「ハリ×ト×カリ」 (Hari x to x Kari)
“Needles × And × Debts”

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.

It’s easy to see who the real master manipulator is here, and his initials are “T.Y.”.

It’s pretty much a given that when Madhouse trots out the great Abiru Takihiko as Animation Director, you’re going to get at least one showcase fight scene and a great-looking episode. And this was certainly no exception, though it came with a considerable amount of sadness – and the real headline (as usual) is the plot machinations and character intricacies which make this series so remarkable. It’s not surprising (though certainly gratifying) that last week Hunter X Hunter became the first late-night anime in over three years to break into the Top 10 in TV ratings in Japan.

It struck me watching the last few minutes of this episode that Togashi Yoshihiro might just identify with Illumi Zoldyck more than any character in this series. Using pens instead of needles, he manipulates his characters with remarkable precision – he’s the puppet-master. Either he’s as good at long-term planning as any mangaka we’ve seen, or a remarkable improviser – it really does seem as if the seeds for everything that happens are planted long, long before they sprout, and in many ways the “Election” arc is shaping up as the true conclusion of the “Zoldyck Family” arc.

I won’t say there was a lot of suspense in the headline bout that started off the episode, because when Hisoka starts off a fight with killing intent it’s pretty much a given that his opponent is going to die. It’s always a charge to see Hisoka go full-out, but that’s tempered with the fact that Gotou was a heck of a likeable guy and a true friend to Killua-bochan. After the character has been somewhat softened by recent events, this is a good reminder that as charming as Hisoka is, he’s like a dangerous wild animal that you don’t want to start treating like a pet – this is a wicked and ruthless man, make no mistake. It’s easy to understand Hisoka’s desire to fight someone strong because the truth is, we haven’t really seen anyone give him much of a challenge yet. Just how strong is he? We really have no idea – and the only way to find out would be to see him face off against someone who forced him to test his own limits. It makes you wonder how he would have reacted if he’d had the chance to see Gon-san live and in-person…

Even within the Zoldyck family, there are so many competing forces and permutations that it’s a challenge to keep them all straight. I’m struck by how many close-ups of Canaria’s face we see every time Illumi’s name is mentioned, especially knowing (or at least having been told) that there’s a mole somewhere inside Killua’s retinue right now. There are only so many possibilities for who that might be, and it’s interesting that Canaria seems to be a step ahead of Amane (who gets some serious moefication for her struggles this week) all the time, given that Amane is the flesh-and-blood of the unquestioned leader amongst the butler corps.

Speaking of Tsubone, she’s forced to reveal one of her abilities when Killua’s full-power Godspeed proves too fast even for her. She converts into a Nen motorcycle, which Amane and Canaria “ride” and bolster with their own aura. This forces Killua to go off-road, but Tsubone (and Canaria – though not Amane) have figured out where he’s headed. That’s the airport from which he intends to take an airship to the vicinity of the hospital, but Tsubone and her charges beat him there. Here we see Canaria use her wiles to once again outsmart Amane, distracting her and allowing Killua and Alluka to escape. In the end all of them are at least nominally working together here to evade Illumi, but in the Byzantine power structure of this strange family, alliances are conditional and temporary even if certain rules are sacrosanct.

An interesting parallel is being drawn by Togashi here between the Zoldyck Clan and their complex hierarchy and rules and the Hunter Association (and one could easily extend that to the Phantom Troupe, too). And indeed, the coup de grace of his storytelling here is the way he slyly reveals that in fact, the election and the Zoldyck/Gon story are the same storyline. Killua’s choice is to turn this into an all-out war with his brother – to use the power of the Association to battle Illumi (who’s a member) and to take him down once and for all.

Illumi’s response to Killua’s plan of sending off a fleet of decoy blimps is to create an army of “Needlemen” to go after them – which Killua was fully expecting him to do. Killua’s makes the case to Morel that Illumi’s actions are in such gross violation of Hunter protocol that they justify treating him as a criminal and fugitive – that in effect, he no longer “family” either to him or the Association. Morel is a bit shocked that Killua would “sell out” his brother, but Killua responds that he “won’t forgive anyone who tries to hurt Alluka”. This conversation is a fascinating one, not least because it further deepens the intentional confusion Togashi is sowing around Alluka’s identity – Morel specifically refers to Alluka as Killua’s “younger brother” (otouto). Of course he could only have heard that from Killua himself, which means that in speaking with Morel Killua referred to Alluka as a boy – yet in speaking with his own family, he refers to Alluka as a girl. There’s another implication to this conversation, too, and that’s the possibility that Killua has decided that Illumi – with his complete lack of restraint in piling up innocent victims among the general public – is the greater threat to the Zoldyck family that Alluka or anything else. It seems possible to me that the likes of M***, Zeno and Silva could be persuaded of this too, in time.

And so it all comes together, in breathtaking Togashi form. The Zoldyck conflict finally brings clarity to the Chairman election, and the true opposition to Pariston emerges as Morel mobilizes to fight Illumi’s needlemen. The leader is Teradein Neutral, the 7th-place finisher in the last voting and “reformer”. He’s aided by co-13th-place Bushidora Ambitious, the disciplinary officer, and the man tied with him, Loupe Highland (who’s played by Narrator Futamata Issei, adding to his many roles in this series) who’s searching for the missing Hunters. This “Anti-Chairman Faction” and Morel have a mutual interest in cooperating here – Illumi is a perfect test case for them to argue their message about reforming the Hunter Commandments and changing the rules for admission to the association (and trying to win the election for Teradein). And they’re the shock troops Morel needs to fight off Illumi’s zombie army before they can help Illumi kill Alluka and foil Killua’s attempt to save Gon.

This is classic Togashi. While the Zoldyck Family arc provides much of the context, the sense of great forces about to collide calls to mind the epicness of York Shin. We have a brewing political struggle with the Teradein faction casting themselves as Netero’s spiritual heirs and urging all their support to be thrown to their leader, and pledging to re-create the “Seirin Group” – which is a name I believe we’re hearing for the first time – a legendary team of Hunters to which Netero once belonged. And we have Killua and Illumi effectively declaring all-out war on each other, with the lives of Gon and Alluka – and perhaps the future of the Zoldyck family – hanging in the balance. Two great struggles, intertwined, with each being used as a weapon in the other while the hero of the series lies unconscious and near death – with Hisoka lurking out there, giving us the tantalizing mystery of just which way his ultimate loyalties will fall. Is it next Wednesday yet?

 

Preview

36 Comments

    1. Was surprised to see Gotah get pwned by Hisoka like that. My reasons:

      – Gotah has been on the show for awhile. Granted, it was a minor role.
      – Gotah had so much confidence!!! He even sent all the other butlers away. I thought this was due to over-confidence but now I realize he considered himself expendable

      – Haven’t seen Hisoka kill anyone in a long while now. Just forgot how ‘lethal’ he is. Guess it was time for the show to remind me!

      Rick Anime
  1. The master troll Togashi killing off secondary characters with no remorse.
    So, what will Killua do when he finds out about Gotoh? Will he chase Hisoka and become Killua-san?

    fordalels
  2. I’m pretty sure Togashi’s just a good improviser. It’s pretty clear that he grafted Nen into the series in the Heaven’s Arena arc. He’s probably also hoping that you don’t start to question how Killua knows all about how Illumi uses his nen, when Killua didn’t even know nen existed until Heaven’s Arena, and has not really had a chance to watch Illumi in action since then.

    Krono
    1. Now that you mention it, that is kinda odd. The only explanation would be that he got information about it between Heaven’s Arena and now, but that would just be a convenient excuse and something you can’t prove at that. Killua would’ve known about Nen before Heaven’s Arena, seeing what his family is like – but he doesn’t – which leads me to believe that Togashi or his editor had a craving for supernatural powers of some sort in the early stages of serialization.

    2. It can also be that he knew how his powers work. He just didn’t know it was called Nen. The powers of Illumi’s needles can easily be explained away through conventional physics and chemistry too, like accupuncture or poision or halucinogens or so.

      Kandur
    3. I maintain a belief that “Nen” was only a seriously considered idea by Togashi during the end of the Hunter Exam arc and during the Zoldyck Family arc.

      I think the Hunter arc was an “experiment” on a new manga series for Togashi. If you compare it to all later arcs it is indeed very different.
      It’s likely he was finalizing the rules and categories of Nen during the Zoldyck arc so he can introduce it during the Heaven’s Arena Arc.

      How else does Killua know about Zeno’s “Dragon Dive” technique and Illumi’s “needlemen.” Killua didn’t even recognize Illumi’s disguise in the Hunter exam as Gittarackur had a face-full of needles that resemble Illumi’s needles.

      EamonX
      1. I think he has been experimenting with each arc he do.. every arc is a lot different that the last one.. but i also think he thought of introducing Nen much later on the series..

        DEFC
    4. That is pretty simple… he knew how Illumi’s ´power works, as in “he knew that he uses some kind of needles thats control people..” Killua is pretty smart so, after receiving the training he deduced that his brother is using needles infused with nen

      DEFC
  3. When Hisoka was coming in overhead I was expecting total decapitation…Sucks I liked Gotou. Really how powerful is Hisoka? The dude just cleans everyone’s clock!
    Also why has he not battled Illumi? Considering he is always looking for a challenge? perhaps he doesnt consider Illumi one? Doubt it. Can they really be freinds? Highly dubious.
    Anyhow what were the rules for Killua and this mission? If he was even a few feet from Alluka he would be returned to the mansion, but wasn’t there something about not getting away from the butlers?

    Miaminights
    1. that’s why I feel they made the King too powerful. he makes Hisoka, a guy who clearly can clean everyone’s clocks, look pretty weak in comparison – heck, Netero could barely make a dent. and it just makes everybody else look weak when you have possible Nen users like that wandering around.

      to me, this fight harkens back to the days when the fights were a lot more interesting, and fun. then again, Hisoka always makes it fun.

      Impel Down Hippo
      1. Definitely see your point on the King. I wasn’t too happy about his apparent god like fighting ability.
        I can;t see how Hisoka could even scrape the king let alone dent him considering his style is so….fluid and nothing to do with raw power. It’s finese.

        Miaminights
      2. seriously, I think it’s a valid criticism. and imo, I think it’s diminished some of the characters unfortunately, and to another extent, the series itself. kinda like the whole Show Spoiler ▼

        Impel Down Hippo
      3. Although I agree that Meruem’s power level makes the other characters pale in comparison, I will respect Togashi even more if the King remains the strongest character when the series ends (dozens hiatuses later.) Having the strongest antagonist in a middle arc will make HxH unique compared to the usual shounen power progression à la Freiza->Cell->Buu or Pain->Madara->Kaguya. I also feel Meruem had to be that powerful to set up for his extremely unorthodox demise and the preternaturally calm acceptance of his fate.

        Eleventh Prince Fugetsu
      4. Very unlikely that there’ll ever be a character as strong as Meruem. Even Netero was supposedly the strongest human character in the show. There will definitely be strong antagonists later on but none on the level of Meruem.

        The whole point of Meruem was that he was the amalgamation of all superior species on Earth. Where all the strongest qualities of humanity and ants formed a single supreme entity. There was no way he would die in a normal battle which was why Netero used an orthodox way to destroy him unsuspectingly. And even the nuke didn’t kill him outright. He was ended by radiation poisoning.

        EamonX
    2. I think hisoka is really strong , but there are a lot of people stronger than him , chorollo i would argue is stronger , zeno and silva too , and a few of the zodiacs
      so he might be in over his head if he picks fights randomly

      Urahara
  4. https://randomc.net/image/Hunter%20X%20Hunter/Hunter%20X%20Hunter%20-%20142%20-%20Large%2008.jpg
    now that was a fight! ah, Gotoh, you should’ve been paying more attention to your surroundings.

    and that’s what makes Hisoka a skilled combatant. Tactics and subterfuge! I still don’t see him being strong enough to have fought guys like Netero or the King, but that’s what made this fight so much better than the outrageousness of the latter Chimera Ant fights.

    I wonder how pissed Killua is gonna be when he finds out about Gotoh.

    and I was thinking wouldn’t have been easier for Silva to accompany or escort Killua and Alluka with his butlers so there’d be no issues like this “inner mission”? just get him in and out to heal Gon. but then there wouldn’t be much of a story!

    RIP Gotoh. I enjoyed your coin games from way back when.

    Impel Down Hippo
    1. “and I was thinking wouldn’t have been easier for Silva to accompany or escort Killua ”
      That occured to me as well but then I think perhaps Silva also considers this a method of development for Killua. Also it seems to me Silva wouldn’t really care if Alluka is killed, considering he know the potential of wipng out the Zoldyk family. If Killua’s compassion can save Alluka and get rid of the “other” then go for it, if not let Illumi take out the threat.

      Miaminights
      1. I thought Silva could go with him if he wanted this to go smoothly, as opposed to what has essentially turned into a clusterfuck. and there’s no way Silva could possibly know what Illumi is up to and that Killua couldn’t die by accident. but, that’d make for a pretty boring story. Killua being escorted by his dad, with a retinue of butlers nearby.

        Impel Down Hippo
      2. Silva initially wanted Killua to make the wish from within the room. He never actually wanted Killua to take Alluka out of there. But when Killua pulled a fast one, and Silva actually empathises with his son, he decided to allow Killua to do his own plan.

        I doubt he did not anticipate Illumi objecting to this. I mean, he knew Illumi planted the needle inside Killua and was okay with it – meaning he knew WHY Illumi planted the needle.

        This just the rules of the “Inner Mission.” No Family member is allowed to harm/kill another but they can find their own solutions. Since Silva officially said that Alluka is NOT a family member, Illumi is full-on set on killing him/her. Meaning Silva is okay with his son/daughter getting killed.

        EamonX

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