Madhouse brought the big guns here, not just in terms of animation, but also in the pacing and progression of the battle between Kurapika and Uvogin.
We’ve got a strong, classic tone set in the beginning, with Kurapika and Uvogin feeling each other out before the battle begins. Just as he does with Hisoka, Kurapika asks Uvogin if he was there when the Spiders slaughtered the Kurta. Uvogin gives an expected response: he doesn’t remember them at all, but the slaughter did happen while he was in the group, so he probably had something to do with it. It’s easy to see that Uvogin is a dude who lives in the moment — he’s only interested in the battle now and in the future. If he’s defeated you, you’re already forgotten. If you can’t test Uvogin’s abilities any further, then what use are you to him?
It’s also established that both fighters are utterly confident in their abilities — Kurapika so much so that he not only takes the opportunity to taunt Uvogin, but he also takes clear pleasure in doing so. It’s a risky strategy. There are very few who would be brazen enough to take on a heavy duty dude like Uvogin when he’s calm, much less raging and looking to save face by mashing someone into a fine paste. The slim upside, of course, is that the rage will dilute Uvogin’s focus just enough that there will be an opening. Only an expert fighter could possibly take advantage of such a slim opening, which should tell you how confident Kurapika is in his abilities, especially since he’s already had an opportunity to see what Uvogin can do. Also love the difference between the two in their pre-fight dick wagging (so to speak): Uvogin lets loose with an impressive display clearly meant to intimidate Kurapika; however, Kurapika calmly builds his energy and waits for the right moment to strike.
From there, both Uvogin and Kurapika start the fight off strong with the big power moves — Uvogin with his pure physicality and energy, and Kurapika with his chain attacks. It’s an awesome showcase for the animators, even better than the Hisoka/Gon fight from a few months back. Uvogin sliding down the cliff with glee after avoiding one of Kurapika’s strikes is quite the fun moment, and I love how each of Kurapika’s chain attacks is animated. There’s a real grace and beauty to the movements of the chain, such that it’s actually kind of shocking when it hits as heavily as it does.
After that initial flurry, the pace slows a bit as Kurapika chips away at Uvogin and sets up the pieces for his plan. It’s almost ridiculous how confident Kurapika is in his strategy and execution: this isn’t even a battle for him so much as a test of his abilities. Kurapika has all the advantages, because he has seen Uvogin fight and knows what he can do; meanwhile, Uvogin knows one thing Kurapika’s chains can do, but he doesn’t know the myriad ways they can be employed, which leads to his downfall. Then Kurapika becomes super detached and clinical as he breaks down what Uvogin can and cannot do against him. Kurapika can be damaged by Uvogin’s strikes; however, if defended well, they’re not so debilitating that they can’t be healed. Uvogin — the strongest physically of the Spiders — cannot break out of the chains, which attests to the strength of Kurapika’s resolve. Kurapika’s hand-to-hand strikes can pierce even the toughest defense. And, perhaps most important of all, can set his own attacks with specific conditions against the Spiders.
It’s a slow, brutal process watching Kurapika figure this out. The big moment is during Kurapika’s outburst against Uvogin — Kurapika is still struggling with what he believes he has to do. He wants to avenge his people, but this cold, brutal violence still pains him. Even when brutalizing someone he hates with all his heart, Kurapika can’t help but feel something while he does it. As Mira points out, the very nature of Kurapika’s character means he can’t enjoy battle the way Gon or Killua can. Kurapika tests his abilities not because he wants to see how far he can push his limits, but because he needs to know the best way to fulfill his vengeance. Kurapika’s path is possibly the harshest of anyone in the series.
As down as some have been with the remake, there’s no doubt that this is an expertly crafted episode. My only problem is that the development with Kurapika’s eyes is kinda bullshit (and I felt the same way when it happened in the ’99 anime, too). The chain power I could accept because there are clear limitations and sacrifice with that power. It’s not something that is unleashed without limitations. The eye power, though . . . yeah, that is some broken ass shonen shit. The one intriguing part for me is that, I think, the actual nature of the Kurta’s eyes is unknown. Are the eyes themselves responsible for the aura power-up? Or are they merely a symptom of a power within the Kurta? That’s still not enough for me to not call bullshit, though.