After five episodes I’m beginning to see what all the buzz for this series was about.
I like the fact that the introduction to this series was a sort of Trojan Horse, although of course most viewers know the material well already and wouldn’t have been fooled the way I was. But the bright colors, the cute character designs, the rousing martial music – it sucks you into thinking this is a Saturday morning cartoon, and the next thing you know people are being eaten alive and playing cards and being pulled free of skulls in a spray of brain tissue. I’m not sure of the cause/effect relationship, but Hisoka is central to this tonal shift. The entire show is different when he’s on-screen – Killua refers to it as a tension in the air, and it’s true not just for the characters but for the audience as well. He’s quite a character, this one – the kind of anti-hero every great shounen series needs but not all that many actually have. Inuyasha got by with a great anti-hero you loved to hate in Naraku, but in some ways it’s more interesting to have one you hate to love but sort of do anyway.
What I especially enjoyed in this episode was the way Hisoka’s actions shed some light on all the rest of the main cast. Killua was strategic and detached, sensing the danger when Gon couldn’t and urging a safe distance be kept between themselves and the magician. Kurapica admitted his weakness and played the odds, urging a retreat so that both he and Leorio couldn’t be killed. Leorio showed that he couldn’t walk away from a challenge no matter how hopeless. But most interesting of all was Gon. First, he came back for his friends despite the danger – no surprise there. But the fascinating part was watching the realization dawn on him that he was powerless against Hisoka. Gon has been a happy little guy so far, and incredibly skilled – none of the challenges has fazed him at all. But despite his initial glancing blow on Hisoka he soon realized he was hopelessly outmatched. It finally dawned on him that this was a deadly struggle and not a child’s game.
It’s also worth noting that rather than be depressed, Gon became uncharacteristically quiet and thoughtful about this – and then charged up at the idea of meeting someone stronger than him. That’s what Hisoka liked as well (well, among other things) – the fact that Gon and Leorio rose to his challenge. There’s the fact as well that Hisoka didn’t choose this fight in the first place – he was defending himself, though he was certainly merciless in doing so. This is clearly a man you don’t want as an enemy, though I’m not at all sure you’d want him as a friend either – especially not if you’re Gon or Killua.
So now we have 220 candidates “withdrawn” from the selection. That’s a funny way of describing being impaled on a spike or eaten by a turtle.