Just look into lovely Neferpitou’s eyes and everything will be all right. Take a few minutes to stare. I don’t mind.
Now we have the answer to Colt’s question of how you get a dysfunctional group of individualistic Ants to work together for a common cause: You present them with someone who is so stupefyingly powerful that they have no choice but to get in line and take orders. It’s definitely a great way to debut the Queen’s Royal Guard. We see the individualism of humans surface in another way here — the desire to stay alive at all costs. Rammot recognizes immediately that Neferpitou is far stronger than he could hope to be; therefore, it’s in his best interests to bow down. His designs to be king were so short lived.
Likewise, Leol recognizes that Kite holds superior strength, so he retreats. Most series would denigrate Leol for being a coward and not standing up to fight, but Kite almost seems to regard Leol with a measure of respect for being smart enough to back down when fighting would be a fruitless effort. An enemy who knows their limits and weaknesses is surely someone who will one day be dangerous. I imagine Kite would have cut Leol down right there if finding the Chimera Ant nest weren’t a more important goal at the moment; honor is a virtue that stands in the way of survival on this land.
One last word on Leol: I found it pretty interesting that he retains his memories as a lion. In fact, he seems to identify more as a lion than anything else. Leol’s human qualities serve mainly to enhance his qualities as a lion; i.e., the ability to learn and get stronger instead of relying purely upon instinct. It’s another way of showing how individualized these stronger Chimera Ants are.
I’ve avoided the elephant in the room just long enough. How about this scene, huh?! Good lord! I can sense a cheeky bit of dark humor with the setup of this shot making the room appear like a surgeon’s table with the light above and Pokkle laying back on the stone slab while Neferpitou pokes at Pokkle’s brain. It’s a horrifying scene, but as a horror fan, I couldn’t help but be a bit gleeful about it. The idea that you could directly pick at someone’s brain and manipulate them seems to me borrowed from one of the scores of B-movie horror flicks featuring mad scientists performing ghastly experiments and playing god. Nobody can really do this, but the idea that it could happen is what’s frightening. And wouldn’t it happen in a place such as this, with what seems like an unknowing, uncaring deity shining light down from above in this horrible hell?
The scene unfolds on the precipice of what is probably acceptable in a children’s show. The very idea is probably already beyond what’s acceptable; however, what’s shown is left more to the imagination than anything else. There’s never a clear shot of Neferpitou waggling Pokkle’s brain matter — there always seems to be a convenient shadow cast by his forearms. The main hint about what is going on is from Neferpitou reading about the brain and deciding to jump right in and see what presents itself. It’s quite the twisted example of how unnerving our own qualities can be when turned on us. What does Neferpitou show here if not curiosity? It’s just that we’re the experiments now; we’re the subjects of another creature expanding its knowledge. It’s but a small step to being pinned on someone’s scrapbook.
I also love the scene with Rammot and Neferpitou discovering their respective Nen alignments via water divination. It’s a dark mirror of when Gon and Killua once upon a time did the same with Wing. Such surprise, wonder and glee! But for us it’s also chilling. I enjoy the way this scene plays with the emotions of the audience. But I also got a chuckle out of the basic breakdown of the Ants’ plan to introduce Nen to the others: “So … we just hit each other a lot? Is that cool?” “Sure, go knock yourselves out.” (Or should that be nyaack yourselves out?)
Anyway, I for one welcome our new cat-ant overlords.