「 ヒトコト×ハ×ソノヒト」 (Hito Koto x wa x Sono Hito)
“The Word × is × That Person”

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.

An episode like this one has to be pretty depressing for aspiring shounen mangaka…

You would think that after 134 episodes, at some point I would have lost my ability to be surprised and floored by what Togashi and Madhouse are doing with this series and this arc. But Hunter X Hunter can still do those things to me every bit as powerfully as it did two years ago. Even partially spoiled I’m still surprised by where Togashi chooses to take the story, and the execution continues to be virtually peerless. There’s never been any danger of my taking H x H for granted, but the enormity of what it’s managed to accomplish will probably only hit me when the anime is gone.

It only makes sense to start with the beginning, because without a doubt it was the most subversive and vicious sequence I’ve ever seen in a shounen anime. If there were any doubt as the core message driving “Chimera Ant” Togashi and Koujina eviscerated it. It wasn’t just the horror of the imagery chosen, but the types of images Togashi (or Koujina – I’m assuming these were all manga-original) chose. It was, in 2 minutes and 33 seconds, a complete and self-contained narrative of its own – a merciless condemnation of stupidity and cruelty and a mirror held up to the world we live in.

It’s the fact that the mind of the writer who created that vision also created this arc that makes it such a dark and enigmatic piece of work. You could call all of “Chimera Ant” and by extension all of Hunter X Hunter a kind of bait and switch – nothing here is what it first appeared to be. The reality of this story is not bedrock but a desert of shifting sands and mirages, calm and pleasant oases that don’t really exist and a place where we cannot trust what our eyes and senses tell us. You can practically hear Togashi growling “Think for yourself!” as you watch those first two-plus minutes play out, and you realize just what you’ve been watching for the last 60 weeks, give or take.

It’s testament to this that as the final act of this massive story plays out, Gon and Killua are nowhere to be seen. The players here – the only players this week – are Meruem, Shaiapouf and Welfin. In truth “Chimera Ant” turns out to be Meruem’s story more than Gon’s or anyone else’s – it’s his journey we’ve been following all this time, from conception to (presumably) death. To the extent that Gon and Killua are main characters in this arc, it’s in the way “Chimera Ant” plays as a metaphor for what happens when children are exposed to the sort of world that we see in the pre-open of the episode. They’re exceptional children by any standard but children nonetheless, and in his usual contrarian fashion Togashi has chosen to focus not on what makes them strong, but on what makes them weak – and human. However their part of this story concludes – Gon especially – has to be viewed in that context.

As to what actually happens in the episode itself, it’s elegantly simple and straightforward. All we have is dialogue but once again the atmosphere is incredibly tense, especially when Meruem activates his En and confronts Welfin. Meruem has taken Pouf’s “Spiritual Message” and elevated it to a God-like power – the world holds few secrets from him. With his En he can see anything that has changed since he last used it, and read the emotions of those in his presence. Pouf continues to play out the last act of his charade, one which it seems even he has just about given up hope on. Of course he sees Welfin as a threat to his secret, but the Pouf of this episode is increasingly helpless and defeated – between the knowledge that he can hide nothing from the King and the growing sense that his own body is failing him, it feels as if Pouf is only continuing to struggle because he’s a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web, and that’s what butterflies do until the poison finally puts an end to their struggles.

Welfin and Meruem are, if anything, even more fascinating. Meruem has become so omnipotent that more than anything what seems to motivate him is curiosity – he can see so much that anything that defies easy understanding is a secret which must be unraveled. And Welfin is a riddle – why does this squadron leader emanate such hatred for him? Why did he kill Youpi (in fact, he didn’t)? Welfin is, as always, a compelling mass of neurotic overthinking. His instinct for self-preservation is at war with his hatred of the Chimera Ants and his loyalty to Gyro. Welfin struggles, too, but it seems more pointed – an urgent need to live on because there are things he still needs to do.

This scene is very reminiscent of the one which saw Knov ruined by the sheer terror of facing Neferpitou’s Shaiapouf’s terrible aura, but Welfin is facing a being far more powerful. As Pouf and Welfin each cling to a thread of life there’s never any question that Meruem could snip either strand in less than the blink of an eye. When Pouf commits the affront of ordering Meruem to stop questioning Welfin because doing so would likely reveal Pouf’s secret and void their game, there seems to be a flash of anger on the King’s part – but he stays his hand. Why? I believe it’s pity – Meruem sees the sheer depth of Pouf’s love for him and that it’s this obsessive loyalty that’s caused him to become the broken, mad thing that he is.

At this moment Meruem turns his attention to Welfin, and – as we did with Knov – we feel the sheer visceral fear that grips him. He knows he’s about to be killed and eaten, and he undergoes an even more grisly physical transformation than Knov did. Yet Welfin has always been compelled by a powerful instinct for self-preservation, and even in this horrifying instant his mind still searches for the angle, the path that will lead to his survival. We get something of the sense of Welfin the human here – and we already have a sense of the man he swore his loyalty to – and if this drive to survive isn’t in itself exactly admirable, it is at least relatable. And it drives Welfin to say the one word that will extend his life – “Komugi”.

Once again Hunter X Hunter surprises us with this moment, because when the scales are lifted from his eyes Meruem reacts without a hint of anger. He tells Pouf there will be no punishment – it’s “not needed” – and then orders Pouf to question Knuckle and Meleoron, then release them. He asks Welfin to give him the message he was engaged to deliver, and tells him that he’s free to go once that has been done. Welfin, withered and aged, delivers Ikalgo’s message and then, even as the opportunity to flee is open to him, casts aside his crutches, shouts out his defiance of Meruem and what he represents, and swears that he will never call Meruem “King” – he’ll always be their enemy. This is again a sort of redemptive moment for Welfin – even if his loyalty to Gyro is misdirected, in the end he’s acted in a way that’s true to himself and again and again taken actions that placed his life at risk.

One irony here is that as Meruem extends his mercy to Pouf, he’s damning him, because doing so is a rejection of everything in Meruem that Pouf loved and revered. Seeing Meruem’s reaction (through his aura) on hearing Komugi’s name is the proof that all is lost for Pouf. His race is run and he’s broken, both physically and emotionally. “All I could do is nod” he thinks, and of course it’s true – the will to fight may live on in Welfin, but in Pouf it’s dead. “I hope you find him,” Meruem says to Welfin after his outburst, “And if possible, that you can continue to live as a human.” And with those words, destroys Pouf’s very reason to exist.

We’ve seen a lot of Buddha imagery attached to the King ever since Netero enacted his final solution, and I don’t believe it’s accidental. I think Togashi is presenting what’s happening to Meruem as nothing less than Buddhist enlightenment. As his eyes have taken in more of the world around him. Meruem has changed at a truly dizzying rate. He’s the same being who cruelly killed for pleasure and delighted in the thought of reducing the human race to feed stock, but he’s profoundly grown. Nothing changes us like perspective, and this change in perspective began in the form of Komugi. She was like a virus that wormed its way inside Meruem’s consciousness, and the part of him that was human responded to it, leaving him forever changed. In that light the current situation and indeed all of “Chimera Ant” are groaning under the weight of irony – the sands have constantly shifted under our feet, and finally parted to reveal a truth we could never have imagined.


Summer 2013 was the best season of the year – can 2014 duplicate that feat? Check out the LiA Summer Preview post – and vote in the season preview poll!




  1. What an episode.

    Starting at the beginning of the man stepping on the ant colony, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Tyrion Lannister’s beetle anecdote about his cousin smashing beetles. Yes, that is what man does, smash just to smash. The beetle could be the chimera ant or it could simply be another human. it doesn’t matter when the foot is attached to that of man.

    So I sort of knew what the effects of the Miniature Rose were from some spoilers I saw from a while back, but that didn’t really change anything for me. Do I think it’s a Deus Ex Machina as people were saying last week? Sure it fits the description, but just because it does, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It’s probably one of the only ways for the King to die in a believable way considering how powerful he is, so I don’t think anything’s wrong with the direction they took. As I’ve been saying this whole arc, it’s all about execution.

    Speaking of the Miniature Rose, Togashi tried his hand at a little politicking. While a little clunky (it could have been subtler), the exposition still drove home the point of injustice in their world and in ours, and what gross grotesque evils man is truly capable of in the name of war, money, and progress. Perhaps the King truly had a better ideal for the future.

    All of the episode involved Pouf and the King coming upon Welfin, and we indeed find out Youpi died from his sickness. Though I wonder if Pouf is truly daft, since he was shocked, shocked I tells ya, that the King had another one of his powers. Didn’t the King say that much once he had fed from both of them?

    It was a great exchange between the trio, really quite tense, as the secret of Komugi was about to be revealed. I, for a second, thought Welfin was a goner way before he aged a hundred damn years! that’s harsh! or as we know it, the Knov effect.

    But once Komugi came back to the King, everything changed. Or maybe it had already changed. Pouf realized how wrong and foolish he was in trying to keep something that dear to the King a secret and rightly so. Welfin finally revealed his own feelings and was told to go follow his desires. Meruem has finally become that which he was born to be. No longer just ant, he’s showing the qualities that make man deserving of their place in the world. It reminds me of the last line of the movie Se7en: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.”

    One minor nitpick – the omniscient narrator. It just came off as too on the nose in the latter half of the episode. I think we’re all savvy enough viewers that we don’t need things spelled out for us. Welfin going through the memories of his past life was enough to tell us he was having his life flash before his eyes. Or the King’s magnanimous actions were plain enough to know they were noble and spoke of compassion without anyone saying it, or in this case, referencing Netero’s line about his wavering between ant and man.

    Regardless, great great episode.

    One last thing, has Pouf’s wing color always been in a state of flux like that? I swear they weren’t doing that before.

    a box like hippo
  2. I really enjoy this episode in that it outlines the cruelty of humanity and what I despise about this world. There is no need for any words to express my feelings, you have said all that it can be said.

    Just a question though, wasn’t it Pouf’s aura that turned Knov into an old man? Knov was able to make it into the castle because Pitou was healing Meruem’s arm at the time and Pouf had to take over.

    1. Yeah, it’s Pouf’s. Pitou’s En didn’t come back until later and Palm was the one who got caught in that.
      It’s probably the lack of Nen awareness of the people around the castle that all of them aren’t mindbroken already due to Meruem’s En which is definitely much more terrifying than the other two.

      1. May be not with the current version of Dr Blythe. But nen abilities can evolve. And I am sure Pitou is more than willing to sacrifice her life if that begets a nen condition that allows her to heal the King.

        Anti-Basilisk Unit
      2. I don’t think healing radiation poisoning is beyond the power of nen. After all, the ultimate cure-all of HxH universe, ‘Breath of Archangel’, is nen-powered.

        Anti-Basilisk Unit
    2. LOL. En turning people old is just for the sake of the plot.
      Now if Knov wasn’t all so broken up with Pouf’s En he will be much more helpful in the fight between the Royal Guard like he did when he was with Netero.
      Remember the ability of Knov that took the head of the chimera? combine him with Meleron and you get the idea.

      1. LOL. Knov’s combat application of his teleportation nen was introduced just pages before his breakdown. It’s not like Togashi made the power too OP volumes earlier and had to come up with En turning him old for the sake of the plot.

      2. LOL. But he did. Knov had the same level of experience if not more than the other senior hunters in the team. So why is he the only one that suffered that predicament of breaking down? Did he not have experienced the En of Pitou? He knows if its there or not but can’t tell how much malice it had? but then suddenly at the palace he detects Pouf’s En detects its malice and suddenly breaks down? His power is not OP its just too versatile given that he performs at his best.

      3. LOL. Many tough guys think they are prepared to swim naked across a frozen lake (my silly analogy for experiencing Royal Guard’s En in Zetsu state), but not a lot can actually do that. Plus, a nen ablity is reflective of its user’s psyche. We can guess what kind of person Knov truly is to develop a teleportation ability in the first place.

  3. That intro was like a sledgehammer to the face. Subtle? Not really. Effective? Very much so. Which is funny, because a lot of other shows take the sledgehammer route too, but very few of them manage to pull off the gut-punch this episode delivered.

    “We are worse than the Ants.” That we are. And it’s really tempting to say that’s why us here in real life exist today . . .

  4. This was the first thing I watched upon waking up. God, I felt like I lost a few hairs myself watching Welfin writhe in terror.

    It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that humans are as cruel as, or much more than, the Chimera Ants; they did inherit human genes (mostly from NGL)after all.

  5. “…And I hope that you can become human.”
    That scene. The powerful stills after the tension created by the soundtrack and the visions from Welfin. I think that last scene is what made this entire episode what it is.

    1. You weren’t the only one to think that, first thing that popped into my mind.
      Interesting too that they switched the direction of the general’s face to point away from the viewer.

    2. Agreed, it reminded me of the same.
      But I hate it when a picture is taken completely out of context like this –
      it really takes away from the message the writers are trying to convey.

      My impression is that they were trying to show the person being
      executed as a victim of war / conflict – whatever. That this is a
      terrible thing being done to him – he looks unarmed and afraid.
      A random victim — wrong place; wrong time.

      However, if you know something about the incident itself, you know
      that he was caught brutally murdering the families of some of the
      soldiers around him – their children as well and as brutal.

      This guy was bad.

      But the photo, at that exact instant, doesn’t reveal those facts.
      I think it may be unintentional on the part of the writers – they didn’t
      perform good research before using that image.

      And that carelessness really weakened this episode for me.

      Just the way it looks to me.

      Still looking to how this whole arc will end, though…

      1. Knowing the context behind that image though just makes the storytelling that much more effective though. Even without it, when I saw that image, it didn’t come off to me as him being attacked as a victim. Maybe if he didn’t appear to be handcuffed and isolated, I would have come that conclusion. To me, it presented the major underlying issue along with the other images that has been going on for the entirety of the Chimera Arc. Essentially, whichever way you wanna dice it, humans and the ants are one in the same. They are both are capable of committing the same murderous acts whether or not it’s in their own species or not. The humans are trying to stop ants from killing more of their own kind, when they’ve done exactly the same, regardless of context or situation, to their own species for their own purposes.

        The humans are trying to kill murderers when they are murderers themselves. And adding context to that specific picture, just adds that much more to that storytelling and does not take away from it. It further shows how ugly humanity is from both ends. Whether that was the directors’ intent is another thing. But in my interpretation of the story, I think that image is very well placed.

    1. One anime I just saw recently that I thought matches up better with GoT: Berserk. In fact I’d think it’d make a great candidate to either reboot (like HxH), or even better, turn into an HBO series. They’re already doing that with Monster, so why not Berserk? It’s in a fantasy world, it’s Medieval themed (which is all the rage these days), there are demons in it, there’s political intrigue, and it’s pretty lengthy (although it’s on-going). I definitely rank it in my top 5 list of anime shows.

      a box like hippo
      1. Yeah, but miuras pacing is a joke…seriously.i fear the mangaka will be dead in the ground before the end product…. but then again, people had similar fears when togashii took a hiatus. Due to illness..and now we’re getting new releases weekly and promises of new anime arc. Is this due to the popularity of mad houses rendition??? sorta a catch 22…but all i’m saying is “the people can’t get excited over a product that drops once every 7-8 F#%king months miura!!!”……..apologies..just venting a bit.

        BROOKLYN otaku
      2. I don’t read the manga so I’m not sure how far along is he is in the story, but GRRM hasn’t finished GoT either. Perhaps Miura could outline how he wants it to end like GRRM has done for the producers. and from I read in the wiki about Berserk, the anime focused more on the relationships more than the manga, which I thought was a real strength of the show, so having it diverge isn’t always bad.

        a box like hippo
  6. The hell is this series overestimated… As if we don’t have enough with Dragon Ball, Monster and Fullmetal Alchemist.
    Still bad pace and this Quimera Arc not so good as they said to be. Going down hill on the list, just as his manga ratings in the Shônen Jump.

    1. I don’t think the series is overestimated per se, it’s that the hero worship of Togashi gets to be a little much at times, specifically in Enzo’s reviews, that It actually takes away from how good the series is by heaping such huge amounts of praise upon Togashi – it gets to an almost fanatical level – that it loses focus of the show.

      Some reviews just need to talk about the show, and not the writer in such lavish terms. Once in a while is fine to talk about how great Togashi is (which he is, but maybe limit it to really significant episodes), but every review is like that and it could use a little reigning in. imo, It takes away from how good he is by saying it all the time (ie. dilution via too much of a good thing). the reviews are good, but they could be great with a little tightening up. maybe an editor would be helpful in this regard.

      In the end, it’s his review, so he can do what he wants, but that’s my 2¢.

      a box like hippo
  7. one of the things about HxH that I greatly appreciate is the fact that you don’t feel FOR the characters, you feel as if you ARE the characters themselves. the grip of fear, awe and overwhelming sensation brought across through show not tell simply amazes me! it’s when you have to give yourself that few seconds to actually process that THIS IS HAPPENING and it’s mind-blowing, makes the story so intense! brilliant!

  8. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this:

    An episode like this one has to be pretty depressing for aspiring shounen mangaka…

    perhaps this has undertones of fictionalized Hemingway, when asked to read another writer’s work (as he was known to be very competitive), “And I’ll hate it if it’s bad because I hate bad writing. If it’s good I’ll be envious and I’ll hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”

    or as Gore Vidal once said, “It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

    you’d think an episode like this would inspire aspiring shounen mangaka. isn’t that the point of great works of art?

    a box like hippo

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