Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hunter X Hunter 2011 - 20

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While it’s no secret that any episode that looks closely at Killua’s soul is going to go to a very dark place, I was surprised by the way the remainder of the hunter exam’s final phase played out.

For me, Killua has always been the saddest character of all the main cast in Hunter X Hunter.  Among the main four and even the more prominent supporting cast, it was always Killua who most appeared to be lost – lost in life, and a lost soul.  His reasons for taking the hunter exam were never really clear to us (or himself) and while it was obvious that he hungered on some elemental level for the friendship he was getting from Leorio, Kurapika and especially Gon, it was equally clear that the nature of real friendship was a mystery to him.  There’s something of the same divide with Killua that one has with Gon from an audience perspective – he’s incredibly formidable, but also (though in quite different ways than Gon) still very much a child.  The difference is the level of threat that surrounds Killua at all times, as if he were capable of doing something truly evil, things I would never think Gon capable of.  Due to some unfortunate cast credits on MAL I’ve known for quite a while that Gittrackur was actually Killua’s brother Illumi, and that there was bound to be a confrontation here – but it still impacted in a big way.

But there was other business to attend to first.  I confess that after all the buildup we’ve seen, I was surprised when Satotz told Gon that the final phase was already over, and that the remainder of it would be told in flashback – and in less than an episode at that.  As well as the episode did at portraying the events of Gon’s “lost day” I’m a bit disappointed at never being able to see all those possible permutations for the remaining candidates play out.  I think Satotz’ pretty much nailed the essence of the matter when he told Gon that he had, in effect, bested Hanzo fair and square – “won him over” in Hanzo’s own words.  Killiua’s puzzled reaction to that was quite in character, but I was glad to see Gon accept his license without a lot of time wasted on needless protestations – he earned it fair and square, and the follow-up matches only cemented that impression in my mind.

Why did Hisoka allow Kurapica to win?  If the answer to that question is supposed to be obvious I’m not aware of it, nor am I certain the series plans to tell us (though it might).  I think it’s safe to assume that Hisoka felt quite rightly that he could win a match any time he really wanted and pass the exam, but why concede to Kurapica specifically – and what did he whisper to him?  Trying to guess why Hisoka might do anything is treacherous indeed, but he does seem obsessed with Gon and I wonder if that might be behind his actions.  Perhaps he told Kurapica that he didn’t want to bother humiliating him unless Gon was around to see it, or that he wanted to use his life as a way of tormenting Gon later, who knows.  Kurapica will probably spill sooner or later, and Hisoka ended up winning his match against Bodoro, a one-sided affair he ends by again whispering something in the opponent’s ear – and this time it’s the opponent who surrenders, and Bodoro is badly injured.

Hanzo has advanced, meanwhile, by getting Pokkle to surrender by merely threatening to do some of what he did to Gon.  Pokkle is seemingly the weakest of the surviving candidates but even so, the gap between he and Gon is shocking – and yet, Pokkle advances too when Killua declines to fight him.  This seems to back Killua’s assertion that he really doesn’t care about being a Hunter, and that the sport of the thing is all that matters.  And when Leorio asks to have his match with Bodoro postponed so the older man has a chance to recover from the beating Hisoka put on him, the stage is set for the main event of the exam and “Gittrackur” reveals his true colors.

In a way, watching what Illumi did to Killua was as hard as watching what Hanzo did to Gon, and maybe harder.  Though Illumi never laid a finger on Killiua, he completely unhinged him mentally, turning him into a frightened little boy.  We know enough of Killua’s assassin background to know that his family situation is harrowing, to say the least.  But Illumi shows no signs of anger – he merely dissects his otouto, slowly and thoroughly, perhaps showing just a hint of enjoyment through his impassive façade and harrowing eyes.  Illumi knows all of Killua’s secrets and thus all of his fears, and systematically breaks down every illusion Killua has built around himself.  And the really sad part is, most of what Illumi says is true at least in part – Killua really does think constantly about the thrill of the kill, and he’s terrified to face his brother.  In the ultimate humiliation, Killua surrenders even after Illumi threatens to kill Gon (because he’s become Killua’s friend) after he’s defeated Killua – surrenders before Illumi can even touch him.

The one thing Illumi clearly got wrong was the fact that Gon and Killua could never be friends.  Leorio never got the chance to redeem himself in battle (clearly, he’s the luckiest survivor) but he did have a fine moment in standing up for Killua verbally, and he was absolutely right that Gon already considered himself Killua’s friend.  But Killua, while he was no doubt being honest about wanting to give up the assassin’s life and live a normal one as Gon’s friend, also likely feels he’s undeserving to be given a normal life – and never more than after his humiliating surrender with what he thought was Gon’s life on the line.  Killua was clearly broken after this, but just why he ended up killing Bodoro – who seemingly had no connection to him whatsoever – is another one of those questions the episode doesn’t answer.  Whatever mental pressure Killua was under, this wasn’t something he can be redeemed from easily – this was an act of cold, brutal murder against a (relatively) innocent man who appeared to bear him no ill will whatsoever.  When it comes to Killua’s character journey, this is a dark ride, even by H x H standards – but this is a very bad place that Killua has gone to, and he has much work to do if he’s to earn another chance at what he desires.

Of course, going forward, it’s clearly Gon who’s going to have to try and bring Killua back from the darkness – which is going to be none to easy with Illumi around.  Killua deserves to suffer for what he’s done, though I suspect his friends will be quick to forgive him.  At the very least he’s the designated loser of the exam, disqualifying himself by killing Bodoro (and this advancing Leorio unchallenged).  On the whole, while I would have liked to have seen Gon’s lost day play out over a couple of episodes instead of just one, I was struck by how different in tone this was from the series to this point – even the BGM was a radical departure, a subdued orchestral soundtrack that matched the extremely somber tone of the episode.  There was very little action here, but an overwhelming psychological brutality that was grimmer than all the blood and death we’ve seen to this point.  Like everything else about this series, ending a massive arc in that way seems contrary to every shounen rule – in other words, perfectly in character for Hunter X Hunter.

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29 comments:

  1. Totally agree with the fact that what happened to Kilua was horrifying.

    I think I'm really starting to enjoy HxH because its very not shounen like. The main character, Gon, isn't someone who randomly powers up.

    I always felt like Kilua would be a sort of loose cannon that Gon would contrast to, and even at some point have to stop, but I never imagined it to be such a viseral and extremely dark scene.

    The part where Illumi broke his own brother to an emotionless husk, was scary, chilling and emotional.

    Definitely loved that Leorio spoke up against Illumi and even was okay with jumping in for Kilua.

    I was also surprised by how... anti-climactic this final part of the entrance exam was. I was expecting a shounen styled battle tournament, but instead we got this kind of mellow, slow and unsettling resolution to the whole thing.

    I'm guessing Gon is going to go after Kilua after this. Having not read the manga or seen the original series, I'm quite excited! =D

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  2. No Spoilers, but about the reason Hisoka gave up: No, it was not supposed to be obvious, but it will be revealed soon enough.

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  3. Haha...it's very good that you're disappointed with the Final Phase of the Hunter Exam. However, this arc hasn't ended yet. We're far from it. Satotz will explain in the next episode.

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    1. The Hunter Exam is not yet over. Far from it.

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  4. As for Killing Bodoro- I just figured that Killlua had been broken by his brother and that when Illumi said "you know what you have to do...we'll tell you when you need to get a hunter license." It represented how the terrified Killua went back to being the empty puppet and was following his bro's instructions because he was probably thinking "i can't escape/don't deserve a normal life with gon because he's to 'sparkly' and good for me." Also it's been implied that he's killed lots of people innocent or otherwise before during his assassin training...I hope Killua comes back from the dark side soon :(

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    1. While I don't doubt that Killua has already killed innocents - the dudes who bumped into him on the blimp, for starters - this was really the first time it's been thrown in our face in this way. Grim stuff. I still don't quite get why Bodoro, though, as there's no obvious connection to Illumi there either - it just seemed completely random.

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    2. Maybe he knew leorio wasnt going to win and was so broken that he didnt wanted to continue the tournament, so, the quickest way was to kill bodoro.

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  5. You should wait until the next episode before judging Killua's action here. Illumi is more than he seems, that should obvious enough.

    And huh, they glossed that Hisoka-Kurapika fight. Could use more surprise from Kurapika's face though. Just keep in mind that whisper.
    And the music was kinda nice, a change of pace and fits the episode well. Though they really need to change the OP and ED now. It's been 20 episodes now. Can't remember a show that didn't change an OP this long.

    Great episode.

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    1. The original series didn't change their opening. For 62 episodes. Hope this doesn't happen to this version.
      Damn, I was really waiting for Kurapica's fight. Oh well, I still like the episode.

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    2. Actually, they changed their opening on episode 49 on the original series.

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    3. The OP showed "The Tower" and the last scene was Gon inside the arena. Hopefully the OP won't last till that arc. We have to wait two more arcs to reach that point. :/

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  6. This whole series has me hooked. Usually when I start watching a new anime series I also pick up the manga and vice versa. But with this one I am way more than satisfied to just follow the anime. It really has me looking forward to Sundays.

    Great Episode and Great Review/Synopsis!

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  7. Overall a good episode. I also noticed the change in bgm, but only to remember how good the 1999 orchestral version was.

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  8. Well, to answer your question about the whisper so can I just tell you to consider how long Gittrackur have been around until we got told his true identity. Foreshadowing in this series isn't about what will happen in the next episode or two.

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  9. Regarding Kurapica's fight, it's worth remembering that Kurapica also passed Hisoka's "do not kill yet" threshold back in the 4th exam, after Kurapica successfully negotiated with him for the extra tag. Hisoka's more interested in Gon right now, but it's not like he's completely uninterested in Kurapica, so to try to attribute everything Hisoka does to an obsession with Gon seems kind of weird to me.

    Also, if you think really carefully you might be able to come up with something Kurapica and Hisoka have in common (that's not related to Gon).

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  10. enzo, did you read my comment on ep 19?

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    1. Since you're not signing in, I have no idea which "Anonymous" comment you mean.

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  11. the 11th&12th comments, the one who posted the video links

    anyway you don't have to reply if you don't have to (it was already more than a week ago after all), i just want to know if you've at least read it :)

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    1. Got it. I'll check that video out when I get a chance, thanks for posting.

      TBH, I'm trying to minimize comparison with the 1999 series as much as I can. For one, part of my approach to H x H is to be one of the few who come at it from a clean slate - minimal exposure to the manga, none to the old series. But even more, I'm seeing a very abusive atmosphere on places like AF and MAL - really angry stuff, especially by proponents of the old show towards people who like the new one. I'm trying to keep LiA a safe place to discuss HxH without all that negativity creeping in, and I think the best way to do that is to generally avoid comparing the two series.

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    2. thanks for the response.

      indeed, there are some fans who being unfair to this series, but there are also fans who are as equally as vicious in apologizing for the 2011 series (and criticizing the 1999 in turn).

      anyway, i respect your decision to have as much a clean slate as possible. but i hope that you'd find the time to watch the 1999 series someday. in case you don't know, it was directed by kazuhiro furuhashi, the same guy who did kenshin's ova 1.

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    3. Well yeah, Furuhashi actually did all the Kenshin, including the TV and the new Shin Kyoto-hen. I'm actually not a fan of the Kenshin OVAs as a rule - they look great, but to me they completely lose the spirit of Watsuki's original work.

      I will watch the '99 series, probably after this one is over.

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    4. as a stand-alone, ova 1 is fantastic, not only in terms of animation/art. does it really go against what watsuki has established? ova 2 was blargh. kyoto arc was great.

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    5. It's not as bad as the second one, which completely destroys the ending the mangaka intended - but it's not Rurouni Kenshin. Watsuki has spoken of his displeasure with what the OVAs did to his work, and that would be enough for me even if I weren't already inclined to agree with him. The first OVA is fine, but it doesn't feel anything like RK to me.

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    6. That's the same reason why the 1999 Hunter series annoyed me, the director imposed so much of his voice that it didn't feel much like Yoshihiro Togashi's HxH to me. But the old series fans will then insist that vision is BETTER than manga. It's NOT. Togashi has a distinct cult/pomo/wtf kind of tone in his work, by making it somber and overtly serious like the 1999 did, it killed a lot of the wicked fun spirit, not to mention major characters distortion. I'm glad that this series get another fresh start to take on a more faithful adaptation. I hoped it will stay to Togashi's more minimal style, keep it 'talky', keep it wtf and smart, instead of the more corny, moralistic and overtly dramatic tone 1999 had.

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  12. I knew a lot of people were probably nit-picky at the previous episode and the lack of intensity in the atmosphere, but this one takes the cake. Illumi’s psychological torturing Killua was really well done in this version. Although I kinda found Killua's character a bit jarring since first he seemed to be jealous of Gon but then says he wants to be his friend (when is he already). The whole killing Bodoro was Killua's intent to help Leorio in a way despite being mentally unstable; I think they'll explain that in the next episode like they did in the previous version I believe.

    The part with Hisoka conceding to Kurapica is an entirely different matter and unfortunately your guesses about what Hisoka whispered to him are wrong Enzo XD It would lead to a spoiler way beyond this point with Gon being completely unrelated to it. So you'll just have to wait for it to come up later in the series.

    And I do wonder when they’re going to change their OP and ED? The change of BGM in this episode was really refreshing, but I wouldn’t mind a new OP and ED soon.

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  13. This is the first time I've read this blog but after watching this episode I just HAD to check around and see what others thought of it. I just wanted to say "Thank you" for not only writing a really good and thoughtful review, but also, as you mentioned earlier, keeping this place on a clean slate. I'm someone who hasn't seen the earlier anime or read the manga. I didn't even know about H X H before this 2011 version. So I appreciate not having to read comparisons that I just don't understand or read spoilers by accident.

    Also, just wanted to say, I loved the end of this episode when the narrator guy said "Gon was angry." YEAH HE'S ANGRY!!! And I was angry too!!! I already get emotional when I watch stuff, so this episode with all it's psychological crazyness really stirred me (hence why I finally looked up a blog).

    I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks, minterfresh, and welcome to LiA. H x H is pretty damn good, isn't it? I didn't realize how much I needed my weekly fix till those damn marathoners preempted it this week!

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    2. I know!! What's that about?! I got really sad when I read it'd be postponed.

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  14. I actually happened to be in Tokyo for the marathon back in '09, just by chance, and it was an amazing human spectacle - so I can't feel too hostile. But it sure does suck not getting a H x H fix.

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