greed Island” and one of the most in the entire series. It delivered, but the episode was so much more than that.
There’s a hell of a lot going on here, but given the dynamic I would say the gettai move pulled of by Gon, Killua and Hisoka is the highlight of the episode for me. It’s easy to see why Hisoka was so thrilled of course, but it’s really corner of this bizarre triangle at their best – Gon comes up with a brilliant strategy on the fly, and has no problem trusting Hisoka with his life in pulling it off. Killua proves to be the lynchpin, both for the absolute trust Gon places in him and for the incredible sophistication he displays in using his Nen. And Hisoka loves every moment of it, in the end refusing to let the game end in a manner Gon wouldn’t have been proud of, even though Gon was unconscious at the time anyway.
The old war-horse Tsezguerra – who’s seen a lot – is utterly floored by the talent level of Gon and Killua. Gon’s determination and sheer staggering power, and Killua’s finesse and skill. Razor is too, of course – and though he’s just been defeated, it’s clear that while he wasn’t holding back he was happy that Ging’s son was able to accomplish what he did. As always Togashi is planting the seeds of future arcs before the current one is finished, Razor filling in the blanks on Ging’s resume line by line for Gon – all while Killua is getting his hands, mutilated by the sheer power of Gon’s attack, treated by Bisky.
Togashi has more in store for us here – the real enemy in this arc is Genthru (Little Flower? Miniature Rose? Hmm…) and he makes his move – though he also makes a huge mistake in underestimating the “three kids” in Tsezguerra’s army. And there’s a surprise waiting for us at the very end – amazingly enough, only the second-most androgynous Zoldyck sibling…
“A x New x Frontier”
Here’s an episode that stands as one of the most historic in Hunter X Hunter’s entire run. For the first time the Madhouse anime broke completely new ground, and after many years of frustration H x H fans could finally see “Chimera Ant” come to life. If that doesn’t count as a milestone, I don’t know what does.
There was a change from the manga here, one some readers complained about but for me was pretty much a wash – we saw the long-ago meeting between Gon and Kaito on Whale Island as a flashback, while in the manga it happened in the first chapter. Either way, Kaito is yet another kind of dismissal from father to son – Ging has once again avoided meeting with Gon because he’s had the temerity to use “Accompany” rather than “Magnetic Force”, which meant he was too “gutless” to come without bringing a friend. I’m more in line with Ging’s friend Elena, who calls him “shy and weird” and bemoans what a bad draw Gon has gotten in the father department.
While nothing so terrible or ominous happens in this episode, there’s a noticeable change in the atmosphere – “Chimera Ant” simply feels different than any Hunter X Hunter that’s come before. Kaito immediately stamps himself as a man to be reckoned with, and one who values the sanctity of life – never more so than what he’s forced to take it. He’s not a big talker, but he has a big presence – and at least it can be said that Ging seems to have found the right person to guide Gon on the next steps of his journey. Little, of course, does anyone realize just how tragic and painful that journey is going to be.
“Damn x Bad x Spin”
It’s hard to look at “Chimera Ant” as an arc in the traditional sense, as it goes on for well over a year (and I would argue the final episode was actually #147). If you break it up into blocks, I think Episode 83 is the best of the first one – a great showcase for Kaito, and the ep where some of the hints being dropped earlier in the arc really start to come together.
“Chimera Ant” is so many things, but not least among them is a musing on identity and individualism. That moment back in Episode 78 when
Colt Turtle asks the Queen if the officers might have names – it had the air of huge significance when it happened, and Kaito more or less officially confirms that here. In hindsight it’s plain to see how exquisitely Togashi planned this story (surprise, surprise) – the seeds of the Chimera Ants’ downfall have sprouted, but they’re the seeds of redemption as well.
Big things are happening everywhere here. Nen is has sprouted in the Chimera too, in the person of Rammot. Kaitou seeds trouble brewing everywhere in Gon – the fact that his resolute, single-minded attack on life is going to lead him into trouble this time. What a strange and fascinating man he is – and it’s in this episode that it finally hit me that when Kaito says “Damn – bad spin” what he really means is that it’s the means by which he’s going to take another life, which he hates doing. This is a story where conflicts don’t only take place in battle, but inside the mind and the soul as well.