Hunter x Hunter #78.
「キュウソク × ナ × ゾウショク」 (Kyūsoku × na × Zōshoku)
Very × Rapid × Reproduction
We’re three strong episodes into the highly anticipated Chimera Ant Arc, and things are still purely discourse. In one way, the lack of anything but conversation have assured a much calmer tone than we’re used to, some would even say a bit boorish. But at the same time, there is a lingering, harrowing premonition we can’t help but feel at the same time.
I had mentioned that last week’s episode was perhaps the most displeasing and uncomfortable episode of Hunter x Hunter that I’ve seen, specifically because of the scene with this arc’s side character, Kurt. In his portrayal, the boy is depicted as a dashing young boy and dependable brother and son. He successfully protects his sister from a snake while the two are out collecting food. Later on, at the dinner table, his mother praises him with the most genuine of motherly affection, to which he responds with a declaration that he will always protect his family. That night, when his sister is woken up by her own coughing sickness, he consoles her with plans to wake up early in the morning and retrieve fishes for their mother. Things don’t go as planned at all when a Chimera Ant shows up and retrieves the two siblings as food instead. And as if that’s not enough to make viewers lament, Madhouse venturesomely employs some subtle yet equally painful directional techniques in its presentation, such as the focus on the religious idol glorified as the protector of children and the zoomed focus on Kurt’s mouth right after he declares that he’ll protect his family forever (as if those words are some kind of taboo of hubris and only invoke a fate similar to those horrifically detailed in Greek tragedies). Needless to say, when Kurt’s fate was juxtaposed with the ventures of our usual happy-go-lucky cast, Gon and Killua, the resulting contrast was supremely poignant, in a sort of sick and twisted kind of way. As the boys eagerly delved deeper and deeper into the affairs of the Chimera Ants, Kurt’s tragedy was a clear indication that our protagonists are completely ignorant of the calamitous events that will soon transpire.
Brooding over Kurt’s fate with a fellow viewer (I still am so very saddened), I felt there just has to be a justification for it. After all, why spend nearly half an episode on a character that was just introduced in the episode? Why give him a back story if he is just going to die before the episode even ends? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just show the Chimera Ant Queen eating with human remains on the ground to depict the same occurrence? I disagreed so much with the death that I wanted a justification backed by convincing story development. Well, this week’s episode gave me just that, but it didn’t make me feel better, at all. This episode did a very fine job in establishing the Chimera Ant squadron leaders as actual characters with sentiments. The first squadron leader specifically, who is presumed to be the inheritor of Kurt, goes so far as acting in a way that compromises the colony’s main objective. Later in another scene, he is unfazed by another squadron leader’s challenge to prove who is the better leader. This causes two other Chimera Ants to describe him,
That’s what makes him endearing. He is dedicated and loyal.
I presume the human he was created from was also quite earnest.
to which the scene immediately cuts to Kurt’s mother in mourning at the loss of her son and daughter, with aforementioned religious idol and a supper prepared for three in view. And oh man, can you feel the plan in your heart.
On a much lighter note, I feel like things are finally starting to kick into high gear. Judging from the preview, we won’t be settling into high-end action just yet, but Kite and crew have just about confirmed the location of the Chimera Ant colony. Meanwhile, we’re revisited by the familiar faces of Pokkle and Ponzu who are to join the fray, not to mention the unprecedented interference of a mysterious organization working under the commands of one Gyro. Yep, things are definitely on their way. And very similar to the York Shin arc, the antagonists themselves are also serving out some interesting introductions, as we get a glimpse of some fascinating material on the Chimera Ant’s philosophy, existentialism, and the like. Togashi really is a genius at making his villains stand out as characters too. One such characterization that I really adored was the exploration of the Chimera Ants’ split origins, in that they inherit traits from other species (specifically humans, I’m assuming that the ones who look purely animal still have some human genes in them because of their ability to talk and the mass amount of human abductions they have been doing as a colony) but still are born from a purely Chimera Ant Queen (although she says herself that she too feels a small gleam of humanism in her, and with the way Phagogenesis works, you just can’t really be too sure about pedigree). I can completely see how expansive this arc’s narrative could potentially get. The shared humanistic qualities amongst the colony is definitely a factor that can define the Chimera Ants as more than just dangerous insects that need to be exterminated. First they want to have individualized names as a means of identity, next they could be challenging the conventions of their colony. Our Chimera Ant born from Kurt has already shown his reluctance to have his mother from his previous life be killed and eaten, a compassion that is a perfectly plausible compromise for future conflicts. This is more than just your average pest infestation, and Togashi is intricately weaving together elements that could make the overall presentation as superb as the Phantom Troupe’s story. That being said, it’s quite natural that I am also starting to notice some nit-picky discrepancies, such as the penguin Chimera Ant leader being so knowledgeable by reading so many books in such short time and all squadron leaders developing speech upon birth in the first place. In the end, I guess I would prefer to skip over extended explanations of such presumable things so we can get to the main course of the arc’s story quicker, served à la shonen.