I have been marathoning this show since New Year’s and I finished this a week ago; and looking back, watching this anime has been a roller coaster- there were times when my fingers dug into the edges of seat in anticipation and then there were times when it got pretty mundane. But I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say there are exponentially more good aspects than bad aspects for this anime.
This will be a rundown of the entire show, arc by arc. Where I will be just, somewhat briefly, discussing what I liked and disliked in each arc.
I was at first skeptical about ‘Hunting’ as a profession in this anime; I always had the question: “So what does a Hunter do?” However, I found this vagueness in the definition of Hunters to be a convenience for the writing of different types of characters and battle mechanics in this anime. Consequently, the world building is neither extensive nor pithy in the first episodes- it provides just enough for the viewers to get a gist about what is happening in the show and the narrative purpose of the first arc: The Hunter Exam Arc.
The Hunter Exam Arc
This arc is the second best arc in Hunter x Hunter for me. I loved the character designs and their diversity. Almost all of the characters had their moments and motives. Sure, the whole- yeah, the real exam is about to begin- dry hype is admittedly very shounen-stupid and kind of genre cliche; but the different variety of tests and the way they are just straight-forwardly played out in an episodic nature makes a nod at the unconventional nature of this shounen anime. The later part of this arc also displays the tactical-nature of battles that happen and will happen in the later arcs. The character introductions felt somewhat crammed in for me but the subsequent character moments, like the one that Gon had with Hisoka is one of the most memorable ones. If there is one thing super-subjective thing left to gripe about- it is the time of the exam, I specifically remember when Gon, Killua, Kurapika and Leorio and the orange-juice-poisoner had to wait 50 or some other ridiculous number to advance to the next round: that was just what-the-hell?- moment for me. Overall, this arc is really well written and exceptionally paced.
Zoldyck Family Arc
I really can’t say I liked this arc. Sure, the testing gates set up for a fine training arc: but the anime just pulls some DBZ BS- seriously, a 500 kilogram door to the bathroom? Wow, the writer sure was original there. Except for the character-developing conversation between Kilua and his father, I really can’t find anything else to write home about but luckily, this is a short arc. Nevertheless, admittedly, this arc made Killua a really strong character in the series for me.
Heaven’s Arena Arc: This is a turning point in the anime where battle mechanics in shounen gets to a whole new level. Yeah, but the exposition of the Nen types and their false-explanation and their real explanations was kind of grueling to get through. But after you did, it was done: nen was a new buddy you acquired and you will never forget it. The fights were boring at first, but the Gon vs. Hisoka fight was pretty good and we got first-hand tastes of the battles to come. Narrative-wise, this arc was a lot looser than the other ones.
Yorknew City Arc
The first episode of this arc (episode 37) is one of favorite episodes from the whole series: Gon visits his aunt after a long time and he brings Kilua with him; we get a nice character moment between Kilua and Gon where they talk about their goals and this sets up the rest of the series pretty nicely- and it almost seems that the haziness of the path the show would take almost disappeared. But then, Ging’s recording gave the series a boost. Looking back, this was a pivotal episode in the show for me.
The Phantom Troupe is an interesting addition to the anime- again, diversity in character designs and development. Then again, not all the characters are fleshed out which is typical of most shounen anime. Again, Hunter x Hunter makes another nod to the unconventional nature of the anime by not really defining this band as the evil-doers in town; but rather a group with their own interests. The anime also does another unusual-to-the-genre thing by removing the Gon-Kilua duo out of the center stage and instead make Kurapika the main ‘protagonist’ of this arc.
I really like this aspect of Hunter x Hunter and this shows a lot of potential and helps to expand the freedom the writer already has in terms of character writing and story-telling. I always Oda for his awesome character designs and imaginative abilities of the Devil Fruits- but Hunter x Hunter expands on that by introducing new types of battle mechanics and changing point-of-views. Story-wise, this was pretty loaded and justifiably lengthy. This arc fleshed out Kurapika’s character really well and helped to set up the next arc.
Greed Island Arc
Through the most sleekest of arc transitions, Gon and Kilua get into another test for entering the game. But it is pretty short and we get transported into the game where players killed in the game die in real life. And then couple it with more grueling and unnecessary exposition and what is produced is a mess. I really didn’t enjoy this arc that much compared to the others. Sure, the sports segment was pretty well played out and the whole teamwork stuff is cool and all; but in the end, the final fight between Gon and Genthru is a bit over-the-top in execution (Seriously? Gon sacrifices his hands and then gets them back? Not really Hunter x Hunter-esque). I wouldn’t even start on how Genthru is an oddball out of all the villains in this anime- he just had the shallow character of a school bully. Nevertheless, we get some good training sub-arcs thanks to Bisky.
Chimera Ant Arc
Ah, the famous Chimera Ant arc! Like most people, this arc is my favorite from the series by a long shot. Never have I seen the build-up of an arc so thoughtfully written and the way the events tied together makes it really easy to marathon. Admittedly, Hunter x Hunter takes a deep dive into a darker tone of narrative and episode 80 was the epitome of that; characters die, Gon undergoes a huge character shift and Kilua comes to a bitter decision. Again, Togashi displays his never-ending supply of imaginative character designs through the introduction of the different types of Chimera Ants. Now, since I am on the topic of character designs- some of the designs (like Ikalgo) seemed offbeat with the tone of the arc- but the expressions really lowered the degree to a debatable point.
The character study on Meruem has to be one of the best of villains in anime. The way he is developed and the way his mental state is upheld: it just seemed really elegantly and patiently done; (Yes, I think patience is essential for any character development) whereas the regression of Gon’s character done in the sudden way without any philosophical dialogue really spoke out Gon’s way of thinking.
Netero’s and Meruem’s fight is easily the best fight in the anime but the final episodes kind of seemed- what the hell is going on? But by the end, it left me with a stronger empathy for the king and hope for Gon.
13th Hunter Chairman Election arc:
Kilua becomes the best best friend in anime and attempts to get help and save Gon from being gone (haha) from the world. Alluka the wish granter takes the spotlight and conflict ensues. Meanwhile, Zodiacs assemble and they arrange an election to determine the next chairman of the Hunter’s Association; and Ging finally gets his fair share of screen time. I enjoyed this arc and this really helped Kilua gain some ground as a character. Leorio also gets back his regular screen time as he becomes a candidate for the election. Speaking of screen time, Hisoka also gets his back too. I don’t have anything else to comment on in this part of the arc. Gon gets revived and he, Kilua and Alluka hang out and part ways- it was moving. The World Tree episode (the final episode) had good flashback sequences accompanied by a good soundtrack. Ging dropped a great one-liner:
Conclusion: I really enjoyed this unusual shounen anime which had imaginative character designs and innovative battle mechanics. It has one of the best written arcs in shounen anime. This anime concluded it nicely, I mean Gon finally met his father- that’s what the show started with, right?
To sum up my gripes about this show: there are long winded-exposition at times and typical shounen-stupid stuff here and there.
Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this anime for any shounen fans.