Hunter x Hunter 358-360 + The Series’ Future – Review
Hunter x Hunter:
Reviewed by: Tom
Synopsis: Gon Freecss aspires to become a Hunter, just like his father. Setting out from his home Gon aims to take the Hunter Examination in order to find and meet his father. During the Examination he makes three friends: Kurapika the last remaining member of the Kurta clan, Leorio a prospective physician in debt and Killua, another young boy born into a notorious assassin family. Together they all aim for their Hunter License, but will they all succeed?
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)
Gon has been through many trials. Having acquired his Hunter License Gon has since faced many obstacles. He’s fought in the Heaven’s arena, trained under the kung fu master Wing, clashed with the Phantom Troupe, participated in the dangerous and expensive video game: Green Island, and even took part in the battle for the world against the highly dangerous Chimera Ants.
Gon nearly died in the battle against the Chimera Ants, but thankfully recovered due to the efforts of Killua and his other friends. But now an even greater adventure awaits as the deceased Hunter Chairman’s son, Beyond, seeks to assemble Hunters from across the globe to explore the Dark Continent, a vast and forbidden land hidden from the masses of society.
As most fans I’m sure know by this point Hunter x Hunter has returned to Hiatus. It’s an outcome that was definitely a strong possibility, but one many were unwilling to acknowledge in the face of Togashi’s assurance that his improved health would allow him to continue. For myself, I’d seen signs throughout Hunter x Hunter’s most recent return that gave me pause. Namely how some of the art looked as if he was receiving help from his wife and author of Sailor Moon. Then, as the releases progressed, the art would dip periodically in quality. I don’t believe these instances were a definitive sign of this outcome, but I feel anyone caught by complete surprise was ignoring them out of denial.
For this review we’ll talk about the last three chapters released before Hunter x Hunter returned to hiatus and then we’ll switch gears and talk about where the series could, or perhaps even should, go from here. Let’s jump in.
Last time Hisoka revived himself from death and began going after Chrollo’s followers, hunting them down one by one. Here we’ve finally switched back to the meat of this arc, the preparation and eventual journey to the Dark Continent.
An announcer tells the crowd that the journey begins tomorrow and we get a look the ship that’ll be making the journey, which looks a lot like something out of One Piece rather than Hunter x Hunter. The announcers continue to get the crowd going and introduce us to the King who’s funding this particular journey: Nasubi Huigourou. we also see Beyond again, along with many of the King’s princess, his heirs who’ll be using this trip as an excuse for a secret blood bath of succession. In fact, while waving to the adoring crowds many of these characters are already thinking about offing their half-siblings and attaining the right to their father’s thrown.
We continue the festivities as everyone begins boarding the ship. I actually think quite a few of these pages are borderline useless and certainly superfluous. We don’t gain a whole lot by watching everyone board and the crowd cheering. Probably the best example of wasted space is the panels where we’re informed that the King is heading over to the boat and his princes airships are following one by one. It’s needless detail and feels a shame knowing this is one of the last three chapters released for a long while.
Conversely, when the manga switches to describing the Black Whale this feels like solid information that’ll be needed to understand events that’ll unfold during the journey. But this makes it especially unfortunate that the hiatus comes so shortly after this information, and without a recap whenever Hunter x Hunter next returns, much of this detail will be lost on less vigilant readers.
As the Royal Army prepares to protect the princes while aboard, Kurapika discusses things with Queen Oita. He knows that this situation has numerous loopholes, especially for Nen users, and things could get nasty very quickly. Kurapika runs things over in his head and we practically get a wall of text here as he analyzes the situation. It’s here we notice the backgrounds are often entirely blank and devoid of any detail. Another sign that perhaps hinted at how likely a Hiatus was just around the corner. I’ll be fair, as Togashi’s style has always been rather barebones for backgrounds, but even in the early days of Hunter x Hunter it wasn’t this prominent, and he often still provided some kind of extra detail beyond just the characters themselves. It’s also quite noticeable how Togashi’s dialogue has become so wordy, overly so, compared to the manga’s early days.
Kurapika gets a call from Mizai and we learn just how under prepared this entire trip is. Ending their call, Kurapika suggests to Queen Oito that they confirm her emergency evacuation plans. Queen Oito seems pretty unprepared here and Kurapika has to convince her that by educating her with knowledge of the situation, and her options, she maintains a greater chance of surviving this mess. Queen Oito begins shaking, realizing maybe she can survive this journey after all. Kurapika suggests she go rest in her quarters, but he senses a foreboding menace from Prince Woble himself. However, when asked if anything is wrong Kurapika is unable to give any other answer than no.
The Black Whale launches and we’re finally on our way to the Dark Continent! Another announcer describes the conditions they’ll face on the journey and a lot of it reminds me of Toriko (Was there perhaps some inspiration drawn from there?)
Beyond’s holding cell is guarded by the zodiacs who question whether he really needs so many guards, as Beyond has no reason to escape for the moment. In another part of the Black Whale we meet the Deputy Secretary, who’s studying up on information of the Labyrinthine City and informs his subordinates that if he dies one of them will be promoted to his position. Although they’re convinced the hunter association won’t allow anything to happen to them. It’s these pages that make me feel Hunter x Hunter has far too many bit players this arc. We’ve got lots of moving parts and not enough time with any of these more minor, less well known characters to really make things feel compelling. I think this arc is already becoming too bogged down in the minor details and only perhaps highlights the frustration of frequent hiatus. When the story does move along we do so at a snails pace at times, spending multiple pages dealing with characters we hardly know, or care about.
We quickly snap to a number of the other positions on the boat: The chaos in one of the medical clinics, Mizai’s efforts to keep things under control and, apparently Tier 3’s central courthouse? Snapping back to Kurapika we discover one of his fellow bodyguards was killed, drained of his blood and left in the bathroom.
Kurapika discovers that the guard, Woody, was killed via a nen attack, but no one around is willing to admit, or knows what Nen is. However the other hunter’s working alongside Kurapika don’t even understand why he offered up Nen as a possibility. They feel this is an internal conflict for Kakin’s army and Kurapika realizes that the other guards don’t even know about the succession battle going on behind the scenes. Kurapika realizes he’s possibly the only one on the Queen’s guard that knows the truth.
In the Ceremonial Hall quite a few of the princes are already plotting and preparing for a blood bath. Lady Kacho and Katty retire together, but as it turns out they’re working together to kill the others. Lady Kacho will allow Katty to live, but she herself plans to take the thrown. I guess my big problem surfacing here is that we have a vast number of new characters, and no time to get to know any of them. It feels bloated and I already don’t fancy the reading up I’ll have to do in order to remind myself of this complex plot the next time Hunter x Hunter returns to Shonen Jump.
Elsewhere Kurapika discovers even more of Queen Oito’s guards have been drained of their blood. Kurapika, no longer willing to take any chances, activates his chain ability and threatens the other guards at gunpoint, announcing that if they lie he’ll kill them.
Kurapika reveals the truth of the Succession battle but many of the guards simply can’t believe it. Kurapika threatens them and one of the guards reveals he in fact did know about the succession battle and a second also says he knew. The others were truly ignorant however. As they both reveal they work for someone else, although we don’t know who, Queen Oito wants them killed, but Kurapika asks her to remain calm.
Tying them up, Kurapika questions them as to who they worked for, and who the dead guards worked for. We then get a rather complicated explanation about how the Queens were using the guards as informants, but lower queens aren’t allowed to spy on a Higher Queen or Prince etc. It’s terribly confusing, and I’m not sure makes a lot of sense. It makes it sound like a game rather than actual battle for the thrown through deception and infiltration. Like, who is not allowing the lower queen’s to spy? What’s stopping them from doing so? I feel like this is all extremely and unnecessarily convoluted. Despite that, we learn that Queen Oito is the lowest queen and hasn’t even had this system explained to her yet, hence her ignorance.
Despite the complicated and potentially convoluted nature of these explanations, we learn that Queen Oito’s child, Prince Woble, actually has nen abilities, and has been killing the guards out of an instinctual drive to protect his mother. He’s sensing her anxiety. I think this part is a cool and fun twist and I’m not sure we needed this whole “rules to the spy game” stuff that formed yet another wall of text.
It’s still not clear that Prince Woble did this, as Nen takes a long time to learn and control, but the guards inform Kurapika that the ceremony Prince Woble underwent involved a nen parasite. Before we can learn too much more about this mysterious ceremony bizarre creatures appear all around the group. Nen Beasts. Kurapika calls for an emergency and checks in with his allies. It seems only Hunter Association members can see these things.
Eventually the beasts disappear and the guards agree to exchange information with Kurapika. Although one guard can still see a small, bear like, Nen beast that’s constantly asking him to chat. In fact this guard, Sayird, stabs their two prisoners because the little Nen beast asked him to. Kurapika wants Sayird alive, and gets ready to take him down while asking the others to look after the Queen.
So what lies in the future for Hunter x Hunter? Firstly, there’s been some indication from the Hunter x Hunter editor that we can expect smaller Hiatus going forward. It’s possible Togashi might be taking an Oda like approach to his manga, and offering chapters at a more relaxed pace compared to the standard weekly release we’ve come to expect of the medium.
That said, I think Hunter x Hunter’s story is becoming too complex, wordy, and needlessly complicated for a Manga that’s frequently on Hiatus. While the more die-hard fans are willing to go back and reread chapters to keep up with the story, less-fervent fans might find the story becoming too difficult or demanding to follow.
As elements become more and more complex, with a greater number of small characters running around it becomes difficult to follow Hunter x Hunter between these hiatus’. The problem becomes less pronounced if the Hiatus period is only a few months rather than years, but still exists. While die-hard fans might not have an issue with additional readers gradually putting Hunter x Hunter down for good, it’s ultimately a severe issue that could cost Hunter x Hunter it’s eventual satisfying conclusion.
Hunter x Hunter only continues to get published within Shonen Jump, despite it’s stop and go nature, for two reasons. One is almost certainly Togashi’s record as a much beloved and renowned Manga artist. That said, as we know with Tite Kubo’s impending Bleach conclusion, that may only get you so far. It’s been speculated that Bleach’s conclusion is being rushed as Shonen Jump has become less enthralled with Kubo as Bleach’s sales and readership has declined. Togashi and Hunter x Hunter are not exempt from this. The more complex Hunter x Hunter becomes, along with frequent breaks, makes it difficult for the non die-hard crowd to stick around. And if the readership drops too far there’s a fairly good chance Togashi will be asked to wrap it all up and the ending we’ll get will be far from satisfying.
So the question becomes what should Togashi do? In my opinion I think the story needs to become a bit more streamlined. That doesn’t mean it should become basic, or unoriginal, or overly simplified, but the need for bit players and lengthy walls of text explaining overly intricate details needs to go. Instead Togashi should focus on the major players in his stories, and the immediate supporting cast. New characters should probably be introduced on an as needed basis, and effort should be made to ensure the audience knows who it’s major focal point characters are.
When it comes to the art I think Togashi might need to swallow his pried and allow another artist to come in and at least help with art duties, if not take over fully. I think most fans can agree they’d prefer Togashi not be suffering. I know when I’m reading the chapters, and become reminded of his frequent health issues, it dampens my enjoyment for the work. While I appreciate his dedication, it saddens me to know he’s basically killing himself to bring us these pages. I’d much rather read his writing, and look at someone else’s artwork, than have Togashi put himself through the ringer. By allowing another to take over art duties it’d also allow Togashi to continue his more experimental approach to Hunter x Hunter’s story without any concern for keeping things easy for the audience to follow between months of no content.
That’s it for Hunter x Hunter until it next returns from Hiatus. Please let me know what your thoughts are on Hunter x Hunter, and how you think Togashi should proceed, in the comments below!
Hunter x Hunter is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Volume 32, containing chapters 331-340, is available via Amazon.com. Chapters discussed today, 358-360 will be collected and released sometime next year.