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Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 115 »« Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 113

Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 114

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「ブンダン×ト×ゴサン」 (Bundan × to × Gosan)
“Divide x and x Conquer”

I’m going to the well time after time in trying to sing the praises this series deserves, and all I’m coming up with is pure awe at this point.

So – there goes another 10 seconds. 10 seconds that seemed to encompass a lifetime and 22 minutes that seemed to last 10 seconds. I like this ED theme a lot, but the first strains of it are one of the cruelest sounds in the world, because it means the wait begins again. As writer it’s hard to build up anticipation, but exponentially harder to deliver on it. That Togashi continues to do so time after time while simultaneously moving the goalposts back and extending the torture is truly remarkable. How can he – and Koujina-sensei – keep delivering such incredible payoffs when they’re not even giving us the actual payoffs?

It’s not a shock that this run of episodes has split the Hunter X Hunter fanbase to some extent, because it’s hard to come up with a literary rule that isn’t being broken by it. But the more I watch it unfold the less I can envision it playing out any other way. I’m sold – this is sheer brilliance, unorthodox as it is, and I wouldn’t lose a second of the Narrator’s role if you gave me the chance. What Togashi-sensei is doing shouldn’t work, for so many reasons – and Madhouse should certainly have never adapted it as it was written. But for me it comes down to the fact that you just can’t look at work on this level and apply conventional standards to it. What would be disastrous in lesser hands is transcendent drama here – and Togashi and the anime team have both proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they know exactly what they’re doing.

More than anything else, I found this episode to be indescribably tense. In many ways Knuckle truly was the audience insert character this week, in a more profound and personal way than any anime character I can recall. He was in the same shoes we were – forced to watch helplessly as Shoot was committing a kind of slow-motion (except that in reality it was all happening in a blink) suicide. Because Knuckle is such a relatable character to begin with – such a good guy that it’s acknowledged in the series itself that being too nice is his greatest flaw – one can effortlessly relate to his agony. And of course, share in it.

Once again, the young stars of the series have a very small role to play in the episode, but it’s a memorable one. After Killua has caught up to Gon (in-time after all) and verified his Grandfather’s presence with his own eyes, Zeno summons “Dragon’s Head“. Its sole purpose, it seems, is to take Netero and the King (though not Zeno himself, interestingly) away from the palace so they can fight without collateral damage. In effect there still seems to be a truce between these titans. The King offers no resistance to the change-of-venue – perhaps as an acknowledgement of Netero’s allowing Komugi to be cared for – and Zeno makes it clear his Nen is not being used to attack. Once they’re gone, the boys are left on the rooftop and Gon turns his attention to his own task.

The crucial line of the entire episode, surely, is Gon’s “Iko! (Let’s go!”) to Killua, and Killua’s response (a silent “In what sense did you mean that? If I ask that question, I won’t be able to stop anymore… I won’t be able to go back.”) is fascinating. It’s amazing that in the heart of all this chaos Togashi can deliver such an emotionally devastating moment, but so he does. The depth of Killua’s love for Gon is heartbreakingly apparent here – it’s not so limited as to be defined by doujin-bait innuendo or GAR bromance. This is simple, filial love in the Platonic sense – affection, dedication, friendship, and willingness to sacrifice. It’s what changed Killua’s life, and it’s the backbone of the entire series.

So why is Killua so crestfallen at this moment, when Gon utters those words? Is he aching because Gon seems to have transcended himself in the moments since this final battle began, leaving Killua behind in his world of self-doubt and hesitation? Is it because Killua fears that Gon has accepted the notion that he might die in support of this cause, and while Killua could accept his own death – if his life was given to help his friend – the one thing he could never live with is Gon’s? I suspect it’s some of both, and more – and it’s truly astounding that just as Togashi can pack endless drama into a few seconds of elapsed time, he can instill so much depth of emotion and so much hidden meaning in a short, simple phrase. I’ve spent three paragraphs on two words (one in the original Japanese) and barely scratched the surface.

If you can look at Killua’s face as he watches Gon’s back in the distance (Killua is always fated to follow Gon and never catch him, it seems – in his own mind at least) and feel no pain, you’ve a stern heart, indeed. Killua and Gon each have moments where they reveal themselves to be not monsters but the emotionally fragile children they are, and this is one such moment. And it must be said, if this one small passage illustrates Togashi’s genius as well as any can, it also shows us just how superlative this adaptation has been. The way Gon and then Killua are framed, Killua’s face, the pitch-perfect music (“To Give a Marionette Life”) and the Narrator’s voice with the emotion of the moment just creeping in at the edges – I’m astonished that anyone would want the tiniest element of it changed. It’s perfect – profound and powerful and simple and elegant. This is what anime should strive to be.

And it’s just a sliver of everything that’s happening in this episode, all over the palace. I felt every blow Shoot was taking from Youpi, and agonized with Knuckle as he watched his friend slowly dying. When Knuckle reacted with shock at the realization that only ten seconds had passed, I did too. Knuckle is someone who would agonize if he had to watch his worst enemy suffer and could do nothing to help – imagine how it feels to watch his closest friend. Meanwhile Meleoron is quite fittingly holding his breath, because it feels as if we are too. The sheer monstrosity of Youpi is so tangible here, even if he isn’s “evil” in the conventional sense. He absorbs the attacks of Shoot and Knuckle and relentlessly attacks, displaying still more deadly abilities. His only weakness, it seems, is that uncertainty unsettles him – and he doesn’t understand the nature of his enemy here. In the end, it’s a relief when Knuckle finally reveals himself, even if it seems to be an unwise decision – how could this good man possibly stand by and do nothing while Shoot died right in front of him (and he still might, after all that)?

As all this is happening – literally, as these 10 seconds are repeated from different perspectives – Cheethu and Brovada catch up with Ikalgo-Flutter. Cheethu is easily distracted like the attention-deficit child he is, and chases off after Zeno’s Dragon’s Head like a cat chasing a ball of yarn. But Brovada catches a slip-up by Ikalgo – he refers to “Hagya-sama”, when in fact that Ant now calls himself Leol. And so does Welfin, who as I predicted is watching secretly rather than interfering, no doubt trying to ascertain how to play this for his own advantage.

Meanwhile Morel and Shaiapouf continue their staredown, Morel carefully not breathing in any of Pouf’s scales and refusing to utter a word, and Pouf using his “Spiritual Message” ability to measure his enemy’s state of mind. We have a fascinating scenario where both Shoot/Knuckle and Youpi have the same goal – keeping each other away from the King – but Pouf simply wants to rid himself of this enemy and return to his beloved master’s side ASAP. To do so he reveals his own previously unknown ability, some sort of pupa or chrysalis that will no doubt open to reveal an even more powerful and dangerous foe – but Morel has ice in his veins if anyone does, and is happy enough to be stalemated for the moment if it means keeping Shaiapouf out of the game.

So many fronts, so much tension. I would equate Togashi’s style in these big moments (and this, surely, is the biggest) with earthquakes. Each of these fronts is like a seismic hot spot, the tension building as the plates creep past each other, destructive energy building up that will surely be released in a spectacular and harrowing display of geothermal power. Things don’t move quickly at these fault lines but the buildup of energy is huge, and it has to be released sooner or later. Yes, Togashi is taking entire chapters to lay out a few seconds of time – but he’s in no hurry because he knows the moment all stored tension is released will be truly awe-inspiring.

I must close this week with some very sad news. Nagai Ichirou, the 82 year-old actor who plays Netero in this version of H x H, passed away on Monday. He died in his hotel room in Hiroshima, where he was recording narration for a local TV production. In purely practical terms it seems likely that most of Netero’s dialogue for the rest of this arc has already been recorded – what Madhouse will do if that’s not the case remains to be seen. But the main point is that this is a great loss for anime – Nagai-san was one of the greats, with memorable turns in Ranma 1/2 and the eponymous TV hit Sazae-san among his hundreds of roles. His Netero, of course, has been utterly brilliant and will stay with us forever – but I’ll also remember Nagai for one of his final roles, as the alien ramen oji-san in Space Dandy. It seems a fitting sort of epilogue for the great man’s career. Nagai-san will be missed, but his amazing body of work will provide a legacy that will last as long as anime.

 

Preview

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January 29, 2014 at 3:43 am
14 comments »
  • January 29, 2014 at 4:25 amMisk

    R.I.P. Nagai Ichirou

    And it seems like the voice actor of Bleach’s Yamamoto (among others), Masaaki Tsukada, has passed away as well, according to ANN. :( Two great losses in such short time.

    Onto the episode, I loved it, but which episode of HxH I didn’t love? Seriously. Gon and Killua’s moment was hearbreaking. I even played the soundtrack several times after being done with the episode and listened to it again as I was reading your blog post (lol).

    It seems like Zeno ditched Netero but then I realized it was made clear that Zeno had been hired just to separate the King from his Guards. I wonder if he’s fully out of action now or he’ll take on some of the remaining ants.

    I actually found Pouf’s action interesting as it seems like he’s gonna ‘evolve’ or something like that. Since he already represented a butterfly, I wonder what he’s gonna turn into.

    And finally, Knuckle and Shoot. I totally love Shoot’s development in the last few episodes. He’s turned into totally awesome character so for a moment, I was afraid seeing him falling down, thank god Knuckle couldn’t stand just watching. This shall be epic.

    All in all, an awesome episode. Though I can’t help myself to ponder week after week that we probably have enough material to keep the anime going only till the end of the year. Togashi, don’t let us down :(

    O and thanks for your post, Enzo :)

    • January 29, 2014 at 5:08 amGuardian Enzo

      You’re very welcome. But I’m afraid there’s nowhere near enough material to keep the anime going until the end of the year (even assuming the production committee wants to) if they follow the manga faithfully. The consensus seems to be the rest of this cour and one more to follow, more or less.

      • January 29, 2014 at 5:41 amMisk

        Well, I actually don’t read manga but I heard there’s more or less 20 episodes left till the end of the arc if the pace of 2/3 chapters per episode continue. I know there’s one more arc after that, I don’t know how long it is but I figured it could last till the end of the year… Oh well.

  • January 29, 2014 at 5:11 amthedarktower

    I was under the impression that this week episode gonna end with Gon finally reaching his destination and confronting Pito. but I guess HxH isn’t in such a hurry (although Gon sure is).
    even if that didn’t happen, we still got such a great episode emphasizing other aspects.

    first, the whole dynamic with Knuckle’s emotions toward Shoot and all. it was really fantastic. seeing it animated with all the atmosphere..that’s really conveyed Knuckle’s emotions to me. only 10 seconds barely passed and he watched Shoot fighting (and beaten) with all he’s got against that monster Youpi. time is running so slow, the “bankrupt” ability is progressing so slowly…that was so hard for Knuckle, and man I felt his pain. hard, but so beautifully executed. one can not to have affection toward Knuckle and Shoot for giving all they got. (side note: that was great thinking of shoot to land a mental blow to Youpi with stealing his eye on the shoulder. although almost no physical damage, mental damage is even more important sometimes. and damn that was a good one).

    Pouf examined Morel pretty accurately, and Morel played the game pretty good, remaining calm and silent. Pouf sure taking his time. on the one hand it’s for Morel’s favor since he only wants to stall Pouf. on the other hand, who know what he is hiding there…waiting to burst. he is a royal guard..so his power is probably on par with Pito/Youpi….

    another area is the remaining Chimera ant. Welfin smells like trouble…moreover, Cheethu returned to the game. he can be a big hindrance…at least Ikalgo isn’t wasting too much time and is on the move.

    all in all, we are here for Gon and Killua. eagerly waiting for that rematch with Pito. but in the meanwhile Togashi is providing us another one of those rare moments. it’s a moment for us to…experience the so rare and complex friendship between the two, as each of them is kinda the anchor for the other. and that moment is only a bit of the whole complexity as we’ve seen ever since HxH has begun..the test, Zoldyck family arc, and all. in this very episode,I skipped back 2 or 3 times in order to truly grasp that scene. but this is a moment which its hidden meaning is something so..distinguish and unique in that way it’s hard to truly grasp it on itself. combining all what they have been through since the beginning, especially the hardships of this arc (Gon with Kaito’s loss, and Killua who learned so much about himself and change ever since NGL and putting that needle out). that is the material that made the series…its uniqueness and true essence.

    the tension is rising up. earth quack and destructive power is only part of the ways to enhance it. we are still in the climax (in its beginning) that lasts so long (weekly it’s long…number of eps in total will also be quite a lot eventually) but still haven’t reached the peak. we are climbing up the hill. and man…climbing upon HxH’s hill is a tough road, but so enjoying, so beautiful (like Onoda’s climbing).

    Nagai Ichirou, indeed one of the great ones.
    too bad it’s now before Netero’s striking moments. if everything has already been recorded, then it’s for the best, but if they’ll need something, there is no choice but for bring another VA..and it’s too unfortunate..HxH gonna end this year (most likely) and replacing now, and for a short time…that’s too bad. but this stuff happens…
    I wonder how he was as Netero in HxH 2nd movie (the last mission).
    great VA. RIP.

  • January 29, 2014 at 11:07 amEamonX

    Looks like things aren’t exactly going to plan. Hiring Zeno seemed to not make a difference seeing as they lost their advantage the moment Netero allowed the King a moment of respite.

    But that moment where Shoot avoided a near certain-death was bloody tense. And then it seemed like Youpi was about to deliver the final blow and Knuckle, being the BRO he is, exposed himself in order to distract Youpi.

    I find it interesting. Wasn’t Meleoron’s plan for Knuckle to deliver a fatal blow to the King using God’s Accomplice. Yet he’s completely occupied with dealing with Youpi. It seems like the APR will take ages before Youpi becomes bankrupt. But this is HxH and you never really know what will happen next and how it will shock you.

    • January 29, 2014 at 4:31 pmGuardian Enzo

      I think hiring Zeno made a big difference. It seems to me the plan was to use Dragon Dive to create havoc and separate the King from the Royal Guard, and to use Dragon Head to get Netero and the King in a one-on-one battle with no help for the King and less chance for collateral damage. And that’s exactly what he’s done. I don’t think Zeno was ever going to take part in the battle itself.

      • January 30, 2014 at 1:11 pmEamonX

        Hmm, I had presumed Zeno would be assisting Netero and giving him support in the battle with the King. Of course, Zeno was also hired to use Dragon Dive to separate to create havoc but it doesn’t really keep the Royal Guard away – that job was always going to be done by the other hunters.

        So in reality, the only thing Zeno helped Netero with was creating an opening for Netero to strike the King without him being on full alert.

  • January 29, 2014 at 11:30 amL002

    I am a bit lost, Why did the big lion changed his name from Hangya to Leol. It seems like the octo- I mean squid has made a mistake that the lobster and the wolf found out. But does anyone know why did the Lion change his name from Hangya to Leol.

    Anyway, it seems that Zeno may not take part of the battle with the king. I was so looking forward to team Zeno and Netero, much like Zeno and his son, fight together against the King, but I am afraid that won’t occur.

    As for the Royal Guards. It is a realy shame the Spiders didn’t get to fight one of them. That would have been really good to watch, seeing how the Spiders looked so disatisfied with killing a fake queen.

    No for Gon, initially I had always thought Gon to be the same as Haru Glory (rave master) and Recca (flame of recca), with their firm cheesy policy on not to kill, but Gon seems to be very different. For starters, when Killia killed Jones, during the Trick Tower part of the hunter exam, Gon neither reacted much nor did he say something like “you shouldn’t have killed him” to Killia. But as the Chimera arc pressed on, Gon now seems to hold no regret for killing the Chimera Ants, after learning the fact that all the Chimera ants he killed were likely human once upon a time. As far as I am concerned, Gon seems to accept things on a realistic view, making no arguement with Kite as Gon tells him he should kill. Anyway, though I do hope Komugi will be saved, I do wonder if Gon will kill Pitou. While Gon didn’t want Kurapika to kill any of the Spiders, I will wonder if Gon will kill Pitou out of revenge and then gain a good understanding of Kurapika.

    • January 30, 2014 at 3:24 amKaZuHiRo

      Hagya was the name given by the queen to the lion chimera ant. As more of the human personalities on the ants surfaces, the bolder the decisions of the chimera ants become. These decisions, such as killing human for sport, retreating on a losing battle and forming tactics are the “human qualities” of a certain ant. Hagya’s memories were of a lion but somewhere deep inside there is a human character that was overpowered by the lion character. He deliberately chose to name himself as “Leol” in an act of independence towards the dead queen. Only a few Chimera ants know of the name change, and Ikalgo being under a different squad, does not know the Hagya no calls himself as Leol.

      • January 30, 2014 at 1:13 pmEamonX

        Yeah I was also confused into a did a little wikia-research. I don’t think the anime properly explained to the viewer about the name change. Or it happened so long ago we all forgot.

      • January 30, 2014 at 10:34 pmGuardian Enzo

        I think it was implied rather than explicitly stated and it was never a major focus, but I felt as if they communicated what the reason was.

  • January 29, 2014 at 5:41 pmBoorgerTrooper

    When was the last news about the end of the manga’s hiatus? Every week I become more and more frustrated seeing how close we are to the manga.

    • January 29, 2014 at 6:00 pmGuardian Enzo

      There was a bogus report back in November, but in terms of actual news from Shueisha there’s been nothing whatsoever. The fact is that even if Togashi were able to re-start the manga tomorrow, the anime would still catch up and need to take a year-long break at the very least – and that’s even assuming the money people wanted to continue it.

      • January 30, 2014 at 2:04 pmEamonX

        I’m just praying that Togashi and MADHOUSE struck some sort of deal where he’s actually continuing the story without drawing for MADHOUSE.

        Although that seems very unlikely. It really is weird how the manga has been gone for years, and with the fact the anime is close to completion; no news at all about what’s going to happen next.