To call the experience of writing this post anything but surreal would be a lie.
To say this has been a long time coming would be a massive understatement. After all, there hasn’t been a new Hunter X Hunter chapter since 2014. But even more, this is actually the first episodic (chapterific?) manga post I’ve ever done for H x H – series, movies, editorials, retrospectives – all of those I’ve written. But never a chapter post for the manga. But times change, and here we are.
For obvious reasons, even blogging a new Hunter X Hunter chapter is something of a leap of faith. We don’t need to rehash all that old business but we do need to be realistic and acknowledge it, because neither I nor any of you (or, I suspect, Sasaki-san at Shounen Jump or Togashi-sensei) knows for how long it will last. But there’s no real reason for me to hold back now. There’s no anime to spoil and won’t be for a very long time, and whatever new material we get should be appreciated on its own merits. Today, we have a new chapter of Hunter X Hunter and I’m going to write about it.
One thing I think can be said for certain – in reading the “Dark Continent” arc, one can find no signs that Togashi is a writer who’s thinking in terms of wrapping up a story (and the art is pretty spectacular). This arc has been bigger than big from the beginning, a seemingly massive premise full of potential sub-plots and mini-arcs. And the new chapter is a veritable mountain of exposition – a dialogue bomb like only Togashi-sensei can deliver. I re-read the last few chapters first just to refresh my memory on what was happening, and I’m still trying to digest all of the new one.
The headline here is certainly going to be the return of some audience favorites (no, not those two) as part of Kurapika’s plan to get close to the Fourth Prince. We have familiar faces like Hanzo and Bassho, a semi-regular in Melody, and the rarely-seen Izunabi – who, truth be told, I had to Google to recall was Kurapika’s Nen instructor. Best of all is Biscuit Krueger, who’s introduced somewhat puzzlingly as “requested by Killua” – I wonder if that should have been “recommended by Killua”? In any event all of them are filling the slots of bodyguards for six of the princes who are participating in what amounts to a “last man (or boy, or girl) standing” battle to the death to be the King’s successor.
One can only assume that we’re following Togashi’s original outline here, because to not even include Beyond after a break of 18 months and launch more or less into a fresh subplot is pretty audacious. It’s audacious enough to undertake a massive arc that seems to hold no place for Gon and Killua – I’m struggling with that, to be honest, because it’s those two and their incredibly complicated relationship that’s the apex of Hunter X Hunter’s divine brilliance for me. In that light characters like Bisky are a nice security blanket, a link to the past – and in an arc that can use every drop of humor it can find, Bisky may be all the more welcome. That whole bit with Kil advising Kurapika on how to win Biscuit over was hilarious and a real highlight.
There’s so much dialogue and so much of it really new in this chapter that I’d probably have a better grasp on it if I was less tired from traveling or had time for multiple readings. As is, it all feels very preliminary – the sense is we’re in the early stages of a prolonged setup phase. What’s going to be the true epicenter of “Dark Continent” – is it Kurapika’s quest for closure? Is it the Dark Continent itself, and Ging’s quest to discover its secrets? The ongoing power struggle inside the Hunter’s Association and Beyond Netero’s role in it? And will there be space for Gon’s struggle to rediscover his Nen and his fractured brotherhood with Killua? I believe we’re a long way from getting any answers – and with Hunter X Hunter, that’s a scary prospect. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy every panel that comes our way – it’s truly great to have it back.