“Hostage x and x Hostage”
There are many different definitions of brutality – and sooner or later, Hunter X Hunter gets around to demonstrating most of them. But fundamentally this series is about psychological brutality more than any other kind, and that’s the heart of the unbelievably tense and suspenseful Episode 57.
What we have here, essentially, is a hostage standoff where both sides are the kidnappers. Kurapika on the one hand and the Phantom Troupe on the other put tremendous pressure on their enemy, but the greatest pressure is internal – each is faced with a terrible choice. Do the Spiders risk the Troupe itself in order to protect Chrollo’s life, or do they sacrifice it and destroy the mysterious chain user. And for Kurapika, the terrifying question – is he willing to sacrifice the lives of Gon and Killua in order to see his quest for revenge through to fruition? It’s a testament to how brilliant the writing of this arc is that we’re not entirely confident that we know the answer.
The great difference here, of course, is that Kurapika (as conflicted as he is) is one man, and the Spiders are a group – and we see their group dynamics start to splinter for the first time when staring down this terrible decision. That’s fascinating in its own right, but even more so is the fact that Pakunoda, confirmed mass murderer that she is, becomes the most sympathetic character in the scenario in many ways. It’s a great powder-keg of fearfully powerful people all pushed to the very edge, in a tense staredown with everyone’s lives on the line.
This being Togashi, you know there’s going to be a cherry on top – and as so often is the case, it’s Hisoka. He’s the ultimate wildcard as usual, and he makes his intrusion late in the game, as always keen to exploit the chaos to his own advantage. It’s like a five-way game between chess grandmasters with everyone’s life on the line – one of the most intricate and elegant pieces of construction in a series that’s full of them.