I’ve made it no secret that I like anime. I don’t love the medium as much as I used to, but if a show captures my fancy, then I’ll be sure to at least attempt to watch it. One show that I found myself recently getting hooked on was an anime known as “Hunter X Hunter”. It’s based off a long running manga series of the same name and has had a couple different adaptations at this point.
I attempted watching the show last year, but found it difficult to fully get involved with the characters. A year later, I stumble across the English dub once more and decide to give it another go. To my surprise, I really ended up liking this show! The show did take a few episodes before I got fully invested, but by the time I was halfway through the first arc, I was hooked!
I thought I would started reviewing the series in its entirety, starting with the very first story arc “The Hunter Exam” arc. I guess you could classify this as the show’s first season. I want to tackle every single arc of this show, along with the two movies released to accompany it. I’ll do this sparingly as there is a lot of other projects I’m working on, but I eventually want to cover the entire series. Anyways, let’s get started!
Hunter X Hunter is a manga and anime series originally created by Yoshihiro Togashi. This Togashi’s second long-running series, following in the heels of his other successful series Yu Yu Hakusho. With Hunter X Hunter, Togashi used the series in order to deconstruct elements of popular shonen anime. What started as a love letter to classic Shonen series soon evolved into its own thing, turning into a full deconstruction of the genre.
Hunter X Hunter became a very popular series in a short amount of time, but was soon hit by a series of hiatuses. Sadly, Togashi’s failing health caused him to delay the series several times. It’s been announced that by the end of this month, Togashi will be resuming the series once more.
Plot and Characters
The first arc of the story focuses solely on the main protagonist of this series: Gon. The young man has dreams of following in the footsteps of his father and becoming a “Hunter”. Hunters are people who are allowed to travel the entire world, including areas that would normally be off limits to ordinary people. They have access to all kinds of secrets, and possess some of the most dangerous abilities in the world.
The first arc is known as the “Hunter Exam Arc”, and it involves Gon taking the test in order to become a hunter. He quickly makes three friends: Killua, a mysterious young boy who is also a dangerous assassin, a doctor in training named Leorio, and the ever-powerful Kurapika. The four young men soon find themselves entangled in a quarrel with a pair of powerful men with supernatural abilities.
I’ll be honest, this first arc starts off rather slow. While those first six or so episodes are decent, there’s nothing that groundbreaking or interesting happening within them. It isn’t until the third trial that things start to get really good. The moment our heroes face off against a group of prisoners in a series of intense battles and contests of wit is when the anime shows its true colors.
It balances well-animated combat with darker themes, giving the audience watching it a good mix of action and drama. The characters are very solid, but this early in the show they don’t get as much development. Characters like Killua’s family and Hisoka aren’t fully fleshed out, though they do get their moments and shine as characters.
Something that the story of this arc gets really well is that it actually sets up plot points in advance. Most anime tend to introduce new concepts, plots, and characters out of nowhere. However, Hunter X Hunter manages to detail a lot of its world and concepts before they are fully introduced. For example, we are introduced to “Nen” in this arc, but it isn’t fully fleshed out yet. We’re lead to believe that what the villains can do are actually feats of magic, at least until the next arc comes around and puts that theory to bed.
Of course, this arc does have its fair share of problems. The pacing at the start can feel pretty slow, especially when they get to the island, and certain events take a bit longer than they should. Fight-scenes are thankfully very short, but sometimes they can be a bit too short. It isn’t until the third arc in the series that fights start to feel longer and more drawn out. So, while I can stay this arc is good, it starts off rather bland and dull.
The animation on this show is extremely solid! For a long-running Shonen anime, this show has some of the best animation in the entire genre. Animation looks fairly good most of the time, but really cranks up during action scenes. It’s hard to find a favorite action scene in this series, since most of them are extremely intense and well choreographed!
The voice-acting is pretty solid as well. I’ve mainly kept up to date with the English dub and only watched a bit of the Japanese version, but I can easily say that both versions are pretty well done. While the female voices for the male characters can grate a bit here or there, they do a good job of making the characters their own. None of the English dub actors from the 1999 anime return. This isn’t a big deal, but I really wish Brendan Hunter came back to play Hisoka. His new voice actor does a fantastic job, but Brendan really captured the smug nature of Hisoka well.
The music for this show is good, but it sadly gets repeated a bit too much. The show’s soundtrack is very limited, though this isn’t as apparent during the first story arc. Songs get repeated a lot through-out the show’s entire 148 episode run. Like I said though, it’s not as bad during these early episodes.
This show has a bit of a rocky start, but manages to pick up after those first few episodes. The show has an interesting concept and has a protagonist who relies more on outwitting his opponents, rather than overpowering him. Keep in mind though that this season definitely has its problems. Certain episodes can feel awkwardly paced, and some fights feel way shorter than they should.
Honestly though, I feel it’s worth watching. This is a series that prides itself on delivering good action, alongside good characters. The Hunter Exam arc is a good place to start, but the show doesn’t reach it’s true potential until later. For now, I can say that this show is definitely as sweet as syrup and worth your time and money. I recommend this series, and more specifically the first arc to fans of Shonen anime and action series in general.