God damn, Togashi – really?
This chapter, really was all about the two magnificent bastards – yeah Hisoka is one, but I’m not talking about Chrollo here. I’m talking about Togashi himself, who laid out a solid left cross to a big chunk of his readership while simultaneously setting himself up for a fascinating twist to the main plot.
This seems like as good a time as any to make note of the fact that Hunter X Hunter Volume 33 went on sale this week – the first new volume since December 28, 2012. If one was worried that the recurring hiatuses had sapped interest in the series, the numbers put the lie to that – Vol. 33 sold 653,000 copies in just three days, one of the series’ strongest opening weeks ever. It crushed WSJ‘s current commercial powerhouse Ansatsu Kyoushitsu‘s new volume by over 200K copies and easily ranked #1 on the weekly chart. Hunter X Hunter remains a powerhouse, and Togashi’s writing shows no signs of either declining skills or winding down. He’s writing as if he’s in this for the long haul and if his body holds up, his fans will follow him wherever he takes them.
As I wrote last week, the only real surprise here would have been if Hisoka didn’t have something up his sleeve. Yet Togashi-sensei still managed to make my jaw drop with those last few pages especially. Hisoka simply has too much ingenuity and loves life too much to let himself be killed by Chrollo here. He was bested, certainly – forced to resort to a wild and untested use of his Nen to try and evade Chrollo’s final blow. But do so he did, thanks to a crowd of clones who’d gathered around him and absorbed most of the impact of Chrollo’s exploding surrogates. Hisoka didn’t win the day, but he survived it – and in doing so, set Hunter X Hunter up for what could be the grudge match of the century.
What strikes me here is that Hisoka is a lot freer than Chrollo, because he has a lot less to lose. He doesn’t have the leadership and survival of a troupe of followers to worry about – he just has to enjoy himself. There’s really nothing Chrollo could do to Hisoka that would cut him as deeply as what Hisoka did at the end of this chapter cut him, and Hisoka knows it. And now Hisoka has a fun challenge with which to occupy himself going forward, along with the sweet taste of revenge. He’s playing dirty, but it’s not like Chrollo didn’t do the same at Heaven’s Arena.
There are so many interesting repercussions and interpretations one can take from these events. Most obviously, we now have an entrée for both Chrollo and Hisoka – not to mention the surviving Spiders – into the “Dark Continent” arc. Of course we have the deaths of Kotorpi (who I never much cared about) and Shalnark (who I quite liked, and had a sizable fanbase). I was also struck by the interaction between Machi and Hisoka, as always. There’s a definite tinge of something there, a kind of fatal attraction or even grudging admiration on her part and what passes for affection on his. She didn’t have to stay behind to patch up Hisoka’s “corpse”, but she did (under the pretense that it was payback for freeing Chrollo from his curse) – and when she scolded him to “next time be more careful”, she sounded like a big sister. Hisoka could have killed her as well as her fellow Spiders, but he didn’t. I have no doubt he will eventually (and enjoy it) but he’ll feel a little tinge of sadness as he does (albeit while no doubt sporting wood).
Most crucially, we have Chrollo set to lead the Phantom Troupe into the Dark Continent hunt, and Hisoka following them on a hunt of his own. It can’t be ignored that Kurapika and Hisoka now have, effectively, the same goal – and truth be told, Hisoka has already done 4 times as much to eliminate the Troupe as Kurapika has. Will they formally pool their efforts at some point during this arc? I wouldn’t say never by any means. And finally we have Hisoka’s cheerful “10 more to go!” comment to close the chapter. By my math, depending on whether you count Chrollo or not, there are either one or two Phantom Troupe members more than we’ve formally been introduced to (and that includes Kalluto Zoldyck) – just who are they? Will Hisoka going on the hunt for his brother be what lures Killua back into the story – and will that be what draws Gon back into it? These are the sorts of questions Togashi is a genius at forcing his readers to ask – here’s hoping he’s healthy enough to give us some answers.