Top 20 Anime of 2014 – #1. Hunter X Hunter

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There is quite a bit to be said about Hunter X Hunter–and don’t worry, we’ll get our chance to talk about it all eventually. For now, though, we’ll have to focus on the last thirty-seven episodes, 111 through 148, which aired in 2014; and about thirty of which happen to the best of the entire show. Suffice it to say that up until episode 111, this series was riding at a strong eight to a light nine for me, and I’d expected to give it the number seven spot on this list; but then the arc which started this year very quickly rocketed the show up to a ten for me, and to the number one spot. I also would easily consider Hunter X Hunter in its entirety to be the best long-form shounen action adaptation ever created.

I’m telling you this because the rest of this video is going consist of nonstop MASSIVE SPOILERS for the last two arcs of the series–so if you have any interest in watching it, this may be the time to turn back. (Mind you, I was spoiled for most of this stuff myself before watching, but then again I usually am). Hunter X Hunter is available for legal free streaming on Crunchyroll, so consider giving it a shot before you come back to this video. Cool? Everyone gone? Only Hunter X Hunter fans left? Alright.

Dude. DAT CHIMERA ANT ARC, THO. Even though I’d been continually warned about how the Chimera Ant arc would basically cut away from the entire rest of the story to focus on another thing for seventy episodes, I don’t think anything could’ve properly prepared me for just how jarring that transition would be. It took a while for the Chimera Ant arc to win me over, but around the time that Netero’s team came into the picture and started fighting the ants in earnest, it started to grab my attention. Where it really got me, though, was with the castle-storming arc.

I would love to have seen the faces of the Jump editors when Togashi told them that he’d be setting volumes of material in the span of about two minutes of action, or that it would consist mostly of dialog, or that he was going to take ten hiatuses and turn in half-finished drawings; and I’m glad he went through with it, because the result is something truly unique and interesting, which Madhouse brought to life beautifully in animation.

The castle storming arc is basically one big experiment in chaos theory–like watching someone break a pyramid of billiard balls in slow-motion at four different camera angles. Every single millisecond of action experienced by each character has an effect on everything else that’s happening, and all of it is analyzed for us in detail along the way. Persistent feelings of tension, confusion, desperation, and struggle blanket the entire first ten episodes of the arc, so that every single movement has us wondering what the consequences might be for these characters that we’ve only just grown to like and understand.

And to my bewilderment, the biggest developments in these characters all happen right in that two minute span. The earth-shattering realizations had by Shoot when he achieves a sort of rebirth in battle, or Pitou as she finally relates to the need to protect the weak through a single glance of her king, or Youpi as he discovers the feelings of respect in his battle with Knuckle; all of these were fascinating, and the simple idea of conveying this rampant character evolution as the result of such overpowering circumstances across such a little time frame kicked major ass.

I don’t think I could possibly go into every single line that I loved from this arc, but a definite highlight was the moment where Netero deliberately decides not to converse with Meruem for fear that they might actually come to an agreement. This was such a complex moment in terms of morality, emotions, and the positions of both characters that it really got me pumped for their battle, as all I could think about how hard it would be to want either of them to win. And that battle was truly the stuff of legends, spanning perhaps the most gratifying episode of the series.

On the other end of the coin was Gon’s horribly depressing beatdown of Pitou. Once again, it’s hard to feel good about this victory, when we know that the ants have so much potential to grow, and when Pitou has just improved so much as a person; yet Gon’s rage and lack of control are completely understandable, and while his victory feels inevitable, it feels as much in the saddest possible way. The moment when Gon criticizes Killua as unfeeling, and Killua, hurt to his core, simply accepts it because he needs to be strong for Gon, was downright heartbreaking.

And don’t get me started on how the arc ends. After Netero’s death and the winding down of all the battles, the episodes become increasingly desperate, and there’s a profound sense of loss from knowing how many fighters are out of commission or at risk. And then, in one final mind game, that moment when Meruem regains his memory and goes straight to Komugi… NNNNG. Their last scene… THAT LAST SCENE THO. Did you cry? I totally didn’t cry. Not at all.

Shaiapouf was a magnificent asshole, Ikalgo’s arc was pretty fun, Welfin was an oddball at first but got a surprisingly satisfying resolution, Morel and Knuckle made great support characters, Knov coming back after aging like fifty years in fear was fucking awesome, and Palm looked way cooler post-transformation. Everything was amazing and perfect and I was on the edge of my seat for like twenty-six episodes straight.

By the way, if you watched this show while it was airing, I cannot recommend highly enough that you rewatch this arc in one sitting. The entire thing flows together really well and is a lot easier to keep track of when you’re watching it all at once. My brother Victor watched it while it was airing and said that it could be frustrating a lot of the time when you’d be hoping for Gon to finally fight and end up with an episode of Welfin monologues; but when we watched it all at once, he said that it improved his experience greatly and flowed a lot better. Also, I don’t know if it helped, but I was drinking the entire time, and god damn that was a good night.

The hunter election arc was pretty good, though while I thought Killua’s little… sister? Brother? Thing? was adorable, I didn’t care much for the sub plot about Illumi chasing Killua around. I feel like every time Togashi tries to incorporate Killua’s family into an arc, he can’t really create any drama since all of them are so goddamn overpowered, so it ends up feeling like a waste of time. Still, the election stuff was pretty fun, what with Pariston being such a complete fucking bastard–and getting to have Ging around and have him finally meet Gon was nice.

The final episode with Gon and Ging was pretty damn cool, and I really feel like Ging’s line about enjoying the little detours was Togashi’s way of explaining the entire ethos of his writing. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Ging was like his self-insert character. My brother and I agreed that this wouldn’t be a terrible place to end the series for good, since Gon essentially reached his goal, Killua’s character arc has basically gone everywhere that it can, and Kurapika and Leorio seem to have essentially made it on their missions. Still, I won’t be totally satisfied until we see what’s going on with Chrollo, and until Hisoka finally gets to fight Gon, but considering that Togashi is on hiatus again, and that the current arc of the manga is entirely about Ging, I’m not getting my hopes up for anything. I’ll take what I can get for now.

So anyways, that about wraps up my thoughts on the last thirty-seven episodes of Hunter X Hunter, and I hope it was at least somewhat cathartic for those of you who love this show as much as I do. I look forward to talking about it again in the future, and I’d love to know what you thought of it down in the comments. Thanks for watching my entire top twenty anime of 2014 list, and stick around on my channel, because I’ve got much bigger and better plans in store for 2015. Seeya then!

4 thoughts on “Top 20 Anime of 2014 – #1. Hunter X Hunter

  1. I wanted to ask you a question about one of the choices they made during the Ant arc.To get straight to the point I found the entire first half of the Castle Storming arc to be incredibly tedious and a little insulting. Specifically, I wanted to know how you felt about the use of narration throughout the first half of the arc?

    • That was my favorite part of the show. I was fine with the narrator as it was kind of necessary to report on the vast number of changes which were happening so quickly. I can’t imagine a better way it could’ve been handled without compromising on the chaos of the situation.

      • Thanks for your reply. Also, I just wanted to make clear that I respect that this was your favorite part. I wanted to have a discussion about it so that I might understand my own thoughts better.

        Moving on

        I agree that there was a lot going on and that some narration was probably necessary to establish how events were happening in relation to one another however all too often I found the narration distracting. It was either explaining exactly what was going on, which was plain to see from action on the screen, or giving information that might be interesting but was unnecessary. It felt like watching a movie with some guy beside you explaining whats going on while throwing in some trivia about the characters. That’s not to say that all the narration was pointless. Some of it was necessary but those pieces were so separated that I had already become annoyed with the narrator to the point that I didn’t care anymore.

        To me the only legitimate use of narration in these episodes was to give information that the characters themselves didn’t have access to that would affect the overall situation or information about themselves that they were unaware of in the moment. It certainly does both of these on a number of occasions however even at it’s best it was still distracting. A great deal of the enjoyment of these shows for me is taking the journey with the characters. Watching them learn and grow with the obstacles they face. Here the narrator felt like a barrier to that. It’s the difference between experiencing these things with the characters and being told about them after the fact by some omniscient third party. If the only way that they could come up with, in the incredibly versatile medium of animation, to convey this story to the audience was to flat out explain to them everything that was going on and the motivations involved then I can only see this as a failure on the part of the creators. They failed to trust their audience to understand what was going on without having their hand held the entire time and they failed to trust their characters to deliver the story.

        • I know it’s almost a year since you post this comment, but I just got to say that while I agree 100% that the use of narration feel downright insulting…it’s unfortunately necessary. There are literally no better way to do it, when your audience is more likely to be morons than people who would use their heads.

          Seriously, there are countless instances where there are outcry of “no explicit explanation =/= not true”, so yes handholding is necessary. In fact, some people even outright ignore spoon fed info dump, because it doesn’t support their delusion… As sad as it sound, the creators are justified in their decision no to trust their audience.

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