Kurapika is just a tad more unhinged than during the Hunter Exam.
From what I’ve seen, though, I would argue that this is closer to the real Kurapika than who we see during the exam. Despite his initial inclination toward being a loner, Kurapika is able to connect with Gon, Leorio and Killua during the trials they face. This is likely the first time since the Kurta were slaughtered that Kurapika has been able to connect with anyone. For a time, he is able to at least put his ultimate mission in the back of his mind and focus on a mutual goal, although of course he cannot forget it entirely, since it is the entire reason he is getting a Hunter License in the first place.
Now that Kurapika is on his own again and without the Hunter Exam to distract them, however, he is more intense and focused. Everyone has gone their separate ways. All that remains now for Kurapika is vengeance. It’s a dark, terrible feeling that briefly leaves Kurapika only when he once again has something with which he can distract himself — Nen. It is through interaction with another and learning that Kurapika can lose himself in something other than bloodshed.
The weather and settings during the first part of this episode are clearly used to show this: when Kurapika first leaves the employment agency, the city is cold and dark. He then travels to the forest, which is wide and boundless. Trees open up to more trees and shadows. The camera’s focus is fixated on Kurapika; the forest itself becomes difficult to see. When Kurapika is attacked and bested easily by the man who is to become his teacher, the rain pours hard, matching the frustration and rage in Kurapika. Then, finally, when Kurapika is learning Nen, which will open the path to his vengeance, the forest is calm and still. Sunlight filters softly through the trees and brushes against the ground.
Yeah, this is probably the closest Kurapika will get to actually being happy during this arc. It’s all anger and vengeance and shit from here on out, folks.
What I like about it, though, is that Kurapika’s anger is not empty, boring angst. Kurapika is not going to wallow in despair over the plight of his people. He is long past that point. The story will go into more detail on this later, so I won’t dwell on this point, but it’s really interesting how clear-eyed Kurapika is when it comes to his desire for vengeance. That’s one of the main traits that attracts me to this arc: there’s a self-awareness to the vengeance that interests me more than blind vengeance.
The episode also touches more on the intricacies of Nen, which becomes quite important for Kurapika. This is the point where Nen got interesting for me, where the thought put into the system becomes clear. It’s interesting that the first real step of Nen mastery is accepting who you are — trying to overstep your bounds and denying your natural inclinations results in wasting one’s potential. The only out comes through terrible hardship, and even that isn’t a guarantee for shifting to the rarest Nen alignment. It’s a mostly fair system, and even some stuff that pops up later that could be called bullshit at least has more reasonable explanations than in other shounen series that heavily feature similar types of powers.