Christ, I forgot how gross these bastards are! Yuck.
I love the Shadow Beasts. They’re exactly the type of Nen users I would expect to be employed by the Mafia. Just a group of gross, frightening dudes who can intimidate anyone who somehow has the heart to stand up against the entire Mafia. Most people would be frightened if they saw a naked worm guy, a fat dude who can manipulate leeches, a short hairy guy, and a shark-toothed motherfucker walking up to them. It’s amusing to note that all the Shadow Beasts’ powers can be used to torture in some way — the worm can drag fools underground, the shark has venom, the hairy guy can make his hair into spines, and the leech dude has his eggs that hatch in your urinary tract. That is the most horrifying of all; I bet I’m not alone in being terrified of those leeches in the Amazon that worm their way into a dude’s urethra.
Total Mafia material.
Of course, even with those crazy powers, they’re still not wild enough to stop Uvogin. The animation in this episode is a bit better this week, though it’s still not at the level I would have liked for this. It definitely has too many speed lines and still frames; I can only image how eager the staff was to take advantage of Uvogin’s paralysis in the middle of the episode! But whatever. The actual content of the episode is fine. The battle really shows how much thought Togashi puts into this shit. For instance, the Shadow Beasts’ powers aren’t weird simply for the sake of weird. As shown in the battle, they actually play off each other well and use their powers in combination to incapacitate strong opponents. These are fighters who literally appear in one episode and die, but there’s legitimate thought put into their abilities.
And Uvogin is of course not just a big, dumb brute. He knows his powers inside and out and has total mastery of Enhancer abilities. Even when the Shadow Beasts get the upper hand on him, Uvogin keeps a cool head and uses what he knows he can use to strike back. The worm drags Uvogin’s arm underground? No problem, Uvo just punches the fuck out of the ground. Leech dude empties disgusting worms into Uvo’s wounds? Who gives a shit, Uvogin will just bite off a chunk of his face. Shark dude’s venom keeps Uvo paralyzed? Not an issue; Uvo just spits a chunk of skull at high speed through shark dude’s face. (A skull defeats a skull.) Hairy guy’s hair prevents him from being physically attacked? Just shout his brains to mush. It’s all brute physicality on Uvogin’s end, but it’s intelligently implemented. I appreciate that about Uvogin — he doesn’t just mindlessly beat foes to death. He’s a smart, quick thinker.
Then we finally get a deeper look into Kurapika’s Nen power, although not the whole picture. I assume the rest will come later, though it doesn’t matter for the purposes of what I’m writing about now. This is the moment in the original series that totally sold me on the amount of thought Togashi puts into Nen and how he plays around with the typical shonen concept of heroes getting a power boost. The brilliant part about Kurapika’s power is that it’s simultaneously overpowered and underpowered. It’s overpowered in that it dominates a member of the Phantom Troupe, no matter who that person is. Even someone as ridiculously strong as Uvogin cannot escape from Kurapika’s chains. That is the end result of what Kurapika has poured into his power.
However, it’s also underpowered due to the sacrifices Kurapika must make to gain this strength. His chains can be used only against Spiders; against anyone else, the power backfires and kills Kurapika. It’s an excellent way to get across the extreme focus Kurapika has on the Phantom Troupe. Literally nobody else matters to Kurapika. If he is not totally equipped to battle anyone else, it doesn’t matter to him. He wants strength enough to gain vengeance against those who slaughtered his people. That’s it. The oath he swears to strengthen his Nen says so much more about Kurapika than any amount of brooding could ever do.
It’s such an awesome concept. The power allows Kurapika to be strong when the story needs him to be, but not so strong that he completely breaks the plot. This development would be utter bullshit in just about any other shonen series; however, because the rules of Nen have been laid out so thoroughly, it’s actually really easy to accept Kurapika’s power.