Along with Magi, HunterxHunter is really the only series running just now that I really want to be able to watch as soon as it comes out. So it's perhaps a little strange that I didn't jump at the opportunity to watch the movie as soon as somebody translated it. I'm not sure why I kept putting it off - one day I was looking and finding no decent-quality video, and then all of a sudden it was months later and I could have seen this weeks and weeks ago.
But it certainly gave me my fix. It wasn't quite what I hoped it would be, especially given Togashi's involvement and the rather cute tie-in chapter in Jump that remains the most recent thing he's released, but it was certainly something I enjoyed. I am somewhat disappointed that it wasn't largely a prequel, promotional materials showing a younger Genei Ryodan and of course the manga tie-in being set in Kurapika's childhood, but it was in other ways satisfying.
Like most of the best Jump tie-in movies, it takes something that is a bit of a question mark in the actual series and expands upon it. In fact, it covers two things - Kurapika's childhood, though I have to say it rather neuters the idea of the Kurta clan as fearsome warriors, and the previous member of the Ryodan that Hisoka defeated and replaced.
Here, we find out that former member is named Omokage, and has a rather complicated ability - to see into the minds of his enemies and create puppets of the people they know, with a great degree of their abilities and fighting prowess. These puppets have no eyes, but can steal the eyes of other people, whereupon they become more or less completed and operate on their own. He can also absorb the puppets into himself and use their powers. The trouble with Omokage conceptually is that (a) his survival means that Hisoka didn't do his job - though claims to have known he was fighting a replacement puppet and enjoyed the idea of getting to fight him again, and (b) his motivations as antagonist here are unclear. He wants to get Kurapika's eyes because they're valuable, and new eyes for his beloved doll of his little sister Retz, and there's never any real explanation for why he chose to come out of hiding and execute his plans so conspicuously just at this point in the HunterxHunter timeline.
He is also not very visually striking, especially compared with the others in the Ryodan. He has an indifferent design that looks like something rejected from Trinity Blood, and a typical driven-mad-by-loss raving personality. More interesting is his sister Retz, who presents herself as a boy in dungarees and is later dressed up very much like Shinku in Rozen Maiden, who befriends Gon - inspiring jealousy from Killua - and then later defies her nature. She is not the best-developed character in the world, but she certainly stands out from a lot of random kid characters in Jump movies. On the other hand, she somewhat highlights this film's tendency to over-exaggerate the homoerotic bonds between both Gon and Killua and Kurapika and Leorio, taking something that is enjoyably subtle and taking it into the realms of fanservice.
That said, it's in fanservice that this film really succeeds, especially for those of us who think that the York Shin saga was the highlight of the title so far. It has Leorio and Kurapika reappear - both completely absent for the totality of the Ant arc and Kurapika only having a single-frame cameo in the Election arc - but it also has appearances from all of the original Ryodan and even Uvogin, who of course has died in the main series. Nobunaga is made to really shine here, and Hisoka even gets a chance to fight Kuroro, even if only a puppet of him.
I can probably categorise this one as a guilty pleasure. Objectively, it's really not great - the plot is confusing, the antagonist unconvincing and lacking motivation, and the main characters get little development beyond 'these two pairs are very, very close to one another' and 'Killua is being controlled by Illumi', which of course gets largely aborted with the discovery of a v-chip-like device during the Ant arc.
But these are characters I really, really enjoy in the first really original offering the anime has been able to offer - and since the manga is back to HiatusxHiatus, I'll take what I'm given. And feeling just a little guilty about it, I'll love it.