So if Hunter x Hunter wasn’t heavy enough for you yet, the first couple of minutes of this week’s episode pound home the point that humanity, while capable of good, also acts pretty shitty quite frequently. You’ve got general things like polluting the environment, segregating the sick and poor into cramped communities while the rich bask in the glories of modern urban life, wars, etc. There’s also call outs to specific events like the above photo, which to me immediately recalls the Rodney King beating and subsequent Los Angeles riots in 1992 (the image afterward reminds me of that, too). There’s also this image, which is an undeniable reference to this photo from the Vietnam War, one of the 20th century’s most famous images.
Shit’s definitely rough, but it’s also important to put the “We are no different from the Ants. No, we are far worse” comment into context. It’s striking at the fundamental difference between humans and Chimera Ants. Ultimately, the Chimera Ants are structured to do what they do. What Meruem plans is of course horrible from our perspective — at best, humanity gets to live in a zoo; at worst, genocide. But what Meruem plans is building the Chimera Ant society on a larger scale. Even with humanity spliced in, Meruem is still operating as prescribed by nature. Humans have a different sort of will altogether. They’re driven by selfishness and selflessness in equal measure; they’re capable of wonderful acts of good and horrifying acts of evil. We engage in great charity while denying vast swathes of people basic civil rights and dignity. I’ll refrain from getting too political here, but suffice to say anyone who pays attention gets several reminders per day of humans being wonderful and humans being cruel assholes.
We see the wide range of humanity during the invasion. Killua doing everything he can to keep Gon sane. Gon acting in the name of vengeance when he’s at his lowest point. Knuckle readily sacrificing himself Shoot. Netero fighting to save humanity even though he knows full well those at the top will throw the Hunters Organization under the bus at the first available opportunity, but also saving humanity via an inhumane weapon. We have the capacity to think for ourselves and make choices based on any number of variables that may mean the world to us or nothing at all — and what each person values may be vastly different than others. Look at the brief scene of people celebrating their opulence before being blown up by the Miniature Rose. We can look at it from the point of view that that’s terrible, because many people died. And it’s true: it’s terrible when anyone dies, no matter the number. But that also divorces the act from a large part of its humanity. It’s not an action without context. We see the inherent cruelty of the situation beforehand: people celebrating the wealth they’ve built while many suffer on the outside. From the perspective of those who did the bombing, it’s probably a bloody cry for help and attention — a call for someone to see the suffering they willfully ignore every day.
To me, the Chimera Ant arc long ago ceased being a matter of “right” and “wrong” and “deserved” and “not deserved.” Any one of those perspectives could be argued from anywhere. I mean, look at the above screenshot. Welfin arguably sells out his colleagues to save his own skin. Anyone who didn’t know the context would be mad as hell. But what would anyone else do in that situation? I’d like to be a brave hero, sure. But it’s been established that these Chimera Ants are scary bastards. This is clearly recalling Knov crapping his pants and getting the hell out of the fight at the first touch of the Royal Guard’s aura. It takes a special class of person to stand up to that — a person, we’ve seen, that might not act absolutely “good.” And even as fear strips Welfin of his dignity, he still keeps a small, precious piece of it by decrying Meruem and pledging his loyalty to Gyro (which, of course, may be misplaced loyalty).
Gah, there’s just so much in this episode. Meruem torn between human curiosity and Chimera Ant superiority and rage, Pouf’s increasingly desperate attempts to shield Meruem from the truth of Komugi and his despair at the King embracing humanity (a despair, by the way, I can scarcely take pleasure in given how troubling this whole arc is; Pouf’s body and ideals are dead, and the will to fight is lost, but it’s not triumphant in any way), disturbing images like that faraway shot of Youpi twitching out before he dies … lord.
One thing I want to comment on before I end this post. The montage of the rose’s aftermath shows that various animals are susceptible to the rose’s poison, so it’s easy to make the leap that it would work on Chimera Ants, as well. But I think it would be an interesting twist if the Chimera Ants’ adoption of human genetics made them more affected by the poison — another hammer to the “humanity is the downfall of the Chimera Ants” nail. I don’t know how possible/believable it is to create a poison that specifically targets humanity, and if I remember correctly, the biological makeup of Chimera Ants is pretty fucked up and inhuman, anyway.