In typical Togashi fashion, the epic pitched battle between two of the most beloved badasses in the series is turning instead into an extended game of cat and mouse. I don’t think the manga audience is as disturbed as the one at the fight, but there are some definite stirrings of displeasure out there.
This is Togashi. This is what he does. He defies expectations because he can, and (I think) also because he’d get bored if he didn’t. To be surprised by the directions he takes is one thing; to be surprised that he’s surprising you quite another, and one that makes little sense. It can be frustrating at times but it’s ultimately what makes Togashi-sensei a great mangaka, and Hunter X Hunter a great manga.
What’s really standing out for me in this confrontation is how little actual fighting Chrollo is doing, and how nuts it is that anyone in the audience (including the announcer – “The referee is dead! What a fight!”) has stuck around at all. Hisoka is using heads as bowling balls and lopping off dozens more as if he’s trimming a hedge, and Chrollo is turning legions of onlookers into his zombie army. It’s striking just what happens when two insanely powerful foes with no sense of shame whatsoever face off against each other – the way they’re massacring the crowd speaks not of sadism, but abject indifference. Those people just don’t matter one way or the other (I really hope Wing and Zushi were smart enough to stay away from this bout and watch it on TV).
As for the cat and mouse itself, it’s hard to say who’s actually running ahead at this point. It’s fascinating to get inside Hisoka’s head this way – Togashi has never put us there for nearly as long as he has these last two chapters. He is as ever a remarkable tactician and psychological profiler, but Chrollo is managing to stay one step ahead of him. I think it’s clear that Chrollo has a greater diversity of Nen weapons at his disposal, and that Hisoka has a greater array of creativity and reactive tactical genius – the story of this death match will likely be told by which of those advantages ultimately proves decisive.