“Dude! You’ve gotta watch Hunter x Hunter!”
I’ve heard this several times from a few different friends of mine, none of whom know each other. I brushed it off each time, agreeing and saying I’d check it out... someday. I’d heard of the series, but the extent of my exposure was pretty much limited to using with the characters a few times in Jump Force. They looked interesting, I guess. And they had some cool moves. But it wasn’t enough to pique my interest. I’ll admit - I can be pretty stubborn at times. Once I’ve made my mind up, it’s hard to get me to change it. At this point, I was already pretty convinced that this is a show I wasn’t going to be interested in.
“Dude! You’ve gotta watch Hunter x Hunter!”
Again, my friends kept telling me.
Alright, alright, let me at least see what it’s about. So, I decided to look it up and do a little research via the Hunter x Hunter wiki. I’m the type, for better and for worse, who would rather look something up and research it instead of just jumping in and start watching. I wanted to make sure that if I was going to put in the time to watch this series, as I learned that it had 148 episodes, that it wasn’t going to be a waste of time. For the most part, I am not a fan of longer running anime and wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be wasting my time on getting into it only to find that its bogged down with filler.
Hunter x Hunter (pronounced “Hunter Hunter”) was created by Yoshihiro Togashi, who is known for creating Yu Yu Hakusho as well as being married to the creator of Sailor Moon. In addition, Togashi is notorious for taking breaks with the manga which has come to be dubbed “Hiatus x Hiatus” by the fanbase. That last part didn’t sound too good, but at least the anime had already ended. How about the characters then?
The main character, Gon Freecss, is described having superhuman senses and athleticism, as well as having unlimited potential and immense talent. Oh, and he’s only 12 years old at the beginning of the story. “So he’s the typical shounen protagonist, big deal,” I thought to myself. I didn’t see what was so interesting about this character. Plus, he had a goofy looking outfit with those tall boots and short shorts.
Moving on, I decided to scroll through the various pages on the wiki and came across the Nen system. Nen is the power system for the series, similar to Stands in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or power levels and transformations in Dragonball Z, except Nen is a bit more complicated than that. There are 4 major principles of conjuring and using Nen along with 7 advanced Nen techniques in addition to 6 types of Nen abilities that Nen users fall under. Each type has their own strengths, weaknesses, and compatibility with other types. Reading about all of this without the context of the show was a bit much and I quickly dismissed it as too much of a hassle to understand, decided this show wasn’t for me, and went on my way.
Despite my efforts to write this series off as some kiddy shounen that I’d never find any value in watching, I kept getting it recommended to me by my friends. They’d say things like “it’s my all-time favorite anime” and tell me how awesome the fights were and that the story gets “pretty crazy”.
I kept resisting until the day I saw a clip of the fight between Gon and Hisoka in Heaven’s Arena. This got my attention. Animated by Madhouse, the fight scene was intense and the animation was very fluid. I would eventually come to see that this quality of animation was held throughout its entire run.
Alright, I give.
I added Hunter x Hunter to my queue. If the show did suck then I could just drop it, move on, and tell my friends I at least gave it a shot.
I threw on the first episode, it was decent enough. And then I watched another. And then another. Before I knew it, I was about 10 episodes in. And then I was 25 episodes in, finishing up the first arc. The Hunter Exam arc felt mostly like a typical shounen, but it was interesting enough to keep me going. As I started on the next arc, I told one of my friends who recommended the show to me that I had finally gotten into it and where I was. They told me that I was pretty much through with the “boring part” of the show. Boring? I thought it was pretty entertaining, but if that was to be considered the low part of the series, then the rest sounded like it was worth the watch.
For the next month and a half, I spent all my free time watching Hunter x Hunter and over that period, I definitely changed my mind about it. Each story arc had its own themes and flavors that still meshed well with the larger narrative. The Hunter Exam arc feels like your standard shounen adventure, while the Heaven’s Arena arc focuses on the tournament/battle aspect you see in a lot of shounen. And this is where Nen is introduced and explained. I found that within the context of the show, it did a great job of explaining its power system and how it works, but it doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with too much exposition but just enough for the characters and the audience to begin to understand the basics. The later Yorknew and Greed Island arcs build on the previous ones and show the characters progressing in their Nen training throughout.
The pacing and the characters are pretty well written throughout. I never did really become a Gon fan but I was able to find other characters that I liked (Killua is my favorite) while there were also ones I ended up not liking at all (Leorio). It was a bonus that the story doesn’t always focus on Gon. Some arcs like the Yorknew arc focus on Kurapika mostly while Gon takes a backseat to most of the plot development. Characters come and go as their own storylines and motives guide them – they have their own lives and backstories. Killua, Gon’s best friend, is a child raised by a family of assassins. Kurapika is looking to avenge his clan. Leorio is trying to become a doctor. Gon’s friends don’t always stick around just for the sake of sticking around, and that feels kind of refreshing.
The show may be long, but it doesn’t waste its time on filler; there are only two recap episodes that take place within the first 30 or so episodes, and that’s it. Hunter x Hunter starts off feeling like your standard shounen about a conveniently written main character who has a simple goal to achieve through hard work and willpower, discovers the power of friendship, and comes out on top. But it ends up doing so much more than that, and it can kind of creep up on you once you’re invested in the show. There are a lot of darker moments and things happen that definitely aren’t for younger viewers, but they aren’t always easy to see coming. A lot of the times I found myself in an “oh shit” moment because of some plot twist or turn that suddenly has me realizing that things just got dark.
The music in the show was rather pleasant as well. Some background tracks get used quite often but they never become annoying. There are some good ending themes as well. The only complaint I have about the music is the opening theme, which never changes except for the visual. Most anime will change opening and ending theme songs after 13 or 26 episodes, but Hunter x Hunter only changes the ending themes. You’d better like “Departure!” or you’re going to find yourself fast forwarding through the opening a lot.
After finishing all 148 episodes and both movies, I found myself at a loss like most people do after binging something good. What’s next? What could I watch that fills the void of this show? Looking back, I regret going through it so quickly. The anime ends at a good spot, it doesn’t leave you hanging but it also leaves the ending open enough that there could be more episodes in the future. There is more story to be told that continues in the manga, but unfortunately because of all the breaks from Togashi, there hasn’t been too much progress lately. I’m taking my time reading through the manga especially since there hasn’t been a single chapter released in 2019. Togashi says he wants to finish the manga, but right now there is no timetable for when we can expect that to happen.
All in all, Hunter x Hunter really is that good. And while I don’t rank it as my favorite of all-time or anything like that, I sure did enjoy the hell out of it, and I think it’s one of the best shounen I’ve seen. There is a lot more to the show that I haven’t discussed, but I would hate to spoil anything for potential first time viewers. What I thought to be a simple shounen adventure ended up being so much more. You really can’t judge a book by its cover and to that, I say:
“Dude! You’ve gotta watch Hunter x Hunter!”