「マホウ×デ×ゼツボウ」 (Mahou X and X Zetsubou)
“Magic x and x Despair”

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.


I needed some time to digest all that…

Normally the longer the buildup, the more likely the payoff is to be a letdown. It’s an inevitable part of fiction of every stripe, anime not least. But when you’re talking about Hunter X Hunter the normal rules just don’t seem to apply. They don’t apply to Togashi’s writing choices, and they don’t apply to the execution of the series itself. There really aren’t any standards to apply to H x H as far as shounen manga adaptations go anymore – none, that is, except for the ones it sets itself every week.

Every year since I started blogging I’ve given out a “Best Lead Actor” award for both genders, and although the year isn’t even half-over yet I can you it’s going to be hard for anyone to beat out Megumi Han in 2014. It’s ironic in that Gon has actually been less involved than ever in terms of screen time, but Han (who’s been an honorable mention already) has taken her game to a new level. This is career-making stuff – possibly yet another standard set by this adaptation, for female actors playing male roles in anime. Between Episode 116 and this one, Han-san has shown incredible range, intensity and emotional honesty. Not for the first or last time with this show, I’m sincerely in awe.

That episode – which would be on a very short list of best episodes in this series – is very much a bookend with this one, a spiritual twin. That it’s taken 14 weeks to reach this point from that beginning (which was itself almost 40 episodes into “Chimera Ant”) is a sheer testament to how broad and deep this arc is, both in terms of story and character. In effect Hunter X Hunter has taken the main character after his most intentional emotional moment in the series and left him for more than three months, with only very short and intermittent look-ins. It’s ridiculously audacious and it creates an enormous amount of anticipation for the moment when he – and this plotline – finally re-take control of the narrative.

There is a bit more to the episode than that, although it’s the spectre of events in Peijing that dominates even the events hundreds of miles away. Knuckle and Meleoron have lost themselves in the crowd outside the palace, watching Meruem’s return. Ikalgo has gone back underground, looking for a recently deceased chimera ant to use as part of a plan whose details haven’t been revealed. Killua and Palm (I’ve since read the chapter in question and indeed, the manga makes it pretty clear that he – wisely – knocked out Komugi himself) have turned back towards the palace with the intention of joining the crowd themselves, even as Pouf’s clones desperately search for the Gungi board and pieces in an attempt to hide them before The King sees them.

It should be noted that the background music for the return of The King is a new piece, and a great one – a really ominous mood-setter. But what stands out here are the quiet moments between Killua and Palm. Killua, it seems, has reached a better place of sorts – he’s found a sort of peace with himself, and it allows him to (albeit in a coltishly tsundere way) thank Palm and officially acknowledge her as a friend. Palm, really, has seen more of Killua’s true self – the kindness, and the child’s vulnerability – than anyone else in the cast, even Gon (though he really doesn’t need to see it to know it’s there). Palm seems so caught up in the moment that she momentarily loses focus on watching Gon and Pitou (who she’s following as part of her maximum three targets, as well as Killua and Pouf – and those accompanying them, including herself). There’s also an interesting strategic debate here over whether Pouf’s unique nature makes him a good target for her to spy on, or a bad one.

Shaiapouf remains very much in his role of master manipulator, always hovering on the verge of panic but limitless in his ambition to control events and bend them to his will. Having managed to secure and remove the evidence of Komugi’s presence he turns part of his attention to another matter – freeing Pitou from the “curse” of Komugi’s status as a hostage. Using Welfin to make the call, he contacts Pitou (I confess a certain surprise that Gon didn’t detect the vibration of Pitou’s phone) pretending to be Komugi – a Komugi that’s been rescued by Welfin and Brovada and is now safe and sound. This, in theory, frees up Neferpitou to betray Gon and kill him without fear of what might happen to the girl.

Much of what happens when Gon and Pitou reach the Peijing mansion where Kaitou is hidden is subject to a sizeable degree of interpretation, I think. I think most of us suspected that whether Pitou desired to or not, there was probably nothing he could do for Kaitou – dead is dead. Gon doesn’t know everything that we know (the head being removed, and such) but I suspect on some level he even knew this himself. Is it respect that Pitou shows Gon in the way he asks the boy’s name, and breaks the news to him? Is it pity, or gratitude for having allowed Pitou to heal Komugi and honored his vow? Or is it merely a mocking kindness behind those words: “You listened to my request, so I will be honest with you. He is… already dead. His soul is no longer here – I am sorry.”

Again, this is a very strange place to take the main character at the moment of his greatest confrontation. The Gon we see here is vulnerable in every sense of the word, truly devastated by what Pitou tells him. Not only is this man he came to love dead, but Gon (at least a very large part of Gon) blames himself. When the moment of his greatest conflict is seemingly upon us, Togashi chooses to remind us that Gon (like Killua) is still, for all his accomplishments, a child. And what does Gon do when he learns of Kaitou’s true fate? He pleads for help – from someone, anyone. There are limits to what a child can endure without breaking down, and only a writer of Togashi’s fearless nature would highlight them in moments such as these. He did it with Killua in his confrontation with Palm, and even more heartbreakingly with Gon here.

The execution of this scene is once again stunning, largely but not only thanks to Han Megumi’s performance (Fujimura Ayumi is also great here). There’s minimal decoration in terms of music or effects – mostly we’re left to agonize as Gon does, and to witness the internal war raging between his two great impulses of the moment – despair and anger. Despair is certainly the dominant emotion, and it brings with it a gut-wrenchingly innocent hope that somehow, some way, Kaitou could still be saved. When Pitou brings out Doctor Blythe Gon desperately wants to believe that Kaitou is going to be healed after all, although he surely understands that Pitou has no such intention even before he starts healing his own arm instead.

This is a fascinating moment, among the most fascinating in a series full of them. Wounded arm or not, it seems to me that Pitou – had he so chosen – could have ended Gon the moment he broke the truth to him. Gon seemed utterly helpless in every sense, and while his instincts would surely have kicked in had Pitou attacked we’ve seen just what Neferpitou is capable of in combat mode. That’s purely my opinion, of course, but Pitou has already surprised us in his response to Meruem’s plea to heal Komugi. The endgame isn’t in doubt – Gon is a threat to The King and must be eliminated. But as with everything in “Chimera Ant” nothing is simple or straightforward, including both what’s just occurred and what will happen next. Just as the confrontation between Netero and Meruem was, that this strange dance between Gon and Pitou would lead us here has been inevitable – and utterly compelling. And in the process, it’s taken the story and the hero to places no shounen has ever gone.




    1. In my opinion, no one should be blamed for Kite’s death. Kite intended to exterminate the nest and Neferpitou existed to protect the nest. Kite was overpowered and killed but that’s how nature works. If there is a reason Gon should be vengeful toward Pitou, it should be how Pitou toys with Kite’s body after death.

  1. For the first time in a very long time, I actually found an episode of HxH to be a little frustrating (mainly because we wait so patiently every week to find out what happens next).

    We already knew Kite was dead so this whole reveal didn’t really do much. And a lot of screentime was devoted to Gon crying. Hopefully, the pacing drop in this ep means we’ll have an action-packed episode next week.

    From the preview, it seems Pitou is finally going to kill Gon. Can’t see how Gon will win in this case, and I sincerely hope it won’t be an ass-pull of a sudden power boost. And it seems Pouf can’t help himself but spill the beans to Killua. Seeing how Gon and Pitou made it back to the mansion in a matter of minutes, my guess is with Killua’s Kanmuru, he could reach Gon quickly enough before Pitou strikes the killing blow.

    Another thing I didn’t like was Pouf’s suddenly showing us he has the ability to change his voice and appearance. I feel this is a very useful ability that he should have used a long time ago but didn’t until it was convenient for the story.

    1. Yeah, I really felt the artificial padding this ep with tons of people just walking (pouf flying) and drawn out silences to fill up time. I was having DBZ flashbacks cause of he constant dead air which rarely happen in this show. They almost just replayed the entire episode kite dies here. While I appreciate the performance, Gon’s breakdown was kind of muted for me in how drawn out it was. Maybe its like that in the mange like the earlier episodes during the attack on the castle but this feels distinctly different and artificial. Hopefully this ep is an outlier.

      1. this is the one time I didn’t find the padding to be unnecessary. It seemed like Gon was just replaying it in his head, which was resulting in his emotional collapse/grief.

        a box like Hippo
      2. Like Hippo, I think the padding has its point in depicting Gon’s grief (to me, the direction in the last half is very Hideaki Anno-esque.) What I don’t like is how the flashback emphasizes way too much on the fighting animations (cool as they were) instead of focusing on the quieter moments between Gon and Kite.

        Rose Sélavy
    2. Pouf’s clone unintentionally changed his appearance once though when the main body witnessed the Miniature Rose.

      I think the next episode will be utterly amazing since both Ep. 116 and 126 were preceded by episodes with the pacing almost as slow as this one. Instead of splitting manga content evenly to create two very good anime episodes, Madhouse seems to prefer to have a good albeit slow set-up episode with less than two chapters of manga material followed by an episode that has just the perfect amount of manga material to makes the episode a self-contained masterpiece.

      1. IIRC, all the other ‘different faces’ scenes were close-ups with stylized color treatment which imply they exist in a metaphorical space.

        The Pouf transformation I mentioned is somewhat different. Not only there is no stylized color, Knuckle also see Pouf in that form in a medium shot (see 5:53 of episode 127). That’s why I think it is more objective than the other ‘different faces’ and is likely the actual representation of what is physically happening.

  2. That was quite an emotional episode since Gon has to really accept the fact that Kite is dead. Previously he was in a bit of denial. I understand why they emphasised Gon’s emotion so much since this is the first chance he can really grieve for Kite’s death. The preview looks like next episode things will come to a clash between Gon and Pitou. I can’t wait!

    1. ita. in this iteration, their relationship isn’t as as fleshed out, which makes this episode for those that didn’t see the original, have less emotional gravity. it’s too bad, since that didn’t take up more than one episode, iirc, but it added a lot more layers.

      a box like Hippo
  3. Oh man, oh man!

    Here we go, the moment we have been waiting for. That thing that has been teased with ever since the arc began with the opening.

    Gon unleashing his power.

  4. I’m proud and grateful of being born in this age, live-witnessing a series which future anime fans will watch as a classic, just like we watch Hokuto and Dragon Ball today.

    Is it me, or do you feel like this is one of the top 10 shounens ever?

  5. Glad they kept Kite dead and didn’t pull a copout and bring him back somehow. it would’ve cheapened it a lot, though can’t say that I expected anything less, as this isn’t really that type of show.

    I also found the scene between Wellfin and Pitou problematic, since doesn’t Gon have super animal senses? He can see far and can see tiny differences, and he can sense things around him, good spatial awareness, though I don’t know if his hearing is equally as powerful. Still strange he doesn’t notice the phone vibrate and Pitou push a button (even a regular person can see that!). I guess we can just chalk it up to the fact he was so focused in his emotional turmoil not to notice.

    Though I’m a little surprised he broke down at that moment, choosing to show vulnerability at a time when it’s most fatal. Though the thing about emotion is it’s not logical.

    and I do agree that he was partially responsible for Kite’s death. If he didn’t tag along, Kite wouldn’t have been caught off guard and had to protect them. Whether or not Kite would’ve had enough time to gtfo of there is another story.

    And Pouf’s additional powers are a little problematic as well. Seemed like it would’ve been a lot more useful prior to this. I also find his glee in his treachery to be quite obnoxious. I guess his tiny version of himself makes it worse. Palm’s right, time to squish him!

    all in all, a good episode, with some setup. I’m glad they dropped a lot of the omniscient narrator, as we get to make our own conclusions about what’s going on.

    a box like Hippo
  6. Megumi Han deserves a seiyu award. Her portrayal of Gon is the stuff of legends. WOW! Following in the footsteps of her mother. Also next week, Gon “hulks out” and tears Pitou a new a-hole. Can’t wait.

    Corey Lucas
  7. So, as I said several times before, again one of the worst episodes of this remake. Awful pacing that kills what could have been a more than good adaptation.

    Damn you, MadHouse, for making such a good adaptation at the beginning BUT such a bad adaptation in this last Arc.


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