Well – that was unexpected…
I guess at this point we should probably give up on trying to predict the future of Hunter X Hunter, because Togashi Yoshihiro is unpredictable even at the best of times. Here we are two weeks into his return from his longest hiatus ever (and that’s a stiff competition) and he completely bails from the “Dark Continent” storyline and gives us arguably the most anticipated moment possible in Hunter X Hunter for many fans.
The natural place for the mind to jump when Togashi jumps to Heaven’s Arena and Hisoka vs. Chrollo (yes, I said it) is back to “Chimera Ant”. Specifically, when he left the main arc to detour to Meteor City, where the Phantom Troupe (some of it, anyway) was doing battle with some second-tier chimera ants in colonization mode. But there’s a very clear difference, in that the sidebar Togashi switched to back then was tangentially related to the main plot. So far at least, there’s no detectable connection between what happened this week and what’s going on in the Dark Continent storyline. And what’s especially striking is that Togashi-sensei made this jump without a word of explanation or a panel of transition – it was as if he’d flipped a switch. Talk about jarring.
Well – this is Togashi. He plays by his own rules because he can do things no other mangaka can do. And of course it’s entirely possible one or both of these magnificent bastards will end up on the Dark Continent – though in theory, only one of them should walk out of the ring alive. One can speculate all day on what’s happening here – it occurs to me that this could be some sort of flashback rather than something that’s happening in real time. But what’s clear is that this is the fight H x H fans have been clamoring for since “York Shin”. Countless fantasies have played out, thousands of times the eternal questions asked – which one would you root for? Who do you think will win? Leave it to Togashi to dump it on us without an ounce of setup or prologue.
It seems that Chrollo has been at Heaven’s Arena for a time – long enough to become a floor master, anyway. And that he led Hisoka a merry chase for a while – acquiring more stolen abilities (including Shalnark’s, though one wonders if that one was voluntary) and honing his own skills at manipulating them. It’s no surprise that these two psycho killers agree beforehand to make this a match to the death. And they make a head start on it with the referee, thanks to Chrollo. It’s Chrollo generally who seems to have the upper hand in the early stages of this match, as Hisoka struggles in trying to figure out exactly what he’s up against.
Since this is Togashi I think it’s best to assume normal rules never apply. He could go right back to Kurapika next week and leave us hanging on this battle. He could kill off either of these beloved supporting characters, even Hisoka. Though truth be told, if I were a betting man and you told me one of the two would indeed die during this fight, my money would be on Hisoka killing Chrollo. Conventional wisdom says Togashi will stay with this storyline for at least one more chapter, and that somehow both Chrollo and Hisoka will survive. But how often does the conventional happen in Hunter X Hunter?
While obviously overshadowed by one of the biggest splash chapters in Hunter X Hunter’s long history, Togashi did make some other news this week. On a “comments” page in last week’s WSJ, Togashi listed as his great happiness “The joy of being able to sit on the toilet or in a chair. The interesting thing about the body is that it won’t poop when you’re bedridden.” Did this effective confirmation that Togashi’s back has been so bad he’s been unable to even take a shit silence the Dragon Quest hyenas? Well, some of them – what can they say now, really, that won’t make them sound like even bigger douchebags?
That sort of debilitating back problem doesn’t just go away, so it would be wise to temper our expectations when it comes to Togashi’s ability to consistently produce new chapters over an extended period. But interestingly there are rumors that a certain mahou shoujo mangaka may in fact be pitching in on the artwork for Hunter X Hunter – which has sent many fans scouring this week’s panels in minute detail looking for clues that her hand was at work in drawing them. I have no evidence to suggest this rumor is true, but it’s a lot of fun to think about…