“This is how we get ants.” This classic line from the FX series Archer perfectly depicts what’s to come in the latest volume released by VIZ Media. Hunter x Hunter has been an enjoyable ride, and now fans of the series have a chance to get their hands on one of the more talked about story arcs in the franchise. The Chimera Ants arc begins where the OVA’s from the previous anime adaptation ended, and so this is the first time the story has been animated. It brings a new level of darkness and sadness that is rarely seen in a shōnen anime. Things are bleak, and thanks to a new carnivores species, the world is on the brink of extermination.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Chimera Ant arc, Gon and Killua meet up with someone who they first believed to be Gon’s father, Ging. Instead, it’s Ging’s star pupil, Kite, who Gon and Killua travel to see. The three get to know each other, with the boys finding out about Kite’s latest assignment in researching/hunting down a new species called the Chimera Ants. They are a threat to the human population, due to their carnivorous diet. So Kite and his group are tasked to take care of things so an epidemic won’t occur. Learning about Gon’s hunt for his father, the boys offer to join Kite, who graciously accepts. They end up traveling to the NGL, a continent that doesn’t allow technology, and the supposed spot where the Chimera Ant Queen washed up. The Queen begins eating all kinds of animals to gain strength as well as lay eggs to create soldiers for protection as well as food procurement. It’s up to Gon, Killua, and Kite to stop the reproduction of these dangerous creatures who could take over the world if the Queen gives birth to a powerful king.

If you are looking for bleak and depressing stories in your anime, then this release is just what the doctor ordered. Never before did an arc grab me as quickly and intensely as the first 10-12 episodes of this release. Hearing Kite give the rundown on how dangerous these Chimera Ants are gave me chills. He did not take this assignment lightly, considering that when we think of ants we think of them as nothing but a nuisance (never deadly). Somehow the Queen grows to the size of a human and could easily eat one, creating a massive threat. And seeing how deadly these ants become is terrifying. They end up establishing their “ant hill” in the NGL continent, of which no one from the outside would know about (for a long time) due to their technology ban. So these deadly ants are growing exponentially with no countermeasures in play until it’s too late. The Hunter Association does eventually get the call to send some experienced hunters to stop the epidemic. But due to the political climate in countries like the NGL, it becomes a chore to take care of the ants.

And if the futility of handling the ants isn’t scary enough, the character deaths in this arc are brutal. You see young children get captured and eaten by the ants, as well as adults collected like cattle. We see returning characters Pokkle and Ponzu meet their end in ways that didn’t sit well with me, such as Pokkle getting a lobotomy (spilling the secrets of nen to the Chimera Ants) and Ponzu getting shot multiple times (seeing the twitch of her body after each shot was especially hard to watch). And it doesn’t get easier as we see Kite’s severed head in the lap of one of the strongest ants, Neferpitou. It’s depressing and something that fans could have trouble watching. As disturbing as some of the deaths were, I found myself glued to my seat and couldn’t stop binging my way through so many episodes in a short period. And it felt just as satisfying seeing certain ants meet their demise.

What stands out is how well thought out this arc begins. At first, when you see pictures of the ant soldiers, you see all kinds of different animals like lions, bats, and scorpions, and think: how do we go from ants to seeing the entire animal kingdom? Yoshihiro Togashi makes this species special by having the Queen reproduce using Phagogenesis (where the Queen acquires desirable traits from other animals she eats to pass down to her children when she gives birth). It’s genius and made it more believable than other plot devices thrown in from other shows.

If you are binging this series, you’ll find it even more enjoyable. I’ve heard grumblings from the Toonami fandom who love Hunter x Hunter but found the experience of watching this arc week to week to be difficult. I can’t say I disagree. I found myself feeling bored during the down times of this arc and was thankful that I could continue instead of ending on a down feeling. I didn’t care about the mini-story arc where Gon and Killua had to train to beat Morel’s pupils (Knuckle and Shoot), since he and Knov ended up going with the chairmen Netero into the NGL. And it seemed out of place watching Gon go on a date with Knov’s pupil, Palm (which is a little creepy because of the age difference) while the ants are murdering/taking over countries. I found those moments to be fluff that hurt the early parts of the Chimera Ant arc. I wanted to see how Gon, Killua, and Hunter Association would attack the Chimera Ants. But instead, we get needless padding that I found rather dull.

On the opposite spectrum, I found myself wanting to know more about the NGL continent. As I stated before, we know that technology isn’t allowed. Phones, metals, guns, even glasses aren’t allowed into the country. However, a new drug is sweeping the world, and it’s rumored to be made in the NGL. How? How corrupt is this “organic country” and how did the operation work? It became an exciting subplot as the ants attack and these drug dealers grab their weapons to fight back, creating an adversary the ants weren’t ready to face. I wanted to see how the mysterious leader Gyro was going to take over the world by using this new drug he created. Sadly all we get is his backstory (which was also boring) and don’t get to see him show up at all when the ants attack his stronghold. My guess is that he died or ran away, making him look weak.

The new cast members added to Hunter x Hunter are nothing short of amazing. Christopher Corey Smith nails the gruffness and sternness of Kite and sounds perfect. I got goosebumps hearing him say Kite’s classic lines of “bad roll” (referring to his nen ability Crazy Slots). Max Mittelman does a beautiful job picking up the role of the Chimera Ants King Meruem, as it felt like he was able to portray all the range of emotions expressed by his highness. However, I give the nod for the most impressive performance to Sarah Anne Williams, who captures the essence to who Neferpitou is. She nails the playful tone of the character, as well as Neferpitou’s serious side (other notable performances include Benjamin Diskin, Karen Strassman, and Allegra Clark). Overall, the cast of Hunter x Hunter has been one of the strongest English dubs I can remember, and I enjoy how well the actors and actresses have been able to sound throughout this series.

VIZ Media gave the latest volume a standard Blu-ray release, which includes an art gallery as well as cast interviews. The interviews include Erica Mendez, Cristina Vee, Christopher Corey Smith, and Zach Augilar, all which were a pleasure to watch (and I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy). Surprisingly, the disk arc caught my attention, as I enjoyed the art and characters shown on them (Palm when she dolls herself up, Killua’s sister, etc.). It’s not a huge deal, but a nice added touch that I enjoyed.

When the Chimera Ants arc is on, it can hit like a sack of bricks. Grueling moments are aplenty and establishes a tone that doesn’t usually work in shōnen anime. It’s amazing how something so dark can hold the attention of viewers as intently as it does. However, this is Hunter x Hunter, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise at how well things are put together. The arc does itself no favors by adding needless fluff and padding, distracting viewers away from the ants themselves. I’m just interested in what they are doing, especially now that King Merium has taken over. I don’t care about Gon and Killua training to become stronger, or about the pupils of the hunters who are helping to exterminate the ants. I want to see more of the Hunters’ Association response and plan to save the world. When the story focuses on the ants and ants alone, I couldn’t look away and believe that viewers will feel the same.

Score 9.5/10

Pros: Any part of the series involving the ants became must watch television; the ants evolution was well written; fantastic music to fit the tone of this arc; easy to binge; the English cast.

Cons: Any part that didn’t involve the ants felt like needless padding; Killua didn’t get to do as much as I would have liked in this release.

C.J Maffris is the senior staff writer at Toonamifaithful.com. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris