When I started anime, I only know Shonen, I never knew there were different genre. I thought Sailor Moon belonged in the same genre as well. After all, transformations, fighting evil brightly coloured attacks. It all felt the same. It did not matter to me because I loved and devoured it all. Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z Kai, Fate Stay Night, Sailor Moon. I loved it all to bits. Yet after many hundreds of episodes that same, uniformity in the genre led me to fall out of love with it as well. I still love the tropes but I lost magic. It began to feel cheap and in retrospect None of these felt that great to me. Not a single shonen would make it even close to my top 10 anime ever. Except for maybe one. No it’s not my Hero Academia, it is the delay plagued Hunter x Hunter that won my heart.
The weirdest thing about this show was that I watched it around the time my shonen fatigue was at its highest. I dropped One Piece, dropped Shippuden and while I saw the end of Bleach I had little positive to say about the Fullbring Arc that ended the anime. Back than I was actually reading some shonen Manga though, mostly to read ahead and gain some closure on some of the series, except for One Piece. However Hunter X Hunter was very different to me. It felt fresher it felt more real. However this feeling did not immediately extend to the character of Gon. I didn’t really like his design nor his way fighting style was depicted. It felt so loose!
The episodes where he met the cast felt very generic and I was just about to drop it. However I decided to wait a few episodes after they had set up. I did like Leorio and Kurapika and Killua, just Gon felt a bit meh to me. The Hunter Exam was completely my type of shonen. I like those little competitions and tournaments. However throughout the entire first arc I never felt really impressed. I just stuck with it because despite of my Shonen Fatigue I usually liked this genre still that main character is soooo boring. For some reason I always have issues with a main character when they wear green. I have never been a fan of Yuseke from Yuyu Hakusho either and I am not the biggest Midoriya fan either. The nature of the challenges kept me invested and I thought Hisoka would be the first arc villain, which kept me interested enough. The shounen fatigue was real though and sitting trough an entire arc that is soso might be a bit much for most but after that first arc ended , oh boy….
So many shonen
The short Zoldyck family arc intrigued me, Killua was a much better character as Gon. Gon felt more like the “player” character. A main character made like a simpleton to be able to explain the world to both Gon and the viewers/readers in a less intrusive way. I really hate those other kind of exposure dumps “As you all know…… last night we have discovered …” If everyone knows there is no need to bring it up guys! Don’t talk to the audience if you don’t plan to break the fourth wall. In a way Gon was like us viewers. Just his fishing rod as a weapon was sooo dumb, and his outfit was not very fashionable. I really liked the darkness of the second arc. Then we got the Heavens Arena Arc and I was blown away. Wait.. now is the first time we get introduced to the ACTUAL fighting style of the world? That’s so interesting, sure I saw it in Katekyo Hitman before but this one felt more significant to me. As it changed something for me. Everything felt so earned in this anime. Never do we get a convenient power up, the main character doesn’t learn their first signature move until very late into the series. This show felt so much tinier and so much bigger at the same time. Rarely is Gon ever incredibly powerful or the strongest during the adventure. Except for one exception he is always just trying to catch up, close the gap or fight with the resources he has been trying to close the gap as well as possible.
Both the Greed Island and Chimera Ant arc felt like something completely unique as well, each arc had their own set of rules. Each arc was something different, showing that both Killua and Gon still only have had taken baby steps in the world of Hunter x Hunter. It made the world feel alive, and never had powers gone stupidly out of control. All powers , except for maybe the power of Netero and Meruem felt.. manageable. Let me explain this by saying throughout the first few arcs basicly up until the end of the Chimera Ant arc it feels that powerwise we are more in the Dragon Ball area of power levels, compared to Dragon Ball Z. So many shonen now push their powers to mountain shattering punches in the first few arcs that the sense of progress is trivialised. Like how scaling from crushing a pebble to crushing a mountain is impressive, but from crushing a mountain to crushing a huge mountain… meh! Most Shonen resolve around the main character being one of the strongest after they learn some secret technique or gain some form of power. A bigger dog shows up, they need to gain a new technique , rinse and repeat. As if the world resets each story arc. Hunter X Hunter does it differently, it shows there are multiple tiers of skill , there is several levels and the main characters try to scale this, each time in a very new setting with a new atmosphere as if a series on their own! Which I find a great way to convey a challenge and to show diversity. They even switch up the protagonist.
Hunter X Legos!
This show doesn’t shy away to take the focus away from the main character. The Zoldyck family arc already put a big emphasis on our favorite white haired assassin boy, the Hunter Chairman Election Arc, despite how flawed it is, took that a step further. We don’t do that “the hero is downed, lets insta heal him and see him return more powerful thing!”.. No! Down is down.. if a character is in the hospital or needs to recover it will take them actual time to recover. No sensu beans or chakra transfer in this one. As a result the stakes of this anime feel so much more real. .. except for when Badass hunters return as little chimera girls. A cut, a broken arm, a bad night’s sleep. It all affects the characters so much more. Somehow Hunter X Hunter never pushes what seems to be completely impossible for humans. Sure they later develop the mystical powers of Nen, they still feel human. Compare this to Luffy, Ichigo or even Yamcha who still run while impaled a million times, can blow up the planet or gain new powers and transformations willy nilly. In Hunter X Hunter they use mini nukes to kill of their enemies because that is still more powerful. Thank you! That way all the powers feel earned and it is nice to see Gon’s compagnions gain the spotlight. This world feels about the closest to real life as Shonen go for me.
Killua’s arc is a bit of a stinker though! However the same can’t be said about the Yorknew City arc which uses Kurapika as the main character. By Arceus, this is a great arc. Probably my favorite Shonen story arc along with the Chuunin Tournament and Katekyo Hitman Reborn’s final anime arc. In this arc we follow Kurapika as he seeks vengeance on those who wronged him. Given so much depth to his character, but also fleshing out the posibilies of Nen so well. Let’s compare this anime with Lego’s for a moment. The Hunter Exam Arc is basically your standard lego build. You know those classic red and white bricks from the age of lego before everything was an overpriced movie scene or something with it’s own animated series. It’s some solid groundwork but nothing special. The Zoldyck family arc then had you build something with a lot less blocks. An anxious but quite fun build. During the Heavens Arena Arc we get shown.. “Hey did you know there is something called Lego Technic? With a little engine you can make things move! Here’s how it works!
After you learned about the existence of those special lego’s the next arc takes you away from your journey for a moment just to highlight what is possible with Lego Technics. A showcase of Nen Powers, a parade of colourful and powerful foes, with mental games, staying true to oneself and a charismatic big bad! All the while you expect Gon to show up having developed his own powers of screen like Kurapika did. .. but no! This is not his story. We see the potential of Nen , which allows us to wonder… what Nen Powers will Gon get? Well guess what! It’s extremely limited! Even Killa’s Nen is still very basic. Just like when you are playing with Legos. That guy that is really good at it can show you how it’s done to open your mind ..but you still gotta build a lot of basic thingies in order for you to understand the concept well enough to do something special. That’s exactly what Hunter X Hunter does for me.
Hunter X Hunter is one of the best paced Shonen I have ever seen. Where Naruto Bleach and One Piece have deeply flawed pacing this to me is a shining example how a narrative is paced. (Not talking about the manga production or health issues of the mangaka). The only other Shonen that comes close in terms of great pacing is Hero Academia. Yet that series I still find very tropelike. Midoriya and All Might are the good guys and they fight the evil guys. Hunter offers a bit more debt. Meruem ain’t that EVIL of a guy he just is bad for the world. In his own way he kinda makes sense. There was some kindness in his heart. Chrollo very much cares for his Troupe Members and even prefers to be arrested or killed if it safeguards the continuation of his organisation. Hisoka is a loose cannon. Rarely do we get an *evil laugh* type of villain. Maybe the Zoldycks.. but that’s about it. Never are the heroes THAT good as well. Most of the time they do badass stuff they are inspired by vengeance rather than saving the world. Which makes it all just so much more real. Again so much more human and on a smaller scale than we usually deal with in these Shonen. We follow people in a big world but they don’t become a runner up world martial artist in season one! Most of them all small fish in a very big pond.
This results in a briljant Shonen anime that can tell a new story each time while it still feels fresh and plausible. While I do doubt we will see the series continue far enough to ever reach its full potentials, as long as you drop off after the Chimera Ant arc, this show will definitely give you some tingly and happy to be a fan. However you really have to wait until the Heavens Arena Arc to fully see that potential come to life. Which is kind of funny, the characters grow at a very mallow pace, the manga crawls forward in a snails pace and it will also take a long time to really get to the good stuff. So if you have that three episode rule this show will easily lose you. Give it a try anyway, don’t binge it just take your time and watch an episode whenever you know nothing to watch! I will tell you will find there is a lot of music in this one! And first comes rock.