**I watched the Arabic dub of the 1999 version sometime in the early 2000s. To put it simply, it was gripping. I suppose it’s cheating to say that this is like rewatching the 1999 version because they are different in so many ways. Regardless of that, when I discovered that it was being remade, I went about binge watching to catch up and within four days, I caught up to the anime which was at episode 127 at the time. As the show was nearing the end of its run and I was fully caught up on the manga, I was prepared to rate it a 10/10 at that very moment that I finished episode 126. To those that have seen the show, it should make sense as to why this episode triggered that response.**
It’s a universal truth that shows and movies you enjoyed as a young child rarely hold up as an adult. Many things are mind bogglingly bad once the rose tinted glasses come off. This show is a glaring exception.
Based off Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga of the same name, Hunter x Hunter (2011) is the story of Gon Freecs, an 11 year old who sets out on a quest to become a Hunter and find his absentee father. When worded that way, the concept is simple and almost cliche for a shonen. It does not take long into the story for Togashi to veer from just about every negative shonen stereotype and begin you on the journey of a lifetime.
Togashi crafts an absolute masterpiece with less focus on world building – the world map in this show is the actual world map flipped upside down- but rather the characters. Don’t be fooled by the childish, forever smiling, happy go lucky 11 year old Gon Freeccs that we are introduced to in the beginning. As the story progresses, we follow an ever evolving, ever changing character that is unrecognizable by the end of the series. Character development is where this show outshines more or less every anime I’ve ever come across. To refer to the antagonists as villains would be to do Togashi a disservice. They are not simply there to be obstacles for the protagonists to overcome. Rather they feel like characters in their own right whose thoughts and motivations have been well thought out and thoroughly tested. The two main characters, Gon and Killua, are introduced as a certain anime trope/stereotype but steadily and surely Togashi slowly deconstructs your view of them and rebuilds them in an entirely new light. Each is the perfect foil to the other and while Gon starts out as the one keeping Killua in check, at the end it’s Killua laying his life on the line to protect Gon. This isn’t done in such a manner that you notice it happening, it isn’t as someone flicked a switch and changed the characters’ psychological state and for this reason the story benefits greatly.
The actual story is on another level to your average fodder. The world of the Hunter Association is fascinating and well constructed. The system in place seems almost barbaric when you’re first watching the exam phase but as more and more professional hunters make their debut in the show, it becomes evident why this gruelling and extremely selective system is in place. Much like the characters, the story itself is just as deceiving. It seems like a simple enough tale of a son searching for his estranged father but goes on to explore themes such as revenge, sacrifice, human malice, evolution, identity crisis and many more mature themes. Human malice especially is a constantly present theme that is developed further in every arc, culminating in the Chimera Ant arc which is perhaps the shows strongest, most mature arc. Even the “boss fights” for lack of a better term are entirely different to other animes. Without going too heavily into any spoilers, there isn’t a single antagonist who is defeated with your typical ‘friendship powerup by the main character’. Every antagonist is beaten by a carefully laid out plan with much thought and heavy planning by the protagonist and their comrades. While the final arc is much less action and all dialogue, it provides a great ending to a show that seemed like it was nonstop action for 135 episodes.
With respect to the production, Madhouse deserves all the praise that they’ve received. The voice acting in particular stands out especially in heavily emotional scenes, episode 116 in particular is a stand out. The animation is more or less consistent throughout the entire show and only delineates from the mean when the animation quality is particularly outstanding such as episodes 126 and 131. The soundtrack is excellent and never seems out of play or over the top. It has a wide range of music from very intense, drum heavy music to some astonishingly fitting classical pieces.
Hunter x Hunter is without a shadow of a doubt the most mature show of its kind that and undeniably the best anime of its length. The fact that it is able to keep up that level of quality over 148 episodes is a credit to Togashi’s unparalleled story writing and character building.