Over the course of the last several years, remakes of anime that have already been out have become more and more common. Berserk is getting retold in movie form alongside Rurouni Kenshin. Jo Jo Bizarre Adventure has already been redone twice and is dealing with its third remake but with need unadapted manga joining the long favored “Stardust Crusaders” storyline. Of course, the most popular is Dragonball Z Kai … which just has little new footage and reedits of the old footage. Yet, one of the newest and longer running remakes is Hunter x Hunter.
This latest anime of Hunter x Hunter has already surpassed the original anime version and is still going strong. Hunter x Hunter was originally a manga produced by famed creator Yoshihiro Togashi, who also created Yu Yu Hakusho. Produced by Madhouse, Hunter x Hunter (dubbed Hunter x Hunter 2011 by most fans) tells the tale of Gon Freeces, a young boy who decides to become a Hunter like his absentee father; yet, unlike most anime that show boys hating their father’s for not being there, Gon actually applauds his father. Alongside Gon, is Killua Zoldyck – a young boy who was raised as and worked as an assassin; Kurapika – the last of the Clan of people who’s eyes light up bright red when they feel intense emotion (anger mostly) and Leorio – a young man who wants to be a Hunter to help him play for medical school. The four characters start by taking the Hunter Exam and all that it intells but as time goes, the story moves after the Hunter Exam dealing with the adventures of the 4 characters … well, mostly of Gon and Killua, who become best friends over the course of the series. It also deals with their many trials as they learn to use Nen which basically is aura which allows them to use special abilities that you see through out the series.
During each arc of the show, characters come and go, with a bunch of them becoming semi-regulars with others just showing up during the arc. Chief among those characters that show up over and over are Bisky Kruger, a hunter who takes the guise of a young teen girl … even though she’s around 50 years old, Kite, who actually appears in the first episode of Hunter x Hunter but then appears again during episode 76 (the beginning of the Chimera Ant arc) and last, but certainly not least, is Hisoka. Hisoka is the character one of the characters that reappears the most, showing up during every arc except for Chimera Ants (*at least as for me writing this) who seems to have a very strong … ATTRACTION … for strong people; no matter the age or sex. Hisoka, Bisky and Kite all seem to represent different layers of the show. Bisky is the cute and fun but mysterious aspect of the show. Kite is the more serious, upfront aspect. And Hisoka is definitely the dark, twisted yet very fun part of the show. All these different aspects really help put Hunter x Hunter apart from the other shows.
As for the main characters, Gon and Killua carry the show; with the two of them almost always together throughout the show, except for the small arc after the end of the Hunter Exam Arc where they go after Killua at his home. Kurapika ends up having a larger arc as he takes center stage during the Yorknew Arc as he faces off against the group that murdered his people, the Phantom Troupe – a group of 13 strong Nen users who are known for being killers and thieves around the world. Oh wait! Lo and behold, Hisoka is a member of the Phantom Troupe. Gon, Killua & Kurapika spend a good chunk of time learning Nen and getting stronger and stronger.
As mentioned earlier, Hunter x Hunter 2011 is produced by Madhouse, directed by Hiroshi Koujina; who also worked on High School of the Dead, Tiger & Bunny & Macross Plus, with music by Yoshihisa Hirano; who worked on Super Robot Wars OG: Divine Wars, Death Note, Beyblade & Ouran High School Host Club; and many more. While this series is not dubbed in the states, it holds a strong Voice Actor/Actress cast. Handling the lead, Gon is Megumi Han of Yugioh Zexal II (Rio) and Chihayufuru 2 (Surime Hanano) while Killua is voiced by Mariya Ise of Gundam AGE (Wendy Hertz) and Yes! Precure 5 (Cure Lemonade) fame. Kurapika is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, who played Perrine-H. Closterman in Strike Witches and Lanis in Chrome Shelled Regios. Leorio is voiced by veteran VA Keiji Fujiwara; who has voiced many roles including Ali al-Saachez from Gundam 00, Isami Enmoto in the new Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and recently finished as the voice of Cheeta Nick in the tokusatsu, Tokumei Sentai Gobusters. The staff definitely seems top notch on this show.
This group alone definitely made sure that Madhouse’s stamp is all over Hunter x Hunter. This show definitely grows into a more adult audience type of anime than it does a regular Shonen. How did I come up to that conclusion? It was first commented by Ed the Crimson, one of the hosts of Dropping the X, an unofficial Hunter x Hunter podcast.
“It’s a Seinen disguised as a Shonen,” Ed the Crimson (formerly known as Bullet Beast) as the host of Dropping the X – An Unofficial Hunter x Hunter Podcast described it.
It was certainly a statement that was the biggest lore for me to watching it. And now …I am hooked. Spectacular visuals and shot construction during battles keep you visually locked to each episode. Excellent music that catches the mood of a scene but not sounding generic really helps sets it apart, as that seems to be one of Madhouse’s stamps on their series.The background music alone is worth of several Grammy’s for Best Soundtrack as it goes from mellow and chill to full orchestra insanity that holds you; used much like it was in Death Note but not as freely. The battles themselves are brutal; the show not shying away from showing blood, people being killed and more. People are constantly dying and/or losing body parts throughout the series. You have been warned. Yet, the show is classy enough to not be overly gory.
The pacing in the show is among the best in anime history. It follows the arcs within the manga yet makes sure it does not take too long in one arc. It constructs each arc carefully; allowing the story to be told. Also, the writers for the show make sure that each character they have appear on the show gets development in some type of form of fashion. From our leads in Gon and Killua, to the characters that only show up briefly, like Killua’s father Silva and even Gon’s father (who we only see very briefly throughout the show, Ging; each character has a purpose and very few are just throw away characters. Besides Gon and Killua, each character either dies or just moves on. No story dictates to keep them just cause they were part of the show in the beginning as Leorio goes from lead to not really being seen at all after the Yorknew Arc. Even Gon and Killua have to share the spotlight with Kurapika during the Yorknew Arc; where the character shines at his best … and his most brutal.
The antagonists on the show are definitely not typical run-in the mill villains either. From Hisoka to Killua’s Mother to Chimera Ants; each set of villains are multi-layered and complex; like the protagonists. Many times, the show makes you feel for the villains or find ways to make them relatable; making sure that not everything is black and white. This, I find, to be one of the biggest strengths of the show.
Another thing about the show’s writing is that it has no problem being varied. Each arc is different. The Hunter Exam introduced us to the characters and formed bonds. The Zoldyck Family arc let us get to know Killua better while showing how the others feel about him. Heaven’s Arena Arc introduced us to Nen and ended the Hisoka/Gon rivalry that has been brewing since the beginning of the show. Yorknew Arc focused on Kurapika and his hunt for the Phantom Troupe. Greed Island allowed for Gon and Killua to really strengthen themselves while searching out for Gon’s dad. And currently, the Chimera Ant Arc deals with the harsh truths about life … as Hunters and as Humans. Each arc showing us lessons while continuously raising the stakes. It keeps being entertaining whether it is pulling your heart strings, brutalizing you with epic battles or just having fun; and it does it seamlessly.
The battles are epic. Like the stakes climbing, so does the action. I mean … Holy … the kid just sacrificed his own hand to take down an enemy! WOW! This is just one prime example of what I mean when I say the show is a Seinen disguised as a Shonen.
Overall, It is a great show. Wonderful and engage characters. Solid writing. Excellent pacing. Flowing animation that really makes Togashi’s art come to life. The music is superb. Oh … warning, get used to the opening song but not the opening animation cause it is the same song, just different verses used throughout all 91 and counting episodes. Still, I high recommend this show.
Hunter x Hunter 2011 is available on Crunchyroll, English subbed now. It is currently in the middle of the Chimera Ant arc; which is episode 91 as of the time of this review’s release. If you are interested on more opinions on Hunter x Hunter, go listen to Dropping the X-An Unofficial Hunter x Hunter Podcast (hosted by Dame Dr. Foxy Brown, Diego & the aforementioned Ed the Crimson) if you want to learn more. Just watch this show and let it hook you. I give Hunter x Hunter 2011 a 5 stars out of 5. Get on the Hunt with Hunter x Hunter.