Monday, 22 April 2013

ハンター×ハンター / HunterxHunter 2011: episodes 1-76

HunterxHunter has now reached the stage where it’s a long-runner, and I have to say it’s maintained its status as one I definitely want to watch as soon as it’s released each week. It hasn’t ended, but it has just entered the Chimera Ant arc – which means that we are now at last seeing material that has never before been animated. The previous adaptation ended after the Greed Island OVAs, so after 76 episodes Madhouse’s version has caught up.

And it looks as if much will change. With Togashi still not producing any more material and the anime moving at an impressive pace, it’s likely the Chimera Ant arc, which took so many years to tell in the manga because of ‘Hiatus x Hiatus’, will be quickly swallowed up by the anime, which may mean we get filler. Episode 76 saw the introduction of Kaito, who appears at the very beginning of the manga and the Nippon adaptation, and not only did that have a very different (and lesser) impact, but Madhouse also put in a filler backstory about his childhood. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more filler in the weeks to come? I can’t tell yet, but filler has done nothing buy harm for other big shounen series, especially Naruto – though as I often say as a proviso on this subject, some of my favourite One Piece anime moments have come from filler episodes. It may be that HunterxHunter does some good things with its material. Or it may mean the anime just ends again.

Either way, with the excitement of seeing the likes of Palm, Morau and Neferpitou animated for the first time in the intro, it seems a good time to break my impressions in two – not least because I’m going to have waaay too many screencaps.

Despite the Kaito situation and some odd changes to the first episode (as detailed in my first impressions), this version has largely been an attempt at a more accurate adaptation of the manga (albeit of course having to be somewhat less violent), with a faster pace, and as such does a better job of that NaruTaru-like trick of presenting a happy-go-lucky typical world and then increasingly adding depth and darkness to it, until it actually shocks. It doesn’t go as far as NaruTaru, of course, and certainly not as far as its manga, but it’s after all a Jump title, and it retains its action and adventure elements.

It’s in part just a change in the general aesthetics of popular anime, but Madhouse’s version manages to be a lot more cutesy. With simple lines, Gon and Killua in particular are made to look very baby-faced and I have to say, it oddly made me like Killua much more than I did before. Their somewhat homoerotic friendship is emphasised, especially in the little comedy skits at the end of each episode, but at the same time they seem more like innocent kids than in any other version, even knowing each of their pasts.

I’ve read a lot of people who seem to feel that you can only like one version. Manga readers hold the original supreme, fans of the original series criticise this one for rushing this or not placing enough emphasis on that, and then some newer fans tried the original but found it horribly dated, slow and uninteresting. But I’m yet again with that minority that sees each anime adaptation as a different spin that doesn’t replace the manga but brings its own little elements, and I love all three. Madhouse’s effort is beyond a doubt the most pleasant to look at, has main voice actors I prefer (even if some of the Ryodan’s original voices were much creepier and seemed to me to work better), plus tends to get the humour right far more.

Honestly, I have little but praise for this new effort. HunterXHunter is probably my favourite overall Jump manga, having a clever edge and an ever darker tone that I really enjoy, plus in the Ryodan probably the best group of antagonists of any show, the Bomb Devil seemingly an intentionally unimpressive follow-up act.

I’m not sure how the future will go for HunterxHunter. I’m very keen for the movie. But for the time being it’s going strong and I’m very much looking forward to the rest. I think it’s time for a new opening theme, though.

Chimera Ant arc: Link
Movie 1: Link

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