Hunter x Hunter, from mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi (Yu Yu Hakusho, Level E), is one of the longest running shonen series from Japan in recent years, and much like Fullmetal Alchemist, it got its own rebooted anime series. One may argue Togashi’s erratic manga release schedule, especially since he hasn’t released a new chapter since March 2012, others may think Hunter x Hunter is one of the strongest series out right now. In honor it reaching the 100 episode milestone, I will now explain to you why this show should be on your radar and why you should immediately add it to your “now watching” list.
Hunter x Hunter is one of the smartest, well thought out series I’ve experienced in a long time. It’s comparable to early Naruto chapters and how strategic Masashi Kishimoto was with the ninja battles and characters. Now, I can already hear a chorus of boos from nerds that I’ve compared Hunter x Hunter to Naruto, but seriously, the tactical and calculated portrayal both mangaka do for their respective series is impeccable. Naruto’s second part has since drifted in to Dragonball Z “my power is stronger than yours” plot design, but its first part will remain a testament to well thought-out scenarios. The good news about Hunter x Hunter is that it is like that consistently from the get-go!
In just a scant 100 episodes, we’ve reached a point the 1999 version wished it could have reached. Though that’s not entirely far as the original anime would have likely entered filler territory while Togashi continued the manga. The original 1999 anime series was, from other reviewer’s perception, too slowly paced and not very well animated. Hunter x Hunter 2011’s animation studio (Madhouse) brings the manga to such rich, detailed life, the 1999 version pales in comparison. Crisp, fluid animation and colors magnify and enrich scenes and fights without being too much of a sensory overload. Togashi’s distinctive character designs certainly help the anime stand out too. Unfortunately, it looks as though the anime will likely end or will enter filler territory by next mid-to-late next year as the anime is slowly catching up with the manga again. But let’s not focus on the future, and look to the past and the journey we’ve had so far.
Hunter x Hunter’s story revolves around Gon Freecss who aims to be a Hunter, just like his father, Ging, who’s abandoned him with sister. A lovable scamp, Gon fits the shonen standard very well, and is really hard to not immediately love as a character. He’s stubborn, but not too stubborn. He knows his limits, and is repeatedly testing them reach a new level and grow as a Hunter. His really just wants to meet his father more than anything, and for the first quarter of the series, that’s his main drive. As he enters the Hunter Exam he soon meets three people who immediately become essential story elements and three of his best friends: Kurapika, Killua, and Leorio.
First up: Kurapika. Don’t let the gentle demeanor fool you; he can turn it in to an outright brutal attack in a heartbeat. As a member of the massacred Kurta Clan, Kurapika is out for vengeance against the Phantom Troupe and will not rest until it is done. He’s strong and determined, but unfortunately a little headstrong at times and lets his emotions get the best of him, inhibiting him often. His bigger roles will come later on in the next couple of arcs, but Kurapika is certainly a character shrouded in mystery, begging for your attention.
Secondly: Killua. Get used to seeing this little guy; he’ll be around for a long time to come. (Hopefully that’s no spoiler, since after 100 episodes it’s hard to remember when all of these characters encounter some sort of grave danger). Killua is from the famous Zoldyk family, a family world-renowned for being assassins and being very good at their job. Killua is the closest in age to Gon out of the four main protagonists, so they tend have more in common and are more relatable. But like Kurapika, he also has a very dark side to him. Naturally, coming from a family of assassins tends to do that to you. He’s not your typical deuteragonist with a troubled past most anime characters have thankfully. He certainly has issues, but throughout the journey, he’s never agonizingly annoying about his past to the point you wish the focus would shift from him back to one of the other characters. Killua is a solid creation, and a great addition to the team.
Lastly: Leorio. The oldest of Gon’s friends, Leorio is definitely all about himself and about obtaining as many material possessions as possible. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good heart and care about his friends immensely, but he has his own selfish motivations to becoming a Hunter. His development is certainly the weakest of the bunch. He gets very little growth in the first few arcs, and I’m currently waiting for his return to the foray as we speak (more on that later, promise). Much like the rest of his team, however, Leorio is very meticulous and very intelligent in situations and battles. He has a few, but shining examples of these during the Hunter Exam, and they truly make you realize he’s not as typical and near-sighted as may first appear.
As I mentioned before, the first story arc is around the Hunter Exam. Now I know, the exam/school/tournament arc has been done to death in anime, even in Togashi’s previous works, but he still has enough creativity and storytelling ability to create something interesting every episode. There’s never a dull moment, and it’s always pushing quickly to a conclusion. Midway through this portion you’ll have experienced a journey and seen Hunters of all shapes, sizes, and motivations. You’ll learn so much about our various heroes and villains by the end, and they’ll certainly keep you watching. By the end of the Hunter Exam arc, you’ll have met characters that will carry over into future arcs, and change the landscape for Gon and his friends. It’s truly an extraordinary tale, and it’s only just the beginning of a terrific series! We have 75 more episodes to go over for Hunter x Hunter until we’re caught up, so stick with us and be sure to check Crunchyroll for the entire back catalogue for 2011 series. Part 2 of You Should Be Watching: Hunter x Hunter is coming very soon…