Thursday, 25 September 2014

HunterxHunter (2011): Election Arc

Well, I don’t think that when they revived it, Madhouse thought that in the time it would take to animate 16 years’ worth of HunterxHunter manga, Togashi would only have managed about 40 chapters.

So, well...the inevitable has happened. With the end of the Election arc, HunterxHunter is over once again. And I’m sad, because watching that final episode, which is actually a good place to end because it marks the culmination of Gon’s emotional arc with him getting to hand over Ging's Hunter licence and accomplishing the goal established at the very start, I’ll realised a few things.

I realised that even if One Piece is consistently better and I enjoyed Naruto more in its first 40-odd episodes, HunterxHunter is the Jump action property I care about the most (and second overall only to Hikaru no Go). Gon is by far my favourite of the action protagonists, much more pure-hearted and less annoying than Luffy, Naruto, Ichigo, Goku, Tsuna, Allen Walker, Yugi, Yoh or any of the rest of them, as well as going through far more harrowing experiences. HunterxHunter does darkness far better than any of the others ever did, and I’m going to be sad if Togashi is demoralised by the end of the anime and stops again for another long hiatus. Money isn’t going to motivate him – I’m sure that with his titles and the money the new Sailor Moon is bringing in for his wife, the only motivating factor is gonna be love of the piece. Is it still there? It feels like it, when he’s writing, but then for months and months he won’t do a thing.

Anyway, inception aside the Election Arc, while short and almost entirely lacking the protagonist of the story – another bold decision you won’t see from other Jump writers – is actually a very satisfying one. It reintroduces the long-absent character of Leorio and makes him look pretty impressive (setting up his role in the next arc), it despite a magical solution illustrates that the power-up Gon received was not a typical shounen ass-pull but genuinely put him and those close to him through significant pain and suffering, and with the parallel story arc for Killua, it further fleshes out his relationship with his family and fills in some important blanks.

But best of all, we get introduced to the Zodiac. Some are absurd, and some uninteresting, but Pariston is one of the most brilliant creations in any manga I’ve ever seen – and I detest him. But to have such powerful feelings about a fictional character who is only ever seen on the surface and who is named after Paris Hilton is quite the accomplishment. Pariston is an utterly brilliant depiction of a smarmy, insincere politician type. He’s slick and polished and knows that everyone hates him, but has an incredibly deep cunning under the surface and runs intellectual rings around the others – especially poor likeable Cheadle – while making it all look accidental or idiotic. Bringing Ging to the fore – and having him a foil to Pariston yet not entirely able to deal with him – is the most wonderful, watchable dynamic and again, sets up the next arc.

But fun though the election story is, the real emotional heart of these episodes was of course Killua’s rush to save Gon. Gon turned himself into something horrific in exchange for the power to defeat Pitou, and Killua can only think of one way to save him – the fearful power of his little sibling (most likely biologically male but identifying as female) locked up in the Zoldyck household.

With a set of strange rules, Alluka – or the other personality residing within, known as Nanika – can grant wishes when various demands are met. But failing to meet those demands brings horrific consequences. It’s the furthest HunterxHunter delves into horror territory, and it works really rather well. What Togashi does best is show that Killua actually sees Alluka as human, which none of the rest of the family do, and their bond is quite touching.

Illumi and Hisoka end up giving chase, another interesting dynamic – and Hisoka is enigmatic as ever, though brutally effective in his battle with Gotou. There are also some interesting new Zoldyck butler characters, though I think Tsubone’s goofy, rather embarrassing-looking ability was a waste – especially since she herself is awesome. It’s a pretty classic chase storyline, but wrapped up with all sorts of family drama, as well as Killua’s love for Gon and conflicted feelings.

The big climb to finish the arc is very sweet. Not only is that kind of ascent an old classic of shounen stories – most notably Dragonball – and finished off with trademark Togashi silliness with the nest, the conversation Gon finally has with his father is done brilliantly – it’s not too saccharine or emotional, but the message that Ging imparts, that the journey and the people you meet on it are more important than the goal, comes over very nicely.

I’ll very much miss my weekly dose of HunterxHunter. But I have every faith that it will come back again – someday. And until then, well, there’s always the manga. Sometimes. 

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