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Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 127 »« Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 125

Hunter X Hunter 2011 – 126

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「ゼロ × ト × ローズ」 (Zero × to × Rouzu)
“Zero × And × Rose”

To try and do justice to “Chimera Ant” – how can it be done? At the moment I can only think to borrow the words of Dave Eggers – it is indeed a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

I’m pretty much incoherent after that whopper of an episode, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t make a lot of sense. It was a broadside of incredible power – a story full of imagery that’s totally apropos to the matter of the people who created it. The work Madhouse did here is self-apparent – but I’m equally in awe of the mind that envisioned the scenario behind it. The way all the pieces fit together, the way nothing and no one is forgotten and unimportant… As I said, I’m just about incoherent. I do know this much – if you see this only as a great action episode and a “payoff” without the understanding that everything that led up to it was absolutely essential to making it the powerhouse it was, you’re seeing only the thinnest outer layer of what makes Hunter X Hunter great. The muscle, sinew and bone of this series is the development that brought us to this point.

If you’ve been in a cave for the last couple of days, you may not have heard the announcement that the Hunter X Hunter manga is returning (with the June 2 issue of Weekly Shounen Jump). Yes, it’s official this time and no, I won’t stop you from making the inevitable snarky complaints about how Togashi will probably just go on hiatus again in July (though rest assured, you may think you’re amusing but no one else does). The implications for the anime are very interesting indeed, but that’s probably a matter for a dedicated post – for now it’s really about enjoying the moment and focusing on the incredible episode we’ve just received.

The timing does force the issue on a couple of points, though, at least for me. First off, I do worry about how Togashi could possibly top this arc. And second, what we’re seeing play out is a further reminder than complaints about his output are utterly misguided. However long it took him to create “Chimera Ant”, rest assured – there’s not another mangaka who could have done it. Togashi has left shounen convention in the rearview mirror a long time ago (and clearly, some have never forgiven him for it) and what he’s doing with this arc is too soaring and ambitious to be constrained by the simple notion of subverting genre conventions. This is a great drama, transcendent of any genre or demographic classification whatsoever. Any label you stick on it is irrelevant – it’s singular. It’s not shounen, it’s not seinen, it’s not post-shounen, it’s Hunter X Hunter. It’s Togashi. And Madhouse.

I’m very, very reluctant to try and dig into the deeper meaning of what we saw – or to try and reconcile it with a certain theatrical film whose timeline was never 100% verified (if it exists in the manga canon at all). It will simply invite a flood of spoilers, some tagged, some disguised as jokes or hints, some just laid out for all to see. I have my own notions about all that, but I’m going to stick mostly to what we saw on screen and the symbolism of it. First, there’s the fight itself, which faced the unenviable task of having to live up to the better part of 40 episodes of build-up. Maybe there will be someone out there who feels dissatisfied with the art and animation here, but it’s hard to see why. Madhouse has nailed all the big fights – Gon vs. Hisoka at Heaven’s Arena, Gon and Killua vs. the Phantom Troupe in their hideout, the Dodgeball game. Maybe there was a tiny doubt on the grounds that this was the most important action scene since the shift to late-night, but there was clearly no need for it. This was jaw-droppingly epic.

As always with Hunter X Hunter, though, the one constant is the psychological subtlety and complex character dynamics. They’re what makes up most of the series and they don’t take five when the fights start – rather, Togashi weaves them into every blow parried and landed. Always, our opinion of the King is changing and evolving. As Netero unleashes his power against him, the King feels only admiration – this is truly a human who exceeded anything he thought was possible. It’s not simply his assessment of humans that Meruem (and we can safely call him that now) must reassess – it’s the limitations of individuality itself. As always, identity is at the core of “Chimera Ant” right down to the cellular level.

In effect, both Meruem and the audience are being set up for a sucker punch here. We see Netero clearly exceeding anything we’ve seen from a human in this series. Yet Meruem has an answer for him at every turn. That his initial barrage of attacks leave “barely a scratch” is unsurprising, even to Netero. He has other weapons up his sleeve, but Meruem is unshakeable. Here Togashi brilliantly ties in the Gungi matches with Komugi, with Meruem using the insight that experience gave him to deduce the seemingly indecipherable pattern in Netero’s unrelenting attacks (thousands of them), the unconscious bias revealing itself – ingeniously illustrated to his metaphor of “finding one needle among millions, and threading it”. It should be noted that if Meruem was able to do so in fighting against Netero, but was never able to do so well enough to defeat Komugi at Gungi – what the hell does that say about her skill and intelligence, at least where that game is concerned?

For every move Netero makes, Meruem has an answer – and he has nothing but praise and admiration for his opponent. His only wish? That the “old soldier” won’t die before he’s able to finish the battle. It’s a brutal thing to see – as usual Togashi spares nothing for the squeamish. First Meruem takes Netero’s right leg, but the old man is unbowed. He uses his Nen to stop the bleeding and steps up the pace of his attacks. “Next I will take your left arm” (nice callback to Gungi there) he promises – and after weathering another dizzying array of attacks he keeps his word. He then sits down in his Gungi position and praises Netero still further, assuming the fight is over. As Netero’s blood noisily spatters to the stone with every heartbeat Meruem demands to be told his name, but Netero only smiles – again – and asks “Do you think it takes two hands to pray? Prayer comes from the heart.”

Here is another awe-inspiring display of the exquisite and intricate structure of this story – the message in the Kanji on Netero’s shirt, and that previously unexplained (surely you didn’t forget about it, did you?) moment when Killua saw and felt something, and promptly turned his heel and ran in the other direction. This is Netero’s “Zero Hand”, surely the last full measure of his devotion – an attack that creates a Buddha which encompasses the enemy in “indiscriminate love” but requires all of Netero’s life force to execute. It leaves him a frail, wasted shell, as if all of his years were called due in an instant, on the verge of death. And still, it isn’t enough. A few scratches this time, yes – but Meruem is barely bloodied and wholly unbowed, having absorbed a blow far greater than any he thought humans capable of inflicting and still walked away from it.

Here, though, Netero – and Togashi – spring the last trap. First we have Meruem proving that for all that he’s seemingly evolved, Netero was absolutely right in his belief that the King’s worldview was incompatible with any acceptable future. He bemoans that humans weaken the “bonds” between ants and thus are not a good food source, and that they will be allowed to live on in a “restricted zone” – the number to be used for food to be “reevaluated”. He speaks to the his superiority over Netero as a function of evolution – he’s the living embodiment of everything that his species has built towards, and of all their hopes – and Netero is only one man. Individuality is, in Meruem’s eyes, a weakness – and indeed, we’ve seen the impact it’s had on his species both positively and negatively. But Netero proves the resiliency, desperation and ruthlessness of the human animal in the end – the act of an individual acting as a member of his species. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to win this without sacrificing someone.”

The “Miniature Rose” seems a prosaic way to bring an end to this positively Shakespearean struggle between these two titans – a bomb, a crude and indiscriminate weapon of destruction beloved by despots and terrorists. Again, I’m reluctant to dig too deep here with much still to be revealed – but at the very least, it’s a lesson to Meruem that human individuality breeds seemingly endless resourcefulness, that in the end the human race is nothing if not unpredictable. There was no beauty in what Netero did, no delicacy, not even Nen – a man who spent a decade in prayer and deprivation honing the most enlightened weapon in human history using the most brutal and ugly weapon imaginable to win the day. But he did what he had to do – which is what he’d been planning from the beginning, and in that there is a kind of cruel beauty, and nobility. Meruem’s last thought before the explosion – along with experiencing fear for the the first time – was a simple one: “He had me in checkmate all along.”

“If there’s a Hell, I’ll see you there.” is how Netero leaves the scene – a frank self-assessment of the life he’s led and the choices he’s made. I recall Knov saying a little while back that “it doesn’t matter what the Royal Guard does – they’ll be too late” or words to that effect – clear evidence that he and Morel (and likely only he and Morel, I’m thinking, apart from Zeno) knew of this plan all along. There are other shoes hanging by a thread, and I’m not making any assumptions about what doors have been closed by what’s happened here – but I am, simply, in awe of the way it was brought to life. It was brilliant, a marriage of shock and awe with poetry, brutality with nobility. Of course I regret deeply that we’ll never get to hear how Nagai Ichirou would have seen Netero to this point – that, surely, is how it should have been. But Banjou Ginga truly proved himself a worthy successor here, under the most demanding of circumstances. As with so much else with Hunter X Hunter, I can offer only my admiration and respect for the talent and dedication to craft on display here.

 

Preview

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April 23, 2014 at 3:15 am
54 comments »
  • April 23, 2014 at 3:22 amCrook

    The latter half of the episode was so powerful that I still found myself thinking ‘Holy fu–’ even after having read the manga.

  • April 23, 2014 at 3:35 amMisk

    I give up on trying to come up with superlatives that would be able to describe how I feel after watching this show every week. Every episode is so intense that I cannot imagine how the next one can top it for me, yet it does. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

  • April 23, 2014 at 3:48 amFermi

    Toward the end of the episode, Banjou Ginga seems to channel Death itself.

  • April 23, 2014 at 3:55 amKomugod

    I love how all those Gungi games actually enhance Meruem’s martial prowess.

    • April 23, 2014 at 5:25 ama box like Hippo

      I wish Gungi was a real game, cause I’d totally play that. I guess I’l have to settle for Shogi.

      • April 23, 2014 at 5:42 amIndividuo

        I bet not even Togashi himself knows the Gungi rules.

      • April 23, 2014 at 5:52 amGuardian Enzo

        Knowing his obsession with detail, I wouldn’t be shocked if he has them written out in detail on bar napkins.

      • April 23, 2014 at 6:08 ama box like Hippo

        @Enzo, that would be so great if one day Togashi puts Gungi together. I’d accept another hiatus for that. Make it happen Togashi!

      • April 23, 2014 at 6:08 amIndividuo

        But probably he doesn’t remember where he left them.

      • April 23, 2014 at 8:25 amGinga

        Don’t worry, he wrote down where he put the napkin on another napkin.

      • April 23, 2014 at 8:46 amIndividuo

        Which he also forgot.
        OK, I’ll stop.

  • April 23, 2014 at 3:59 amShootPointBlank

    While watching the whole episode, all I kept thinking was “This show. This f*cking show.”

    I remember that a while back, Meruem said that brute force is the strongest ability. And for a while there, he was almost right. No nen-powered attack could touch him. And its true that humans are far from the strongest species. We don’t have claws. No armored plating. No venomous fangs. But what we do have is our own ingenuity. Brutal, sometimes ugly, but creative ingenuity. And that always, ALWAYS, trumps brute force in the end.

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:02 amLGrey

    So … I guess in Hunter X Hunter universe, Nen power is not always above man-made contraption? Different, indeed. I mean, you don’t see anyone defeated by guns or modern weapons in Dragonball Z, right?

    I suddenly remember the earlier episode when Kurapika’s mentor mentioning that it would be pointless to conjure a very strong sword – just buy a real sword already! :D

    • April 23, 2014 at 6:00 amkamen rider Dragon

      Remember that as strong as Uvo was he wanted his “Big Bang Impact” to be as powerful as a warhead.

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:04 ama box like Hippo

    overall the episode was excellent. the battle to me was much less interesting than the King’s tactical mindset. it really reflected well the methods of one-on-one combat. attack and counterattack and counterattack again until your opponent makes a mistake or provides an opening. Also attacking to gain pattern information so you can apply available techniques is so on point.

    The King also refers back to the idea he learned while facing all those game masters, which was to disrupt your opponent’s rhythm. As someone who trains in a martial art where there is full on sparring, that really resonated with me as it’s one of those aspects that’s very true. If you can disrupt your opponent’s rhythm, you create an opening that you can use; and pattern recognition is a way to do it. I never actualized this into a concise thought, but the King helped me realize this. Yes, HxH can help your training!

    I really appreciated Netero’s mindset of focusing on the speed of the King’s attack, as I’ve experienced this first hand, that the slightest hesitation will result in an opening that will lead to defeat. Speed of recognition helps the King’s ultimate goal: action prediction. I do wish they went into more about what the King saw or predicted exactly that allowed him to take Netero’s leg and arm, as it sort of just happened and the King explained there was an opening due to his prediction of moves. I wouldn’t have minded extra time to show those series of moves.

    The bomb thing to me was weird since to me it looked like Netero’s zero attack was by far more powerful, but we’ll have to see the aftermath next week. Overall, really great stuff and this is how to use this narrative style to great effect.

    and loved the depiction of the King, Netero and Zeno early on in the episode. Very reminiscent of Japanese art panels where the colors can be really vibrant.

    • April 23, 2014 at 6:19 amEamonX

      We’ll see next ep, but I think the bomb was merely to prevent the King from eating up Netero’s Nen. Even though Meruem probably wouldn’t out of respect to Netero, it was a fail-safe plan to prevent otherwise.

      Or maybe, this bomb is supposed to be more powerful than Zero Hand. We’ll see next episode.

    • April 25, 2014 at 9:56 amBelias

      It’s a friggin atomic bomb. No Nen attack can rival its power, simple as that. It was definitely made to kill Meruem.

      Show Spoiler ▼

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:12 amYoungGun

    Wow, this was the best episode of shounen anime in the history of the genre! This fight was truly at a phenomenal level and not just full of brawl but was a match of intelligence. It was EPIC!! Absolutely EPIC!! The directing, the animation, the music, commentary…. everything was so spot on.
    As if this episode was made to compensate for all the slow paced episodes in this arc because it was so action packed! One cannot help but shed a tear for chairman Netero, the ultimate human being in HxH. After losing 2 limbs, his spirit and heart remained wavered. He definitely went out with a bang!

    I don’t know if the King survives the blast, but the way Netero goes have made it his win. Also, there was so much beautiful symbolism through out this episode. I simply can’t praise the writing and directing enough!

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:33 amSatyr

    My heart aches…So long old man. There is no fucking way the King is going to walk out unscathed from this, that was a god damn nuke.

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:44 amwhat

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • April 23, 2014 at 3:03 pmAnanas

      Enzo has always been on the pompous side of things. This is nothing new.

  • April 23, 2014 at 4:57 amJay

    Hey Enzo, you know that scene right before Netero activates the bomb where he tells the King not to underestimate humanity’s limitless potential for evolution? In the manga Netero’s line is translated as also meaning humanity’s limitless potential for malice. So it didn’t just mean that mankind was just as capable of evolution and growth as the Ants were, it told him that humanity was just every bit as spiteful and cruel, if not more so.

    The Minature Rose combines both of those as it is not only more advanced/evolved than anything the Ants have developed so far (albeit through technological innovation rather than physical evolution)but also that as a mass-produced WMD it has far crueller implications and potential devastation upon the world than anything the Ants have accomplished so far.

    The narrator’s note that the Minature Flower is just a cheap weapon favoured by ‘small dictatorships’ is really just the salt in the wound.

  • April 23, 2014 at 5:47 amNico

    And, even though the animation is really good, this will be REALLY glorious with a damn-good pacing as it was in the previous arcs.

    Anyway, time to enjoy (the AT LAST we reached it) final Netero’s battle.

    • April 24, 2014 at 12:23 pmEH2

      Well I guess what comes next (oh boy) will only be “cool action at a bad pace” for you, too.

      I mean, HxH has never been not cerebral. For fans of nonstop action, there’s always JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

  • April 23, 2014 at 6:21 amEamonX

    On the topic of HxH manga returning, I have a question for manga readers.

    Seeing how each CA arc ep takes an average of 2-3 chapters per episode, the arc will probably end around mid-June.

    Do you think the post-CA arc is long enough to last till perhaps the end of this year so that the anime can keep running while the manga is ongoing (starting from June)?

    • April 23, 2014 at 6:28 amGuardian Enzo

      Answer carefully…

      It’s already been quasi-officially confirmed that Chimera Ant is ending at 135. And while I haven’t read the manga past where the anime is, the general consensus seems to be that there’s enough material (the nature of which we won’t discuss here) to last roughly another cour, with a bit of padding.

      • April 23, 2014 at 1:09 pmEamonX

        Forgive my ignorance, but what is a cour?

      • April 23, 2014 at 1:15 pmCrook

        @EamonX
        A cour refers to a season of anime, for example spring, or roughly 11-13 episodes per usual. So 26 episodes is 2 cour, etcetera.

      • April 23, 2014 at 2:01 pmEamonX

        Thanks, Crook.

    • April 23, 2014 at 7:08 amBeyond N

      The election arc starts from page 12 of chapter 318 and ends at chapter 339, so there is not a lot of material to cover until the end of the year. The last panel of chapter 339 btw is the real end of the Chimera ant arc and is the perfect point to halt the anime adaptation.

      The chapters themselves are text heavy though and we often see the aftermaths rather than the actual battles (not dissimilar to Spiders vs. Shadow Beasts.) So the arc might be longer than expected if Madhouse chooses to narrate the full text as well as depicts the battles that take place off-screen in the manga.

  • April 23, 2014 at 6:29 amYukie

    Such heartbreaking irony it would be if Meruem is taken out by a crude, mass-produced weapon of mass destruction when the product of Netero’s long training, overcoming all human limits-the pinnacle creation of his individuality and artistic sensibilities-was nothing but a futile attempt.

    • April 23, 2014 at 7:38 amIndividuo

      Feels as if Togashi made the story tell itself “Oh, you got flashy shounen powers? Take a taste of the REAL WORLD!”

      • April 23, 2014 at 8:56 amlou

        you cant be more right…HxH isnt about power of friendship or bullshit spirit like that…

  • April 23, 2014 at 7:28 amSingerOfW

    I’m one of those people who live under a rock, so thank you for bringing the good news! Good thing I decided to peek into this episode’s review despite never watching the series.

  • April 23, 2014 at 7:29 amWanderer

    MadHouse outdid themselves with the adaptation, I can’t praise them enough for keeping all of the intriguing and fabulous imagery from the manga.

  • April 23, 2014 at 7:38 amZJZJ

    Humans are truly frightening.

    I’m still surprised that even now, people complain about the pacing. I did read the manga at some point, and it was so exciting I couldn’t help but read quickly. I enjoyed the read but honestly, I missed out on a lot of the smaller stuff because of that. The anime might have been slower paced and maybe boring (for some, not me) but I felt that without all the narration and explanation this fight (and many others) wouldn’t feel this epic. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t wish sometimes that the pace was faster, but I felt the way the pacing and narration were done in the anime really allowed me to enjoy HxH much more than otherwise.

    Ignore that paragraph if you disagree, I’m just saying what I feel, no offence to anyone.

    P.S. I really love Enzo’s HxH reviews. It’s easy to see his love for the show and somehow it makes me happy to read :D

    • April 23, 2014 at 2:09 pmNico

      Of course, HxH manga is not the best by far, so once again OF COURSE you can enjoy it more with a good anime adaptation as this one, wonderful & constant animation.

      BUT…

      Just have a look at the pacing, for God’s sake…

      Quimera Arc will end with a mere 1:2 pace (this means 1 anime ep covers 2 manga chaps).
      The previous arc, Game (ch 120-185) was adapted in a wonderful 1:4 pace!!! (66 chapters in just 17 eps!).

      So THAT’S a perfect anime adaptation, with each episode full of content, not just expanding everything with the only intention of filling a 25 minute episode.

  • April 23, 2014 at 10:39 amLastTywinFan

    I call that a sore loser.

    • April 23, 2014 at 11:35 amIndividuo

      But an effective one.

    • April 23, 2014 at 7:55 pmAkumaten

      I call it Plan B.

  • April 23, 2014 at 1:39 pmYoungGun

    Does anyone know how the disc sales are for the current HxH anime in Japan? I sure hope it sells well so they would want to continue the anime after this arc…

  • April 23, 2014 at 2:58 pmAnanas

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • April 23, 2014 at 4:19 pmKurama

      The original what? The manga? This was close to being a shot-for-shot adaptation.

  • April 23, 2014 at 6:38 pmDevastator

    Out of Curiosity what did Netero say to Meruem “Don’t underestimate Humanity’s endless potential for” Evolution or Malice? For me, Malice seems more appropriate with the Death’s head behind him :-?

    • April 24, 2014 at 7:35 amSam

      Netero says ‘shinka’, which most commonly means evolution. It can’t mean malice though, as far as I know. However, it might be that the manga said “malice, pronounced as shinka” using ruby characters. This is done often in Hunter x Hunter, especially with Nen, for example how Pitou’s nen is written as ‘Toy Repairer’ but pronounced ‘Doctor Blythe’.

      I can’t quickly find the raw page or I’d check.

  • April 24, 2014 at 12:00 amdefc

  • April 24, 2014 at 4:04 amnutshell

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  • April 24, 2014 at 7:02 amNarutoKyuubi69

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • April 24, 2014 at 7:58 amTalk no jutsu

      It’s not an asspull. Togashi could simply write Zero Hand to be a self-sacrificing technique as destructive as the Miniature Rose for a much less controversial solution, but he clearly wanted to demonstrate the difference between humanity and beasts.

    • April 25, 2014 at 10:03 amBelias

      Asspull, said “NarutoKyuubi69″.

  • April 24, 2014 at 10:46 amTheWalker

    I guess you can say that Netero…*Puts on shades* went out with a bang. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
    You may downvote me into oblivion, but I’ve literally been waiting months to say this.

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:06 pmBoozerX

    Hiatus X Hiatus

  • April 25, 2014 at 8:33 pmdefc

    HUNTER X HUNTER IS BACKKKKK…………… in June!!!!! oh gawddddd

    http://anime.mx/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/hunter-x-hunter-manga.jpg

    • April 25, 2014 at 10:23 pmmayooooo

      He is taking a hiatus from hiatus