Hunter x Hunter is an action-adventure-fantasy anime following 12-year-old Gon Freecss as he travels the world in search of the father he's never met, meeting many friends and enemies along the way.
This one had not been on my radar long. Obviously I'd heard of it, but I was having trouble becoming interested, even knowing who made the original manga. Perhaps it's the rash of boring/terrible anime I've been subjecting myself to lately. But, that's beside the point.
I came at this anime as a fan of Yoshihiro Togashi's YuYu Hakusho anime, having watched that for the first time only a few years prior. In that time, I forgot just how good his work was. How carefully he came at his stories. How much detail his characters were made to have. Reading about it, and watching the first opening, I only expected a different play out, I knew it would be pretty good. I suppose I expected there to be no real conflict. It was a boy looking for his father. Nothing more. But then, it evolved. He took a few detours from his primary mission for the sake of making friends, helping those friends, and getting stronger in order to keep them safe from the enemies that rared their ugly heads. Not to say that I believed them all ugly, but that will come a little later.
In all truth, the first couple of seasons were fun enough to watch, but it took a bit before I was invested in the plot of the show. I stuck to it for the characters. This one has many very interesting characters in it, and I loved all of them. With maybe one exception.
All of the characters are great. Of our main heroes, I loved Killua the most, but even more so when he was with Gon. Those two were just such great friends, I loved seeing them hang out together!
I honestly wish Leorio and Kurapika had been a little more prominent. Backstories fleshed out some with flashbacks, people they knew when they were young, that sort of thing. I wanted to like them more than I did, but I had to just be happy that they turned up again and seemed to be gradually working toward their goals with some success.
Of the female characters, I liked a fair few. Senritsu (Melody) was a good one. Alluka along with Nanika (Something) was a very intriguing character, and I wish there'd been more on those two. Palm was hilarious, and showed a cooler side in the later half of the Chimera Ants arc. In the end, though, I think Komugi was my favorite. She didn't fight. She had no special powers. She had moments where she was particularly wise, but she didn't know that herself. She was perfectly adorable, a very special character with a very special place in my heart.
Right next to her, I loved Meruem. He was a very touching story to watch unfold. I could watch his story again and again, and probably feel the same as I did the first time I watched.
Of the bad guys, I was fond of Hisoka, but who isn't? He's slimy, perfectly smug because he knows he's better than everyone else, and is loyal to no one in particular. His only goal is to fight the strong people of the world and kill them when he wins. Merciless, narcissistic and smug, he's a deplorable creature unfit to be called a human being... and I love that. He makes you cringe a bit, but you can't look away for fear of missing what he'll do next.
Chrollo is a close second. Along with Illumi. Both were pretty foul human beings, but they didn't get as much time to prove themselves as interesting as he was. Illumi looked like he was about to have his chance in the last arc, but things were cut short. I hope they pick back up soon.
Plot wise, the whole thing is pretty good. Clearly, some things that were said to have been there long before the story started, were only thought of well after the story had begun, but that's a common thing and he explains their absences well enough that I didn't think too hard on these.
The Hunter Exam arc was a nice introduction to the type of world they live in. I had expected more powers, fancy weapons, mysterious creatures, a myriad things that didn't actually turn up. But, with patience, and love for the characters presented to the viewers, things of that sort were introduced in the next arc.
The Zoldyck Family arc was a nice little detour, with a good look at why Killua is the way he is and how he survived his childhood as the youngest son of a family of elite assassins. Personally, I thought it was too short to call it a full arc, but it was cool enough.
The Heavens Arena arc was also fairly interesting, tying in the introduction of Nen to a few things we'd seen in the Hunter Exam, and showing how it could be used to do so much more than they thought possible. I would've hoped to see more fights than I did, but they spent every spare moment on the explanation of what Nen was, how it manifested differently in each person, and how to use it to their own personal strengths. There was a good revenge match in this arc, though, and that was good enough for me.
The Yorknew City arc brings us back to Kurapika's story, showing how he's gotten himself in line to find his fallen people's eyes and reclaim them for the tribe. In the midst of it all, the people responsible for obliterating his tribe - The Phantom Troupe - have made their presence known, and Kurapika's objective switches more toward vengeance. It's an exciting arc with a lot of intricate planning and several brutal battles and deaths. The ending of this one was quiet but very tense as well, I felt.
The Greed Island arc was probably my least favorite arc. I was irritated by the 'real-life-video-game' spiel. I've always hated things like that. And a lot of things went really fast. Like, the return of the Hunter Exam. It's annual, right? I missed nothing right? So... how was a certain character able to take it again without aging another year first? A small issue. I can get past it. Other than the video game stuff and the time-passage flaw, the action was pretty good. I'll note that I didn't care for Biscuit Krueger at all, but that's a matter of personal preference. The fights and plans were exciting. Certain twists sent me reeling. It was pretty solid, even with all this stuff that I didn't like or care for putting me off.
My favorite arc. The Chimera Ants arc. There was much evolution of the characters going on. In both their powers and their personalities. The most brutal villains I've seen in this series were introduced here. At the same time... I gained a new OTP that beat out OTPs that I'd kept for years and years before this arc. The battles here were the most exciting I've ever seen. And in the end... I cried hard and ugly for a few minutes at the end of the arc. I haven't cried like that for an anime in quite some time. I didn't expect it to hit me that hard, either. But it did. And I loved it. Both the heartbreaking and heartwarming moments. I love to cry for an anime. That always means it's good, for me.
The 13th Hunter Chairman Election arc is short. In the time that it was on, however, I grew to love Killua even more than I already did, and I got to see the lengths he would go to for his best friend and for the only family member he truly loves. Obviously, as the name suggests, there's an election going on, involving the strongest Hunters in the Hunters' Association working to find out who will head the company. While I tried to be interested in that, I think it needed a few more episodes to be truly interesting, particularly after its twist ending. A lot happened over this election, and some of it was never discovered before the end of the series. I'd like to see them get back to this and fill out some of the things they'd only just touched upon. But, other than just wanting more from the series, this series was pretty thrilling and heartfelt and well-thought-out. A very balanced anime.
The opening took a bit for me to get into. I think I had to hear the second version before it really reached out to me. It's a very exciting song, too. Perfect for a heroic adventure through mystical lands to battle powerful enemies.
The credits songs all fit the main emotional conflict of each season nicely. So, if the ending turns sad, be wary, for your feels are about to be preyed upon.
The score struck me as familiar somehow. Something about the particular sound. So, I looked up the composer. Turns out, he's done a fair few other anime scores that I'd heard before. I don't usually pay that much attention to the score of anything, in order to recognize a composer's work. This was a special case that sneaked up on me, and I was pleasantly surprised!
The Japanese cast for the show is pretty much all-star, and the English dub cast is working on doing the same. While I'm not partial to some of the English dub picks, they're all fairly good actors and actresses that are good at what they do, and I would expect nothing less. Obviously, I watched the Japanese version, not that I had a choice if I wanted to watch in English. But this is one that I'd gladly watch again in English just to see if the cast measures up. They won't, but still.
The animation is more fluid than I would've expected. Obviously, some of the fights were just so smooth, I couldn't help getting excited. Particularly in Killua's fights, but some of Gon's were pretty good, too. But, they did reserve some nice animation for some of the slower things. Moments of emotional tension and moments of humor got more special attention than they usually do in an anime of this style. The fights are not the only important thing in this show, and I love that.
As a side note, there's an instance in the early half of the Chimera Ants arc where a woman appears in a room, and she looks exactly like a Sailor Moon character. I loved that! No doubt, Togashi-sensei made that as something of an homage to his wife, Naoko Takeuchi! So cute!
Over all, this anime has revived my soul to some extent. I've been so exhausted for so long, but this show made me feel a lot better, even when the characters broke my heart. The writing is smarter than most of the stuff I've seen lately, with far more engaging characters and a good balance between light and happy moments as well as the dark and heavy moments. It is not without flaw, but I don't expect it to be. I never expect an anime to be flawless. But, I do expect it to be held to a certain standard. Hunter x Hunter met that standard easily. I haven't been this happy with an anime in a long time. I'm so glad.
I realize there's also a 90s anime series, an OVA series, and a couple of movies, which I will promptly seek out once I've finished another series on my watch list.
I recommend this show to any anime fan. This one covers pretty much all the bases. The obvious action, adventure, fantasy and mystery. But it also holds some horrific elements that made me cringe, and tragedies that tore my heart to shreds. There's friendship and romance. There's humor and clever-thinking. A very well-rounded show, perhaps made specifically for those who like a little bit of everything in anime. It does a nice job of blending everything together without becoming an awful mess, and I hope to find more shows like this one if possible.