「ヒョウテキ × ト × モクテキ (Hyouteki × to × Mokuteki/i>)
“Formidable Enemy × And × Clear Objective

Author’s Note: Please be very careful to avoid divulging any information about upcoming events from the manga. When in doubt, don’t post it – and even if it’s remotely possible to view it as a minor spoiler, please spoiler-tag it. Thanks for your cooperation.

 

Every so often Killua reminds us of the first line of my post from way back at Episode 33

This has been an amazing trip, this "Chimera Ant". I look back now and it’s been almost exactly a year since the journey started (Episode 76, to be precise) and to call it an "arc" seems almost to be a misnomer. "Chimera Ant" is already longer than 95% (at least) of all anime series, and while it’s undeniably the darkest of all Hunter X Hunter stories so far, over the course of the year it’s displayed an astonishing range of styles and tones. An enormous cast of new characters has arrived (and in some cases departed) and the story has taken H x H to places no other Shounen has gone before.

The upshot of all that is that it’s almost hard to believe it’s nearly over, but we only have six episodes left. I suspect that there would never come a point where whatever eps remained wouldn’t seem too short a time – how can you possibly give closure to a story this huge, deep and complex? It’s striking especially that the main character has been such a minor presence for so much of "Chimera Ant", and it’s now clear that his time in the spotlight (even if he were to monopolize it for the last six eps, which I’m certain he won’t) is going to be a short one. But it’s also testament to the brilliance of this story that it’s made me OK with that in a way "York Shin" was never able to – as great as that arc was, I was more put off by Gon (and Killua’s) absences there than I am now.

Now, at last, we’ve reached the time for reckonings and the big dogs can be ignored no longer. This week it’s Killua who claims his place at the center of the narrative, with Gon and Pitou still almost absent (likely for the last time, I would assume). If anything I would say this was one of the more "conventional" episodes of the recent run, but I don’t mean that in a remotely pejorative sense. Rather, it was a fairly linear episode in terms of narrative structure, with minimal narration and no playing around with the perspective of time. What was really on display here is the layer-upon-layer of strategy and deception driving the final phase of the story, and the result is an incredibly tense and fast-moving episode.

What’s also on display is the continued evolution of Meruem, who remains an antagonist like no other. As much as anything he’s a de facto main character in this arc, a kind of dark avatar for Gon himself – someone whose journey from unmitigated and terrifying villain to troubling and conflicted figure has mirrored Gon’s own journey from an opposed starting point, but to a similar destination. There’s still so much we don’t know about Meruem even this late in the game, and complicating all that is his confusion after Netero’s futile attempt on his life. We don’t know if it’s changed his outlook in any fundamental way, but the truth is we didn’t even really know him before – Mereum has been evolving and growing so quickly that it’s never been possible to feel comfortable that we knew who we were dealing with.

This Meruem seems, superficially, to be a pretty focused and controlled being. He quickly reasons from Youpi’s knowledge about Potclean that Youpi is keeping something from him, and demands an answer. But when Youpi admits he spared Knuckle and Morel because breaking his agreement "would have been an admission of defeat", Meruem betrays no anger whatsoever – "I only ordered you not to lie to me. I have no reason to punish those who speak the truth." Clearly Meruem has inherited some (or all) of the abilities of Youpi and Pouf, and seems to have formed a psychic link with them. In purely practical terms this makes him that much more effectively unbeatable in any kind of fight, but it also makes him an even more opaque presence.

Indeed, it’s Shaiapouf who has emerged as the true villain of the piece. He’s a dangerous combination of elements – an egomaniac with a fanatical devotion to a being he sees as the Messiah. The ultimate Consequentialist, someone who has no qualms about any action he sees as useful for his larger goals. And emotionally volatile to the point of psychopathy. I must again praise Hatano Wataru from the job he’s done bringing this madness to life, which so transcends any prior performance he’s given as to make it difficult to accept that it’s the same actor. In truth Pouf has been the prime mover of events for much of the last dozen or so episodes, and he’s the one driving most of what we see in this ep as well. While Meruem and Youpi believe they’re headed back to the palace to help The King regain his memory, Pouf is desperately arguing with himself (if any Nen ability ever reflected the personality of its owner perfectly, this one does) and trying to outmanoeuver the enemy in an attempt to kill Komugi before Meruem arrives back at the palace.

There are so many angles from which one could attack this psychologically, not least the question of why killing Komugi is so urgent a need for Pouf to start with. But the practicalities of the situation demand to be heard – The King is more indestructible than ever, and seems content with the elimination of the human species in order to give his own its apotheosis. Komugi is really the last great wild card in all this – that we know of, in any case. How will Meruem react when he sees her, and/or remembers her? This fear is no small part of the equation for Pouf, no doubt (though only a part). Knuckle’s attempts to bait Pouf’s clone into a battle fail, and Knuckle assumes (and Pouf assumes all of the Hunters assume) that he’s after Meleoron – both because he’s a traitor, and because his ability represents the seeming greatest threat to Meruem. And it’s this double-assumption that Pouf bases his attack plan (which is operating under the urgent threat of his real body arriving in Meruem’s company back at the palace) on.

And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids! One meddling kid, to be precise, who sees something strange in clone-a-psycho’s actions and wants to make sure of what’s really going on. He forces Pouf to choose, go after Meleoron, or go after Komugi – or split your forces even further. As his time runs out Pouf desperately tries to decide on a course of action and Killua reveals his trump card – himself, with Komugi on his back. Pouf’s response is to attack the boy – who he sees is too fast and powerful for his clone to handle – via Komugi herself. From her perspective it’s easy to see why Pouf’s words would hold some sway, and he manages to get her to fight back against Killua enough to slow him down. But his attack fails to kill either of them – though it does knock Komugi unconscious. The worst result for Pouf.

By now, clever Killua has figured out the "what" – Pouf intends to kill Komugi" – if not the "why". The truth is that Killua was protecting Komugi all along and would have continued to do so, even without the strategic incentive Pouf’s actions provide him. He draws a line in the sand (literally) and shows Pouf’s clone the consequences for crossing it. This is Kil in pure, badass form ("Come on – I’ll whittle you down.") – he’s in his element here, thinking in the moment and relishing the opportunity to make a great contribution both to Gon’s success and that of the mission itself. As for Komugi, one can do nothing but feel for her here – she’s confused and terrified, and at no point during this entire ordeal has anyone ever simply told her the truth of where she was and what was happening to her. By her very nature she’s dependent on others, arguably helpless – but despite that, a case could be made that she’s already made more impact on the story than any other character (and remains the key to how it’s resolved).

Killua’s actions force Pouf to abandon hopes of killing Komugi for the nonce, especially when he realizes that the Gungi board remains in the remains of the throne room where Meruem is headed. Pouf is being pushed to increasingly desperate actions, and it’s fascinating and terrifying to ponder what he’ll do next as things go from bad to worse. Meanwhile things are finally reaching a head with Gon and Neferpitou as well – they’ve arrived back where what was once Kaitou awaits them, and Pitou must confront not just the truth of what he can and can’t do for him, but his own pledge to kill Gon before he can become the tiger that tears at The King’s throat. Of all the great unknowns of "Chimera Ant", Gon’s role in its resolution is the greatest of all. He’s become a dark and brooding shadow of the boy we (and Killua) thought we knew, though I would argue the differences aren’t as great as they might appear to be. For him this seems more than anything a personal struggle, and he’s existed in a storyline that seems very much separate from the rest of the arc. Now the two must surely rejoin, and just as surely that’s going to be fascinating to watch.

 

Preview

28 Comments

  1. “Chimera Ant” is already longer than 95% (at least) of all anime series…

    For somethings that has been this long and detailed, it’s hard for me to imagine that the
    characters developed in Chimera Ant will simply disappear from the Hunter x Hunter world
    at the conclusion of the main story. Will the King and his followers become part of the world,
    or the bane of the world is yet to be seen.
    Related, Shaiapouf must die if he harms a single hair on Komugi’s head, just sayin’. The story
    is cleverly told, too in that with all of his calculations to harm Komugi, he overlooked the one
    thing that could expose him to his King – the game board the King spent so much time infront of,
    and whom he spend that time with… Very well done, no rabbit pulled out of a hat here (i.e., Killua
    wasn’t saved by something totally silly), and I can see something like that happening in real life, too.
    Finally, we’ll see how Gon will make out next episode – Seems like a lot to wrap up in only 6 episodes.
    I hope: Enzo’s wrong and there are more, or that the story line will not actually end, but settle.

    If anything, I hope it’s not rushed!

    mac65
  2. I thought Pouf’s plan to get Killua to run away was pretty brilliant, until he over sold it and Komugi started to resist.

    On the flipside, Pouf’s bound to get killed by the King for his treachery! That just feels like the natural outcome.

    a box like Hippo
  3. In fairness to the York Shin arc, that was Kurapika’s story, so it didn’t bother me that Gon and Killua didn’t have a main role to play in it. imo, to do so would’ve been forced. At some point I thought maybe they’d do a Leorio arc too, but at this rate that seems unlikely.

    I like to think of HxH as having four main characters. Gon may be the lead, but as it progressed I felt Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio were just as important, and we’d see all their stories, though Leorio got short shrift once York Shin started.

    And can’t get enough of mini Youpi. His design is great. In contrast, don’t care too much for CherubPouf.

    a box like Hippo
      1. Def Hisoka is an important character, and I always enjoy his appearances, though I like to think of Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio as the core four because they’re all friends and have adventures together.

        a box like Hippo
  4. – Kanmaru Killua, whom Youpi estimated to be less than 1/10 of his power, easily subdues 1/7 of Pouf.
    – When I first read the manga, I had an impression that Komugi’s unconsciousness was an intentional act by Killua. Then, I watch the anime episode and her unconsciousness seems to be accidental. In a manga scanlation, Killua says “I put her to sleep.” In the official anime subtitle, he says “She was knocked out” and there is more emphasis on the shot that Komugi’s face bangs against the back of his head when he evades Pouf’s attack. Can someone who knows Japanese clarify whether there is a difference between the manga and the anime?

    Uten-tan
    1. 1. Youpi is the most powerful among royal guards if it’s about raw power. Also power in itself isn’t everything. There is also nen and Killua’s Godspeed gives him overwhelming advantage.
      2. Most likely there is a difference between translation in scanlation and oryginal manga text.

      Urizithar
    2. I’m pretty sure that the anime changed that part from the manga. They probably didn’t want to show Killua intentionally knocking out some poor lil blind girl.

      Jaysus

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