Hisoka is a big fan of how clever this episode is!
I was really impressed with the writing of this particular point in the arc when I saw it in the ’99 Hunter x Hunter, and I’m no less an admirer upon seeing it again here. A couple of earlier events pay off here, and the characterization also pays off in that it allows Gon and Killua to escape an extremely dangerous situation using their wits and a little bit of brawn. Nobody actually believes Nobunaga when he says the Spiders will allow Gon and Killua to leave quietly if they’re not convinced to join the group, right? Even though it’s clearly a temporary hideout, they still know where the Spiders are hanging. They’ve also witnessed one of the Spiders — Pakunoda — use her power, even if they can’t be sure Gon and Killua have divined it. That’s too much knowledge to let them live; obviously, then, it’s in their best interests to escape, no matter what Nobunaga says.
But how do they escape? Let’s look at the thread of logic!
First off, Gon and Killua almost give themselves away by recognizing Hisoka. This seems like it would be much more inconvenient for Hisoka — certain members of the group already distrust him, and if they find out he’s familiar with two people who are going after the group (and that he didn’t tell them), it would be troublesome for him, especially if they later find out Gon and Killua are connected to Kurapika. But you could also approach from the angle that if Gon and Killua know Hisoka, that shows a greater knowledge of the Spiders than they at first let on, which would make them slightly more dangerous in the eyes of the group. Luckily, Killua thinks quickly on his feet and recognizes Shizuku from the arm wrestling match. You’d think she wouldn’t stand out visually among the many challengers, but the very fact that someone like her gave Gon the hardest time makes her stand out the most. At any rate, this is much less suspicious because the Spiders initiated that encounter.
Then, skipping ahead a bit, Gon and Killua are saved by their temporary ignorance. This is the most clever part of the story for me due to how subtle it is. When Pakunoda questions Gon and Killua, the new viewer thinks nothing of it. She’s simply interrogating them like the other Spiders. Even when she puts her arm around Killua in the car, the viewer feels uncomfortable, but there’s the sense she’s trying to charm Killua rather than something else. But, nope, it’s just the show putting the audience in Killua’s shoes and playing off the collective ignorance. Neither Killua nor Gon knows Kurapika is the chain user, because neither has met Kurapika since departing Killua’s home.
The moment Killua logics out Kurapika’s identity and Pakunoda’s power, however, is both a solid twist AND a moment that ratchets up the tension. What happens if they decide to interrogate Killua again, just to be sure? Luckily, the Spiders being mostly rational beings works against them — they have absolute confidence in Pakunoda’s ability, because they’ve seen it work in the past. However, they don’t have enough specific information, and this blinds them to the scenario where Gon and Killua cannot deduce Kurapika’s identity despite knowing him. They instead follow the most logical path — searching through the Nostrade family until they find Kurapika. It’s awesome how the story plays with logic and ignorance in such a tightly written way.
The characterization of Nobunaga is also key to Killua and Gon’s escape. He’s consistently shown to be the most emotional member of the Spiders. That isn’t to say he’s all emotion, of course — he’s fully capable of rational thought, as he shows when walking with Machi in the previous episode. However, he is the quickest to anger. Remember, of the fights/near fights we’ve seen among the Spiders, he’s initiated both of them: against Franklin when they’re introduced, and here with Feitan. Nobunaga’s reaction to Uvogin’s death also marks him as the most emotional Spider. The other members of the Phantom Troupe discuss Uvogin as if he’s a friend who has simply moved away and lost contact with them; Nobunaga, however, has tears in his eyes as he recalls his partner.
This emotion makes him single-minded and straightforward. He blocks the only apparent exit from the building, because he believes the only way out is through him — and nobody can beat Nobunaga in a one-on-one battle. He thinks he has them figured out, particularly Gon, whom Nobunaga clearly marks in his mind as another Uvogin. Why else would he confirm that Gon is an Enhancer? These thoughts all cloud Nobunaga’s mind, which is why he falls so easily for Gon and Killua’s trap. Despite the fact that the boys clearly mean to escape, Nobunaga has it in his mind that they’re insane enough to try and kill him. His emotion and arrogance work against him: he knows he is more powerful than them, so he uses his power to seek and kill them. A few noises make him think the two are still in the headquarters though the boys are long gone.
In all, a good end to a clever episode.
Sorry, can’t not end the post like this.
P.S. This YouTube user has put up some comparison videos showing scenes from the ’99 Hunter x Hunter versus the remake. It’s a pretty cool way to see the differences in approach between the two series. There are also three other videos — Kurapika vs. Uvogin, Gon vs. Hisoka and Killua vs. Zushi. They reinforce opinions I’ve held for a while: that at their best, the remake has flat-out better animation than the ’99 series. They both use directorial tricks, but the ’99 series uses it more often and more noticeably (again, when both are at their best). However, I still prefer the earthier art style of the ’99 anime. The world just feels a bit darker and more alive than the relatively sleek world of the remake.