Yes! This episode is probably the best so far, and that’s saying a lot. Hunter x Hunter has been fairly consistent and it’s really starting to show more of it’s strengths not just as a representative of its genre but as a whole.
This adaptation is doing a lot of things right that so many other shows this season are struggling with. It’s also one of the few shows that places a certain amount of trust on it’s audience. This is kind of ironic considering that HxH is being aired at a 10:55 a.m timeslot and aimed at a younger audience. It really goes to show how competent the team behind this adaptation is.
We have a dialogue that doesn’t bore, dark undertones that are kept in check, subtle and more believable character development, an adaptation that is still faithful to the material but isn’t afraid to take liberties every once in a while and an exceedingly creative fictional world.
This series isn’t treating kids like bumbling idiots. It knows how to imply violence and the serious consequences of the exam. While a good dosage of blood is probably one way to say that this Hunter Exam is serious business, implication used effectively can still bring good results. For example, the scene where Hisoka throws playing cards at the impostor was done very well. We see the two cards hitting him on the chest but we know that a third one was lodged to his head just by implying that there was a force that struck the impostor.
We see this thanks to a shot taken from behind. And to me, that’s the kind of implied violence that works.
As for the characterization, the first phase worked well to set this as more of a way for certain characters to bond, namely Killua with Gon and Leorio with Kurapika. I always liked the way Killua and Gon became friends— it just happened so naturally. Killua chanced upon someone the same age as he was in the same exam and decided to hang out. Adults weren’t probably willing to take him seriously and everyone else was absorbed in the exam. It also helps that these guys were running for like six hours so these guys exchanging conversations in between wasn’t so far fetched.
Even the minor characters are getting a few minutes of the spotlight. Tompa’s cunning and twisted hobby was highlighted when we see the three brothers psychologically attacked the already exhausted computer genius. Later we see Tompa paying the three brothers and when they tell him that he really must enjoy bringing down rookies he simply says “I live for it.” This is the kind of twisted logic his smarmy character has that makes him memorable. Tompa’s obsession borders on pathetic and evil at the same time.
But real character that stood out the most in this episode was Leorio. I don’t really think he’s as normal as he thinks he is, however I do believe that as opposed to the other three main characters Leorio is the one who’s had the most normal (erm, relatable?) kind of upbringing. His cynical attitude conflicts with his kind nature, which easily makes him an interesting and potentially complex character. Kenji Fujiwara is doing a great job on voicing him so far. His past was simple enough, being unable to help a sick friend. Madhouse actually added in that scene with the younger Leorio, I’m certain that wasn’t in the manga. I thought this was a brilliant move because it showed that everyone in this exam came from different parts of the world and Leorio grew up in a poor town and his experiences led him to hold money is high regard.
I also liked the kind of encouragement Gon gave Leorio, he just stood there and stared at him as if asking him: “Are you pressing on or not?” It really gave Leorio this boost that wasn’t solely made of POWER OF FRIENDSHIP or BELIEVE IN THE ME THAT BELIEVES IN YOU. This adds a whole new dimension to Gon that we haven’t seen yet.
Speaking of Gon, the way his face lights up when the Numere Wetlands is revealed! You can tell he has a true affinity to nature in that scene.
This show also has a decent sense of comedic timing. Hanzo and Leorio’s reactions during the whole scene with the impostor were hilarious. We haven’t seen much of our bald ninja but damn does he have personality or what?
Naturally, this show requires that you suspend your disbelief that 12 year olds can run for six hours without breaking a sweat but come on. We have shows with 14 year old Gundam pilots, 14 year old future diary holders, 17 year old terrorist group leaders and 10 year olds that can alter fate with a pink diary. Are we really going to bring this up as a case against Hunter x Hunter? Please.
The darker undertones here are slowly surfacing. Hisoka likes to kill for the heck of it and Killua’s “I’m surprised you can keep up with me.” Along with his odd reason for joining the exam (He did it for fun because he thought it’d be hard) hints on something more sinister that we have yet to see. We’re also treated to a shot of the examiner warning them of deception as vultures start to eat the impostor’s corpse.
But one of the more disturbing aspects of this show is why Kurapika’s clan was murdered. Just like how certain animals are hunted down and killed for their fur and other unique qualities, the Kuruta clan was massacred for their eyes. There are people willing to pay a lot of money to collect rare human body parts like the scarlet eyes of his clan and that’s why he must hunt down those who took the eyes of his people.
What makes Hunter x Hunter so unique in it’s treatment of life is that plenty of the characters approach it with a business point of view and this is something we’ll continue to see grow as a theme later in the series.
This is one of the better shows of the season so far and as a fan of the manga I’m quite happy with it. Yes, it does have a lighter and more child-like feel to it but so far series succeeds in balancing all the important elements and also adding it’s own spin to the well loved manga. Despite it’s 10 am air time and a younger demographic. This show appears to be more intelligent than a few other shows this season that are clearly aiming for an older audience.
P.S: I know I’ve been hating on the soundtrack for a while now but Kurapika’s theme and the song played during Leorio’s flashback? Beautiful. The animation has its derpy moments but the movement itself doesn’t suffer a lot. It’s not like the first adaptation wasn’t derpy because those who have seen it know that it had its own hurdurr moments. By the way, I’ve been hearing rumors that this adaptation is being supervised by Yoshihiro Togashi himself, can anyone confirm this? The guy isn’t exactly lenient when it comes to these things so it truly brings my hopes up to hear that.