It’s week two of the rest of our Hunter X Hunter lives. And that means (at least for the nonce) that the material has to carry itself. The sideshow is pushed to the- well, side. And Togashi-sensei has a chance to entrap us in his web once more, with only his writing and his art to lure us in. Can he do it?
In short – yes. Fortunately those are two powerful weapons in any arsenal. and this chapter has the distinction of being unmistakably Togashi despite the contents being almost wholly unfamiliar. I can’t even really put most of the names and faces together yet, but now that we’re a couple chapters into this latest oasis I’m beginning to feel the material.
No question, the gorgeous artwork that goes into the Guardian Beasts has something to do with that. Togashi-sensei isn’t often singled out for his artwork (in part because it’s usually the first element to suffer when his health craters), but he’s a magnificent mangaka in this respect. The guardian beasts are like something out of the old D & D “Monster Manual” (or perhaps “Deities and Demigods” – there’s something very Cthulhu about them). And since this is Hunter X Hunter what little we’ve learned about them is the tip of the iceberg – the dark and twisted connection between they and their masters is surely only being hinted at.
Togashi frames this chapter mostly through a conversation between two characters we’ve basically never even met – Topaz and Sarkov, two Nen-uisng bodyguards of the Prince Tserried. These princes have had guardian beasts watching over them since the pot ritual, yet none had any idea they existed – but now the secret is out. And Topaz knows full well her master is a profoundly evil sort, which makes her terrified at the notion that he discovers Nen and insists on learning how to use it. The literal-minded Sarkov (who’s not as stupid as both he and Topaz pretend he is) reasons that if Tserried is going to learn Nen anyway, it may as well be Tserried who teaches him – perhaps she can intentionally slow him down and shepherd him down meanderings paths with relatively harmless abilities at the end of them. But I think we know how this works in Hunter X Hunter, and it’s a pretty safe bet that’s not going to happen.
It would be easy to feel somewhat detached at this stage given how new all of these people are to us and how Byzantine the story it, but somehow it’s all kind of coming together. Our glimpses of the other princes don’t give us a lot of warmth or rooting interest – it’s a sea of ego and perversity to say the least. And the one prince who’s shown some sense of serious-mindedness, Halkenberg, has dropped out of the succession war – and now all of his bodyguards have turned up dead.
The thing with “Chimera Ant” was that no matter how dark and despairing it became (and that’s pretty dark and despairing), there was always an anchor – someone worth rooting for, a spellbinding moral dilemma (and as they did in “York Shin” Gon and Killua through their very presence provided a needed infusion of innocence and occasional humor). We haven’t got that in “Dark Continent” yet, but it’s still early – and if we allow ourselves to imagine where this arc could go if only given an extended chance to develop, it’s hard not to feel a little giddy.