That Hunter x Hunter Greatness
It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? After publishing my book, and finishing up at my old job, I’ve had a few hectic weeks. That’s beside the point I suppose. Anyhow, I am back today with one of the better anime ever produced, at least in my not so humble opinion. What anime is that you ask? Why, none other than Hunter x Hunter of course!
First off, if you don’t know what HxH is, then come here and sit down for a minute. We need to have a serious talk about your viewing habits. I’m kidding, but in all seriousness, if you enjoy watching anime, or any form of entertainment at all, then you’re doing you’re doing yourself an unforgivable disservice if you haven’t watched Hunter x Hunter. Maybe unforgivable is a bit strong a word, but you definitely should watch it.
Oh, you don’t know what Hunter x Hunter is? Put simply, it’s an anime produced by Japanese anime studio Madhouse—of Death Note, Parasyte, Wolf Children, and more recently, One Punch Man fame. HxH is a shounen anime, meaning that it centers around youth, but don’t let that deter you. There is adventure, tragedy, and mystery aplenty in this show, so it’s not all flashy action set pieces, I assure you. There will be minor spoilers.
Hunter x Hunter, okay that’s a bit of a mouthful so let’s just go with HxH. Where was I? Oh yeah, plot. HxH is an anime about a young boy named Gon Freeces, who wants nothing more than to become a professional Hunter like his father, and search out search out lost treasures, artefacts, and mythical creatures. This journey leads him to him meeting fellow aspiring hunters Kurapika, Leorio, and Killua, and this small group of characters make up what you could call the main cast of the show. We follow this quartet on their journey in becoming hunters in the areas they want to specialize in.
Now, with a show that runs for 148 episodes, it’s a given that the story wouldn’t this basic plotline for the entire show; keeping with this, the show is broken up into seven different arcs throughout the show, each varying in length. I know what you’re thinking: Seven arcs? I know, but bear with me. Each of the arcs have their charms that make them enjoyable, as well as their faults (looking at you Chimera Ant arc, but more on that in a bit). Here are the arcs of the show:
Hunter Exam Arc
The Hunter Exam Arc is the arc that the show opens up with. In this arc, we’re introduced to our “main character” Gon, and he meets three others: a blond haired, intelligent young man named Kurapika, a tall young man dressed in a business suit named Leorio and finally a white-haired, paled-skinned boy named Killua. The four of them all undergo the odd and outright bizarre physical and mental tests and obstacles that make up the Hunter Exam—the exam one needs to pass in order to become a hunter, or an elite member of humanity. It’s in this arc that we meet one of the many antagonists (and my favorite character in the show), Hisoka, a powerful, older gentleman who uses throwing cards as weapons and is obsessed with fighting strong opponents. He's definitely one of the more interesting characters HxH has to offer.
Zoldyck Family Arc
After the Hunter Exam arc wraps up, (I won’t spoil it by saying who does or doesn’t become a hunter) we head into the shortest arc of the show, the Zoldyck Family Arc. This part of the show centers around one of the better characters of the show, despite being one of the youngest: Killua. He’s kidnapped and taken home against his will by his older brother, and Gon, Leorio and Kurapika all head there to break him out. We get an in-depth look into the harsh, twisted and downright abusive goings on of the Zoldyck family.
Watching this arc, and seeing what Killua had to go through only worked to further cement my preference for his character over Gon’s in the long run. Seeing the environment that he grew up in and see how he was able to come out of it whole is a testament to his character, but that is no way saying that Gon isn’t an engaging character, because he is. I just like Killua much, much more.
Heavens Arena Arc
The newly reunited Gon and Killua, in search of money and experience, travel to Heavens Arena, a 251-floor building where fighters gather in order to fight in tournaments for cash. At this behemoth of a building, they meet a kung-fu master who teaches them about Nen, a chi-like energy everyone possesses within them, that can give the wielder superhuman abilities, because you know, anime. I’d also like to point out that Nen is one of the more creative and innovative things I’ve come across in any medium of entertainment; it was on par with chakra from Naruto and Ki from Dragonball for me. The different ways it could be utilized was mind-blowing!
We’re treated to numerous entertaining (and hilariously short) fights as Gon and Killua move up the rankings of Heavens Arena with little effort. That is, until they get to the big leagues where their skills are actually put to the test. Fan favorite and all-around power-obsessed character Hisoka makes an appearance in this arc and he and Gon square off, making for a very intense and exciting fight.
Yorknew City Arc
The next arc, the Yorknew City Arc, is one where things start to get dark again, almost to the point where the show’s tone shifts to that of a crime thriller. You get a look at the criminal underground of the world of HxH with mafia-like groups, villains in the form of an uber-powerful group called the Phantom Troupe, and a more storyline less focused on Gon and more so on Kurapika. You won’t hear any complaints from me on that end, because doing that focuses on one of the more tragic parts of HxH: Kurapika being the lone survivor of his clan. His clan was hunted down for their rare “scarlet eyes,” and in this arc you really see the underlying drives (vengeance and justice for his people) that pushed Kurapika to want to become a hunter in the first place.
Kurapika’s whole reason for becoming a hunter was so he could bring to justice those who had hunted down killed his clan for their eyes, and if this sounds like it’d be a psychological trip, you would be absolutely right. You get a deeper look into what makes Kurapika tick, and you see the cracks in his cool and collected demeanor the closer he gets to those who wronged his people. This arc definitely doesn’t not disappoint in the areas of the presentation of the Phantom Troupe’s off the wall Nen abilities, Kurapika’s battles with the Phantom Troupe, or most importantly, Kurapika’s character development.
Greed Island Arc
The next arc takes place, in wait for it, a video game. Yes, you read that right. Now, for those not well versed in anime tropes, being trapped in a game in a common occurrence (and is pretty tired at this point), but there are times where it works. This is definitely one of those times.
The Greed Island arc centers around Gon and Killua, and introduces another important character: Biscuit. She’s a master and experienced teacher of Nen, so she imparts her knowledge onto the boys and while this arc ultimately serves as another training arc for Gon and Killua like the Heavens Arena arc, that doesn’t lessen its quality. It allowed the characters to flex their strategic abilities in order to solve problems rather than merely relying on brute strength . . . well for the most part. And any arc with Hisoka (which this one has plenty of) is a win in my book. Still, this arc had the rough luck of being stuck in between one of the best arcs of any anime show I’ve ever seen in the Yorknew City Arc and the more overblown and ridiculous Chimera Ant Arc. Speaking of . . .
Chimera Ant Arc
True, I did call this arc overblown and ridiculous, but I don’t mean that in an entirely negative way. Let me explain what the arc is about first. In the Chimera Ant arc, the longest of the show by far, Gon and Killua, and a character named Kite, all head to an island that’s growing more and more infested with creatures that seem to want to feed humans to their queen in order for her to birth a strong child, or “king.” These creatures are all mishmashes of different creatures though, hence the name “Chimera.” Our young heroes set out to stop this queen and her creatures from kidnaping and killing humans.
Now, the reason I called this arc overblown and ridiculous is because the kidnapping and killing of these humans allows the queen to create chimera ants, which in turn feed her whoever they can find in order to have her unborn child grow stronger. Then, the ants begin eating humans who can use Nen, which of course make them stronger. And if that weren’t enough, the three ants who make up the Royal Guard—chimera ants born for the sole purpose of guarding the queen/king—are born and their immediately born with expert control of their Nen abilities, and their uber powerful, easily more powerful than our young hunters. And the king, the ant that the Queen has been eating so well for, hasn’t even been born yet! Do you see where this going?
From the get go of this arc, you can tell things are going to be much more wide-reaching than arcs past, but I didn’t expect things to be as crazy as they were. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this arc, immensely, but there were times where I was genuinely worried that the story would have nowhere to go but down. When you have someone who can kill a characters who you thought was one of the strongest fighters in the show without breaking a sweat then you someone else comes along and silences that person with a look? How do you beat them? That’s the king.
I mean, SPOILERS, the first words out of his mouth was, “Silence,” and he said this to his mother seconds before he ripped his way from her stomach.
And so, HxH’s most powerful villain(?) is born.
This birth is followed by copious amounts of fights, death and a deliciously dark turn in on of the most unexpected places (won’t spoil that one though). The Chimera Ant Arc is widely regarded as one the best of the show by the HxH fan base and anime community in general, but I think my favorite would have to be the Yorknew City Arc. That’s not to say that this arc is great because it is. It was a great way to present some downright overpowered foes for our enemies to face, and in some cases lose to, while allowing them to showcase the things they learned along the way as well.
I won’t speak too much on the last arc of the show, because I feel that it gives away what happens in the Chimera Ant arc and it could spoil things. However, I will say that in the last arc, loose plot threads are wrapped up fairly nicely, while setting things up for a possible continuation years down the road, should Togashi ever write enough material to be animated, since the anime has pretty much caught up to the manga.
With all the arcs covered, I think I gave you all a good enough reason to want to give the show a chance, and if not. . . well, just look at this:
How can you not want to know the story behind Hisoka looking like this? Right? Right?!