“Duel x And x Escape”

If you were expecting Togashi to keep the morality of this arc simple, you were definitely barking up the wrong tree. The guy doesn’t do simple.

There was really no way the "Chimera Ant" arc could remain as relentlessly dark and morose as it was for it’s first ten episodes or so. Those episodes took Hunter X Hunter to places it’s never been before, not even during the very seinen-like and existentially depressing "York Shin" arc. Those ten eps were creepy, scary, tragic, suspenseful – you name it – and I have no doubt that H x H is going to top itself in those areas many times before this long storyline is said and done.

What I always figured was that "Chimera Ant" – like "York Shin" – couldn’t be an unbroken chain of horror and sadness. There’s simply too much positive energy stored up in Gon, and positive emotion in his relationship with Killua, for some of it not to come out. They didn’t 180 the atmosphere here just by appearing as they did in YS – for one thing, they’ve been a part of this arc since the beginning, and for another their roles in this arc have been much more subdued as they’ve displayed a sense of maturity that was absent in York Shin. But you knew, sooner or later, there had to be something more than death and tragedy in "Chimera Ant" and Hunter X Hunter’s credentials as a forward-thinking adventure story would assert themselves at least for brief stretches.

The irony isn’t lost on me that this change has come about on the heels and as a direct result of the most personally-felt tragedy of this arc, the death of Kaitou – nor that even as the tone with Gon and Kil has brightened events with Pitou are taking the story into potentially its darkest territory yet. But change the tone undeniably has. Part of that is the arrival of Bisky, who immediately instills the story with a jolt of comedy and whose stern maternal concern frees up the boys to act like kids again. But Knuckle Bine is a big part of it too. He’s a classic Togashi character in that his appearance belies his nature, and he too is someone whose presence is a catalyst for Killua and especially Gon to show off the more noble and idealistic sides of their nature.

It’s been clear since the first meeting with the dog in the park that Knuckle was a brash talker with a heart of gold. One of the fundamental tenets of the H x H universe is that animals and their instincts are to be trusted more than people, and like Gon Knuckle is beloved by beasts. But he’s also sentimental to the point of public displays of tears which clearly embarrass him, and takes his role as a Beast Hunter seriously enough that he dislikes the idea of a mission to eliminate the Chimera Ants until more is known about them. It’s clear Knuckle’s reputation as a "softy" both precedes him (it’s likely the reason he was left behind) and is obvious to keen observers – Killua has already pegged him as one.

It’s easy to mock Knuckle’s view about the ants as naive and it’s likely to be proved wrong, but as with Morel’s lecture to Killua I don’t believe this is something Togashi intends to be viewed as a black and white, right or wrong issue. As I’ve said before the Chimera Ants are fundamentally different from the likes of the Phantom Troupe or Genthru in that their basic motivation is simply to survive and expand their species. Their goals put them fundamentally at odds with humans, we find their actions horrifying (from our perspective they certainly are), and there are those among them who behave cruelly for the pleasure of it – a trait they mostly inherited, it must be said, from their human genes. But for the most part they’re more than anything else a rival – a rival for humanity’s place at the top of the evolutionary totem pole, and one who uses humanity’s best and worst traits as part of their arsenal. Togashi has created an utterly fascinating conflict here, even by his lofty standards.

In purely practical terms, Knuckle represents an obstacle for Gon and Killua, plain and simple – each has something the other needs to proceed – and sentiment (Gon clearly comes to like him quickly and vice-versa) can’t change that fact. Knuckle makes the same mistake most make – he takes a look at the boys and radically underestimates their strength, to the point where he offers to let Gon punch him as many times as he wants to try and make him move a single step, after which he’ll surrender his token. In this case it isn’t simply a matter of size but the fact that the kids are clearly exhausted – Biscuit has sent them to him immediately after they’ve utterly drained themselves finally mastering their three-hour Ren exercise, with instructions on how to effectively cheat and rig the contest in their favor. But will power is Gon’s strength even more than Nen, which Knuckle finds out to his great discomfort. Fortunately Gon is as sporting as he is strong and not only declines to take a token he hasn’t won in a fair fight, but drags Knuckle back to the hotel to sleep it off and eat a hearty breakfast (I suspect Kil would have gladly taken the token if it’d been up to him, but Gon and Knuckle appear to be soul-mates).

Gon’s decision proves to be as fortuitous for us as it does for Knuckle, because it gives Madhouse a chance to show off still more of the astonishing "Sakuga" animation that’s marked every fight in this series. If this one isn’t as tense as some of the others because we know neither Gon nor Knuckle would go so far as to kill the other, the action itself is still spectacular – and it proves that even two-on-one, Knuckle is more than a match for the boy prodigies. What we know of course is that the both of them are relentless and learn with astonishing speed (and as Knuckle observes, they take huge leaps of confidence with every threshold achieved) but the wild card is (presumably) Shoot McMahon, the other assassin Netero referenced. He seems to be cut from quite a different cloth from Knuckle, and has correctly guessed that Knuckle has taken a shine to the kids – and it’s clear he intends to act on his own as soon as Knuckle sends them on their way, beaten, to keep training for another day. We know almost nothing about Shoot but given that both he and Knuckle are disciples of Morel it would hardly be surprising to learn an intense rivalry existed between them – at the very least he seems unburdened by any sentiment that would give him pause in doing whatever was necessary to take the boys’ tokens and get into the game as quickly as possible.

And now just a quick word about Hunter X Hunter on RC.  Why now?  That would take too long to answer in full, but at the very least it seems like the right time.  I think H x H in Madhouse’s hands is making a serious push at being the best shounen manga adaptation ever, and while I’ve done the occasional post here, it just didn’t seem right for it not to be a weekly presence.  As many of you know I was not in fact a reader of the manga (even now I don’t read ahead of the anime) and thus, I’m not spoiled as to future events.  As such, read the comments at your own risk!  I plead, as always, for manga readers to tag every spoiler and avoid monster spoilers altogether – but history tells us that won’t always happen.  As I’ve been a huge Hunter X Hunter fan through 87 episode and counting I have no intention of being spoiled myself now, so I won’t be closely monitoring the comments section.

With that, onwards to the rest of the “Chimera Ant” arc and hopefully beyond!




    1. Well hey let’s be reasonable, Guardian Enzo has a lot of other anime that he would like to keep track of. Not to mention the Mirai Nikki ova is now up but I doubt Enzo may have time with that, everyone likes to keep up with their life in the real world.

      1. I think he is talking about the manga. It’s been on hiatus many times before (missing from the weekly Jump over 300 times, over 7 times more than what One Piece or Naruto has missed) and hasn’t had a new release since the end of 2012. Some chapters [like #337] are rushed as well, lowering the quality of the animation.
        The story at the moment is after any major are and resolution, and just began with a small tease for the next possible arc.

    1. This is a much-discussed topic, and the only answer is, nobody knows. It seems likely that the anime will catch up even if Togashi starts publishing again sometime soon, but there’s some speculation that he and the anime producers have already worked something out for a closing storyline. There are also heavy rumors that he has a chronic illness (unfounded but persistent) and those who argue that he and his wife simply have so much money that he’s not inclined to bust his hump writing a weekly manga.

      In the end, no one knows and right now, no one is talking. But if there were ever a good time to get the manga cranked up again this would be it – there’s a lot of synergy. The manga continues to be a sales powerhouse, the anime does very well in the ratings, and there’s a second movie in production. All that’s missing is new manga material to cross-market.

      1. I’d assume the Hunter’s license itself could get you anything, regardless of age. Hell, it let Gon borrow a million Geni(or whatever the currency is called) and he’s only 12, so I’d imagine getting a adult-men-based magazine should be…how do they say it…a feather in the cap(?).

  1. So glad this is getting blogging time. Having only started this series last summer with the original anime, I was really drawn to how grounded HxH is for a Shonen. Even when we got to the Nen powers, it didn’t feel like magic that was being pulled out of the ass of the author, but an actual art and technique, almost even a science.

    And then we finally got to this arc in the anime and I was stunned by how ingenious this type of villain, the Chimera Ant, really is. An insect that takes on the traits of the things it consumes and carries them on into their offspring, making them more powerful and intelligent with each victim. It’s like Cell from DBZ but about 100x more intelligently designed (though I’m not sure that’s the right way of phrasing that…). Most importantly about the Chimera Ants is that for the little kids that were reading this when it was out or are still reading it at that age group, it teaches a very important lesson.

    Mother Nature will FUCK. YOU. UP. If you don’t respect her.

    Now go recycle that Pepsi can.

  2. Is it me, or does Knuckle look like he came straight from Hajime no Ippo?

    Anyway, the Knuckle battle was pretty nicely done. It looked like he wasn’t even trying when he was beating the boys, but they were tired to the bone, so I don’t count it as a true victory, much like Gon didn’t when he knocked Knuckle out the first time.

    On a minor note, I was expecting Palm to stab Knuckle in the back, but it looked like him saying the food was good(guessing she’s the one who cooked everything) saved his life, lol =03.

  3. It was cool to see Kuwabara training the two maincharas. I do feel that the plot is moving rather slowly at this time, I want to see some plot twists already.

    1. One argument is that Chimera Ants don’t have a gender apart from the King and Queen. All the characteristics of a single chimera ant, whether it’s voice, breasts, muscles, facial/body hair could simply be the symptoms of inheriting physical features from humans.

      1. I’ve never seen any reason to believe that. Ants have gender, humans have gender, shrikes and rabbits and lions and turtles have gender. If the original insect has gender all the things the Queen consumes have gender, why wouldn’t all the chimera ants have gender?

      2. I don’t want to get back into this argument, because I’ve seen you’ve(Enzo) already dealt with this elsewhere, but when a person has both male characteristics and female characteristics, what do you consider that person’s gender as?

      3. Well, science has a name for that – a hermaphrodite. I don’t see any firm evidence it applies to either Pitou or the chimera ants generally, though.

        As you said, I dealt with this over at LiA so I don’t want to sidetrack the conversation with it again here, as I don’t think it’s terribly important. So here’s my basic reasoning on this:

        1. The official H x H databook (which has Togashi’s name on the cover) refers to Pitou as “he” (I’ve seen the pages in question).
        2. Pitou in the manga uses “boku”, a generally masculine pronoun, to refer to himself.

        Therefore, absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I assume Pitou is male because that was Togashi’s intention. And given his history of drawing feminine-looking males, it’s hardly a surprise. What CR says is irrelevant. If Madhouse were to make it indisputably clear they’ve changed Pitou’s gender for the anime, I’d start referring to Pitou as female. Until then I defer to Togashi’s wishes.

      4. While Togashi did sign the Databook it’s very unlikely he really read it over or wrote it. It’s old and lots of information it gives is incorrect. There is a grand total of one line that calls Pitou a he and it has been the only time Pitou has been called that ever.

        I can say that Pitou was not intended to be male, I can also say with the same certainty that Pitou was not intended to be female ether. Pitou was created and intended to be ambiguous as Pitou’s gender matters very little to the character. I call Pitou a she myself just out of preference. But it matter very little what Pitou is called. If Togashi at all cared or wanted to tell what gender Pitou was he would have already like he did with Kalluto and Kurapika.

        I do believe Madhouse is leaning towards female however due to giving Pitou a more femmine body with clear curves.

  4. Hunter x Hunter… 87 episodes of pure awesomeness.

    It’s impressive how every episode of HxH is great. Long anime (or animes in general) always their ups and downs, with some episodes being mediocre. In HxH, pretty much all episodes are very exciting and interesting, and you always are presented so several new things.

    If it continues this aways, HxH will take the place of “Legend of The Galactic Heroes” as the best anime of all time. Right now it is already the best shounen ever.

    Of course, this is my opinion, don’t try to start a flame war here.

  5. About Knuckle, I think it’s interesting to see how different he must be from Shoot. While Gon and Killua (who are both sort of disciples of Kite) are still very much on the same page when it comes to group work, Morel’s disciples are doing their own thing alone.
    Ah, and awesome review! Thanks for this, guardian enzo. I already read your posts in lostinanime, but seeing HxH being blogged here in RC is somehow very exciting, hehe.

    1. Actually, most of the ants are female.
      Workers are female, drones are male. Drones are the ones with the wings, so in the case of HxH this would mean that the lower ants who abduct weak humans and such are the drones, while the ones making the nest are female. But because squadron leaders are complete chimera, I’d say that the gender of these come forth through the human after which they are modeled. E.g.: The pink haired ant with a scorpion tail and big boobs is likely just a female, whereas Colt is a male. This doesn’t say anything about Neferpitou though. What a little google search can do.


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