This is an interesting distortion effect when Gon and Killua get caught. It conveys the “OH FUCK!” feeling quite nicely.
I’ve been looking forward to this part of the arc almost as much as Kurapika taking on the Spiders. What’s cool about this particular part is that it puts so much emphasis on the thinking power of the followers and the followed. Gon and Killua may be crazy, brazen kids, but they’re not stupid. They know that in a straight-up fight they wouldn’t stand a chance against any of the Spiders — their knowledge of Nen is too rudimentary. When Gon fought Hisoka at Heavens Arena, he did so knowing that landing a single, strong punch was an achievable goal. He knew he could never beat Hisoka in a fight and accepted that. Gon and Killua follow Machi and Nobunaga with a similar sort of reasonable goal in mind: they just want a piece of information about the Spiders they can sell. Obviously capturing a Spider would be ideal, but they know enough about their limited abilities to gather that this is an impossible task without a tremendous amount of luck.
And even then, Gon and Killua view this task realistically enough to know that everything will have to go perfectly for even this plan to work. Killua has two conditions: if he or Gon are spotted, they give up immediately and leave; also, if Killua judges that, for any reason, pursuit is impossible, they give up and leave. It’s a rare thing for shonen protagonists to acknowledge their limitations so openly and honestly — it really speaks to how powerful the Spiders are. So Gon and Killua take every precaution they can beforehand to make sure they aren’t spotted.
The Spiders aren’t dummies, either. Nobunaga and Machi know they’re being followed, because it’s precisely what they want — they’re hoping to draw out Kurapika and nip that problem in the bud since they presume Uvogin is dead. They get up and walk slowly and surely to an unknown destination for Gon and Killua, hoping to smoke them out by presenting an irresistible target. Would Gon and Killua have attacked them eventually? I doubt it. If they stood there long enough, Killua would know that they wouldn’t plan on going anywhere that would glean profitable information, so he would have worked on finding an escape route. It’s a stalemate . . . or so the audience is led to believe.
The tension is used to solid effect to misdirect the audience. The focus is entirely on whether Nobunaga and Machi will catch Gon and Killua. However, it’s all a smokescreen: Gon and Killua were caught in the Spiders’ trap from the start. The double layer of deception is nice. Nobunaga and Machi knowingly use themselves as bait, but they’re being used as bait on another level, as well. Maybe it’s paranoia, or maybe it’s the Spiders improvising well after an unexpected setback.
On a technical level, what the sneaking portion of this episode does is free up some budget for when the Spiders spring the trap and go after Killua and Gon. Before then, there’s a lot of talking, walking around and standing around. Nothing that strains the animation budget. Then everything explodes once Killua and Gon try to escape. The brief skirmish between Killua and Phinks is particularly impressive — even Phinks seems a bit awed by how things turn out! One detail that makes me cringe (in a good way!) is the marks of Killua’s legs after Phinks is done with him. Good lord, that Phinks has an iron grip!
Gon and Killua being taken to the Spiders’ lair opens up a whole host of complications, not the least of which is that they’re so intimately familiar with Hisoka. One has to wonder whether Machi remembers Gon from his fight against Hisoka at Heavens Arena. There’s also a clever bit of storytelling coming up soon that will add a nice amount of suspense, though I don’t know if it will pop up in the next episode or not. Also something to look forward to: Killua’s dad and grandpa are entering the fray soon. I believe this is one of the few times we get to see a non-Killua Zoldyck in action.