Warning: Major spoilers for the Chimera Ant arc!
Togashi quietly finishes the Chimera Ant arc with chapter 318. Spanning over ten volumes, the controversial arc ends on a grim note.
If Madhouse really wants to adapt this arc, it’s going to take real guts. This isn’t a happy story and if anything, this is the arc where Togashi managed to do what he wanted to do.
I buy the English translated manga volumes every time they’re out
which is once a year and reading it compiled into tankubons makes you appreciate the hard work he poured into this.
Note: People who read the scanlated manga on the internet won’t be able to see the reworked art he did for the manga volumes. Buy the manga if you want to see the art redone. The art you see on the scanlations are the ones published in Shounen Jump. The scribbles don’t do the story any justice, or you can just pretend you’re reading avant garde manga. That seems to work too!
The way Hunter x Hunter used narration to assist the storytelling, the way it planned and sectioned the events that took place in one day, the way the battles were never ‘orchestrated’ and all served to move the plot forward and best of all– the way the characters grew up. You can see how Togashi gradually evolved as a storyteller, he tried new things and pushed the envelope with the Chimera Ant arc. The bad reputation (which is very much undeserved!) it gets is possibly due to the hiatuses and the lingering attachment of the fans to previously introduced characters. There’s also an obvious lack of ‘attractive’ characters, since most of the new characters introduced feature crude designs.
But despite those flaws– it was so unique from all the other shounen manga I’ve read. It was like reading a book at times. Togashi really let you get inside these character’s heads, the arc covered such a wide range emotions and explored various philosophies of the characters.
And for the first time, the situation of the ants vs. the humans was beyond any of the hunters. Gon and Killua struggled against the Royal Guards and Gon had to pay a huge price in his fight against Pitou. Whatever that price is, we have yet to see. The situation was beyond anyone’s control and this is why the ending becomes much more profound. In order to succeed, Netero had to sacrifice himself and this sacrifice led to the poisoning of roughly 500,000 people. In the earlier chapters Shoot tells Knuckle that a few lives must be sacrificed to protect mankind. But as I read chapter 318, how is 500,000 a ‘few lives’? Did the Hunters really succeed?
Half a million lives lost, Netero is dead and Gon sacrificed ‘something great’. Is the King’s death through poisoning (as I said, it’s an allusion to radiation) really the result of a successful mission?
The most ironic thing in this whole arc was perhaps in the end, the King chose to become human over being an Ant that fed on humans and many of the surviving ants wanted to live human lives.
He chose to become a human, and to him being human was showing compassion, acknowledging others and accepting his eventual death. He fell in love with a blind girl who could never defeat in Gungi and decided to spend the last moments of his life with that girl who also decided to do the same for him. For the first and last time, we see him acknowledge the Royal Guards who sacrificed their lives to lead the King at the top of all species. Pufu is seen dead, presumably crawling his way to the King’s side only to die surrounded by the listless citizens of East Gorteau that he’s infected with his scales.
But let’s get back to Gon and Killua. Gon is on life support and Killua claims that he will ‘save’ Gon. Perhaps Killua’s father was right, Killua is an assassin and will always come back to his family. Killua might have to save Gon with the help of his family but it’s unlikely that it won’t come with a fee. He is still the chosen successor to the family business and will probably be asked to abandon being a Hunter. But this is Togashi, things aren’t as predictable as they seem. Gon on the other hand, will not come out of this situation unchanged. I think this mission completely destroyed his beliefs. He won’t be able to trust people, he can’t save everyone and he has blood on his hands. This is such a stark contrast to the Greed Island arc because they were inside a game that had game cards that healed and revived people. That said, that arc was still pretty brutal with Genthuru planting bombs in people and all that but nowhere near the ant arc’s ‘human meatball’ level of gruesomeness.
This manga always made sure that we remember that Gon and Killua are 12 year old boys, they’re kids. Both have ambiguous morals because of the experiences they’ve had and we see this in the Chimera Ant arc. Gon has no problem killing people if he thinks it’s what he should do. The reason we see Gon as such a nice kid in the start of the series is because of Mito and his grandmother’s influence. He was raised to be a nice young boy and that’s what he is, however the deeper he gets inside the world of Hunters he changes. Killua’s development on the other hand works as the opposite, he was raised to be a killer and early in the series we see that he had no problems killing people but his life with Gon changed him. He’s still ruthless when he needs to be, but he’s also become vulnerable and outgoing. At the same time, this is where Killua conquers his weakness, but submitting to his true feelings.
On the action side of things, the battles in this arc were of a grand scale. There was a lot at risk and the battles tested the stamina of characters. Killua’s battle royale that lasted five chapters was insane. Hate fights that drag for too long? This one is long but it’s a rollercoaster ride. Seriously, that was just a whole new level of fighting in shounen manga. I won’t spoil it for you but it was amazing. The battles in this arc were amazing and well thought out. Sweet mother of– I have no words.
Well, this has been a long post. The Chimera Ant arc is one of my favorites and possibly the best arc so far for me. Togashi wrapped it up well enough and I’ll miss it. It subverted the ‘overpowered enemy’ trope and introduced some very memorable characters.