What stands out about Hunter x Hunter is how progressively better the story arcs get as you continue to watch. Unlike other series with their highs and lows, Hunter x Hunter consistently climbs higher and higher, leaving many viewers feeling satisfied. That’s what fans will be treated to as we explore the latest home media installment of the classic shōnen series. Things begin to perk up from the Hunter Exams arc, and it starts to get a lot bloodier in ways that fans don’t usually see in shōnen. This is why I find reviewing this series to be such a treat, and I’m sure many fans will feel the same way as they watch this show.
In this new release, VIZ Media decided to double up on the episode count. Instead of 12 or 13 episodes (like before), fans are given a whopping 24 episodes. This release covers all of the Heaven’s Arena Arc and part of the fantastic York New City Arc (which is a beautiful arc to watch). So for those who were craving for more after the first two releases, you’ll get your wish, which I believe will be a massive boost for the release. Since I’ve reviewed the first two volumes of Hunter x Hunter, I’ve found it hard to stop watching, considering how much I enjoy it. It was so easy to binge that the last two volumes felt like they ended too quickly. So being able to get more content in a release is a huge plus. So with VIZ Media doubling up, I felt this was a much more enjoyable volume just by the length itself.
Not following the Toonami broadcast of Hunter x Hunter religiously, I found myself more excited to review the Heaven’s Arena Arc, considering I only caught a few episodes here and there as it debuted. In theory, it sounded like a boring arc, as it was just going to be Gon and Killua trying to become stronger and make money at this arena. However, it becomes a much more important arc because it is here we find out that Gon still has something to accomplish before he can call himself a legitimate hunter (and it isn’t by punching Hisoka in the face, yet). This arc is where we are introduced to Nen, the magic, devil fruit, powers, etc. used to help create abilities for the rest of the show. Nen is the power that our main group of heroes needs to master to become formidable hunters. So while Gon and Killua try to earn some money and become stronger, they learn about the mysterious power of Nen and are taught by a new character named Wing (who is a teacher or Nen). The two boys team up with Wing’s student Zushi, and all three begin their journey to master the basics of Nen. As they do it, they climb closer and closer to the vaunted 200th floor (this floor is where a lot of fierce fighters are).
I forgot how exciting this arc was, especially with everyone’s favorite antagonist Hisoka showing up as a pseudo gatekeeper of the 200th floor. It was because of his actions that Gon and Killua began learning about Nen to become stronger. But it was Hisoka who made this arc shine. We get a glimpse into what Arena life is like and how big the fights are as he takes on a powerful fighter, Kastro. It was a solid fight to watch, which Hisoka ends in a bloody fashion. But the climax of the arc, with Gon taking on Hisoka, was everything fans have come to love about anime. Right at the beginning fans are treated to a beautiful sequence of punches and kicks from both fighters, with no lines read, no music, nothing but grunts and air gusts blowing by each opponent. It was something special. It was Hunter x Hunter’s version of Mayweather vs. McGregor, and this one didn’t disappoint. Even the scoring system that is used in these fights made it that much more dramatic and fun to watch. It was more action-packed and informative than I remembered which made it enjoyable to watch.
We then get a few episodes where Gon returns to see Aunt Mito, and the mystery of Gon’s father is revealed. We learn about Ging (Gon’s father) before he became a hunter, as well as his relationship with Aunt Mito. It was during this little reprieve when Gon hears a recording of Ging challenging Gon to find him, leaving him a clue, which leads him to obtain a copy of the ridiculously expensive video game Greed Island. Trying to find a copy of the game leads the group to York New City, where Gon and Killua promise to meet up with Kurapika and Leorio after the Hunter Exam.
It’s this arc where things get bloody, and it’s all thanks to the Phantom Troupe (the group upon which the Kurapika wants to take its vengeance). The entire group meets up and devises a plan to rob the whole auction merchandise at York New City. And wouldn’t you know that Kurapika takes on a bodyguard gig in York New City. As you can surmise, the two forces end up meeting up with one another. So our heroes try to locate the Phantom Troupe and capture them to help out their employers. When watching this arc, I’m amazed that Kurapika was not only able to kill a Phantom Troupe member (Uvo, in a fantastic fight as well) but the fact that Gon and Killua could hide, escape and beat them (in an arm wrestling match). But make no mistake, anything involving this band of thieves means there will be a lot of blood. So many deaths have already occurred in this arc, along with many side characters meeting a horrible demise (to which I’m sure some fans will feel sad about). It sets a tone that the series will have a lot impact and that no one is safe from death (which is rare in shōnen).
I believe this is a huge reason as to why Hunter x Hunter is so popular. Both of these arcs show how dark it can get. There is a lot of death and murder, which isn’t something you typically expect in this genre. It makes the arcs themselves feel more dramatic and significant. You can quickly lose focus when watching a long-running shounen, but Hunter x Hunter forces you to keep an eye on everything. From the disturbing murders, like what happened at the underground auction house, to the simple eye contact made at the Phantom Troupes hideout, everything is important.
The voice cast continues to stay consistent, with Keith Silverstein once again stealing the spotlight as Hisoka. I believe that not only was the casting of him perfect but it might be the best performance for an anime character this past year. He fits in so well with his tone and mannerisms that it’s scary. He continues to impress with every episode he shows up in. I did have a small issue when it came to Killua threatening Sadaso at the Arena. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel as scary or as intimidating as I’d expect from this show or from Cristina Vee. I didn’t get the chills that I know Cristina Vee is capable of bringing. That isn’t to say that she did a poor job, because I find her voicing of Killua to be excellent. I just think that that scene, in particular, could have been better, which is surprising considering who the voice director is (Tony Oliver).
More on the cast: we are given a ton of new characters and new voices to hear. For me, it was cool getting to hear some new voices with the characters we listened to a lot. I enjoyed Kira Buckland as Zushi and Ezra Weisz as Wing. Plus, getting to hear Rachael Lillis as another character (Cocoo) gave me a nostalgic feeling back to when I watched Pokemon. And the cast of the Phantom Troupe sounds amazing so far. Robbie Daymond as Chrollo feels just right, as he is able to nail the tone and seriousness of the character (which he also enjoys playing). As for the the rest of the group, it’s awesome to hear some veterans (like David Vincent as Phinks, Patrick Seitz as Uvogin, Erica Lindbeck as Pakunoda, and Janice Kawaye as Shizuku), as well as some newer voices to the Toonami audience (Tom Bauer as Feitan, Griffin Burns as Shalnark, and Abby Trott as Machi) taking prominent roles. These characters are very important bad guys to the Hunter x Hunter World, so I can only imagine the pressure to live up to the standard fans expect of the series. I give Tony Oliver a lot of credit, because I feel this cast is so strong with the roles they are given. A lot of the characters come to life, and I find Hunter x Hunter to be one of the stronger English dubs I’ve seen.
The release comes in a standard Blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcover. Other than that, there aren’t many extras provided (which is fine, after all we were given more episodes than we typically receive). I wouldn’t mind if VIZ Media interviewed more English cast members, as they did with Erica Mendez and Cristina Vee, but that is more nitpicking than anything.
Overall I found myself entranced with this series. Both the Heaven’s Arena and York New City Arc are must-see story arcs. The animation, choreography, and music remain as amazing as they always have been and that have made Hunter x Hunter the complete package. For those who might not enjoy shounen as much as I do, you might find Hunter x Hunter to be a gem in a sea of the many shōnens to come out of Japan. If you enjoy seeing Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Hisoka shine, then I highly recommend you check this release out.
Pros: Both story arcs were so good it made it hard to stop watching; Gon and Hisoka’s fight in episodes 35 and 36 left me speechless; awesome hearing more characters get their English voices, especially the Phantom Troup; length of the release.
Cons: Killua didn’t sound as threatening as I’d like with Sadaso, very few extras in the release.