Hunter x Hunter: Review

Hunter x Hunter: Review

Hunter x Hunter: Review. By Christopher Patterson.

One of the Most Brilliant, Varied, and Boundlessly Fun Series to Ever Exist 

Hunter x Hunter has always been one of those shows that, once you watch, you almost cry since you can’t experience it all over again. The emotions. The wonder. But you can; the key is very simple. Life. On its own, Hunter x Hunter keeps a beauty and simplicity to itself and its doors to the unknown that all cast a spell on you that you can’t let go of. If there ever was a show that captured the beauty of life and memories through its consistent variation and almost-maximum amount of wholesomeness, Hunter x Hunter would be it.



Hunter x Hunter is also a show of evolution. Going from a simple, fun, and enjoyable arc of getting one’s hunter license to helping a friend out and fighting off his crazy family to then fighting in an arena with said friend, to a crime thriller, to a video game arc, to a horror movie storyline, to an election and a fight for our main leads survival. And it’s crazier on screen.

To notice this evolution is to see who we see navigate Hunter x Hunter’s world. That leads us to…

Gon is, without a doubt, one of the greatest protagonists in anime as a whole. Gon has a loving life energy comparable to Luffy, but with just the right amount of subversion to this concept and bite to him that makes him one of the most fascinating characters to examine. Simply put, he became almost an experiment for Togashi. In the Chimera Ant Arc, he was no longer the laughable, goofy character you come to expect, but someone whose many layers were revealed. Or, in other words, him at his breaking point. While many would probably call Hunter x Hunter a Togashi experiment, I disagree with this notion. It is simply a show. And that show is Hunter x Hunter

If there was an evolution, like a textbook understanding of Gon, it would be a deconstruction of the hero’s journey, the hero’s breaking point, and their true flaws. A destruction of the absolute and a removal of the fantastical. How long would it take Spider-Man to break if given the situation? Questions like these are the basis, it seems, for Gon’s journey, but Togashi also leads with the removal of said questions with the personification of existence that leads to the end of Hunter x Hunter.

We are on this Earth only for so long, so human creation is a form of entertainment. Plain and simple. No absolute. My writing is a form of nonsense, one would say, but there is no intention. We live, we die, and we move on with it. Hunter x Hunter has a casual understanding of this that it makes clear. It doesn’t matter if one character doesn’t come back, at least for the anime. That’s how life is. Why waste it considering such wasteful and overthinking concepts and instead get on with it? Gon is multifaceted in creation, I believe, in that he is an evolution of the author’s consideration, like the rest of the story.

He shifts to the author’s whim, age, and outlook. Though, it is apparent that Gon’s journey was never intentionally planned. I would call it what a writer consumes as time passes and changes his writing, and it feels as though Togashi decided to rip up what he wrote for years and rebuild something that he started to notice or just consider there. It is a work by an author it feels as though only writes when a random idea comes up. In my eyes, it is a story that may be sharply connected with purpose if considered at the time, but it seems he might go for random notes that add up if thought of. And it brilliantly just works. So what is there to say.

Writing and pacing wise, Hunter x Hunter shines the most. Never does the show fall into the convention of dragging out fights; it is always to the point and creatively and boundlessly fun. The pacing feels aimless in that it has nothing fast or slow about it in general but rather is scattered across each arc, and each works well for the arc. Thanks to coming from a manga, Hunter x Hunter is able to build itself, take feedback from the manga, and work on its own. No character feels similar, and each has a hyperspecificity to them that spins them into being a realistic part of this universe. Even more, the anime seems to take tips from the manga in terms of what worked and didn’t, writing and pacing wise, and even animation wise, through how they tackle iconic action scenes from the manga.

The openings of Hunter x Hunter kind of reflect this evolution. Starting so joyful, with the usual bad guys in the background but no warning call for later, before slowly evolving itself, in animation quality becoming more detailed and less strikingly simplistic and more sophisticated and considered, even with the openings being more playful like in the video game arc, and then the boom of unexpectedness comes with the Chimera Ant Arc and ends with a more epilogue (reflective) opening with joyfulness and mundaneness played at the 13th Chairman Election since we are most settled thanks to over a hundred episodes containing openings.

Though, even being just a show, Hunter x Hunter feels human in its evolution. As seasons pass, things change, which is reflected here. I would describe the series as having an author’s entire book catalog in one book. It is dense, layered, and thoughtfully considered with age.

Sparking with clarity and brightness, the animation in Hunter x Hunter simply feels 2010s in its, an observer could assume to be, almost diluted, bland art style. But here, this works. In Hunter x Hunter, the indulgence of its art is the art itself. Seeing the art style feel so overly bright and heavy helps the nostalgic, happy moments in the beginning arcs hit just as hard as the shockingly more dramatic and more at-night moments in the later half, making for an almost growing transition. What’s crazy is that in 148 episodes, the animation never whimpers itself into cheap-cutting costs.

Almost every episode is filled with a smooth and nicely put-together action scene that puts most other anime to shame. The backgrounds are always so detailed and specific that they could go into a museum of their own and be studied outright in art universities. The animation has this pointedness to it but also freeness that is beautifully shaded with vibrant and nice-to-look-at colors that excite. Thankfully, the animation never feels stilted, even with this beautiful, simplistic yet strikingly detailed animation. The characters are drawn with this more outlined style, where their faces have a more bold shade, making it easier to identify the point of attention. A brilliant choice that gives the show its own style and identity.

The action scenes in Hunter x Hunter feel like they are influenced by all sectors of art from literal artworks, to battle manga, to action movies and whatever Togashi has seen. Thanks to one of the greatest battle systems in anime, Nen, and all the various ways it works and the potential of how limitless a fight could go, it’s like a dream for comic book or manga fans this show provides. And this is only the addition on top of a larger whole.

The voice acting, in both Japanese and English versions, simply stands out. Particularly in the Chimera and Hunter Exam arc, where we see two completely different versions of our characters, the change from the excitement of Gon at the beginning to the one having a mental breakdown is something that both the dub and sub pull off brutally and powerfully. During the mental breakdown of Gon’s, the vocals are more crunchy and raw, as if the actual voice actors had to cry their eyes out over and over to pull it off, and even then, the vocals feel almost dry, as if due to a loss of words, which makes it all the harder to listen to. The comedic chips are also scattered everywhere, and the wholesome nature the show has at its happiest can’t go unnoticed as the voice actors, again, affectively pull it off with an authenticity and funness that feels as though it can’t be felt unless everyone was having fun and felt like a family. 

Hunter x Hunter is also a series that is almost impossible to write about, regardless of the nature of the writing itself. While this is a review, it is hard to truly wrap one’s whole thoughts into such a medium when looking at a series such as this, regardless of the possibility of an infinite word count.

Another fascinating thing about Hunter x Hunter is how unabashedly bold it is. The main trio, Gon, Killua, Leorio, and Kurapika, are rarely seen together after around the beginning. Like in life, and unlike every other shonen with friendships like this, they simply go their own way, and this freedom in writing is what commands these choices. Even more, Togashi feels unafraid to kill or change characters for effect. He simply feels in command of each character’s accord, well, but not really. While it shows command, it also shows the limitless freedom his characters embody. The enjoyment of life, simply, is what leads the tale here. Living life to the fullest and accepting all that follows.

Togashi never falls into convention and feels almost aware of all those he writes about and their entire histories. He can be called an almost dictionary in his continued excellence of writing varied characters from all different backgrounds and places magnetically and with casualness and making it feel as though he walked in their shoes. It comes to a point where even side characters feel like they could have their own spinoff, thanks to the level of depth.

Throughout 148 episodes, impressively by anime standards, Hunter x Hunter contains only around a couple filler episodes, and even those shine. They feel like nice reflections that shine as moments of nostalgia rather than interfering with the plot or structure.

I would describe Hunter x Hunter as a kid who mashes up some art with mud on the wall in the pouring sun and smiles. The kid feels free and casual in that it will be a day out of many nostalgic ones to ponder in their later years. The art is interpretive since it is a human creation. It is a creation. And that brings beauty. Hunter x Hunter is an expression of unbounded thought and execution of what feels like a diary of topics that Togashi wonderfully weaves in epic fashion that is comparable to epic classic literature in its scope and how it actually doesn’t bring all it throws together since it is representing life which never fully connects. It is comparable to a year in your life where all you can do is smile. It wasn’t all fun. It was just… And that you know, and I don’t have to remind you.

To break down each plot point in Hunter x Hunter, I would gratefully leave you here all day, but I know one doesn’t have time like that for my rambling. Well, to break it down: 

The Hunter Exam Arc is, as it says, something that is true for all arcs but is important to remember for the show’s bluntness. This arc examines the characters’ more surface-level ideas behind them, such as where they come from generally and why they’re there, and it is more of a test to get you into this world generally and an idea of what it will feel like. Gon is a cheerful and innocent kid with an underlying, absolute nature who stands by his friends no matter what. A protectiveness. Something that could be related to his father’s absence and his fear by his aunt Mito of him doing this exam. Gon, while going to the exam, befriends Killua, Kurapkia, and Leorio.

The group takes hold of each other as they pass various trails in timeless fashion, and it all leads to… Killua leaves after being manipulated to kill by his brother. Now, they must go and help him. This narrative trope brilliantly works and is nicely constructed. The world in the Hunter Exam felt more standard anime in its generic happiness, which brilliantly worked in making the exam feel like its own section of the large world Hunter x Hunter has. The characters here feel more blunt in their realizations, but that is necessary. In a way, the show is cleverly playing into the realized tropes of anime and doing them better than most anime. You can also see the inspiration other anime could’ve had, such as Kurapkia and Sauske, and their backstories but it all comes to show how simply great this arc was.

The Zoldyck Family and Heavens Arena arcs are more by the numbers and short in their construction and execution. But make good of what they have. Here, much comes full circle and is at play. In the Zoldyck Family arc, they get Killua from his family in dramatic and iconic fashion, facing trails from just trying to get near the building. It all works well on its own, and seeing them be tested to help their friend only makes their attachment more believable as they go their own ways, making that attachment almost linger at the back of your hand. It is comparable to a memory that makes you smile nonstop.

The Heavens Arena arc takes things more loosely, as it feels like the reboot or start of a spinoff series, as we see Gon and Killua now working in, as the title suggests, Heavens Arena and going their way up, facing many different opponents and learning more about the Hunter world and the power system in turn. The true standout of all of this is the fight between Hisoka and Gon, which just fluidly depicts a fight between more of a starter hunter and an experienced hunter who is not just a villain but a creepy one that shows the danger many hunters could face. It is, in a way, a fight for how far Gon has grown in this short amount of time. And it all is simply magnificent in being more of a foreshadow of what’s to come with even a Phantom Troupe member casually appearing.

The Yorknew City arc presents Kurapkia’s revenge arc in one of the most neatly written arcs in the series. It feels like an arc that was rewritten and nested up only a couple hundred thousand times to be as flawless as flawless can be. Simply put, it is such a precise piece that even some of the best mafia writers couldn’t dare pull off. A key element of focus here is the fantastic animation of this arc, specifically with Kurapkia’s chains, which is so fluidly done that instead of relying on CGI, it feels as though the animators took photos of a moving chain and animated over it. The Phantom Troupe is also introduced, providing not just interesting and complicated antagonists but ones that are almost as compelling to watch as our heroes.

They also add moral ambiguity; it feels, at points, with Kurapkia’s unforgiving murder spree, not in the sense that they are redeemable but in the ruthless way Kurapkia measures enacting said revenge and the view of murder the anime takes. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, whoever said that must have watched Kurapkia’s arc where revenge wears him down, and thankfully his friends lend him a hand, and he doesn’t let go but rather focuses on matters that affect him less. Even more with Kurapkia, his powers are like a drug of his own that leads his spiral and possible death if the manga continues. Rather than falling prey to the forgiveness arc, Hunter x Hunter builds its own bridge for the characters to cross. One of the most brilliant choices, if I say so.

The Greed Island arc is a mostly filler-in-substance arc that is enjoyable enough. The game itself and the many battles that ensue are fun and quite enjoyable, but what keeps it compelling is the many comedic quips this arc has and the fantastic animation throughout that makes one press play. A more mundane and less overly joyful or epic arc. I would describe it as a well-made house that, while not big, is nice on its own.

The Chimera Ant arc is the arc where everything comes in full circle. Both the mundane and the epic. This arc I would compare to a war epic like War and Peace in its scope, but also to Anna Karenina or Madam Bovary in its personalness. Like War and Peace, there are many characters almost on a chessboard, and we see it all play out. The queen, and then Meruem and his army versus the hunters. It all plays out like a look at humanity, a look at our relation to different parts of mankind, and a look at war and its many factions while tossing themes around of those who get caught up in it all (civilians), the innocence lost, the moral grayness the anime aims to illustrate, and the parallels. Parallels with two who, especially, never met, Gon and Merum. Gon is the yin to Meruem, who is the yang. But in reality, they are both the same. It is a switch from Gon’s innocence to the loss of and Meruem’s unforgiving nature to one of understanding. 

Through it all, Togashi never falls into emotional manipulation or carelessness. He simply has a plan, and he succeeds. Like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, there is a forbidden love parallel with Meruem and his romance and how it affects among those of his staff. There is quite a lot more, but to explain it all would be to make an infinite draft, which is impossible, so bear with me here. While these topics in the Chimera Ant Arc are complex for an anime, in truth, they have been handled far more thoroughly in classic fiction novels from two hundred years ago. Though Togashi never attempts to be an expert, he is more of someone who seeks to do something out of curiosity. That curiosity is what makes it so brilliant. 

Never does this arc fall into pretentiousness through its unwieldy indulgence in dialogue and standing around while we hear a never-ending voiceover. Though even this dialogue works in communicating, in a novel-like state, important communication of moments that will have casual book readers cheering and more show-not-tell believers screaming. In this chaos this arc has, Gon, especially, stands out for how he progressed not just through parallels but also through his effect, like Meruem, on others. The two are kind of the destroyers and rebuilders of not just themselves but everyone around them. Meruem builds his team before destroying them with fated choices. Gon built his friendships, some that he was blindsided by, and his many faults, from day one, in choices led him to an absolute path of destruction. They are both absolutists and, in turn, only indulge in such.

For Gon, it is a loss of self and Killua, who can never be the same, and for Meruem, it is absolutist rebuilding that brings him together with who he loves but is also what helps to seal his fate. Both are flawed in their beginnings and conclusions as individuals. Think of the two drama queens. The Chimera Arc does far more than these two characters, but they are representations of what this arc holds. An unforgiving, ruthless, but rewarding journey from a perspective that doesn’t hold your hand. Though it is certainly an arc that, through all its many breakdowns and spirals in its writing that feel painful to a core that might have even damaged itself, there is beauty found that one can say heals it from afar.

The 13th Hunter Chairman Election arc is an elegant arc compared to the rest that lays itself more into payoff and needed indulgence. Gon finally meets his dad and feels as though he comes to terms with the world through him and Ging’s conversation. Killua and his sister split from Gon and go their own ways, and, in many ways, that is a fitting end. Life goes on. And Gon is going to be alright, and he finally found who he was looking for and found himself really on a journey of a lifetime.

While I would describe Hunter x Hunter as absolute with itself when in regards to the tone of each arc, when put together, it makes for something, as said before, defined as the human experience in its varied, untied, loose, and ever so engrossingly epic and mundane yet surrealness.

A hunter feels, brilliantly, more like a representation of growing up than anything. To be a hunter is to grow from adolescence into a varied world and find yourself. 

Now, to come and think of it, it would not be too far away to compare it to Ultimate Spider-Man in its subversive, 2000s in writing feel, and snappy and cool style. Or even comparable to Spectacular Spider-Man in its line of spaced out, detailed design, and consistent fluid animation without resulting in shortcuts.

Like in the manga, there are points where the show goes full “let’s explain every single detail” to you, but it all works a bit too well, I might say. For instance, in an early episode where Gon is asked which candle he will choose, there is a shameless expository monologue on it, but it works to explain a concept from a character who overthinks things head-on, and we even get a nice little animation thingy from it while he talks about it.

It is a show that wears its influences on its sleeves with style. Yes, it’s similar to insert your favorite show, but it knows it. Oh, yes. It has not just seen your favorite show but rewatched, reseen more than you, and was there when they made toothbrushes with the characters faces plastered for only double their worth since, yes, that happens.

Hunter x Hunter reminds me more of teen or kids books than anything. It hits serious topics in a very clear manner while also playing into general random and comedic chops that blend into an individual and nicely personalized narrative.

By comparison to the manga, I would say Hunter x Hunter (the anime) is more of a realized vision. Simply put, the manga was the outline or rough draft, and the anime was the actual accomplishment and finalized version.

The general main character designs and outfits are all quite standout and unique in their effect. Gon, of course, wears a bright green outfit with giant green shoes. This is a nice choice since he is more of a fisher, as we see in the beginning with his catching of a big fish. Killua is designed more in a laid-back style, which fits with his character. For instance, Killua’s hair is more all over the palace and casual, while Gon’s is more pointed and hyper, matching his personality. Though, if you need any more proof of the fabulous designs, look at how Togashi designs the eyes of his characters, which feel stylized rather than relying on repetitive overuse of character models.

To use a modern anime to help you get the gist of Hunter x Hunter, it is the Jujutsu Kaisen except smarter, with a better battle system that feels less formulaic and derivative, and with consideration rather than shock value as an indicator of how a next episode will go and less embarrassed in how it conducts itself, and less comparable to a kid who discovers a popular band and now thinks they are not like other listeners of music. In other words, Hunter x Hunter is an experience that is not wrapped up in what it is. It simply lives its world without embarrassment or considering itself anything other than itself.

Hunter x Hunter plays into, unabashedly, and subverts, very unabashedly, stereotypes of your casual anime. And in doing so, it found itself.

Each episode has a free-throwing direction that doesn’t play into the standard anime direction of a boring camera moving in one angle and cut and rather feels like it embodies the characters when it comes to how they feel in a specific moment. Such as in an early episode when Gon looks for someone and the camera itself moves around almost out of curiosity and casually embodies Gon’s mindset in a more casual attitude toward the horror he may face. In other ways, the camera embodies its own character as if an observer or vulnerable viewer to what’s happening.

While I have called this series, probably too many times, one that is subversive and evolves itself, it doesn’t go one way. It is simply what it is. While, looking at the outlook, it goes from a kid catching a fish to that kid attempting to seek revenge around a hundred episodes later, something Togashi does that few writers or creatives accomplish is taking this extremity and making it casually intertwined. In a sense, no characters change. They just are themselves, unabashedly. It’s not even the A24 or artsy, snobbish way of making evolution by feeling like nobody has seen insert a random movie making shot. Instead, Hunter x Hunter has humility and a burning, joyful heart.

VERDICT

Hunter x Hunter shines with its fun energy. It simply is the most timeless show to possibly exist in its Dickens and Austen-like wonder and beauty and quick turns into almost Orwellian, Dostoevsky, and King-level horror. Through it all, it retains a simply joyful spark. It is a show that is made of its influences and writers experiences, yet it feels casually highly individual. Bread from one’s experiences in whatever they consume. Yet it never just feels like a shonen but rather a destruction, deconstruction, and embracement of those inhibitors and, in some ways, enforcers to its writing. While a series like One Piece may be joyful to downright flanderation and utter bewilderment, Hunter x Hunter bites forward with its energy. It is, undeniably, Hunter x Hunter. In that, Togashi created one of the greatest definitions of human-made work to exist.

5/5 


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