“You x Only x Hurt…”
The phenomenon of the “6” episodes is strong with Hunter X Hunter. Pretty much all the episodes of this series are great, but the ones that end in 6 have always tended to be epic in every sense of the word. And in terms of epic and everything else, I would have to think very long and hard before considering that there’s another episode that’s stronger than this #116. It’s phenomenal.
I still remember how I felt when this episode ended as if it happened seconds ago. I was physically shaking as the credits rolled – shock and awe in full force. I can’t remember another anime episode quite this intense. The suspense was off the charts, it was an emotional knockout punch, and it took me a while to gather myself. This is one case where I think Madhouse gets top billing, because the execution here was beyond perfect. And Han Megumi’s performance as Gon – all the rage, all the strength, all the despair – is one of the finest I’ve ever heard in anime.
I can’t begin to summarize why this ep was so amazing – I couldn’t do that in the full post. But it stands as one of the greatest achievements in TV anime. The incredible facedown between Gon and Pitou had been teased for so long, but actually managed to exceed those inflated expectations. And in pure H x H fashion it ended up not even being the apex of the episode – that came with the gut-wrenching chasm between Gon and Killua, one which would have far-reaching impacts that dramatically impact the story even now.
That’s all I can say on this one, really. If you haven’t seen it, prepare to be astonished when you get there.
“No x Small x Roles”
There’s a kind of obstinacy to Togashi’s writing that reveals itself in Episode 123, and maybe in me too for loving it as much as I do. Just when things seem to be heating up to the boiling point in the headline confrontations in “Chimera Ant”, Togashi and Koujina devote an entire episode to Ikalgo and Welfin. Screw you, haters…
The operative reality here is that every character in “Chimera Ant” is here for a reason. Not only is the subterranean showdown between Octobro and Welfin gripping stuff, but it will have far-reaching impacts on the plot. Togashi doesn’t reserve the crucial butterfly effect moments for his stars – anyone can make a big impact, which makes his story arcs incredibly hard to predict. As I said when I summarized the episode, I don’t love him best because he dos what everyone else does only better – it’s because he does what no one else does, because they can’t.
The fact is that both of these are very interesting characters in their own right, and I especially like Welfin because he plays like a character from a Shakespearean tragedy. All of his troubles are inevitably caused by his own demons – his paranoia, his self-promotion, his tendency to see conspiracy in every corner. Yet there’s something likeable about him somehow, some core of tortured decency that makes him seem more a victim than a victimizer. At least for me. This is a wonderful and totally unconventional episode, and it’s one of my favorites in “Chimera Ant”.
“Prayer x and x Admiration”
Yes, another “6” episode. And #126 is among the very finest of the breed – again, it’s truly epic in every sense. It delivers on all the buildup and teasing and foreshadowing. And most importantly, it’s the true payoff of all the buildup that’s been done in not just “Chimera Ant” but Hunter X Hunter as a whole. If you only see this is a great fight (which it is), you’re seeing the merest tip of the iceberg.
Needless to say the art and animation here are gorgeous, stunning. It’s a truly epic action sequence in every sense. But the character side is, as always, even better. The King has already changed so much by now, but he remains the big bad – the being who represents a threat to the entire human race. His admiration for Netero is completely genuine – this is a worthy opponent, even if the King sees him as no real threat. Netero pulls out all the stops, but the King has an answer at every turn. It’s brutal and terrible – he takes first the right leg, then the left arm (a very common motif in H x H), but not with malice, as crazy as that sounds.
Netero said many episodes earlier “I don’t think I’m going to be able to win this without sacrificing someone”, and the full meaning of that statement comes home to roost here. In a flash – literally – all of his Byzantine plans (bar one) become obvious, and the King – who now knows his name is Meruem, thanks to Netero – realizes that his enemy “had me in checkmate all along”. Mereum never allowed himself to be believe that a human could do that, despite the fact that he’s never bested Komugi at Gungi, but Netero shows us the full measure of resilience – and treachery – humans are capable of. The use of the “Miniature Rose” to end this battle (though later than it first appears) is not beautiful or poetic – it’s a crude and prosaic way for Togashi to put the capstone on Netero’s life, and that’s the only way it could be.
Also of note here is the fact that Netero is being played by Banjou Ginga, due to the passing of Nagai Ichirou a few months earlier. Hunter X Hunter was lucky to have been able to replace one legend with another, and Banjou-sama proves his mettle here – his Netero is not an impersonation of Nagai-san, but his own spin on the character. And in the context of this episode, it works very well indeed.