It was heady (and exhausting) days for an anime blogger in April of 2012. We were a few weeks into a season that was already establishing itself as the best in years, with great shows in every genre on practically every day of the week. Looking at what’s transpired already this year and what 2014’s final schedule looks like, Spring of 2012 seems a very long time ago – yet there’s something that links it to the present, and that’s Hunter X Hunter. For all the changes in the world of anime, this show has remained one of the best series of its era. It serves as a reminder of what a remarkable run this series has had.
Episode 27 is one that sneaks up on you. It’s the first episode of an arc – “Heaven’s Arena” – yet it hits the ground running hard, dropping us right into a world of new sights, new characters and new ideas. Ideas that would prove to be at the very heart of the series for the remainder of its run. I think this is the best first episode of any arc on several levels, starting with pure entertainment value – it’s an absolute blast to watch. It also introduces two incredibly likeable characters in Wing and Zushi. The most important moment, though, comes when we see Wing rebuke his student Zushi for using something called Ren – and things have never been the same since.
Nen is almost a character in itself, so important is it to every aspect of life in this mythology, so any episode in which it was introduced would have been a milestone. That this just happens to be a great one is a bonus. It was impossible to know just how much Nen would come to dictate the flow of the story, of course, but it was immediately clear that this was not a throwaway moment – it was the start of something we’d be hearing about a lot more.
The other remarkable thing about this episode is what was happening during that moment when Wing first brought the notion of Ren to the table – Killua was fighting Zushi, and for me at least it was impossible not to watch that without being seriously worried for Zushi’s safety. That really brought home just what a strange character Killua was – how broken and unpredictable and dangerous, that it seemed a very real possibility he’d lost control in the heat of battle and seriously injure or even kill a boy younger than himself.