Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hunter X Hunter 2011 - 115

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Watching this arc really is the agony and the ecstasy...

I wrote a lot about last week's episode, and I suspect next week's is going to be impossible not to likewise discuss at length - so I feel as if I really need to control myself now.  In my defense there's just so much here - the amount of psychology, strategy, tension and pure emotion in a single ep of Hunter X Hunter at the moment is more than most series could dream of generating in their entire run.  There's no part of this scenario that's too small for Togashi's attention, no character not worth exploring, and no short-cuts taken to get to the headlines faster.

I wouldn't change any of that, but I do recognize there's a downside to this approach - the gut-wrenching waits between episodes.  I feel your pain - quite literally.  I get why some viewers are impatient with an episode like this one, but on balance for me it's exactly how I'd want it because I want to savor this experience as long as possible.  I want to understand what's happening in every corner of every room, what every character is thinking and feeling.  And Togashi-sensei and Madhouse seem hell-bent on making sure that's exactly what happens.

After last week's brutal cliffhanger, it only makes sense that we'd spend an episode largely focused on Meleoron and Welfin.  This is pure Togashi, because he steadfastly refuses to take the story where you'd expect it to go.  The guy's writing is out where the buses don't run, and mere mortals would be fools to even attempt to copy his style (which is why, I'd argue, that surprisingly few have tried despite his huge commercial success).  Rather than focusing on the main pair, Togashi doesn't even take us to the "1-A" tier with Netero and the King or Knuckle and Youpi (though we get a touch-base there) - he once again goes another level out, spending most of the episode on Meleoron and Welfin.  It's crazy, surely.

But it's not - because these are fascinating characters in their own right, with fully-developed psychological profiles that are essential to understanding the overall story.  One thing that strikes me in watching this episode is that each of the Chimera Ants, even the most powerful, has one essential character flaw that makes them vulnerable.  Is this an intentional comment by Togashi on their genesis, foreshadowing of the ending of the arc - or do the humans in the story more subtly (and not always that) share the same flaw?  With Youpi, it's his simplicity - as with all the ants, their weakness is also a strength.  Youpi isn't easily distracted by shiny things like Pitou or a slave to his emotions like Pouf, but his direct, battering ram style is vulnerable to attacks which rely on other means for their potency.  He rages at what he can't understand, and at those who would fight him without taking him on directly.  This makes him rash - we've already seen it - and in that sense Knuckle and Shoot are well-matched opponents for him to the extent that anyone could be, given his terrifying pure power.

With Welfin, once again we see the strength and weakness entangled to the extent that they're inseparable.  As the Narrator tells us his very nature is his suspicion, right down to his "Missile Man" Nen ability.  Welfin is wonderful at "sniffing out" treachery and danger, whip-smart - but he's also too calculating by half and sees threats where there are none because if it were him, he'd always be planning some sort of treachery so why wouldn't everyone else?  This hyper-sensitivity and naked ambition causes him to hesitate where action is called for.  He's incredibly dangerous, for all the reasons Meleoron says, but also his own worst enemy.  I'm suspicious that he'd really consider going over to the other side as suggested in this episode, but I do think the notion gives him yet another reason to be hesitant in his actions.

This entire conflict cannot be framed in a conventional good guys vs. bad guys context, which is one of the many reasons it's pure genius.  But if there's a major difference I see between the two sides here, ironically it's that the Hunters (and their new allies) are more cohesive as a unit than the hive-mind ants.  All of these attackers are dedicated to each other, and to their cause.  Knuckle sheds tears because he sees Shoot being slowly destroyed by Youpi; Meleoron because he cannot stop to help Shoot when it might endanger the overall goal.  Ikalgo dedicates himself to finding Palm because although he's never met her, she's a friend - because she's Killua and Gon's friend, and because she risked her life to try and defeat the King.  For all the loyalty of the Royal Guard to the King, the Chimera are a bit of a mess - each caught up in their own world, and at the level below the R.G. a tangle of confused loyalties.  And even the Royal Guard themselves are basically fighting independently at the moment, to some extent dancing to the Hunters' tune.  It's ironic that humans - and ant turncoats - should be more loyal and acting with more cohesion than ants.  But so it seems to be.

And then we have Gon and Killua, once again only a small part of the overall narrative in terms of screen time.  But those short moments cast long shadows, and linger as the most significant of the episode when thinking back on it.  What did Zeno see in Killua's eyes that told him, "He's changed"?  He certainly has - his loyalty to Gon, and his transcendence of the chains Illumi placed on him (though the psychological effects are clearly still being felt).  Zeno's job is indeed done here - his role was to create the chaos that separated the King from his Royal Guard, and to give Netero his single combat at a remote location with few innocents in harm's way.  He's been paid, and he (apparently) leaves - but clearly, seeing Killua was an emotionally significant moment for the old man.  Would some part of Zeno, who lives by the mercenary code of the professional killer for hire, want to stay and help his grandson in his own struggle, which is not for financial reward but for the sake of those he cares about?  I suspect the answer is yes.

I can't help but notice that we've seen much more of Killua's face than Gon's these last few episodes, and it's no coincidence.  Gon has mostly been seen in shadow, in profile, from the back - as Killua might see him - because he's become a remote figure to us just as he has to Killua.  This is the element of the "Let's go!" aftermath that I should have touched on last week and didn't - in addition to all the other reasons for his melancholy that I cited, he's clearly worried that the Gon he loves more than anyone in the world is changing, becoming a stranger to him.  More than for anyone else in the Hunters' attacking party, this has become personal for Gon, and Killua certainly recognizes that.

Facing off against the terrifying Pitou is bad enough, but it's now obvious that Togashi has also set this up as a battle against himself for Gon (likewise, a frightening opponent).  The purity of his own feelings, his seeming incorruptibility, may be working against him here, and the rage over the injustice of what the King is planning and what Pitou has done to Kaitou transforming into hatred.  For most of the series we've seen Killua battle against himself as Gon's unimpeachable solidity acted like True North on a compass, guiding his friend whenever he was lost.  Now, it seems, we may at long last be seeing the time come for that debt to be repaid - for Killua to provide the anchor to keep his friend and brother from drifting off course, the hand to grasp and pull him back from the darkness.  It should be a beautiful and terrible thing to watch play out, and I suspect that drama is going to begin in earnest next week.

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16 comments:

  1. Next week I can't wait. It's possibly my favorite scene in the manga coming up.

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  2. I wonder if we will even see the fight with Pitou NEXT week? Gon has to notice Pitou is operating on the girl. It would do a real bad screwjob on Gon's mind if he attacks and the girl dies.

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  3. The things we will se from Gon in coming episodes (I won't even hint so as not to spoil anything) are what really make him one of the (if not hands down the top) best battle shounen MC ever. The depth given to him beyond the stereotypical dumb but consistently righteous and kind MCs you see so often. Even in previous arcs he's always had this violent streak and a sense that he shares the same love for fighting a worthy opponent that Hisoka has (albeit in a far less hilariously creepy way). He loves to fight and test himself just for the fun of it, and he does have a bit of a mean streak to go along with hi pure innocent side, and it's that combo that makes him so much fun to watch!

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  4. I wonder if Zeno wanted to Killua he's proud of him or something. There is just so much in that one scene that could of been said.

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  5. Hell. In. A. Handbasket.

    And I am going to love every moment of it. *munches on popcorn*

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  6. Your analysis there about humans being more ant-like is spot-on. Clearly, this irony is intentional and has been built up the whole time.

    Btw last night after watching this episode, I spent my time quickly going through the chapters in manga, and I was surprised by the number of hiatus Togashi went through! And everytime he came back, they'd make a colored front page with the caption "BACK FROM HIATUS!!!". Seriously, it was probably like a big news for the magazine at the time, but seeing all those consecutively really cracked me up.

    Oh and they censored the middle finger. I didn't know Japan cared.

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  7. Episode 115 skipped all of chapters 274 and 275, covering the events in chapter 276 instead. So to anyone who's reading the manga chapters after watching the anime, if you don't want to be spoiled, DO NOT read chapters 274 or 275 before watching episode 116 next week.

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  8. I need next week to come like yesterday :,D. I have a couple of ideas for what's gonna happen in that room but we'll see. Even more than Gon's face in the clear Pitou's reaction was... promising. And talking of promises he/she/it too has one to keep... and someone to protect. If Killua is fast enough to put the pieces together - Zeno's words this episode seem quite a giant
    'Think think THINK before acting' to the boy(s?) imho - to reach Gon's reason I wouldn't exclude some kind of deal/truce/negotiation/bargain. Actually the more I think about it the more I'm positive it will happen. The how long it will take and at what price though... eh I'm ready to be surprised. And this might be me projecting but if you're in Gon's current state the backlash of his frustration could be huge. If so my Kil's is in for being hurt in the kokoro :,).
    Back to the other players... I had been wondering about the possibly rotting smell of Flutter's moving corpse and the thonged one noticed. Ah Togashi, you really take care of every single detail you brain of awesome you. What happened to Palm indeed too? What have you done to her? *Fear*
    Also the layers! The.Layers.
    And more BroTears, just not to miss a thing chez Togashi. Next week now please?

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    1. P.S.: batter safe than sorry ---- I'm not asking for spoilers ----. Please don't confirm or deny a thing - have mercy both of anime watchers and of the unspoiled blogger too - . Thanks a bunch with Ant jellies on top :,D.

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    2. Yeah I'm a little worried Gon's gonna jan-ken-pon Pitou's lights out before s/he can finish operating on Komugi. Komugi's fate more than likely rests in Killua's quick thinking.

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    3. Gon has never seen Doctor Blythe, has he? Given what he has seen, wouldn't a logical assumption in his shoes be that Pitou is performing some hideous experimentation on an innocent human?

      Based on Pitou's reaction to the King's order, I assume he's going to prioritize protecting Komugi over any kind of attack on Gon. That said, we've been given the impression that while using Dr. Blythe he's pretty defenseless, so it should be an interesting moment to say the least.

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    4. Your interpretations of this series range from wildly off-base to spot on with each passing week and I love every second of it.

      Almost as much as I love seeing your reactions to both of the above~

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    5. That's why I'm counting on Killua here :,D, Gon would (is) most likely to see Pitou and unknown innocent girl together and get a Kaito flashback right then and there and well... does anybody smell a berserk button here?
      Pitou's healing ability does leave him vulnerable and he/she/it can't really wrench away Blythe's fingertools to at least shield himself... I think - he would risk harming Komugi in the process, yeah? - so I think Kil will have to be quick to stop his friend in bloody hatred mode there... and be ready to be branded a traitor, even if just for an instant (let's put it like this: have you ever felt a hatred so deep towards a person for whatever reason, the feeling piling up and festering for a certain amount of time... then just when revenge is in your grasp... they take it away from you. Whoever stops you in that moment regardless of how good and sensible his motives are for doing so feels like.a.traitor. to the person ). And well Pitou would be interested in keeping Komugi safe so indeed... if he can't fight he needs be sure he can keep using Blythe on the girl. It doesnt look to me like he's remotely done healing her so he needs time. To gain time at least. Or rather to bargain for it.
      Of course Togashi might have other and much better plans :,D. It's should be one hell of situation to witness in any case. In Yoshihiro we trust 8D.

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    6. The scene when Gon see's Pitou in there is arguably the best non fight scenes in the arc, and definitely the best Gon scene in the arc so far. And with the way they've done the series so far, there's no reason to think the anime version wil be anything less than perfect.

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  9. Man, I really like that ED, but I hate hearing it start.

    Normally, I'd hate this sort of narrative where the action seems to slow to a halt and we move by inches through each episode, but it's really working for me here. I think you said it yourself at some point, but while it seems like very little happens per episode, there is so much going on that there isn't a single second wasted. I don't think it could be done any other way, and I wouldn't want it to be.

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