Like, who the fuck cracked a smile even ONCE during this episode, much less “again”? I can’t smile even when you grant me permission, Hunter x Hunter OP.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’ll allow the manga readers — those horrible bastards who knew this was coming and cackled to themselves each week as innocent anime watchers flailed headlong into sheer despair — bask in the tears they themselves surely shed whenever this part of the manga came out. (Was this arc still going on when the remake started? Seems like it could have been given all the hiatuses.) Don’t worry, I’ll wait until you get your fill. OK, tears still going … and done. I think that’s enough.
What sticks out to me immediately is that this episode takes what would normally be the “OH MAN SO BADASS” moment in a shonen manga and makes it horrible and terrifying. In a vacuum, you’ve got Gon going beyond his limits and achieving the pinnacle of his strength. There’s one of the villain’s top lieutenants, who says directly to Gon that he will die, and who also attacks Gon all sneaky-like. Gon retaliates with domination and the super ultimate version of his main attack and finally destroys the creature who tortured and killed his mentor. All that wonderful catharsis and comeuppance wrapped up in a neat bow.
Of course, this doesn’t take place in a vacuum. We have all that horrible, troubling context to consider. In a normal story, the hero going so far as to risk their power to save the day would be played as something admirable. They’re saving the world! It’s a noble sacrifice. What’s the noble cause that has earned Gon’s sacrifice? It’s not as if “saving humanity” is on his mind right now. Getting revenge for Kite, sure, but it’s more a meaningless gesture than it is noble. Gon stands in front of the tree after having pounded Pitou’s skull into Chimera Ant goop, and the tears still flow. He “finishes the job” and is still miserable. Only more suffering gets through to Gon, because of the deep, despairing guilt he still feels for watching and running away as Kite was originally decimated.
If you look at it from a different angle, it’s Pitou making the “noble sacrifice.” Gon is a clear threat to the King — to whom Pitou has absolute devotion — but Pitou deduces that Gon is sacrificing everything for this power and cannot use it again. So Pitou takes the bullet for the King. A life for a life. Pitou is the one acting on conviction, regardless of whether we believe in or support the feelings and reason behind those convictions.
That’s something for the character introduced as an inhuman monster who lopped the arm off the beloved mentor character.
Going back to the issue of context, I like how this episode plays with callbacks to earlier parts of the series. The first obvious one is Gon’s transformation: Even before Killua mentions it, Gon’s body and the way his clothes fit him is clearly meant to evoke Biscuit in her “real” state. But where Biscuit’s transformation is meant to be slightly humorous and a badass moment when she whoops on the Bomber’s accomplice in Greed Island, Gon’s transformation is much more unnerving. The dark, bloody aura and the shadows that initially cover Gon make his new appearance something unnatural, as if he’s made a dark deal to acquire this power. Without context, a taller, more muscular Gon fitting into his childish clothing is comical; with context, it’s a bit terrifying. Keeping Gon’s voice the same is a good touch. With a deeper, more masculine voice (which I definitely expected), there might be the slightest hint of “MAN, THIS IS SO COOL.” Nope. Hearing Gon’s normal voice made me reject it that much more, like “GON, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
The other obvious moment is Gon getting his arm lopped off ala Kite, which is heartbreaking because that seems like the one thing in this episode that makes Gon happy. He gets to share in some of the pain Kite suffered for which Gon, in his mind, was responsible. It’s his path to redemption. God. This kid needs a yearlong hug. Like, literally, someone hugging him 24/7 for an entire year. You can probably squeeze Killua in there, as well. That kid needs AT LEAST half a year of constant hugging. I think we all need a hug after this episode.
Group hug, everyone.
Allow me an awful joke to break our collective sadness: Gon is all grown up AND he’s likely to lose his Nen powers? The sound you hear in the background is Hisoka’s clown cock drooping in despair.
May you glow proud again one day, old friend.