To Find His Father…
Madhouse’s Hunter x Hunter tells the story of a young boy named Gon. He started his journey in finding his father. He decides to follow in his father’s footsteps not only to find him after finding out his father left him at a young age to become a Hunter. However, he also wanted to see what was so special about the profession that made his father choose to become a Hunter instead of having to take care of him.
The path that Gon takes towards such a goal makes the series very special despite the story of finding a father is simple. The series has many arcs all of which Yoshihiro Togashi wrote very well. It boasts one of the best analysis, character studies, and philosophy especially when it comes to the scope of anime and its culture. The impressive world construction, strong narrative, characterization that captivates each other, as well as depth of Togashi’s story make it an interesting story.
It can absorb the audience into a long adventure. On the other hand, the lack of popularity surrounding the series as well is disconcerting considering it is, in many demographics, one of the most underrated anime. It’s not a lot of people talk about in the popular realm for an anime that does everything right. However, it also didn’t succeed in gathering as many fans as One Piece and Dragon Ball have done.
In showing such fairness, the series personally flies under the audience’s radar. However, in terms of appearance, it was very childish.
The First Impression
Hunter x Hunter gives a light impression in the first place. However, it gives a good impression and is by no means a wholehearted series. Apart from making the audience say that it is a childish series, it is acting as a kind that appeals to everyone. The series gives off a classic shounen vibe despite being charming but has lost its way in recent years. It did the series with its head held high.
On the other hand, the series as it progresses takes a dark turn, especially during the Chimera Ant arc. Most of the light series story arcs, whether the Hunter Exam, Heavens Arena, or Yorknew City arc, all of the arc offers a study in each narrative. When talking about the dark arc, Yorknew is an example besides the Chimera Ant arc. The series describes the arc as a dark, noir-style thriller narrative set in a big city.
It tells about revenge, genocide, and heist but has light elements about friendship and common tropes that audiences often encounter in shounen. In terms of atmosphere and sensation, on the other hand, the series also depicts the Chimera Ant as the Hunter Association’s efforts to control the plague of a dangerous man-eating species. In short, it becomes the most powerful yet thematically dark arc in the series tackling themes such as survivalism, human conditions, and existentialism.
The arc has attracted many comparisons in many seinen series such as Attack on Titan because of its nature. In both series, the protagonists experience a strong sense of desperation in the face of an antagonism that is far more hostile and superior. Simply put, the series undergoes major pitch changes in other arcs with significantly changed amounts of violence, atmosphere, music, and color palette.
A Study of Narrative
Hunter x Hunter succeeds in dabbling in genres in seven story arcs that handle multiple studies. The studies can cover politics, North Korea, virtual reality, film-noir, fighting tournaments, character learning, and narrative transitions. By packaging the story of the series to be very impressive, it can undergo a significant change of tone with ease. At specific moments, such a shift in tone often occurs when the arc ends, at other times even occurs in the middle of the arc.
Therefore, it creates another trope about the series linking its narratives to one another. Naturally, each arc follows the one before the arc. It creates a natural transition that highlights what the series is all about. Adventure can be the only word that can describe the series. However, the pace of character development is excellent. For big specifics, the series is very good in terms of pacing.
It does a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged. Time will continue to pass quickly when the audience is watching most of the episodes. They will find themselves enjoying the series, excluding the little recap episodes. On the other hand, the series has no filler episodes. The story development is solid with the plot moving forward with each episode. However, what sets the series apart from other shounen series is the audience’s expectations.
Figures in shounen narratives often become dramatizations between the expectations of the audience and the medium. For example, Gon is more desperate and failed than successful in winning a fight. Such a thing is also how the series introduces power based on will and emotion. The battles in the series are very different from other shounen anime.
Gon: the Unconventional Protagonist
On the other hand, Hunter x Hunter is not just about the main protagonist and not just about the main focus of each arc. At certain points, the audience can say that Gon can act as a supporting character. In the Chimera Ant, the audience saw a lot after witnessing the existential dilemma of Meruem who was trying to find his identity as a king. He also learns about how human emotions work when he meets Komugi.
On the other hand, Gon, in the audience’s interpretation, can act as an “antagonist” who falls into depression. The audience saw his character transition from a very innocent child to a character who doesn’t care and even wants to kill Komugi when he meets Neferpitou. On the other hand, Neferpitou said that their role was not only serving Meruem. In such a standard fighting anime formula, it is not about who wins or loses.
Regardless of training, it doesn’t always mean victory. It also doesn’t play a role in pushing the protagonist to the same level as the main antagonist in every arc when it comes to strength. For the most part, the protagonist takes on a passive role i.e. basically, he is just a kid who has a lot to learn. When it comes to narrative, unexpected developments are common. Such a thing can make the audience think that the story will develop in another direction.
By changing such a direction to arrive at a completely different result, it becomes a very anti-climax in a great intend. There are so many developments and story scenes that the audience won’t see. It is because every character is against conventional shounen storytelling.
The Dissonance Writing of Hunter x Hunter
The writing and performance of Hunter x Hunter create an effect of dissonance between the audience and the series. Mentally, the series simplistic look is at odds with the unorthodoxy and brilliance of the writing. When new audiences delve deeper into the series, some of them realize that there is more to study in the series. Instead of people suggesting the series because of its synopsis and cover, expectations from the series that are generic and immature are getting turned upside down.
When the series reveals its entrails full of surprises, such orthodoxy one can see in fights that are primarily brains. Besides Madhouse executing it well, the series’ battles are very intelligent. It involves many strategies thanks to its Nen system. Unlike strength in many shounen anime in general, the Nen system is a factor but that doesn’t mean the factor determines the outcome of battles between characters.
It is more like a strategy, experience, and actualism within the characters of the series. All of the characters take everything into account when in battle. It is also true with the main character. When the antagonist defeats the main character in the specific arc, Gon will and will still lose. Additionally, the main character has no room in terms of special treatment. Such a smart approach to fighting over the series is enhanced by the Nen system.
It is complex but unique because the rules and limitations define the system. The concept and its application on the battlefield reveal a great deal of thought that people can put into it.
A Matter of Character Study
The main strength of Hunter x Hunter lies in its writing. On the other hand, another thing that makes the series so rich is that its characters are very close. The series has many characters and each character as a whole has an alter ego, worldview, philosophical view, dreams, and motives. Yet, most of the characters don’t follow the generic character archetype either. In the first place, there is a little character that the audience might think is generic.
Such assumptions gradually cover the series as the series progresses. However, one thing that people need to emphasize as well is that character studies are located in the antagonist department. When it comes to characters, the series shines the brightest above everything else. The villains of the Togashi series are very well written but except for one or two antagonist characters that won’t apply to most of what the series presents in the first place.
Not only is the characterization impressive independently, but each character is also different from the others. No antagonists or other characters are the same. Such a quirk applies not only inside the series but also on its outside. Hisoka, Illumi, every Phantom Troupe member, Chrollo, or Meruem become one of the many antagonists that audiences will not find in other series. It is such a reason that makes the antagonists of the series so alluring.
Besides having a very impressive characterization, every antagonist is original and has one thing in common. Each antagonist attacks the audience psychologically, while the series does a good job of establishing the level of danger that each character brings in meeting the protagonist.
The Pessimistic View
While entering the mind of pessimism, a question arises: is Hunter x Hunter the perfect series? When saying the series is great, it’s not perfect. The series didn’t have a strong start and needed an episode or two nor an arc to start its journey. Things start to get a little interesting in the first arc. After such, it gets better. Another thing that people complain about as well as the specific part of the Chimera Ant arc.
The series has made a name for itself as it holds a consistently high level throughout its run. It is very easy and interesting for a marathon but such consistency takes a beating in the arc. The reason is because of the “pacing” and the handling of the story that is so stretched. On the other hand, the series is so loveable when it comes to the combat and characterization aspects. It is an added value in addition to being subjective.
The series can act as a chilling series that is relaxed yet complex at the same time.
- Rodriguez, T. (2022). An Analysis of Hunter X Hunter’s Chimera Ant Storyline: An Introduction to one of Shounen’s Most Infamous Tales. SofloSound.
- Sharma, N. (2021). Hunter X Hunter Anime Continuation: Full Analysis & Breakdown. OtakuKart.
- Walsh, J. (2015). Why You Should Watch Hunter X Hunter. YouTube.