Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hunter X Hunter 2011 - 112

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I suppose if Togashi-sensei can turn one minute into an entire episode, I can get a few paragraphs out of it - but boy, he sure doesn't make it easy to describe what he - and Madhouse - are accomplishing here.

Where does one even begin to try and break down what we just saw?  As I said last week, Togashi is such a GPS-confounding mass of surprising twists and turns that there's just no way to know where Hunter X Hunter is going unless you've read the manga.  But what he's doing in this part of "Chimera Ant" is so abjectly strange and singular that it's not easy to try and put it into any context.  It has been tried on a couple of occasions, but unless you possess God's right hand like Togashi does (or perhaps he's left-handed, I don't know) it's really way too deep in this end of the pool for most writers to swim.

And then there's Koujina-sensei and Madhouse, who've been tasked with the unenviable job of trying to make what shouldn't have worked in manga yet did work on-screen (where it's even more unlikely to work).  Togashi did the hardest part of the job in writing all this, undeniably, but the anime staff has had it tough these last few episodes.  This one, if anything, depicted an even shorter timeframe than #111 did - and it was blessed with no dramatic flashback to break up the flow of narration and offer the viewer a bit of conventional narrative.

Really, when you break all this down, this episode especially - and also the last to a lesser extent - are an exercise in perception, as if Rashomon depicted a few seconds of time instead of a couple of days.  As I think back on this episode, I don't think an on-screen character spoke until Shaiapouf shouted out the King's name (well, his title) in the final several minutes.  All we had were glimpses into their inner thoughts, the unfolding of events as seen through their eyes, and the words of the narrator - a narrator who was our constant companion throughout the episode.  I knew this was coming - it's a legendary part of this arc - but it seems as if Madhouse's call was to trust the audience and leave that part of the story intact.  I'm not sure how they could have avoided it, to be honest.

Rather even than a minute or so, the vast majority of the ep is concerned with what I would guess is no more than 10-15 seconds.  And of course in a situation like this, a second is crucial - the difference between life and death.  There are bookends on either side of this episode that connect it emotionally to the audience, and both come from unlikely sources - the first being Shoot.  As I've said before, I think Shoot understands Killua so well because he and Killua are more alike than any two people in the attack force.  They're both massively powerful fighters who've tended to shy away from life-threatening situations, and carry a great burden of guilt because of it.  They're both plagued by uncertainty at crucial moments.  And they're both possessed of great reserves of character that everyone around them sees, but which they cannot see in themselves.

It's Gon who provides the inspiration to Shoot here in those crucial one or two seconds (and really, that's all we're talking about).  Again, at the risk of repeating myself, we see that Gon is the most reliable of anyone in the main cast at the moment of crisis, because he reacts without fear of being wrong and trusts his instincts (which he damn well should - they're usually spot-on).  When Dragon Dive hits, Kil and Shoot both freeze for a moment - Killua because he recognizes that it's the work of his grandfather (though how exactly is an interesting matter to consider).  But while Kil is frozen in the act of analysis, even just for a crucial moment, Gon is already acting.  Before anyone else - Killua, Shoot, even Morel - Gon has realized that if the invisible Knuckle and Meleoron are taken out by one of the lightning bolts, the others would never know.  And as it was their job to take out Youpi, Gon realizes that his personal grudge with Pitou doesn't matter - it's Youpi that's the priority, and he has to attack.  It's only in seeing Gon's actions that the others come to the same realization, and Shoot to a second one - that it's the inspiration Gon has provided him that's broken the cage he's built around himself, and given him both the courage to face death and the urge to escape it, so that he can express his gratitude.

This is the moment we see play out through many sets of eyes - Killua's Shoot's, Knuckle's, and perhaps most extensively Youpi's.  The narrator informs us that Youpi is unlike the other Royal Guards in that he's created from "magical beasts", and not humans, and that this gives him a single-mindedness and lack of self-preservation instinct that makes him stronger in some sense than the others.  Knuckle and Meleoron have in fact survived, and Knuckle has managed to strike Youpi and use his Hakaware attack.  But when he sees the full measure of Youpi's power, Knuckle feels something of what Knov felt - and wonders if Youpi has so much aura that Potclean is effectively useless, because it would take so long to bankrupt the enemy that the fight would already be over.  And we see the true measure of just what a hideous beast Youpi is as he undergoes a transformation that's the stuff of nightmares.

Simultaneously, another drama is playing out, and it will lead us to the other emotional bookend of the episode, from an even more unlikely source.  Pitou is still in free fall but has assessed the situation, and momentarily frozen the enemy with a blast of En.  As we know, cats always land on their feet - and Pitou coils those feline legs to launch a desperate jump towards the second story of the palace, where the King and his attackers have been spotted.  But a blast of pure negative aura from the King paralyzes Pitou just for a moment (naked, but androgynously so - disappointing anyone who hoped Madhouse would vindicate their opinions about his gender).  No one could be prepared for the strange scene that's playing out inside the palace - not Pitou, not Netero and Zeno, and certainly not the audience.

What has happened to Komugi, I'm not certain - damage from the falling masonry, one of Zeno's dragons - but she's either dead of very gravely wounded.  What's unmistakable is that the King is consumed by grief much more than anger - even Pitou is brought to tears by the sheer power of that grief - and much of this scene is brilliantly depicted in complete silence, with Komugi's blood the only dash of color.  What's also clear is that Zeno is taken aback by how different this is than what he expected to find, and that Netero has chosen to allow the scene to play out rather than strike while the King is grieving over a fallen human girl and ordering (though it comes off as pleading) with Pitou to heal her.  I can only imagine this is a matter of much controversy - it appears Netero has chosen to act on a principle rather than seize the moment to try and complete his mission.  With so much on the line, was this a defensible decision, an act of mercy - or a terrible mistake?

In the moment, it feels very much like the latter - indeed, the Narrator tells us that both Zeno and Netero feel they've committed a fatal error by surrendering the initiative.  The King is eerily calm, showing no signs of rage - he merely suggests that the fight be taken somewhere else, away from Komugi and Pitou, with the quite reasonable supposition that this is certainly to Netero's advantage.  The King has certainly learned to love - I don't think anyone can deny that now - yet it shouldn't be forgotten that he's responsible for countless atrocities already, and is about to initiate the murder of five million people as part of a plan for global conquest.  Even if Pitou is momentarily sidelined we've seen the extent of Youpi's power, and Shaiapouf is about to enter the fray - the notion that Netero and Zeno should have acted without hesitation and seized the advantage is a hard one to argue against, based on the facts at hand.

This episode and the last are, again, all about perception.  And we see over and over again that Killua was right about one very important point - one should never be too confident that things are going to go according to plan.  Over and over again we see the cast being surprised by what they've seen (indeed, it seems as if no one in Morel's party knew what Netero's attack was going to be, which was surely an intentional act on the old man's part) - and the acid test is, how do they react in that moment of surprise?  Do they hesitate or do they act?   With so much at stake the situation still so desperate, it's Netero's decisions this week that seem destined to prove the crucial ones - will he be vindicated, or will his allies - and indeed the world at-large - pay a great price for them?

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28 comments:

  1. Remember when you asked if Gon was a beast? I can answer now, he is a beast!

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  2. Gon's eyes are like black holes...omg.

    Loved the art direction, with the radiant colors and the way characters were outlined in this episode. Probably my second favorite team of animators for the show. I don't actually mind how much they may resort to stills. They've also worked on a number of Blood Lad scenes, which is awesome.

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    1. Just now set that image of Youpi & Gon as my desktop background.

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  3. There was a slight bit of narration cut out at the Pitou crying scene. It more or less stated that when the King asked for her help. She moved to action not knowing why her cheeks were gettiing wet.

    Meruem's sadness along with the fact that he has never asked for the royal guards help like this before. (Even saying I am counting on you) Is probably what made Pitou cry.

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    1. I've read the manga and I actually have a different theory which I realized just while I was watching the episode. I always wondered what those tears meant and I think I can explain it. It involves spoilers of the later eps so I'll share my thought when the time is right, if remember...

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  4. Just did a calculation for the hell of it for how long Knuckle's Potclean will take to exceed his guess at how much Nen Youpi has, and it turns out it would take 84 iterations. And if I remember correctly, each iteration was 10 seconds, so that's 14 minutes if nothing changes. Not very long for mere mortals like us, but that would be about 50 episodes of HxH if it proceeds like this. xD

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    1. Plus he needs to survive 14 minutes of fight with Youpi not just by not dying, but without being hit even once - or part of the debt is repaid and the time extends. While staying in the working range of Hakoware. Even with God's Accomplice, that's quite a feat.

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    2. Of course, these calculations doesn't take into account Youpi's aura expenditure as well as additional loans from Knuckle. It could take less or more depending on how Knuckle and Shoot tackle the current situation.

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  5. one of many things that surprised me from now and on is that I started to cheer for the royal guards and the king,anyone felt the same way?

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  6. In the manga, there's a timer, which shows that the events that took place in this episode actually last even less than 5 seconds.

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  7. That whole episode flew by like it was 1 minute. HxH is like that every week for me. The fastest 22 minutes of anime each week.

    I knew it was coming but it still broke my heart that the one true innocent person in this mess (Komugi) was going to be seriously wounded.

    I'm looking forward to Killua and his Grandfather being reunited. Hopefully Grandpa will be pleased at how his grandson is developing.

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  8. That question of how Killua recognized it was his grandfather's attack is an interesting one, and it ties into something I've been wondering for a while myself. How had Killua not heard of Nen before Heavens Arena? Gon is understandable, considering where he's from; but Kill really seems like he should have already known of it. It feels like an error on Togashi's part.

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    1. I think it's very much concievable that he knew what Nen was by instinct rather than name. Or rather, he didn't know the details behind it, because it does seem pretty unlikely that he wouldn't have seen at least some sort of Nen attack given his family.

      That being said, it's like how without knowing the science behind lightning, it just seems like magic. I mean, people in the old days considered it some sort fo heavenly phenomenon made by the gods or such.

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  9. There was this one moment in HxH that I remember, waaaay back when I decided to read the manga, where just thought "things are going to hell in a handbasket" but in the most excited, stupidly giddy way. And that moment just kind of stuck with me for the rest for the rest of the series (it was back in York Shin when the rest of the Spiders showed up).

    And that's the amazing thing about HxH, it's this actualy buildup of excitement and tension and biting your nails, sitting on the end of your seat wishing it were next week already while you anticipate every single thing in the narrative being shot sky high in the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. It's something that I'd almost forgotten about manga and anime with a lot of the most recent series. It used to be pretty common, but now it just sticks out like a sore thumb (or maybe hits like a wave of fresh air)

    And I think I started taking it for granted somewhere down the line. That Togashi could pull off legitimately surprising but narratively sound twists and turns like there was no tomorrow. I got accustomed to have bombshells dropped and just kind of happily went with the flow. But I forget how many other series just utterly fail in that department. So thanks for existing HxH.

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  10. Killua can manipulate his fingernails. It's possible he views that as a "technique" of some sort. Presumably, he's seen his grandpa's Dragon Dive as just another mysterious technique all his life. It's not as though Killua immediately understood the connection between Hatsus and Nen auras when Wing taught him & Gon the basics. It doesn't seem they need Nen comprehension to understand a move such as that.

    Did Killua say, "Oh, that's grandpa's NEN ability, Dragon Dive!"? No, he simply said, "This is Dragon Dive!" How do you know that Killua even sees it as a Nen ability? Characters have been shown to perceive Nen in the past w/o having their micropyles opened.

    I mean, Zeno was shown YELLING the name out loud in the last episode, for Pete's sake. Killua probably knows about it just from that simple fact.

    (I also read somewhere that, before meeting Gon, Kil would never go so deep into his logical deductions.)

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    1. This was meant as a reply to whemleh, btw.

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    2. I think it's the same way as Hisoka's cards, Both Gon and Killua witnessed it but they didn't know directly it was Nen, They probably though it was some technique like Killua's fingers.

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    3. That seems most likely to me - Killua knew about this mysterious power, but didn't know how to quantify it and had probably never heard it called "Nen".

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    4. But now that i though about it again, didn't killua need to have his micropyles open for him to see the Hatsu? Just like with Kurapika back when he was searching for clients and the lady told him to return when he can "See".

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    5. That's certainly a good point.

      Perhaps Dragon Dive could be a Zoldyck family trade-secret. You never know..

      Zeno himself. or maybe even one of Kil's brothers could have very well explained to him about their grandpa's powers w/o directly telling him that it's Nen, since that could also be in line with each of their characters. (Hunterpedia states that a few of his brothers & mother are manipulation users, so they can even perceive Nen.) Killua has even gone on about info-gathering from his brothers before.

      Remember how Zushi almost accidentally spilled the beans on the basics? It isn't completely taboo for a character to talk about the further Nen concepts to the non-users.

      Either that, or Nen is just too complex for Togashi himself. The series's focus becomes way more story-driven by this point anyway, instead of delving more into Nen battles & the application of the system.

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    6. Or, delving more into Nen application IN battles, I mean to say.

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    7. Killua also went back to the Zoldyck Mansion in order to get those yo-yos, so he could have found out then.

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    8. That'd still be pre-Nen, apparently...OH, I just thought about something else, but it has to do with future events. I'll save it for later.

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    9. Yeah that's more or less the explanation I would have put to it, Killua seeing his family's Nen attacks as some sort of Zoldyck assassination techniques. Hell, dragon's dive may not even be a Nen technique.

      So why does his younger brother already clearly know about (and have plenty of training in) Nen? Surely Killua would have been trained in it by his family? I can answer this one myself..

      Killua is seen as sort of a white sheep by his family, an unprecedented talent they must nurture. But of course, Kill himself has a history of rebelling against his family. It's entirely likely that they would have kept the nature of Nen a secret from him until he had honed his abilities and sense of discipline, in order to maintain some sense of control over him.

      But the thing is, Killua is a very sharp individual. And he'd been on plenty of missions (I think they mentioned him having been, anyway) as an assassin before meeting Gon. And Nen doesn't seem to be a very well kept secret, and when you're doing the type of work Killua did, it seems very unlikely he wouldn't have come across Nen in some form before. And Killua being Killua definitely would have had the means and brains to figure out the nature of Nen.

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    10. There's also the possibility that the Dragon Dive includes bending light in a way that makes it visible even to someone who doesn't know Nen.

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    11. I think Killua should have learned Nen when he was at Heavens Arena at the age of 6. Remember that he said that his father ordered him to retire after reaching the 200th floor? I think at that time his family would teach him Nen so that he can continue to 200th floor onward, but unfortunately, he bailed out at the 199th floor.

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  11. HxH great.

    Inari Kon kon best of the Winter animes. Authentic Kyoto accent, a sweet romance, an interesting premise, proper slice of life, the funniest fall into love interest's underwear ever in anime. You asked if this could shock and surprise you into thinking Winter could be saved. Winter is saved.

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  12. it's killing me to know that i just watched 15s worth of hxh, and having to wait one week for possibly another 15s.

    i'm loving the direction taken in recent episodes, the detail went into it validates the no. of episodes spent on preparation

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