Whose eyes are those eyes?
The method of telling the entire tournament to Gon as he wakes up is fairly cheap in the original anime, and I find it no less cheap here. The fight between Hisoka and Kurapika in particular suffers in this version. I don’t remember it being a particularly long, involved battle in the original, because Hisoka has his reasons for holding back, but the battle still means something. It feels big in the context of the story, and when Hisoka whispers something in Kurapika’s ear, it’s a genuine, “Wait, what just happened??” moment.
In the remake, I can’t help but think that moment is marginalized because of everything else that is crammed into the episode. It’s not an insignificant moment, for reasons that will of course be revealed later. However, the way it is presented makes it seem just like anything else, especially since it is so similar to when Hisoka whispers something into Bodoro’s ear. For someone who hasn’t seen the series before, I imagine it would be easy to forget this even happens when you get five episodes down the road or whatever.
I suppose the one advantage of condensing the rest of the tournament in this way is that it gives a story reason to skip over the matches nobody gives a shit about. Does anyone actually give a fuck about Pokkle? I sure don’t. This, however, does raise the question of why structure the Hunter Exam final in this way if you’re not set on showing all the matches? The answer, as always, is: Togashi don’t give a shit.
But, whatever, the conflict between Killua and Illumi is the meat of the episode, and rightfully so. Illumi cuts a menacing figure mostly for what he represents to Killua: Being stuck in a life of killing until he himself dies. On his own, Killua is free to discover who he is and what he truly wants out of life. With Illumi and the rest of his family? Killua has no choice but to kill. Everything is decided for him. Illumi mentions that he’ll decide when Killua should get a Hunter License. In the meantime? Go ahead and execute the missions he and their dad set out for Killua.
Not a great life by any means, but Killua’s reaction to Illumi says it all: There ain’t no way he could possibly fight back. All this being friends with people and standing up for your buddies shit is still foreign to Killua. He’s learning on the fly. The only way he knows how to defend himself is through fisticuffs, and the only reason he fights is to kill people for jobs. Every instruction and reflex for his work has been pounded into him. Come across an enemy more powerful than yourself? Don’t even try to fight. Killua is physically strong, but the life he’s been forced to live has left him spiritually stunted, unlike Gon, who takes on someone several times stronger than himself but refuses to give up.
There’s a ton more I wish I could write about Illumi and that family of assassins in general, but it’s all spoiler stuff, so I’ll shut up and hop onto something else I want to say: The Hunter Exam is a great example of why the labels of “good” and “evil” don’t really mean much in this world. There is an ideal the examiners wish to uphold, of course, but the entire point of the exam is that the strongest end up becoming Hunters. Those Hunters are then free to do what they wish in the world. They’re above the law in many ways: Hisoka straight up says he wishes to become a Hunter so that it’s easier to kill people, and Netero has zero reaction to it. Illumi wants a Hunter License to make his next job easier. He’s not hiding the fact that he’s an assassin at all. Hanzo engages in brutal torture, but he’s still a decent, sympathetic character. Gon and his posse don’t always do what would be considered the “right” thing.
Even though the world of Hunter x Hunter is ostensibly civilized, the way it’s presented in the story is like a wild environment where survival means more than good and evil. That is a big part of what separates Hunter x Hunter from many shonen stories.