Madhouse’s Hunter x Hunter has won me over more each week. I knew I would enjoy everything through the Yorknew City arc, because the material is so strong that it’s difficult to go wrong with it. (Case in point: The first Hunter x Hunter OVA way back when, which concluded that arc where the original TV series had left off, and somehow had worse production values than the main series. Yet, the conclusion to that arc is so tense and thrilling that it didn’t hurt too much.) To me, the first true test for the series would be the Greed Island arc. Because I still have yet to read the Hunter x Hunter manga, my sole experience with Greed Island was via the Greed Island OVAs, where the interesting, subdued look of the TV series was traded in for a bright, garish style that just felt wrong. That unfortunately colored my view of the arc as a whole; if Madhouse could wipe that from my memory, then I would know this series was the real deal.
It succeeded. Handily.
I don’t know that Madhouse did much different, story-wise. At least, I don’t remember any significant plot differences between this and the OVAs (which, in turn, I doubt changed much of all from the manga). Perhaps it’s simply that better mastery of digital animation (the Greed Island OVAs came out in 2003-04, still I believe in the period where studios hadn’t totally gotten the hang of digital yet) and the increased confidence of direction that could be seen in Madhouse’s Hunter x Hunter week-by-week provided a more favorable atmosphere for this story. Whatever the case, I enjoyed Greed Island much more this time around. Gon and Killua’s training sessions with Biscuit are delightful, and the contrast between them and the adult players who treat Greed Island with deathly seriousness hit me much harder.
Also hitting harder: that Gon is a crazy fuckin’ child. Gon had streaks of brazen ridiculousness before Greed Island, but they’d always been tempered by something. He had always gone up against someone he knew with absolute certainty he could never defeat straight up. Getting that one punch against Hisoka was enough to satisfy him. Escaping from the Phantom Troupe with his life was enough to satisfy him.
But the Gon who faces the Bomber Genthru is a different boy altogether. He hasn’t totally mastered Nen, but he has gone beyond the basics. He has his own attack that he can use with confidence. He has power that if used cleverly can put him on equal footing with powerful foes. During the final strike against the Bomber and his crew, traps have been laid that will assure victory when sprung correctly. Gon knows this. But he can’t be satisfied with just that. He has to know that he can stand toe-to-toe with a fierce fighter and come out on top.
So he allows the Bomber to get close and grab his wrists, knowing full well he’ll use his power. Genthru does just that. He tries to blow up Gon’s arms; however, quick, precise use of Nen blocks just enough for Gon to get in a swift, strong kick to the Bomber’s jaw. He staggers, and when he looks up at Gon, he sees a kid missing his left hand and a right wrist whose skin has been burned almost down to the bone.
Then Gon looks the Bomber in the eye. He’s done being selfish. Now that he knows he can stand up to a strong fighter — now that he has satisfied his own curiosity and desire to push the limits of his strength — it’s time to end this. A maimed child looks an adult right in the eye and knows he’ll win.
It’s madness. Madness. Madness.