After two episodes that were just a step down in quality for the first time in… well, a very long time, H x H kicks off the York Shin Arc proper with an episode that cranks the awesome back up to 11.
For an H x H fan – or at least this one – this was an episode that had almost everything. As much as I’ve enjoyed the Kurapika mini-arc there’s been a certain something missing, a bright energy that pairs with the darkness at the heart of the show and makes it resonate in your sternum like the beat of a taiko drum. Kurapika brings plenty of darkness and rage, but as much as I think he’s a better person when he’s with a group – especially friends – than when he’s alone wallowing in his rage, the show itself is better when he’s paired up with the others.
I’ve definitely missed Gon and Killua – though they weren’t really gone all that long, of course. While the show is at its best with everyone involved it’s my considered opinion that Gon and Killua’s vibe is better suited to carry the show solo than Kurapika’s – and it seems Togashi agrees, as their training arc was many times longer than Kurapika’s. As much darkness as there is in Killua’s story, there’s always a sense of hope as long as he’s with Gon – and the two of them bring an irreplaceable energy and indomitable spirit that makes the show fun no matter how violent and depraved it is. Their brief (five minutes or so) appearance at the start of the episode was a great kick-starter, and once they’d gotten the ball rolling the episode never looked back.
Of course what the pair is up to seems basically to be setting up the arc that’s to follow the one to come – the Greed Island Arc. The two of them have a way of making anything they tackle into an adventure, even online research – and it’s at an internet café that they get their first solid leads about the game, thanks to the URL from Miluki. I found it hilarious - and totally in character - to see the two of them toss 20 million Jenny at the Hunter website as if it were nothing. That bribe gets them a sort of Nen-powered VR experience in an Old West saloon, and the information that Greed Island is itself a Nen-powered simulation, one that takes the player inside the game – and that 50 Hunters paid by a wealthy patron to try and beat it never came back. The other problem is that while there will be 7 copies for bid at the York Shin auction, the lowest starting bid is $8.9 billion Jenny – truly an astonishing sum of money. So the boys launch of an effort to raise the cash by buying and selling rare items themselves online – and like many children before them, discover the dangers of online trading and come out much the poorer (though hardly discouraged) for their efforts.
So in fact, what we have is Kurapika and Gon’s destinies converging in York Shin, with each of them having something very concrete to gain from the auction. And as Gon and Killua infuse the ep with their feckless charm, things are heating up big-time in Kurapika’s world. He and the three other candidates (Basho, Baise and Melody) have each found a rare item from their list (though none of them the eyes of a Kurta) and been hired as bodyguards. Dalzollene is the go-between, and their new boss is not what anyone expects. Neon Nostrade (Ueda Kana) is a seemingly harmless genki teenage girl, but her family name is a clue to her true nature – she’s an incredibly powerful diviner, and her father Light (Itou Eiji) has leveraged her amazing fortunetelling into great power in the underworld. We don’t see much of the two of them interacting, but the sense is that Neon is a handful – and not always keen to do what Daddy tells her to do.
The overwhelming sense of this episode is of destinies coming together with a crash in York Shin – a few happily so, as the aforementioned reunion of the boys and Kurapika (and Leorio) but mostly with a resounding crash. There’s the fact that one of Kurapika and his colleagues’ assignments at the auction is to purchase Kurta eyes (again Melody notices Kurpika’s reaction). There’s the fact that four of Neon’s newest fortunes seem to portend death for their owners, all of whom plan to attend the auction. And without a doubt the main event is the arrival on the scene of the legendary Phantom Troupe, whose dark aura has been hanging over the series since the very beginning.
I’ll take the lazy way out and direct you here for the full list of Troupers and their seiyuu. Suffice to say it’s an amazing bunch, including the likes of Miyano Mamaru as leader Chrollo, Paku Romi as Pakunoda (heh) and Yamaguchi Kappei as Feitan – and that’s just for starters. Considering the buildup this bunch has had their introduction could easily have been an anti-climax, but it was handled beautifully by Madhouse – complete with stirring orchestral soundtrack. Each member was introduced with style, each making an impression – building up to Chrollo and the one “member” of the Troupe we know full well – Hisoka, fashionably late as usual. Adding to the fascinating mix of course is the fact that Hisoka clearly considers the Troupe just another tool for his amusement, and doesn’t take his membership seriously enough to even have a real spider tattoo. And the rest of the gang seem to hold him in no higher esteem than he holds them. As always, Hisoka’s ultimate goals are a mystery – but as for Chrollo, he declares his intention to steal everything that’s up for auction, and to kill everyone who gets in the way.
This is the most charismatic and formidable bunch of anime supervillains I can remember since their beloved Shounen Jump cohorts, the Juppongatana from Rurouni Kenshin. And for the first time, the magnitude of what’s going to happen in this arc feels real – everything starting with the original quartet (and yes, that’s Leorio in the preview) coming together, with unknowable results. Kurapika, Gon and Killua, The Phantom Troupe, Hisoka, the Nostrade family – each with their own formidable powers and their own interests, a kind of synergistic perfect storm of shounen restless energy, feeding off each other like a storm drawing strength from warm ocean waters and becoming a hurricane. I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot of collateral damage, but it’s going to he a hell of a blast to watch it come down.
Gon & Killua’s Hunterpedia: “Neon”