“Zodiac x and x Zoldyck”
This, then, was
the final arc of the Hunter X Hunter anime in full force – the twin
pillars of the “Election” arc revealing what would make them so
compelling. Pariston is in his glory as the master troll, manipulating
everyone and everything around him and infuriating those unable to keep
up with his machinations (especially Cheadle). Togashi relishes the
opportunity to indulge his geekery again, this time on the subjects of
group dynamics and politics. It’s clear even this early that for
Pariston this is all a game, while for the other Zodiacs it’s deadly
serious – and that gives him a huge advantage in all their dealings.
meat of Episode 138 is spent at the Zoldyck mansion, and it means the
introduction of the MacGuffin of the arc – Alluka Zoldyck, the strange
second-youngest sibling with the even stranger ability. Everyone in the
family calls Alluka a boy, but Killua refers to Alluka as a girl – this
is never explained, and is far from the biggest part of Alluka’s
character that never is. In time I’d come to view Alluka as not one of
Togashi’s best characters – there’s too much convenience in the ability
as far as the needs of the plot are concerned, and it seems to be harder
to reconcile with the series’ mythology than anything we’ve seen thus
far. But in terms of shock value, in Episode 138 Alluka is off the
We’ll come to know much more of Alluka in time, of
course, and the character will be framed in a different light. But for
now Alluka is amazingly creepy – the first appearance of “Nanika” and
the terrible fate which befalls the butler are in their own way among
the scariest moments in the series. It’s obvious that Killua is taking
enormous risks in coming here and seeking out Alluka’s help, but the
depth of his love for Gon is such that there’s no risk he won’t take to
try and save him. And that will make what’s to follow all the more
“A x True x Friend”
This is a busy episode in many ways. The election is ongoing, and Pariston (in one of the most hideous suits in anime history) continues to play the Hunter Association like Radu Lupu at a concert grand. There’s intense drama inside the Zoldyck family, as Silva tries to clamp down on Killua by sending his big guns to keep watch on him. But in truth, there’s only one true headline in Episode 140.
That man is back.
Leorio has been gone a very long time by now – Kurapika as well. We don’t see the latter bar a brief cut-in – perhaps he’s sent Melody to keep an eye on Gon and report back to him, but he damn well better have a good reason for staying away – but Leorio is back in force. And not just back, but about to have without a doubt his finest hour on Hunter X Hunter. This straight-shooter, not overpowered and flashy and so easy to overlook, utterly owns the moment. He takes the mic at the Hunter Association and blasts Ging a new one for not visiting Gon. He publicly excoriates himself for not arriving sooner, bemoaning the time he wasted “jerking off” in his apartment. And finally, he unleashes his Nen at last on a most worthwhile cause – Ging’s face. Could Ging have dodged? I don’t know, maybe he could – but there was so much pure righteous anger behind that blow that I don’t think it makes any difference.
It was a great thing, Togashi using Leorio to give voice to all the frustrations we have with Ging (it nets Leorio an instant stake in the Chairman election, not that he cares), but there’s a lot more to this event than simply that. Gon has has a string of friends and even acquaintances from all through Hunter X Hunter’s long run come to see him, he has Killua defying his family and risking everything to save him. Gon’s faults have become obvious, but what can’t be denied is that he’s wealthy in terms of friends. He’s loved. He’s impacted people in profound ways, even those like Hanzo and Tsezguerra who knew him only briefly. This is Leorio’s moment, but it’s also Gon’s – Togashi’s way of showing us how special he is to have created such large ripples in life’s pond.
“You x Can x Smile”
As I write this I haven’t seen the final episode of Hunter X Hunter (give me a second to collect myself after typing that…) which will presumably feature the longest and most meaningful conversation yet between Gon and Ging. But it’s hard for me to imagine that Episode 145 won’t feel like the emotional climax of the series for me.
It’s entirely possible that if I’d known how Episode #147 (Gon’s reunion and parting with Killua) was going to develop, I might have felt differently about this one. It’s almost as if Togashi resisted giving us the emotional catharsis many craved with the most crucial relationship in the series, Gon and Killua, or even the most built-up, Gon and Ging. It’s like he overcompensated by making Killua and Alluka’s relationship – in which we don’t have a long-term emotional buy-in – exaggeratedly affectionate. And the glorious, emotional and heartwarming reunion he does give us with Gon isn’t with his soul-mate and spiritual brother or his long-missing father, but with Leorio – a good friend and true, but one who hasn’t been a part of the emotional fabric of Hunter X Hunter for something like 80 episodes. It almost feels as if this was the safer road for Togashi to take – Leorio is close to Gon, but not too close.
One might speculate on that all day long, and we really won’t know until the manga is finished (which I hope will be after many, many more chapters). But in one sense it makes no difference, because that reunion was incredibly satisfying, and this episode was an emotional roller-coaster. Killua’s reaction when seeing Gon’s withered and blackened arm was absolutely heartbreaking – and that’s without knowing what will happen in Episode 147. Surely he’s suffered more for Gon than anyone, far more, but he removes himself before Gon wakes after Nanika has healed him (and their meeting will take place offscreen). But that moment when Morel flashes Leorio the thumbs-up and Gon appears, his smile radiating out and suffusing everything in H x H with positive feeling as nothing else can, Gon’s soaring flight through the air, that hug and Leorio’s tears… How could one wish a frame of that to be different? For one moment, at least, everything was all right again. That it would overshadow Gon’s reunion with Ging isn’t really surprising, because Leorio is far more a father to Gon than Ging ever was. That it would end up being the emotional climax of the series when there was so much left unsaid is a surprise.
And so I come to the end of these reminiscences, and I thank you for reading. It’s a matter of a few hours now until I watch the final episode and Hunter X Hunter the anime comes to an end, with the manga’s status still uncertain. There’s no dressing up the fact that this is a very sad day for all of us that love Hunter X Hunter, and one can tell from the words of those at Madhouse that they feel the same way. But as painful as it is to say goodbye, we can do so knowing that this was a truly spectacular adaptation, and one that’s leaving at the right time and on its own terms. One day I’ll be able to celebrate that, but for now I’m going to concentrate on being sad about it. And tomorrow begins the rewatch of Hunter X Hunter 2011.