The first HunterxHunter movie from Madhouse, Phantom Rouge, was a slight mis-fire, but felt like an event. There was a Togashi-approved backstory for Kurapika, complete with original tie-in manga chapters in the midst of one of the longer recent hiatusxhiatuses. The Ryodan showed up and lots of them looked awesome, and we even got more from the deceased Uvogin. I couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend the film, sloppy as it was, but it was enjoyable.
The second film feels far less exciting, far less of an event. It’s a very simple, rather dull story and there are no surprise cast members – though there is a funny little wordless cameo from a certain vice-chairman of the Hunter Association, messing with everyone as usual. The new characters introduced aren’t even as interesting as the last film’s uninteresting baddie, and there’s no cute cross-dressing Gothic Lolita girl to offset these ones either.
After Greed Island but before the Chimera Ant arc, Gon and Killua return to the Celestial Tower to see the show they’re putting on – a big tournament between all the floor masters. In a nice touch, it seems Zushi has risen up to become one of them, allowing for a reunion with Wing and Biscuit. Kurapika is still working for the Nostrades, and as Neon is watching the tournament, he is there too.
But the tournament never happens. An old adversary of Netero’s appears to interrupt proceedings, take control of the tower and kidnap Netero using a formidable power. Why they don’t just kill him and what they actually hope to do is a little unclear. But the interlopers are using an alternative to nen called ‘on’, which gives them great power but at the cost of their lives, like most dark powers in anime that are effectively doping analogies. Hisoka watches from the wings, as well as helping get Leorio involved, and things are neatly arranged so that there’s one strong opponent for Killua and Gon, one for Kurapika and Leorio, and then a final boss. Despite the moment where inexplicably everything changes because Killua pierces through the unbreakable barrier and touches the dead girl on the shoulder to free her from being dead, mostly the combat scenes are flashy and satisfying. There’s lots of fancy moves, explosions and heartfelt speeches as Gon once again prepares to sacrifice himself for those close to him. Very sweet.
But ultimately this comes over as a fight about nothing much, to prevent nothing much, which doesn’t improve the world or enrich the characters in any real way. It’s a fight in a big tower, and feels inconsequential. It’s very much standard shounen anime filler, and that’s a shame because HunterxHunter only really succeeds where it shows that it is atypical and idiosyncratic. This could easily have been a sub-par movie version from any of the Big Three.
The Madhouse anime is winding up soon, because Togashi hasn’t finished the next arc so they’re not confident in beginning it – I assume. That’s a real shame, because I love to watch it. Conceivably, I should have saved this for after the series ends, and I want something to fill the void. But I’m quite glad I didn’t leave this to be my final viewing experience of the Madhouse adaptation (bar future releases based on the current arc). Because ultimately the word I would use to describe the film as a whole would be ‘anticlimactic’.