Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hunter X Hunter 2011 - 18

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I confess, if you floated the proposition two months ago that Hunter X Hunter was going to be one of the better series airing as we entered February, I would have been highly skeptical.  But you’d have been right, and I’d have been wrong.

I’d also have been skeptical that it would develop into one of the top half-dozen or so series at LiA in terms of post traffic – and even higher in terms of comments.  I think this is a case where very few blogs are covering this series, for a myriad of reasons I don’t need to enumerate here.  In any case, I’m glad I decided to cover it and even more than I decided to stick with it, because I should know beyond a doubt by now that shounen manga – especially weekly shounen manga, and especially especially weekly Shounen Jump manga – almost always get off to a slow start.  But this one has really hit its stride now.

Among the many things I find appealing about Togashi Yoshihiro’s writing here is that so much of it – especially for a shounen – is internal, taking place in the mind.  The real battles in this series are mental, not physical (though it doesn’t skimp on those either) and the intricacy of the plotting is exceeded only by the surprisingly subtle character development. Some of the scenarios are full-on shounen outlandish, but they work in the context of the story.  I confess I’m not a huge fan of Yu Yu Hakusho and I don’t see the same level of sophistication in that work, but this one is impressively nuanced and very smart.

H x H is always at its most interesting when it’s dissecting its characters, leaving their emotions exposed and raw for the audience to see.  I continue to be fascinated by the way each of the four protagonists fits into the dynamics of the little group they’ve formed, and how to this point they’ve each been true to their nature and their role so that their actions seem predictable in hindsight.  A large percentage of the lasting import of this episode comes in the cementing of Gon’s character (I use that word in both senses).  He’s not normal, this kid.  While Ponzu (Kudou Haruka) is willing to forfeit and wait for rescue and Kurapika puzzles over possible solutions, Gon sees an answer that’s only possible due to his extreme physical ability and courage.  And without debate or discussion, he acts – using himself as a sacrifice in order to get the antivenin he assumed (hoped) Bourbon had on his person.

That act is quintessentially Gon, in every respect.  Of course it was logical to assume Bourbon might have the antivenin, but it was no sure thing.  Gon placed Leorio’s welfare ahead of his own and took the risk, and then relied on his extraordinary physical abilities to recover from the venom while Leorio was still out cold – and his wits to devise a plan to actually get the four of them out of the cave in time to advance to the next phase of the exam (and in taking Ponzu’s tag, to ensure Leorio’s. passage while keeping his promise to her).  Of course a 12 year-old boy isn’t going to be able to hold his breath for almost ten minutes, never mind carrying three young adults on his shoulders in one trip – but the rules of shounen clearly apply here, and Gon is anything but normal.  The chip of his shoulder from his encounter with Hisoka didn’t hurt his motivation either.

Kurapika made a very strong impression this week as well.  He’s the empathetic one, the listener and observer, the pure soul stained by darkness.  It’s Kurapika that sees in Gon’s eyes that something significant has happened to him, and it’s in Kurapika that Gon is finally able to confide the story of what transpired with Hisoka (he was looking for his two friends, as it happens).  The moments when Gon’s superhuman façade cracks and the little boy inside breaks free – sometimes in childish playfulness, but also in emotional vulnerability – are always interesting, and I don’t think there’s anyone else in the group that Gon would have allowed to see him that way.  Kurapika summed up his own character in perhaps the most memorable line of the episode – “I’m I’m given ample reason I’ll fight anyone.  If not, I would prefer not to fight anyone.”  There’s more to that simple statement than it appears at first glance, and I don’t think anyone else in the cast would have said it.

As for are other two, Leorio has openly acknowledged what was mentioned here last week – he wouldn’t have passed (or survived, truth be told) without the help of Gon and Kurapika.  Kurapika acknowledges that Gon has been the single biggest reason they’ve all succeeded, but for Leorio it’s a more galling reality, not just because of his age but because he’s been completely useless for most of the last two phases.  His urge for redemption is surely going to drive him hard.  And Killua remains the enigma of the group, symbolically and physically apart from the others as this phase was conducted.  To call him a wild card is an understatement, and I think he’s the one member of the group that none of the others would fully trust with their life – not even Gon, though I doubt he’d admit it.

Of course Hisoka has spotted this, as exposed by the very interesting segment where Netero interviews the nine finalists in preparation for the still unrevealed final phase.  it’s revealing to see their answers to the “Who do you have your eye on?” (talk about open to interpretation) and “Who would you least like to fight?”  Hisoka lists Killua, and that’s the fight I confess I’d like to see – although he does say that Gon is the one he’d least like to fight right now (make of that what you will).  Pretty much everyone mentions Hisoka as the answer to one of those two questions, and the protagonists are no exception, though they obviously say they’d rather not fight each other.  As for the others, we have the young and still largely unknown Pokkle (Tokumoto Yukitoshi), the mysterious pincushion Gittrackur (who mentions only Killua), the capable ninja Hanzo Mori (Kishio Daisuke) and the hitherto almost unseen Bodoro, an older man who admires Hisoka’s “presence” and declares that he’d be unable to bring himself to fight Gon and Killua, as they’re only children.  He’s by far the biggest enigma of the remaining candidates, though something tells me that’s about to change.

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21 comments:

  1. "The chip of his shoulder from his encounter with Hisoka didn’t hurt his motivation either."

    Of course not. The chip on his shoulder from his encounter with Hisoka WAS his motivation. Hisoka kicking his ass yet still handing him a pass to the final phase on a silver platter made Gon feel like crap, so he turned to his friends in need in order to feel useful and thus worthy of passing the exam. He went and did those crazy things for himself and to boost his own morale just as much as to help out his buddies (hence why he thanked Kurapica back at the end of the episode).

    I say this because IIRC last week you had assumed that when Gon showed up in order to help out Kurapica and Leorio that he was already over it, but in fact he was doing it so he could get over it.

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    1. I think you're giving gone too much and not enough credit at the same time. I said "over it but still nursing a colossal grudge" - and I'll stick by that. He was able to focus on helping his friends because he'd dealt with his own emotions well enough to move on. Maybe "over it" is too strong, but he'd definitely gotten past the worst of it and realized he needed to prove himself to finish the job.

      OTOH, I think Gon would have helped Leorio and Kurapika whether he was still devastated about the Hisoka affair or not. Yes, he wanted to be useful and prove himself as a coping mechanism, but he's already shown that he's extremely loyal to his friends and I think he would have done what he did for that reason.

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  2. You're just wrong when you think Gon wouldn't be able to fully trust Killua with his life. In fact, I see it as impossible that he wouldn't trust his life with Killua. This is Gon we're talking about.

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  3. Kinda feel bad with Ponzu there. Her tag taken like that. Should have passed as well. Oh well, there's next year for her.

    And yeah this show is getting its gears in motion now. That interview with Netero was really great. Love how lax Netero is and knowing his true powers in the manga, I'm just chuckling silently what would happen if Hisoka did attack him.

    Preview seems to show we're gonna have the fights a bit rushed, seeing Gon and Kurapika in there(obviously they won't fight each other as Gon has no way or reason to activate Kurapika's red eyes). Hope not as this final phase is one of the best this show has to offer.

    Glad you're liking this Enzo.

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  4. I think Gon, at the moment, can entrust his life to Killua. He already considers him as his friend, and with Gon's bold personality, it's very likely that he will. The word impossible is just to harsh. Though his friendship with Killua still needs a bit more build up so that the we won't think that it's not possible.

    Enzo, you will love Hunter X Hunter even more with the upcoming episodes. It's gonna be a blast. The more you watch, the more you will get hooked.
    At your most memorable line in this ep,.. " I'm........"

    At the preview.... WTF happened to Kurapica's eyes!! I loved it when they first showed it on this version... But.. damn.. :/

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  5. HxH is far from being an ordinary shounen, being in date with the manga, i believe every arc i have read, is very clever, you cant never fully predict what is going to be the outcome and thats what makes hxh so interesting, sticking with it Enzo was a very wise choice.

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  6. Did I use the word "impossible" with regard to Gon and Killua? I thought I said only that he couldn't fully trust him with his life - and I think that's true. Gon is bold and open, but he's also smart with great instincts. My sense is he knows Killua is a dangerous wild animal, but he's trying to win him over to the good side of the force using himself as an example, more or less. Not that Gon himself isn't capable of being as ruthless as the situation dictates, should he have to...

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    1. Actually, it's the opposite. Killua is Gon's bestfriend and the one whom he trust fully among their core group. As you said, Gon is smart and have great animal instinct and this instinct tells him that he can trust Killua... which is another point to Gon's weirdness. Regular guys, aka the viewers, see Killua as an unstable, dangerous wild card (like Hisoka) while Gon sees different. This will become clear on upcoming episodes.

      The reason why he didn't go to Killua when he's feeling angry and frustrated on his "loss" to Hisoka is because he wanted to be useful (and not feel "inadequate" to have passed the exam). He knows Killua won't need his help so he went and actively seek out Kurapika and Leorio - especially Leorio since we know he's the most weakest of the four.

      "Yes, he wanted to be useful and prove himself as a coping mechanism, but he's already shown that he's extremely loyal to his friends and I think he would have done what he did for that reason."

      You're making Gon a "good and helpful" friend when he is in fact a very selfish person that have alarming morality.

      Yes, Gon is loyal but he is not the type to "cuddle" his friends. In normal circumstance, do you think that Gon (who's angry at Hisoka for giving him a freepass on the 4th exam) will actively search for his friends and offer "help" so said friends can have a freepass? I think not. If Gon successfully got Hisoka's tag, he will most probably seek out Killua to brag (as he sees Killua and himself as equals).

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  7. Yeah, this is one of those shows that you need to have an open mind and great patience to enjoy. Most shounen shows start off slow but it's this same demographic that has gained a notorious reputation so not many people are that keen on watching them. Those reasons aside, I think the length is also something that works against HxH's popularity with anime blogs. It's a shame, really. So far, the show has been pretty subtle and surprisingly mature, something that won't always be noticed or appreciated by casual viewers.

    I liked that Gon opened up to Kurapika, had it been Leorio he'd probably be scolded. If it were Killua, I don't think he would've completely understood. But Kurapika did, and it's one of the more emotional moments in the anime that didn't have to drag too long.

    Yuyu Hakusho is less refined than HxH all right, it was Togashi's first battle manga which was understandable but it was definitely simpler and less subtle. My favorite arc was always the Sensui arc, an arc I feel is closer to the quality of writing we see in HxH.

    Gaaah. The next episode looks promising, I can't wait.

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  8. Having caught up to the show, I'll have to say this as a huge fan of the 1999 series.

    I'm really glad this show got remade from the start.

    This is no knock on the older show, on the contrary. I'm glad this show got remade from the start because not only does it mean I get to re-experience all those great moments, but also I get to see a different take with the same level of quality on something I love. I have no idea how many other fandoms out their get this treatment, but as a Hunter X HUnter fan, I consider myself blessed.

    Now on the episode, I'm glad that this series Ponzu is as cute as the manga's and the older series :P Okay being series here ...

    The thing I wanted to see the most out of this episode was the interview segment. Aside from showing us exactly how things are going to play out during the final round (if you pay attention, you'll manga to figure out what's going to be the first few and final fights going to be) but also reminding us all about the cast. Gon is keeping an eye on Hisoka and doesn't want to fight his friends, as you might have expected from what we have seen from him thus far. Hisoka on the other hand just wants to fight people who he thinks will give him the highest level of enjoyment (as per his ''standards'' he revealed back in episode 14 I believe) etc.

    What's really interesting is that while everyone apparently told the truth about their desires, the only people who seems interested in wining seem to be Pokkle and Hanzo, as the opponent they want to want to least fight is the one they believe they are incapable of defeating (nearly every other person didn't want to fight someone because it would've been too boring, it would've been a waste, or they didn't want to fight because of their morals or friendship. Kinda shows what sort of weirdoes these rookies are eh ^_^)

    In any case, looks like we are nearing the end of the first arc. And from now on, things are about to get exciting. THEN the show would've hit it's stride by the beginning of the third arc.

    ''I’d also have been skeptical that it would develop into one of the top half-dozen or so series at LiA in terms of post traffic – and even higher in terms of comments.''

    Hunter X Hunter = Game of Thrones effect for LiA?

    ''I confess I’m not a huge fan of Yu Yu Hakusho and I don’t see the same level of sophistication in that work, but this one is impressively nuanced and very smart.''

    Now I'm a huge YYH fan, and I'll be the first person to agree with this. That's not to say that YYH didn't have it's moments (in fact, toward the end you can pretty much argue that Togashi-sensei had begun thinking things into pretty much philosophical levels with the story, but I digress) .

    ''He’s by far the biggest enigma of the remaining candidates, though something tells me that’s about to change.''

    Well, without any spoilers, let me just say you are half right. But you'll have to see how exactly he's going to cause a major dent in things.

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  9. I actually watched over the 1999 version of these episodes (since it was two separate episodes in the previous version) before watching this one and boy, this version is way better. Especially the scene with Gon opening up to Kurapika. Although, I do kinda miss that filler part in the 1999 version when everyone anticipated that the last exam would be a written test, but I'm satisfied either way. And like the others, I disagree with Gon not fully trusting Killua with his life. Maybe you can't see it now since were still in the early parts of HxH, but Gon does and will always trust Killua.

    YYH was ok, it had it's moments of awesome, but it was more fighting and deep background stories rather than mind games in my opinion.

    I would say more, but I believe I'll accidentally give out some future spoilers. So I'll just look forward to see how Madhouse will interpret the next few episodes.

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  10. I felt bad for her too. Its almost like Gon tricked her which was out of character for him.

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    1. I don't feel badly for her, to be honest. She killed Bourbon - she's hardly an innocent. It was her or Leorio - there was no other way for him to pass. Gon did save her life, after all, so it's not like he owes her anything.

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    2. ''She killed Bourbon''

      Weeeeeel ... it was out of her control wasn't it? I mean, she went about it a peaceful manner (put him to sleep, take the tag during which) she just hadn't factored in the snakes (which she had no way of knowing) or that she would be freaked out, setting off her defenses (the normal human reaction when a punch of snakes appear out of nowhere in front of you) or that Bourbon was stung before (and even when she figured it out, he was sleeping and she had no way to help him since the snakes where protecting their masters body). All what happened was that one thing lead to another and he died as a result.

      It was an accident?

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    3. So Gon should have left her tag, and left Leorio to lose? I don't see it - he saved her life, that's enough.

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    4. She was already planning to loose anyway... So I didn't felt bad for her.

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  11. just a curious question, enzo: what do you think of the bgm of the series? :)

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    1. It's not the strongest suit. It sounds a little too martial for the subject matter - as if they were determined the BGM at least would be pure shounen. I'd also like to hear a little more variety.

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    2. I agree with you, there''s little diversity in hxh bgm, hopefully, when the OST 2 is out, they will fix it.

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  12. I had planned to re-watch some of the 1999 HxH episodes after this version came out so that I can compare the two. But then I ended up re-watching the whole thing. It's that good, for me anyway! I highly suggest you do. They left out some necessary parts! By the way, I'm so happy I found out you were blogging HxH too! You've become my favorite blogger in RC! Thanks for Chihayafuru and Another! They're really awesome! :D

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    1. Heh, thanks Sakura. I would love to watch HxH '99, but I just don't have time and probably won't for quite a while. Regrettable but unavoidable.

      Too bad more people don't seem to be watching Chihayafuru. It's pretty special.

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