Hunter x Hunter
Number of Episodes: 45+
Production Company: Madhouse
Brief Overview: Gon was abandoned as an infant by his father, who went on to become a Hunter, a person with the freedom and the skills to do almost anything. Now Gon wants to follow in his father's footsteps; while doing so, he makes friends with Kurapica, Leorio and Killua, 3 of the other candidates.
Episode Summary: Gon's caretaker, Mito, tells him that he can take the Hunter exam if he's able to catch the giant fish that lives in the local swamp. Against all expectations, but not unlike his father before him, Gon rises to the challenge. Soon afterward, he boards a ship to the first phase of the Hunter exam.
What he doesn't realize immediately is that the captain of the ship is his first obstacle on the path to becoming a Hunter - he's been hired to weed out unlikely candidates. He meets Leorio, a man after vast riches, and Kurapica, last remaining member of the Kurta Clan, and helps them resolve a personal conflict while the ship thrashes around within sight of a waterspout. A joint effort to rescue a crew member helps them all make amends, and the captain offers to drop them off close to the testing site.
Shounen series are always difficult for me to criticize. Just as with any other type of anime, there are bound to be more bad examples than good, but for me it's not really a matter of discerning one from the other but rather a matter of patience. For example, I trust that One Piece is a good anime, judging by the opinions of other critics I trust who've watched it, but I don't have 400 (500? 600?) episodes worth of time to spend experiencing that story (and in fact, sometimes 26 episodes is a stretch for me, as evidenced by how many series I've started watching with good intentions yet left unfinished). Some may argue that a series' length doesn't have much to do with whether or not its introductory episode is entertaining or not, but I'm almost always left with the lingering impression that the first episodes of shounen series are preparing for the long haul by not really accomplishing a whole lot beyond introducing the series' central gimmick.
Which is why I was intrigued by the news that Madhouse was producing a remake to the generally-well-received shounen anime series Hunter x Hunter. I've actually seen a fair amount of the previous Hunter x Hunter anime. Another group of friends was watching the show and I caught the occasional episode while over at their house. I have generally fond feelings toward it (especially for a shounen anime), possibly because I only saw an episode here and there and thus didn't have to deal with the show lingering on one subject or plot point for too long. My assumption was that the remake, which didn't really seem necessary considering the relative quality of the earlier version, would use the opportunity to pull a "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood" and spend fewer hours on what had already been animated. Thus far that seems to be true.
The first episode moves along at quite a clip and serves to introduce the main character and two of his buddies without really breaking a sweat. It's there though that the weakness of this approach starts to become evident; for people who are familiar with the story, it can feel like special character moments and favorite bits of the plot are being rushed, and for newcomers the lack of information can be confusing. Because it would be futile to try and avoid making comparisons, I actually looked up the first episode of the previous anime, and for what its worth it does a much better job of building up Gon's background and explaining why he wants to follow in his father's footsteps. What also became clear when I was flipping through that episode is that at least two episodes of content were combined to form the first episode of this version. While nothing really weighty has happened thus far, making it difficult to judge how much the speedy presentation has affected the depth of the story, the fact that this first episode isn't particularly compelling doesn't make me very confident that the streamlining of (at least) the early part of the series has been much of a success.
Another reason that shounen anime tend not to resonate with me seems to be because there's very little way for me to relate to what's going on. I believe in universal stories in the sense that there are themes that inspire people from all walks of life, and focusing on youthful characters doesn't necessarily dampen my perception of or appreciation for these themes (I mean, my favorite anime is Dennou Coil, and most of its characters are young children). What's bothersome are the logical leaps some of these shows take that cause too many obvious questions to bubble to the surface. The fact that Gon is almost stupidly driven on following in his father's footsteps as a hunter, despite the fact that his father sounds like a despicable man (just leaving your kid at home while you're out adventuring? How about growing up and taking some responsibility?) is a bit of a distracting element for me (though reading the series as the result of Gon's probably abandonment issues could be kind of fun...). Gon himself is just too enthusiastic a character for me to relate to, and that's really the killing blow for me. There are so many stories about little boys going on grand adventures, and it's a bit boring to see yet another iteration of that when I feel like the adventure genre could really benefit from the inclusion of a few female main characters (something that made Soul Eater, aside from its rocky start and asinine ending, a must-watch shounen anime anomaly for me). In short, the show doesn't have any hooks to grab me.
On the plus side, though, it still manages to be somewhat entertaining. One appealing element to the show is its bright, colorful and creative setting. While some of the beasties introduced during the opening segment look like overblown Pok�mon, overall the environment seems like a great place to set a story. The fully-orchestrated music is a nice change too, especially since it seems like so many anime soundtracks are produced on the cheap or feature too many idol singers.
Would I go out of my way to watch this? No, probably not. Do I think that this show is probably better than many other things one could be watching? I certainly do. It also seems like it could be a fun series to watch, but it just lacks that instantaneous "wow" factor that inspires me to enthusiasm.
- The production values are good, especially in the soundtrack department.
- The world within the show is creative and appealing.
- The speedy pace of this new version glosses over a lot and loses some depth.
- Stories about little boys on adventures tend to ring a little bit hollow for me.
Recommended? I'd definitely recommend this for shounen fans and people who aren't too worried about a lot of depth, but I don't think this is the kind of thing I'd pick out for myself.