Ah yeah. Now this is one battle I know many fans — new and old — were anticipating. As soon as you saw the Zoldycks step onto the scene a few episodes ago, you knew they would enter the fray at some point, and you also had to know that Chrollo Lucifer would be the only worthy opponent.
As has been my pattern throughout my viewing of the remake, I couldn’t help but want to compare the execution of this battle with its sister scene in the ’99 anime. After watching this episode, I immediately rushed to view this scene and found a few interesting things of note. I won’t link the relevant episode of the ’99 series (62) here, but it’s incredibly easy to find should you do so. The relevant portion is all at the beginning — just don’t watch past that if you’re a new viewer!
First the opening skirmish, starting from the opening blur of movement to when Chrollo slices Silva’s arm with the Ben’s knife: Surprisingly, it’s the ’99 anime that most emphasizes the fluidity of movement. It’s a perfectly choreographed scene carefully constructed to show immediately how difficult it is for even a strong fighter like Chrollo Lucifer to to keep up with Silva and Zeno Zoldyck. From Silva’s initial kick to Zeno’s chops to Silva’s punches to Zeno’s energy blast and Silva’s double foot stomp, any cuts made are quick and subtle enough to give the impression that the camera is following the fight in one fluid motion. It’s excellent editing that emphasizes the teamwork between Silva and Zeno. This is a father and son fighting together — two utmost professionals who know each other’s moves perfectly and how best to play off the partner with their own repertoire.
The remake, meanwhile, is more deliberate and careful in its framing of this opening portion. After the initial blur, the first thing we see if Silva building up speed with his run and then launching a kick at Chrollo. The shot slows down just a bit, and then Zeno lands and strikes at Chrollo, forcing him to leap backward. Silva is ready, running at the spot Chrollo lands and striking him with a massive punch that Chrollo barely blocks. The power of this punch knocks Chrollo toward Zeno, who is ready with a blast and energy that sends Chrollo flying, although he is still able to keep his guard up. Once Chrollo lands, Silva is ready with the double stomp, which Chrollo barely dodges and springs back up to stab at Silva with the Ben’s knife.
These are the exact same attacks, but the way they are spaced and edited gives an entirely different impression in the remake. The moves are given more room to breathe; they are divided into discrete portions, almost like vignettes within the battle. They still depict the teamwork between Silva and Zeno, but more than that, they display the heft and power behind their moves. There’s time for the moves to build and be executed. The trick here is that we see the moves at “normal” speed, but the experienced viewer knows in the back of their mind that the moves are being executed at lightning speed. There’s also great thought put into the editing here: There are very few quick cuts, so the moment Chrollo dodges Silva’s double stomp, leaps up with the Ben’s knife and stabs at Silva has greater impact. It’s a sudden, violent strike, and the editing strategy emphasizes that.
Neither of these approaches is better or worse; they are simply different interpretations of the battle’s opening moments.
There’s nothing that differentiates the talky portions much, so I’ll skip that. The second half of the fight is where, I think, the remake comes out on top. In the ’99 anime, the animation in the beginning portion is good enough to stick out, and it complements the usual cinematic tricks the original series needed to pull out more often to make up for the relative lack of raw animation power. Often times these tricks are used to great effect, such as the beginning of this fight and the fight between Gon and Hanzo in the Hunter Exam. Other times they draw attention to what the ’99 anime couldn’t quite do, such as the second half of this fight and the fight between Hisoka and Gon at Heavens Arena.
The movements in the ’99 version are stiff and unnatural; in particular, the shot where Chrollo initially dodges Zeno’s Dragon Lance doesn’t feel quite right. It is awkward, almost as if Chrollo falls to the side rather than leaps out of the way. There are more still shots and use of slow motion to draw out time while Zeno narrates his battle approach. The slow motion does Zeno’s Dragon Lance a disservice — it doesn’t appear to be agile. Also, the part where Silva talks about how Chrollo has kept his eye on Silva the entire time feels a bit silly, because, to the viewer, Silva has not moved an inch while Zeno has kept Chrollo occupied. The final strike is OK: When the dragon hits Chrollo, it feels appropriately powerful, and Zeno’s sprint toward Chrollo is nicely animated and framed. His strikes, however, look a bit weird, and the angle he’s viewed at while Silva leaps into the air with his energy blast is bizarre.
The remake, meanwhile, is not a total animation powerhouse during the sequence, but it does use the space of the fighting area much more effectively. Chrollo runs around the room and dodges the Dragon Lance for much of this portion of the fight — that fact alone makes Zeno’s attack seem much more agile and dangerous. Zeno’s facial expressions during the fight are delightful, too; he’s totally unhinged, an old man who loves the thrill of battle and strives to crush his opponent, even at the cost of his own life. The Zeno of the ’99 anime comes across as honorable; the Zeno of the remake is fucking crazy. Both interpretations fit his request to Silva to kill Chrollo when subdued, even if Zeno must die with him.
Another addition is the viewer seeing Silva running when Chrollo puts away his book. It’s important to note that the camera catches him in the act of running rather than beginning a run; this detail indicates that he has been seeking an opening the whole time out of shot of the camera. The remake also includes something the ’99 version cut — a brief flash to the first time Silva and Chrollo faced each other. It’s a nice touch that enriches the battle by giving the viewer an entirely new conflict to imagine. Everything else flows nicely: Silva suddenly powers up and distracts Chrollo just long enough that Zeno can move in for the kill. Zeno locking Chrollo’s leg and striking Chrollo looks more natural, if still a bit silly.
In my head, the ’99 anime originally won out, but I understand now that’s because I am heavily biased toward its aesthetics — I love cel animation, and the earthier art and deeper, richer colors of the original appeal to me more than the cleaner, more elegant art of the remake. However, when it comes to the approach and execution of this battle between Chrollo Lucifer and the Zoldycks, the remake wins out. I will say, though, that both battles are damn good. This fight is an exemplary example of the Hunter x Hunter approach to fights. In pro wrestling, the ideal match will end with a clear winner and loser but with both coming out strong. The winner will need to pull out all the stops to win; the loser will remain resilient until the very end.
That’s how this fight unfolds. Even though Chrollo clearly loses to the Zoldycks, he doesn’t look like a chump. They had to approach him with an intelligent strategy and perfectly executed teamwork to subdue him. Remember, these are the greatest assassins in the world — it took them both to take down Chrollo, and he didn’t even use his greatest abilities. However, Silva and Zeno don’t look cheap for teaming up on Chrollo. They’re clearly tough bastards. Everyone wins!