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Hunter x Hunter (Episodes 27-52) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 31 January 2013 00:00
Another 26 episodes of the surprisingly-enjoyable Hunter x Hunter brings us another 2 arcs of story goodness. First, the battle arena of Heaven's Arena; before Kurapika gets some time in the spotlight when he faces off against the Spiders of the Phantom Troupe...

Gon and Killua have arrived at Heaven's Arena, which they plan to use as an opportunity to train and make money. The Arena is the world's greatest fighting spectacle - starting at the ground floor, combatants work their way up the tower by winning, facing stronger and stronger opponents as they go. The higher you are in the tower, the better the living accommodation and the greater the rewards - so it's just the thing for a pair of new Hunters to use to hone their skills. It's also the first place the boys encounter te mysterious power known as Nen, which when skilfully applied allows its users to greatly enhance their abilities. Fortunately, friendly Nen master Wing is on hand to teach Gon and Killua the ropes.

Kurapika, meanwhile, has also mastered Nen - although in a way that's rather more focussed on his personal aim of destroying the Phantom Troupe. With such focus comes even greater power - but with an associated cost. Not the Kurapika's worried about that when his revenge is at hand. But the Phantom Troupe are still no pushovers...

As I mentioned, last time around, perhaps the greatest surprise for me with Hunter x Hunter is that I like it at all. It's such a by-the-numbers shounen trope-fest in a lot of ways that I was fairly certain it would fall flat on me, as pretty much every Shounen Jump show before it has. But the likeable cast and the general sense of fun around most of it quickly won me over. This time around, some of that sense of fun is swapped for a liberal dose of gore and some darker aspects to the storyline - especially when dealing with the Phantom Troupe. Decapitations? We have them. But despite the change in tone, there's still plenty of enjoyment to be had here.

Heaven's Arena is that thing which most shounen shows screw up royally with: a training arc. With Nen having been pulled out of nowhere, it's encumbent on the boys to learn it - everyone else fighting in the Arena makes liberal use of it, after all - and so we get into a little routine of battle / training / battle as they power up. Wing and the training sessions I could probably do without - they go into the minutae of the detail of Nen, its various subtypes, and how it all works - things that you really don't need to know, to be honest - and stay with Gon and Killua as they work out how to apply what they've learnt. Exciting it isn't. But then events move to the arena floor, and the boys get the chance to show what they've learnt - and this is exciting stuff. Add in the the arc also follows Hisoka's progress through the Arena, eventually setting up a head-to-head with Gon (and we know just how much Hisoka loves Gon), and there's plenty to enjoy.

Likewise with Kurapika vs the Spiders. Along with a noticeable darkening in tone, this arc introduces a number of new characters on the 'evil' side of the show (some who stay with the series even after this arc completes) and sets a well-powered-up Kurapika against them. There a plenty of twists and turns, doublecrossing and kidnapping, and revelations about just why Kurapika's son determined to take revenge on the Spiders, and it never ceases to be entertaining. Doubly so when Gon, Killua and Hisoka return from Heaven's Arena to join the fun.

Part of me seems to be permanently convinced that Hunter x Hunter can't possibly be consistently good - look at the likes of Naruto or Bleach, the other shonen powerhouses, and see how often their anime adaptations gor mired in the irrelevant. Hunter x Hunter, though, is adapting manga chapters that were released many years ago - there's no need for the series to worry about pacing, or catching up with the manga (for a while, anyway) - it's free to do things right, and to do it without filler. And what a difference that makes. The Phantom Troupe arc in particular could easily be marathoned without any worries of boredom setting in. For this sort of series, that's a breath of fresh air, and makes these episodes easy to recommend.

Rating - ****