2014: 12th day of Animanga

hunterxhunterlWhat is a story? A journey into an imaginary universe, a mirror that minimizes on certain reflections of our world, thoughts and ideas we cannot otherwise confess and much more. What is more important, however, is what most stories wish but fail to become; an experience that remains unforgettable, one that breathes life into its audience’s heart. HunterxHunter (HxH) is one of the iconic examples of how to make that goal a reality.

*In this article we’re going to talk about the 2011-2014 adaptation that has covered most of the manga, ignoring the latter and the 1999-2004 anime. This isn’t meant as a disrespect to the other installations of the story but rather as a tribute to our favorite version of HxH.

N: Among the many titles we’ve reviewed in our blog this is probably the hardest one to talk about because there are so many thoughts, so many feelings we carry for this series that we don’t know where to start. What makes HxH special? The first thing one can mention is its incredible technical qualities. Visually it’s truly magnificent -a great mix of vivid colors and well-drawn movement. The character designs are pretty diverse and most of them are easily memorized. Even though the series is a shonen the character designs are elegant and simple.

F: I know some older fans complain about how vivid and different in the atmosphere they ellicit the 2011 color schemes and character designs are. But honestly for me they couldn’t be more perfect. The colors aren’t simply easier on the eye but they create stark contrasts in dramatic scenes, hightening the sense of danger and stakes at hand; think of Chrollo’s Indoor Fish, Killua’s lightning technique, or Gon’s transformation. It also matches the series’ overall tone which starts as a genki shounen fare to end up as a gruesome dark seinen. As for the character designs, I believe that they are very pretty and contribute to the characterization; for instance Killua’s feline agility and wits are highlighted by his cat-like facial features. Hisoka’s new design makes him way sexier and far more intriguing as a villain since the viewer is actually challenged on their feelings about him instead of only feeling repulsion towards a stereotypically ugly, slimy and gay-coded character. The psychedelic color effects surrounding him at times fit his quirkiness to a T. The voices help in this direction, too.

N: As for the soundtracks of HxH, I find it hard to describe how I feel about them. It’s not only that the great majority of the pieces are excellent as standalone tracks but also how well they were used in the series. There are many scenes and plot twists that manage to stand out primarily because of the music used at the time, especially in the “Chimera Ant” arc. Of course, the unique and absolutely catchy opening theme Departure! is worthy of eternal praise alongside all the endings, especially Hunting for your dream.

F: The music is superb and out of this world. I’ll agree that the OST did a stunning job in creating intense atmosphere like Riot or pulling at your heartstrings like Kyori Ittai- Lamento for Piano. I remember clearly how we were discussing jokingly during the “Chimera Ant” about The Last Mission music piece -who’d believe that we, as atheists, would feel such a chill running down our spines at the sound of Kyrie Eleison (the phrase’s origin is Greek and it means “Lord have Mercy”). Naturally, I’m of the same opinion with you about the emblematic and utterly trolling OP song, Departure! You can smile again“, my ass *sigh*.

502125-hunter_x_hunter_2011_episode_06__04_N: But, of course, HxH isn’t just a pile of quality drawings and music. If that were the case then the title would have been long forgotten. One only needs to watch the two films, Phantom Troupe and The Last Mission to be convinced of the fact. Especially the second one is little else but a collection of fireworks and could perhaps be qualified as decent fanfiction but it fails to capture even a little bit of the main story’s glory.

One of HxH‘s strongest virtues is that it invests a lot of time to character development and world building. The first three arcs, numbering 36 episodes, are an introduction to this world’s rules and conditions, important figures and the characters’ personalities. Instead of focusing on battles the series prefers to let us meet the characters through little but meaningful challenges. My favorite of these moment is the “Trick Tower” challenge during the “Hunter Exam” arc. That’s where we really get a first glimpse of each protagonist’s personality traits (Gon’s naivety, Killua’s dark nature, Kurapika’s rage and Leorio’s… well, adorable goofiness). Even though the following arcs don’t follow this logic they often come back and remind us the rules of the game, which helps viewer not to lose track.

F: Togashi is the master of subtlety and that’s one reason I admire HxH so much. I find amazing how he crafted the relationship of Gon and Killua and how well everything flowed, how every small little thing kept piling up to lead to the emotional mess and anguish in “Chimera Ants”. Everything spiraled out but it nothing came out of the blue, it was like puzzle pieces falling into place. And when Alluka gets in the picture, she isn’t just a deus ex machina to further the plot but also a way to light another aspect of Killua and most importantly a character of her own who happens to be trans. Togashi has matured since Yu Yu Hakusho and offered us a subdued yet very respectful representation of a trans character.

N: Battles are an odd part of HxH. In comparison to other shonen there are not that many of them, especially if one takes out practice fights. However that is what, in my opinion, makes those encounters as good as they are. Bloodshed can only hurt one when they have emotionally invested in a character -and HxH makes sure we learn enough about them to truly care about their wellbeing.

F: Fights and battles are the soul of shounen anime and are pure motion, so we can’t not talk about the animation. Although I haven’t watched the 1999 version fully, I’ve taken a look at the comparison videos on Youtube like the one above and the work MADHOUSE did on animation is impressive. Strong meaningful angles, non-repetitive movements, more intriguing expressions and more dynamic body language. Then again, HxH isn’t every shounen ever so I’m not doing it justice if I discuss only the action. HxH’s fights involve a lot of strategy, especially in the later arcs. And it’s brilliant stuff despite involving lots of exposition.

zixa83rN: The fear of losing a favorite character is real. Not to a, let’s say, “Game of Thrones” degree but still existent. One could ask why does that happens? It’s a reasonable question given that the deaths of favorite characters are numbered. The answer lies, I think, in two arguments. Firstly, most of the “good guys” start off a battle as the underdogs -and they never, ever, win a battle just by emotionally overpowering their opponents. Predicting the outcome of a fight is extremely hard because each conflict depends on several different factors; power, personality, luck, hidden abilities, fighting ground, time, strategy, etc. This is what makes “power lists”, in HxH’s case, pretty useless. Secondly, even if the actual deaths of favorite characters are not many, we rarely see a clean victory for either side. There are compromises that hurt, the kind no one wants to make.

F: One can better understand HxH’s craft in this area when comparing it to Yu Yu Hakusho. HxH was a smooth operator throughout the show, never once feeling forced when it came to powering up. It was hard work, no rosy-colored “power of friendship” stuff, no dumb motivation speeches. It was neat and natural even though Gon and Killua do stand out and are said to display incredible potential and are very fast learners. The training arcs help a lot by being tad lighter yet not less enjoyable and acting as bridges (Greed Island is my favorite training arc which also knew how to tell a good MMO story).

t8u239N: Everything that HxH is can be found in the “Chimera Ant” arc. Even though the rest of the series is still epic this is what truly makes it a masterpiece. I really can’t imagine how Togashi convinced his editors to accept such a development. He literally sidelined two of the audiences favorite characters, Kurapika and Leorio, alongside Hisoka and Illumi, two of the most loved villains in the series, introduced a huge number of new faces, added complicated development and a lot of time to write it and still managed to pull off something astonishing. How many times did our hearts skip a beat? How many times did we cry or scream out loud in joy or horror? Goodness, even when it comes down to my all time top list, I can’t recall anything as strong as “Chimera Ant”. The fact that my favorite HxH character, Kurapika, doesn’t participate in a single page and I still love this thing speaks volumes of how much more appreciation it deserves.

F: I agree and I think very few people put Yorkshire arc above it. Yes, it was very very long and the exposition could be deemed boring/tiring and understandably so. I think it’s an arc better marathoned, but I don’t regret watching it while airing because I got to share my fangirling pain with the rest of the fandom and that was really worth it. I won’t be able to ever forget the fear in my soul during the first episodes into the arc or the kindness of a blossoming friendship between Ikalgo and Killua. Killua needed a hug, Novu needed someone to drink a coffee with, Palm went from mentally unstable to badass, Gon’s anger was horrifying but above all else Komugi’s and Meruem’s relationship was the most touching for me. The handkerchieves I consummed that day will pass in history.

N: In conclusion, we could fill many thousands of words talking about HxH. We’ll probably do so in future articles but this review tries to convey a very simple message; thank you, Togashi, for giving us this masterpiece. Even if you don’t ever finish the full story [1], we’ll always be grateful. And you, dear reader, make yourself a favor and watch HxH if you already haven’t. You shall not regret it.

Footnotes:

[1] YOU BETTER FINISH IT OR ELSE…

Further stuff:

you_can_smile_again___by_alderion_al-d77w82iFanartists to check out:
Alderion Al
inkbits
Skullcaps
Ask Killufox-Doggon
Juu
tourniiquet

Further readings:

Has the friendship between gon and killua been completely broken?
Commentary on Komugi and Meruem
Imperfect Beings: Hunter x Hunter and the Chimera Ant
Lost in America blogging

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