Hunter X Hunter – 361

So, I sat staring at a blank screen for a while (well, truthfully I surfed away on more than one occasion) before finally starting to type this piece.  How does one start a Hunter X Hunter manga post these days, especially this one – when the series has been away for almost exactly a year?  There’s so much stuff to talk about, but most of it has little to do with what’s actually happening on the page.  There’s so much legend, so much history, so much positive and negative energy attached to Hunter X Hunter and Togashi Yoshihiro at this point that the story itself seems almost incidental.

That’s the risk, anyway.

There were a couple approaches I could have taken here, one of them being to ignore all the extracurricular stuff and just focus on the chapter, as if Hunter X Hunter were any other manga.  I could have done that – it’s a tempting path.  But int he end I think that would be denial.  The story of H x H is, in part, the story of Togashi-sensei’s health issues, the serial hiatuses they necessitate, and the love-hate relationship they elicit from his “fans”.  I’ve talked in the past about all the criticism (really vicious stuff) Togashi has received over the years, and for that reason, while it’s a fascinating topic I will at least refrain from dwelling heavily on that.  You know what I think of the “Dragon Quest” crowd, and they don’t deserve any more attention than they already get.

That being said, though, from the perspective of someone who believes these hiatuses are unavoidable (having severe back issues myself, how can I not empathize?), they still make the experience of reading Hunter X Hunter much more difficult.  I’ll be honest – even by Togashi standards, the “Dark Continent” arc is dense.  Togashi is introducing so many new characters and new concepts, and they’re bart of a truly Byzantine plot that seems larger in scope even than “Chimera Ant”.  Even if “Dark Continent” were being released at a chapter (or even better, an episode) a week it would still require intense and single-minded attention.  At a year between chapters?  Oy.

I did go ahead and re-read the last couple of released chapters (of course), and my own reviews of them.  But even so, it was hard to get past the level of thinking about what was happening on-page and just immerse myself in it.  Truthfully, for what Togashi seems able to do these days in terms of output, the Hisoka-Chrollo showdown was far better subject material.  It was intense, it was visceral, and it was familiar.    Complicated as the strategy was, it was easier to get a handle on it (and to be enraptured even if you didn’t grasp every element).  “Dark Continent” with year-long hiatuses is a big ask.  I respect that Togashi-sensei is unwilling to lower his level of ambition with this story, because it’s that quality which makes Hunter X Hunter shounen’s greatest masterpiece.  But I honestly wonder if it can still work that way.  I miss Gon and Killua – their story is quite unfinished – and the idea that we’re looking at an arc which could take Togashi a decade to finish (if indeed he does at all) is a bit depressing on some level.

But here we are.  I’m glad Togashi at least threw us the bone of Kurapika as the main character, because he’s a desperately needed emotional tether to the Hunter X Hunter we know.  And of course, we know he can carry an arc as its protagonist – he did so in “York Shin”.  Kurapika has certainly changed since then – he’s less consumed by his emotions, more in control, more experienced – but his is still a very dark ride.  My favorite part of this chapter, in fact, was Togashi’s flashback to Kurapika’s Nen training with Izunavi (which kind of got short shrift when it actually happened).  Izunavi can see, even then, Kurapika’s instincts to be a lone wolf – to chart his own path of destruction without involving others.  And while his time with Gon, Killua and Leorio certainly was an education as to the meaning of true allies (and friends) I’m not sure Kurapika has changed much in that sense.  I think the boys and Leorio are more one-offs than anything else, and pretty much everyone else (Melody possibly excepted) still falls into the “disposable tools” category for Kurapika.

The big reveal here is Kurapika’s last “finger” ability (index) – “Steal Chain“.  With it he can steal anyone’s Nen ability, but once he uses it, it returns to the original owner.  As part of Kurapika’s vast Conjurer/Specialist arsenal it’s a supremely useful hack (he may be the most versatile Nen user in Hunter x Hunter), though its certainly limited next to the one it begs obvious comparison against, Chrollo’s ability.  He uses it here (via what looks like a syringe) to suck out the ability of the bodyguard who’s succumbed to the control of one of the Nen parasites and killed three of his fellows.  Now only two of the original bodyguards of Queen Oito and Prince Woble are left.

The other major development is that Prince Halkenberg has decided to opt out of the succession war.  Halkenberg seemed very much like the odd man out, a rogue – as such, I thought he might be a potential ally for Kurapika down the road.  I suspect his father isn’t going to look kindly on voluntary withdrawals, though, so this is probably the end of the line for Halkenberg.  The body count in “Dark Continent” is already impressive, and I expect it’s going to keep growing at a staggering rate for the foreseeable future.

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11 comments

  1. M

    Hello, Enzo. I’m sorry if I’m beating a dead horse or it’s not relevant to the chapter, but what do you think the FLAWS of the Chimera Ant Arc are besides episode 94? I read your article on MAL and I’m very curious on your take on what’s been done partially flawed and what could’ve been improved in this plot web of an arc. Both in the arc overall and specifically in Palace Invasion.

    Also, you’ve expressed in the past how you prefer the “simple and profound” aspect of anime storytelling, but Hunter x Hunter manages to perfectly hover in the “epic and profound” region. Besides scheduling, do you think the Byzantine nature of HxH’s dense arcs may override enjoyment (even if you were to, say, watch it weekly)?

    I personally hope that this guy’s creative density breaks physical dimensions and creates a singularity, effectively creating a new technique of plotting from scratch by aligning weird and complicated patterns together. Like, an amalgamation of complicated little patterns effectively forming whole simple basic trends that have never surfaced this planet before. Alien basic patterns, schemed outlandishly. Ah, I love it when storytelling becomes incomprehensible. Togashi makes it work.

  2. TBH I don’t remember writing about the flaws in Chimera Ant, apart from saying that while it’s less than perfect, it so soars above every other Shounen arc in ambition and subtlety that it’s the greatest ever in spite of it.

    I don’t think the Byzantine nature of Togashi’s arcs are a negative in and of themselves. The issue with Dark Continent, to me, lies in the fact that it’s ill-suited to erratic releases. It’s incredibly complex, and deals almost entirely with characters and ideas new to the series. If Togashi were releasing chapters every week and you figured he’d finish this arc in 18 months or two years, that’d be a different matter.

  3. M

    Yeah, you mentioned something about it not being perfect in your “Greatest Shounen Arc”, MAL piece.

    It isn’t perfect, I agree (there were two shortcuts taken in 94 that undercut the drama, though fit in the big picture), but I personally wanted something more material.

    Because that arc is structurally breathtaking. Everything is “spontaneous” but in insight a chess piece on the right side of the table at the right time. So I do wonder of its smaller errors.

  4. M

    Something that I found very fascinating this chapter is the unconscious nature of all of the princes’ new nen powers. None of them seem to realize that they are in use or even that they’re there at all. It seems that they react to subconscious feelings and desires rather than any active thinking. That might be why the King seems so indifferent to Halkenburger “dropping out of” the succession contest. He’s confident that the new uncontrolled powers will drag the princes in regardless of what it is they think they want. I expect to see some wild-cards within the royal family as this arc continues. There’s so much going on here and I can’t wait to see what comes of it, regardless of how long it may take.

  5. I only re-read the last chapter before the new one and boy, that wasn’t enough. By the latter half of the chapter I was struggling to remember who any one was. I had to google Halkenberg after reading to really remember his role. I guess it’s something I’m just going to have get use to now that I’m reading it in as it comes. Either way, I liked the chapter, partially because Kurapika’s my favorite character. I’m pretty intrigued about the prospects of Kurapika working with Pariston (or Beyond, but moreso Pariston) since Bill’s plan requires either of them. With Kurapika having taking over his spot in the Zodiacs, and the two having that little indirect tee-off with the Hunter Exam, I’m really looking forward to those two interacting.

  6. Yeah, I tried reading 360 and that wasn’t enough, did a bunch of Google searches trying to remember who everyone was. I suspect a lot of H x H readers all over the world had that experience.

  7. B

    So if anyone is having trouble remembering all the characters and such involved, this is helpful:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/HunterXHunter/comments/6irpld/for_you_guys_that_need_any_last_second_cramming/

    Also Guardian Enzo, did you read the Japanese or Mangastream? Because some were saying that the translations were off. For example:

    “Like Kurapika’s conversation with his master. The line about “allies” was translated as such by Mangastream:

    Kurapika: “I’m fine with allies.” Izunabi: “You mean you’re fine with collecting pawns you can just sacrifice when convenient.”

    But based on the script, both those speech bubbles should be Kurapika’s.

    Kurapika: “By gathering allies, do you mean collecting pawns I can dispose of when convenient?”

    There is a defiance in Kurapika’s tone when dismissing his master’s suggestion to gather allies, because it was against his principles (and Kurapika, we know, adheres to his principles). The mistranslation (if I go by the Japanese script) makes it sound like Kurapika has gone to the dark side.”

  8. My Japanese certainly isn’t strong enough to read raws, so it was the translation. I agree there is a difference, but I didn’t take the translated version quite the way you’re suggesting. For me at least it doesn’t fundamentally change the way I view that scene.

    I still think, either version, that Izunavi is trying to caution Kurapika against becoming a lone wolf (which in fact is his natural instinct). This is just my two cents, but I think one of the reasons Kurapika has been so reluctant to include Gon and Killua in any of his ventures is that despite their having proven their strength, they’re still children. And Kurapika still basically views allies as disposable, which is a conflict for him where the boys are concerned. He’s come to know them and can’t think of them that way, and isn’t comfortable fitting kids into his idea of “allies” generally.

  9. M

    Exactly, in the mistranslation “allies” had a more detached tone coming from Kurapika’s mouth, implying that he’s not fitting friends in the category of allies because it’s too much at risk. He’s ok having “allies” like Hisoka, that can provide intelligence if the circumstances are beneficial to both. Izunavi then misinterprets this detachment as selfishness.

    In the actual line, he dismisses friends from being in that category from the beginning, and mocks Izunavi’s suggestion as something impractical and careless to do.

    In the mistranslation, Kurapika implies “an ally” to be a temporary construct, and in the actual line he says it’s impossible for an ally to be anything but, if the circumstances arrive. Because the concept of exposing true allies to his lonely & painful journey would require lack of care for their welfare, but Kurapika is too empathic for that.

    So the scene is fundamentally the same. The only collateral is Izunavi coming off as inconsiderate in the mistranslation.

  10. J

    How exactly is Gon’s and Killua’s story unfinished ?

    Gon started the journey to find his dad, well he found him. Killua never had a goal to begin with he just followed Gon because he is the first friend he had.

    People complain too much because they miss Killua and Gon, we had 2 consecutive arcs that focused on primarily on them out of which the CA arc is the longest in the series.

    Is it so bad that we now shift focus to Kurapika and Leorio ?

  11. It’s simple. Their friendship is the central relationship in the series, and it’s been broken by events in Chimera Ant. You can not like Gon & Killua and he happy the focus is on others, and that’s fine. But it doesn’t give their arcs any more of a sense of closure.

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