“Combination x And x Evolution”
Change is inescapable everywhere you look this week, if you’re a Hunter X Hunter fan.
It certainly feels strange, doing a Hunter X Hunter post on a Wednesday afternoon. I’ll get used to it, of course, but after two years of Sundays my entire perception of the series feels a little bit different on a working day. We have a new season, a new timeslot on a new day, a new ED – and lots of new stuff happening in an episode that strongly hearkens to events that are yet to come. Fortunately one thing remains the same – H x H still delivered the best episode of any anime this season.
I’ll start at the end, because I found the Gon/Killua preview voice-over especially striking (not to mention the new ED sequence – which I will mention in a minute). That preview is, of course, for Episode 100 – an important milestone in any anime’s life-cycle, and Madhouse used the preview as a platform for Gon and Killua to thank the audience for helping make that happen. It finishes with Han Megumi as Gon and Ise Mariya as Killua delivering the message “We hope you keep watching” – and while I may be reading too much into that, the implication seems clear. After scoring one of its best ratings weeks ever in its final Sunday morning airing, Hunter X Hunter now moves to a timeslot where most anime receive about a quarter as many viewers. If this story is to be told in full in anime form, we’re going to need a small miracle to make it happen.
I hope so too, Boys – and I’ll certainly do my part by being the best H x H evangelist that I can possibly be. I’ve decided my way of dealing with this change is that I’m going to simply be grateful for every episode we get that has the superb animation we’ve grown used to, and when those are gone be grateful for every ep, period. And this week was indeed another gem to be grateful for. The irony here is that Togashi was up to his old tricks, using one arc to tease events from the next (in the past he’s even teased arcs two steps removed, in fact) despite the fact that we’re less than halfway through the epic “Chimera Ant” and anything that follows – not to mention this arc in full – may never see the light of day. This was an episode full of politics and teasers of events to come, near and far.
For starters, we got another terrific battle scene, with the usual superb choreography and very good animation (sob). It’s a chance for Gon to really shine, and to really show off once again how the “baka” mantle that Killua plants on him doesn’t really fit. In terms of pure strength, Gon has Owl and Bat (if they have names I don’t know them, sorry) outclassed – more aura, more pure power – but because of the unique challenges their abilities and the way they synch them present, he’s forced to rely on his wits to win the battle. With Bat’s sonar and ability to emit piecing high-frequency sound and Owl’s night vision, hearing and silent flight Gon is momentarily puzzled, despite the fact that his Nen is so strong that the attacks landed on him do no damage.
Fortunately Gon is a genius at impromptu strategy – more so than Killua, in fact – and whenever his instincts kick in during a battle, good results usually follow. First, he figures out that by locating one enemy, he always knows where the other will be. A torn pocket, a little spit, a good shout (one suspects Han Megumi enjoyed recording this scene) and judicious use of both Rock and Paper allow him to subdue first Bat, then Owl (in truth, once one was down the fight was effectively over) without killing either one (Team Rocket end). But as with last week, the interesting Ant here is not the combatants, but Meleoron, who observes the fight covertly and takes quite an interest in Gon once his strength has become obvious. He speculates that Gon could be “very useful” – but for what purpose?
Meanwhile, the messy politics in play at the heart of the Hunter’s Association are becoming clearer, as is the team dynamic at work among Hunters. Knuckle grows more and more restless at doing nothing as the selection continues around him, and finally declares that he’s going to take out Cheethu, who’s on his way to East Gorteau. Shoot agrees to help, but only after Morel is notified. The sense among these two is that Cheethu is returning to the King to try and grow more powerful by associating with him – which seemingly also happened with Leol and his flunkies. It’s an interesting dynamic, especially as the King’s Guard don’t trust Leol (with good reason), though Pitou does see a good use for Leol – to try and deal with whoever is taking out his puppets. Leol may not be trustworthy but if he’s trying to get Pitou to trust him, he’ll follow his orders to the letter – good solid reasoning on Pitou’s part.
The bombshell here, if anything, is that the Hunter Association seems to be screwing up the war – and even more so, that they may be doing it on purpose. That’s what Morel thinks, anyway. The Association is sending different Hunters than what he and Knov requested, “Association Dogs” as he calls them – and Morel theorizes that they may be
threatening to cause a government default intentionally letting the Squadron Leaders slip away in an attempt to undermine Chairman Netero, and defeat him in the next election. There’s talk of a Vice-Chairman (the first such talk I can remember) who controls the review board that’s assigning Hunters, who has designs on being Chairman himself (or herself). I know it’s hard to believe people who are in positions of importance could act recklessly and stupidly in an attempt to score political gains for themselves, but Togashi is asking us to be believe it’s possible although we have no real-world examples to draw on…
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground in East Gorteau is growing increasingly desperate. Killua’s sabotage has been duly noted – both by Neferpitou and Morel – and the dummy Ming Jol-ik has declared martial law. Knov speculates that this could all be a part of the Chimera Ants’ master plan – to use the chaos as an excuse to deploy the military at will. Knov is a mysterious one – he’s calmly reading “The Secret Garden” as Morel rages (I’m unsure as to where Togashi is going with that). As for Killua (“Don’t go towards the light, Child!”), he seems increasingly to be losing himself in the task of undermining the King’s plan to kill five million people, perhaps to the point where he’s losing sight of the larger goal – it seems to be that he’s loosing a lot of built-up guilt and frustration now that he’s taken on a role as a sort of freedom fighter, a rebel against both the Chimera Ant King and Netero’s master plan. But my guess is that Netero is smart enough to have seen this coming, and his master plan may have been deeper than Morel and Knov were aware.
As for that ED, I’ll thank those of you with manga knowledge in advance for not discussing it in the comments. For the rest of us is may not be full of spoilers per se, but it certainly raises a lot of interesting questions – one more obvious than the rest. That aside I like both the animation and the song a lot.
ED7: 「表裏一体」 (Hyouriittai) by ゆず (Yuzu)