Hunter x Hunter 16 – A Rude Awakening

He can’t become a monster to fight the monster.
– Detective Oh, I Saw The Devil

I Saw the Devil is a film directed by one of my favorite South Korean directors, Kim Ji-Woon that tells the story of a young secret agent (Kim Soo-hyun) seeking out revenge for the murder of his fiancee. I thought it was worth a mention that the film emphasizes on the ‘hunt’ that occurs all through out the film, with Soo-hyun allowing his prey, the serial killer Kyung-chul to escape several times only to capture him time and time again, inflicting as much physical pain as possible in every encounter.

While it may seem a stretch to compare Gon’s situation to gritty crime thriller. In a more realistic perspective, it may not at all be that different. Hisoka is a malevolent mass murderer, one with an insatiable appetite for the blood. Gon is a wild child, amoral and focused on the hunt. He’s willing to sacrifice a good number of people if it means it’ll give him a chance to steal Hisoka’s plate.

He comes across a difficult situation as Hisoka begins to directly target Kurapika and Leorio. Gon decides that if ever the three start to fight, he’ll have to change plans. This thought only occurs when Gon realizes that Kurapika and Leorio could die from the encounter. Luckily, Kurapika is armed with skills of negotiation and keeps his calm all through out. The duo’s unshakable determination to defend their other three badges impresses Hisoka, allowing the two to leave in exchange for one badge.

Most people would run like a bitch.

This works in Gon’s favor. Hisoka’s bloodlust strengthens after the encounter, and leads him to a frenzy. The anime does an amazing job depicting this, using rough lines to define the volume of Hisoka’s body resulting in giving him a larger than life appearance.

Unlike every shounen lead, Gon succeeds in his first task but in order to do so, he sacrifices a fellow candidate in the process. While Gon is far from being anything like Hisoka, his willingness to compromise is worrying.

The Illusion of Control

Psgels asked a great question regarding his post on last week’s Hunter x Hunter.

How can I enjoy a story that I already watched before?

Being an adaptation, there are instances where the director’s perspective of the work comes into play. I firmly believe that it’s how one communicates his understanding of the material that matters. Watching this new version has allowed me to grasp the themes and motifs much better. This is because we’re viewing the same progression of events in the eyes of a different director.

I find it ludicrous when a person exclaims that the new adaptation has demoted Hisoka’s status into a ‘generic villain’.  The scene above shows Hisoka crushing a red butterfly in his grasp, one can assume that the butterfly is killed only to find that as Hisoka opens his fist, several butterflies have appeared.

Hisoka’s motif is the ‘Magician’, a man who can perform the unthinkable. He also happens to be a bloodthirsty killer. The scene above illustrates how Hisoka is capable of eliminating life, and nurturing it. He is a man playing ‘god’, selecting his victims and releasing those he believe will grow into better opponents. The thought alone causes him ecstasy and drives him to a rampage.

Facing his Mortality

Through out the series, Gon bears witness to countless deaths. His calm, if not– distant approach is unnerving. Its hard to have a concrete understanding of Gon’s mental processes, but if it means anything– I find that Gon doesn’t fear death itself (because it’s all part of the cycle of nature after all) but he finds fear in the idea of being killed by Hisoka.   Gon strikes me as a person who would rather die on his own terms, a child susceptible to self destruction.

Hisoka’s plate number is ’44’. According to Japanese superstition, the number 4 is associated with death. Hisoka is pretty much the grim reaper here, when he dumps Gereta’s corpse in front of Gon, it only serves as a reminder of Gon’s own mortality. He’s capable of killing Gon, and would have done so if he wanted to. However, he does not. And Gon, stubborn through and through– refuses to accept that.

Weakness

The episode closes off with a haunting piano score (which will probably be included in OST 2?) which very oddly enough, reminds me so much of this piece from the A Tale of Two Sisters OST.

This is my favorite moment throughout the whole episode. It’s clear that something inside Gon has changed. The series never outright says it, but Gon’s eyes are enough to tell you that.

It’s interesting to speculate how these butterflies relate to both Gon and Hisoka, on Hisoka’s– it’s relatively simple, he’s a man attracted to bloodshed. On Gon’s side, it seems less of being attracted to blood but more about being attracted to danger. In this case, taking on the grueling task of Hisoka has led him to Gereta’s trap.

A great parallel for a sunday shounen.

It’s not completely over for Gon, but this has dealt a major blow to his ego.

It’s disheartening to see a few blogs drop Hunter x Hunter from their blogging schedule but every once in a while, when an episode like this pops up I can’t help but talk about it. This series continues to surprise me with how thoughtful the execution is in terms of using allusions and weaving heavier themes into its narrative.

The series introduces itself as an adventurous tale, but it’s a coming of age story as well. An interview with the director, Koujina Hiroshi was translated and shared on the Mangahelpers forum and it’s lessened my doubts on the direction of the series is taking. This episode has delivered exceptionally this week, and I hope we’ll get more episodes of this caliber.

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2 Comments

  1. This is one of the moments that really got me into Gon’s character — it is the rudest awakening imaginable, the point where he really sees that the world of Hunters is indeed a Frightening Place. As strong and tough as Gon is, Hisoka treats him as if he’s nothing, and Gon is not only humiliated but also emasculated. He’s reminded heavily that he’s still just a kid working the world of adults: First by that one hunter successfully targeting him, and then by Hisoka pounding him into the dirt.

    • You can see it in Gon’s eyes how he’s really pissed off with how things have turned out for him. It’s great seeing this theme persist through out the series. It’s a harsh reminder for Gon but still, he’s persistent as ever. It’s that quality to him that makes him such a refreshing shounen protagonist.

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