Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hunter X Hunter 2011 - 63

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As any boy who specializes in Jan-Ken-Pon knows, rock beats scissors.

When “Greed Island” started, I was put in mind of “Heaven’s Arena” more than any other arc in the series so far.  That vibe was certainly stronger than ever this week, as we actually got a direct connection between the two.  This was absolutely a straight-ahead training episode in what’s so far mostly a training arc, but Togashi’s writing and Madhouse’s exquisite fight choreography managed to make it feel special nonetheless.

Indeed, education is a theme of “Greed Island” so far, and this episode especially.  The education of the audience about Biscuit Kreuger, and the education of Gon and Killua at her hands.  In a series full of larger-than-life characters – including the main cast, in a believable way – Biscuit fits right in.  She’s an oddball, right down to her very atypical preference when it comes to honorifics.  “Bisky” is normal enough as a nickname in a world where a woman might be named Biscuit I suppose, but she initially declines the honorific “-san” in favor of none at all – highly unusual for a Japanese manga character – and then requests the rarely-used “-chama”.  “-chama” relates to “–sama” in the same way “–chan” relates to “–san” – a sort of baby talk version – and it’s a very interesting choice for a teacher to request it of a student.  “-chama” is unusual in that it connotes respect, while at the same time it’s respect for someone of roughly equal status – so in a sense Biscuit is telling the boys that while she’s their teacher, they’re at the same overall level.  Of course it also carries a certain ring of cuteness to it, which is no doubt part of the reason she likes it – and then there’s Killua, who’s quite happy with “-baba”.  It’s clear that relationship is going to be an interesting one. 

Whatever you call her, Bisky is an order of magnitude stronger than Gon and Killua, and her contention that they’d already have died at least twice without her help is close to irrefutable.  Gon seems pretty willing to take her at face value and glom onto training where he can get it – as I said last week, he simply respects strength and knows it when he sees it – though Killua needs a little more convincing.  That starts with the revelation that she was in fact Wing’s Master – “that messy little boy with glasses” – and goes into high gear with the arrival of Binolt (Suyama Akio, another old pro who’s excellent here).  Killua is faced with the reality that Bisky sensed Binolt while he couldn’t, and then with the fact that he never saw her diversionary cheek-slap coming despite being on high-alert.  Killua seems to need to taste what strength can do to him before his pride can be tamed and he can face reality, but it’s clear here that he’s not in Bisky’s class, and neither of the boys protests when she commands them to follow her lead.  Gon’s “Oh – they’re acting!” at this point provides the comedic highlight of the episode, by the way.

Binolt is no slouch himself.  A bit of precursor to Edward Scissorhands, he’s a wanted criminal and apparently a killer, and Biscuit is so good at masking her power that he can’t resist the lure of attacking the three helpless kids – especially when they split up after their “fight”.  He’s fast and smart, and his Nen ability allows him to tell everything about his opponent by eating their hair (well – ick) – which immediately tells him that Biscuit if 57 years old, and that he’s no match for her in a fight.  But he’s really got no choice in the matter, and he mans up to take his medicine just as the boys arrive back on the scene.  Biscuit has told them to walk 500 meters, then hurry back – but not to help her in the fight.  She just wants them to see exactly what she does to Binolt.

I found the sequence that follows to be somewhat chilling.  I was reminded of a tigress who wounds a prey animal to slow it down, so that her cubs can play with it and learn how to kill.  Biscuit has certainly slowed Binolt down (at the cost of one of her twintails), but he’s still a formidable opponent – and she wants to see exactly what Gon and Killua are capable of.  At first Killua suggests they fight in a rotation, taking turns resting while using rocks as missiles to stay out of range – but this is seemingly a ploy, as Gon realizes that giving the injured man a chance to rest and recuperate is the worst thing they could do.  What follows really is most like a predator toying with a wounded prey animal, as the boys grow stronger and stronger and wear Binolt down, and it becomes clear to all concerned how things will turn out.  Gon even stops Killua from ending the fight because he wants to keep going until each of them are capable of defeating Binolt without the other’s help – an example of the kind of detached hard-headed practicality that occasionally makes Gon a scary little man, despite his generally kind and loyal nature.

That sequence also happens to be brilliantly choreographed and gorgeously animated – some of the best extended action sequences in a series full of them.  Togashi also makes the interesting choice of humanizing Binolt during the fight – letting us see his increasing weariness and desperation as he realizes he’s being toyed with by two little boys with big ability, and even giving us a glimpse of the hardscrabble life that set him off on this path.  Bisky has promised to kill him if he’s defeated, but once Binolt has had enough Gon shows his kind side – expressing gratitude for the invaluable help in getting stronger and declaring “We won’t kill you!”  Would Biscuit have felt the same way, if Gon hadn’t taken command?  We can’t say for sure – just as we can’t say for sure than Binolt will really turn himself in – but the series of events provides a revealing glimpse of the two sides of Gon.  “You’re flawless – a perfect gem.  But that perfect nature could be your undoing.”

The question of just what Biscuit wants is very much at the heart of “Greed Island” so far.  She says she’s in the game to chase down a card, “Blue Planet” – a perfect jewel itself, available only inside Greed Island – and it seems she has a fetish for gems.  That seems to be the attraction with Gon and Killua – two rough gems that require her cutting and shaping and polishing to achieve their maximum glory.  She’s a former Hunter Examiner, and like all of them she seems to have a sadistic side – she’s a damn hard teacher, as witness the brutal training she puts the boys through as soon as their fight is over, making them run to Masadora and back for digging tools, then use them to dig their way back to Masadora.  But there’s a method to her madness, and the boys already learn a new skill – Shu (surround) which Gon discovers in a “Eureka” moment during the digging.  She also knows Ging – or of him, anyway – who Netero described as “one of the 5 strongest Nen users”.  Her primary role so far has been to showcase just how far the boys – “Rock-hard Diamond” Gon and “Cool, calm, blue Sapphire” Killua – have to go, but ultimately it will surely be to help them get there.

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Greed Island Tutorial: “Blue Planet”
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27 comments:

  1. DAT ARM!! 0.o

    How many times did Killua fly? hahaha.

    I think this will be my favorite arc, next to heaven's arena. I found myself smiling the whole episode. :)) GJ MH and Togashi! :))

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  2. This episode was just PERFECT.

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  3. Do I feel sorry for Binolt stomach. Can you imagine how much undigested hair there must been in there? Ugh

    Not much else to say Enzo, you've been pretty much none stop writing concise and excellent Hunter X Hunter posts that it leaves little room for anything else to be said.

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  4. Madhouse is really consistent. I still can't hear anything when Killua walks. Bisky's character here is perfect. Unlike in the OVA were she was plain and boring with no reaction. Especially in the scene when she mention Ging and Wing. It seems like Madhouse are fans that take every detail into their heart. The episode when other players stole their card was perfect in this version. I just watched the OVA and I got board. But I still finished it until the current episode. Then I watched the 2011 version again like for the 3rd time.

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  5. Hmm... they seem to fill up their book with a new card each week during the Greed Island Tutorial.

    Is this an indication that there will be 18 episodes of this arc?

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    1. At the current adaptation speed (see below), I highly doubt it. The arc is 65 chapters, and they are currently adapting at 4 chapters/episodes. That means 16 episodes for the arc. Keep into account that the middle of this arc is the point where Togashi's condition started deteriorating and the quality of the manga went down the drain as a consequence, so if anything, Madhouse is likely to further increase the adaptation speed.

      In summary, I only see 10-11 more episodes, with the arc being completed by the end of the current season - which sets them up to start the not-yet-animated Chimera arc with the beginning of the Spring season.

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    2. Maybe just gonna fill the left page then, 9 episodes.

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  6. Oh wow. Madhouse is really speeding through this arc and cutting things left and right. Either the whole anime is tanking (like Bakuman, which was clearly shortened from 4 to 3 seasons, otherwise the pacing cannot be understood), or the production staff determined that this arc must be really unpopular (possible, since the original anime was cancelled after this point).

    Just to give an idea, here is the chapter-to-episode table for the current series. I also included the corresponding ratios for the 1999 series.

    Arc Chapters Episodes ratio (2011) ratio (1999)
    Hunter Exam 1-38 1-21 1.8 1.22
    Zoldyck and Arena 39-63 22-36 1.67 1.92
    Yorkshin 64-120 37-58 2.59 2.15
    Greed Island (current) 121-140 59-63 4 2.5

    Togashi's style becomes more and more decompressed as the manga progresses, so the adaptation ratio naturally increases, but I mean... 4 chapters per episode? It is still not as bad as Bakuman (to the contrary of Togashi, Ohba is really consistent in pacing - a super slow first season, an ok second season and a super rushed third season make the anime unwatchable), but I still do not like where this is going.

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    1. It was fastpaced this week, but it didn't skip anything from the manga, so it's ok for me.

      Last week was bad because they left out some interesting material.

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    2. Actually, while this week they did not cut an entire scene (like Gon and Killua defending with no cards, as well as the explanation of what each of the 40 spell cards do), they still cut several details here and there to speed up the pace, especially in the last part.

      Note: I am not saying that this is bad (or good) from a quality/artistic perspective. That is very much subjective. I am just saying that it is a danger sign when producers decide to change the adaptation speed so significantly.

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    3. They may want to reach the next arc as soon as possible to show off fresh episodes instead of remakes. Hopefully they'll slow down then.

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    4. As a manga reader, I honestly think the pacing is fine as is. The anime had managed to make each episode full of content without feeling rushed. If anything, the pacing had been pretty relaxed in a lot of places. It might be a bit worrisome to see them blow through this fast, but thus far Madhouse had given me 60+ reasons to trust that they'll manage it well.

      It'll be fine.

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    5. I'm pretty sure cutting out stuff is MH's way of saving budget without giving bad animation. While other animes include everything but look like crap, HxH 2011 is trying to keep their production value up but loses manga content. All that money has to come from somewhere, especially if they're piling it up to give us a great Ant Arc later on.

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    6. There are times when I'm really glad I can watch a series like this with no excess baggage. I remember when Hourou Musuko came out with a stunning first episode, and anime-only viewers were raving over it. There were manga readers who were insistent that we couldn't possibly have enjoyed it as much as we thought, because of all the material that was skipped. Having read the manga since, I can certainly lament that those chapters were never animated - but it doesn't diminish the experience of the anime.

      As a new viewer, GI hasn't seemed rushed at all to me. Having been told what's been left out sure, I regret not seeing it - but in the moment, the adaptation is spot-on. Thematically this arc is right up my alley so I wish it were as long as possible, but it does seem logical that they want to finish the season with it (10 more eps or so) and then launch into Chimaera Ant, which has a little more sizzle as a first-time animated story.

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    7. I also think that they're trying to get to the action here. As fun as this training episode may have been (and it was), I suspect they don't want to spend too much time on, well, training. As to not fall victim of Dragonball Z-itis, I suppose. So that might be a thing.

      On the other hand, manga chapter titles for this part of the arc...

      135. "To Masadora! Part 1" (いざマサドラへ!(1) "Iza Masadora e! (1)"?)
      136. "To Masadora! Part 2" (いざマサドラへ!(2) "Iza Masadora e! (2)"?)
      137. "To Masadora! Part 3" (いざマサドラへ!(3) "Iza Masadora e! (3)"?)
      138. "To Masadora...?" (いざマサドラへ...? "Iza Masadora e...?"?)
      139. "Are They Really Going to Masadora?" (ホントにマサドラ行くのか? "Honto ni Masadora Iku no ka?"?)
      140. "They Got to Masadora, But..." (マサドラには行ったけど "Masadora niwa Itta kedo"?)
      141. "They Went to Masadora Already, So I'll Go With a Different Title Now" (もうマサドラ行ったから次から別の感じのタイトルでいいや "Mō Masadora Itta kara Tsugi kara Betsu no Kanji no Taitoru de iiya"?)

      This just cracked me up XD.

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    8. I think what they cut out of the manga is fine. Think about it. In the end, does it really matter in the future what strategy Gon and Killua came up during the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament or how they tried to stop the group from getting their newly won card. Not really. It's just useless expositon that the story could probably use without.

      P.S. Those chapter titles are lol material.

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    9. It's not useless exposition. It makes the story much more enjoyable and shows what kind of characters they are and what the world is like. Plot-wise it wasn't necessary... but the journey can matter as much as the destination, perhaps even more so.

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    10. ^ You're right. I'm one of those who loves Togashi's expositions but let's be realistic here. Expositions are not a problem in manga format however, it is another matter if we're talking about anime format. In short, it will bore casual viewers/potential hxh manga/merchandise buyers.

      There are some things that will be cut or condensed and what we (manga fans) should be concerned about is if the cut/condensed material will have repercussions in the overall story/arc. We should also consider that MH (any studio, in fact) will shuffle some scenes to make the story "flow" better.

      That being said, I'm excited and curious how MH will adapt the CA arc since it's exposition heavy esp in the latter half. It's still a long way to go though so just enjoy the GI arc.

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    11. I don't buy the anime argument. Arguably, the 1999 adaptation was able to include most of the exposition and in some cases expand the world and its characters in a believable way. This is why some fans lament this version cutting things out as the prior anime adaptation included them. And certain anime have done well like Death Note which is also very exposition heavy with tons of monologues.

      Now, if you say that content will be too boring for today's target audience then, well, I have nothing to say to that. Except that it saddens me that they can't appreciate that content and how things must be about sales. Maybe things like kickstarter can change things.

      I too am curious about the CA arc as it is really exposition heavy. That's going to be a challenge!

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    12. I don't buy the anime argument. Arguably, the 1999 adaptation was able to include most of the exposition and in some cases expand the world and its characters in a believable way. This is why some fans lament this version cutting things out as the prior anime adaptation included them. And certain anime have done well like Death Note which is also very exposition heavy with tons of monologues.

      Except that the 1999 adaptation's meaning of "expansion" is more about "change/altering" characters to suit the cookie-cutter character types prevalent in the shounen genre; which is a shame since HxH charm mostly stems from the very likeable and charismatic characters. This version gave justice to manga Gon and Killua and this what endears the new version to us.

      Most of the perceived cut-offed parts aren't even included in the manga. The only altered/cut-off parts are those that doesn't affect the story, plot and established canon. Comparing the monologues/exposition in Death Note is NOT the same because all the talking that happened in that series affect the story progression whereas Togashi's expositions are sometimes his way of letting out his geekery to play.

      Now, if you say that content will be too boring for today's target audience then, well, I have nothing to say to that. Except that it saddens me that they can't appreciate that content and how things must be about sales.

      Have you forgotten what time HxH airs in Japan? Too much talk will bore children and they generally don't care about the specifics that much. MH is really doing a good job of getting the juicy bits in the chapters and making it interesting and enjoyable to watch.

      The HxH 2011 purpose is to attract new fans and sorry to say but its sales are quite good that it won't even get axed despite going on hiatus repeatedly.

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  7. I'm saying this with extreme caution, rarely has a series show it's main characters training to be as entertaining and compelling to watch...

    Loving Bisky-chama already. Wonder what wonders she'll do to cut her precious gems she found...

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  8. If you had not seen the manga or the previous version of this series you would love it and think it is perfect. Its kinda not fair to compare this series to the other one or the manga. Especially when it comes to cutting out minor things.

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  9. Enzo, I envy your analysis skills. Seriously. How are you able to do it? I'm sure others have said this before, but I'm reaally looking forward to reading your posts on the Chimera Ant Arc when we get there...

    Anyway, that's all I really wanted to say. ^_^ Your review covered all bases.

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    1. Ditto on the envy. Sometimes I honestly wonder if Enzo is really an anime only watcher, or if had secretly always been a HxH fan and is finally finding the chance to unleash all his thoughts that he had for years about this manga.

      Chimera Ant is going to be fascinating to read, if his reactions and coverage of York Shin was any indication. I suspect that he will eventually have to stop covering it weekly from how difficult it will be to write something different about it.

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    2. Heh.

      I definitely look forward to Chimaera Ant based on what I've heard, but I can promise you, the only manga I've read has been to compare details after an episode airs in which people complain about what was left out.

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  10. Togashi really adores his wife. Bisky is clearly a homage to his wife's acclaimed work (Sailor Moon) and family business (jewelry). Btw, I'm excited to see the *new* Sailor Moon anime that will be aired this year!

    Bisky is also very sharp to deduce not only Gon's "purity" but also Killua's "fragility" in such a short time. Interestingly, diamonds and sapphires complement each other much in the same way as Gon and Killua.

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  11. This is an old post, so I assume this will fall on deaf ears, but..

    I was hoping for a Captain Ersatz of Genkai (there's precedence: Kurapika is basically Hiei and Kurama as one character, you could argue the same for Gon being both Yusuke and Kuwabara) - and I got it, right down to the age/appearance shenanigans (although it remains to be seen if Bisky is using Nen to alter her physical age). And it is glorious.

    I loved Genkai a lot. And by extension I already love Bisky.

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