I’m a firm believer that Hunter x Hunter (2011) has no bad episodes – except for episode six, which simply does not exist. Anyway, the ridiculously high quality of every episode means that pretty much every single Hunter x Hunter arc is exceptional in its own right. The Hunter’s Exam adroitly introduces us to our main cast, while Heaven’s Arena – despite its short runtime – explains the mysterious properties of Nen, which serves as the core foundation for the power dynamics we witness over the course of the next 100+ episodes.
This is important, because after seeing Gon and his pals use their newfound knowledge of Nen in Yorknew City and Greed Island, Gon and Killua are tasked with battling the nefarious Chimera Ants in NGL. Many people consider this exceptionally long arc to be Hunter x Hunter writer Yoshihiro Togashi’s magnum opus, although I’m inclined to disagree. While I’m a big fan of Long Gon and recognize the high caliber to which the Killua vs Youpi and Meruem vs Netero fights are written and animated, Chimera Ants, for me, is just a very competent tee for the Election arc that follows it. With the pretext of Chimera Ants in your mind’s eye, you can carefully place the Election arc on said tee and smack it into the stratosphere.
This article contains major Hunter x Hunter spoilers, so Accompany your way back to the homepage if you’re still making your way through the series (especially if you don’t get that reference, ffs).
Chimera Ants is a masterclass in tension. It’s a little bit bloated and could probably have done with some (see: a lot of) condensing, but for the most part it’s genuinely excellent. Characters die as the good guys get thwacked time and time again. The fact it’s not the last arc means that Gon and co. don’t lose with a sense of proper finality, but their victory is most definitely a Pyrrhic one. By the end of the arc, Gon’s body is completely broken – he’s flitting between life and death, his entire essence having been consumed by not just the Nen available to him in that moment, but the entirety of his potential for the rest of his life. The chapter ends as Killua embarks on an odyssey back to NGL with his sister, Alluka, in order to save his best friend – this is a whopping 61 episodes into the arc.
The Election arc is far shorter, containing just 12 episodes. However, with the entire premise of the series behind it, it’s able to tackle its subject matter with immense brevity. Every episode is constructed with depth in mind, as opposed to some sort of visual or narrative pizazz – a trap that Chimera Ants often barely hovers over. I’ve already written about how Killua Zoldyck is the best character not just in Hunter x Hunter, but in fiction at large, and I think he’s the main reason as to why the Election arc trumps all of the other stories in Hunter x Hunter. This is where Killua truly gets to shine without Gon, temporarily assuming the role of protagonist and putting his near-140 episodes of growth to the test. This eventually culminates in what I reckon is the best episode in the entire series, “Defeat x And x Reunion.”
At the end of the episode prior to Defeat x And x Reunion, Killua finally reaches Gon’s location in NGL. Considering that he has Alluka with him – who is able to transform into Something, or “Nanika” as Killua affectionately calls her – Killua is Gon’s last hope. If Alluka’s power doesn’t work, Gon will die as a result of using all of his future life force to take down Pitou and avenge Kite.
I won’t get into the stuff with Illumi (Killua’s creepy brother) here, aside from saying that Killua’s confrontation with him in the next episode is another all-time great as far as Hunter x Hunter’s best moments go. Instead, my main reason for this being the strongest episode in the series is because this is where everything comes together. It’s worth noting that this is thanks to Killua, not Gon – I like Gon and think he’s a good protagonist, but similarly to how Shoto Todoroki is far more complex than Izuku Midoriya in My Hero Academia, Killua is by far the best character in Hunter x Hunter.
Death x And x Reunion hinges on one of the most heartwarming scenes in the entire series, which sees Gon burst through the doors of the election for the next Chairman and leap into Leorio’s arms. Leorio, who had previously been shouting at everyone and making jokes about jerking off in front of some of the most famous Hunters in the world, drops everything and says he doesn’t give a rats about the election anymore – he was only here because he wanted justice for what happened to Gon. The episode concludes as Gon sees King Dickhead Ging Freecss sitting at the meeting. 145 episodes into a series about looking for his dad, he finally gets to lay eyes on his wanker mug.
I know It’s obvious that stories tend to finish at the end. For what it’s worth, the 2011 anime isn’t even the proper conclusion for Hunter x Hunter – the manga has gone way past that point, with Kurapika venturing into the Dark Continent that Ging and Gon see at the end of the Election arc. Still, while I’d obviously love more Hunter x Hunter, I think this denouement is as tidy as they come. There’s still wonder in the air, still a sense of mystery as to where each character will end up, but it’s all peppered with a bonafide sense of hope that hasn’t been there in quite some time. The Election arc is all about that – we see Gon come back from the brink of death to be reunited with his father, as Killua manages to save both himself and his sister from the selfishly grubby clutches of the Zoldyck family (well, half of them – Zeno and Silva are actually very supportive of Killua and Alluka). The Election arc offers a much-needed salve of optimism after the long and arduous misery of Chimera Ants.
But it’s more than that. It’s not just the catharsis you feel when you see everything that comes before finally pay off – it’s the way in which this payoff actually occurs. It’s all completely imperfect – Ging still doesn’t really care for Gon beyond thinking, “I suppose you’ve done some alright stuff,” while Killua hasn’t magically become some model citizen meant for civvie life. It feels as if they’ve earned their due diligence, but they’ve still got a long road ahead of them, and they’ve only earned the right to walk it at great personal cost – Killua has lost the majority of his family and Gon is incapable of using Nen, potentially forever.
But these things don’t matter – it’s the fact that these characters are still here that truly counts for something. It’s rare to see a story end with people stripped of the power they earned along the way – it’s like that meme-y Peter Molyneux Twitter account’s take on starting off with maximum strength and gradually losing it all as you go. The end of Hunter x Hunter isn’t some stereotypical wrap-up where Killua and Gon ride off into the sunset as the two greatest Hunters in history. Instead, it uses their respective losses to focus on a truly heartfelt victory where best friends split up but remain connected.
Also after 61 episodes of bloody Chimera Ants, it’s just nice to see a story that’s a little bit more self-contained. Honestly, I know Chimera Ants was good, but please watch it again and see if you still reckon it’s the best one. It’s not – the Election arc is.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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