The English dub premiere of Hunter x Hunter (2011) is quickly approaching. While some fans might be indifferent to a long-running series joining the lineup (with the likes of One Piece and Dragon Ball Z Kai), this series could turn out to be a surprise. Due to the length of this series, will fans have to be “tortured” with the inevitable fillers and pacing issues? After all, we’ve seen it with nearly every long-running series that’s arrived in the U.S. However, I’m here to tell you that people should feel less worried about what Hunter x Hunter will bring to Toonami. With how Hunter x Hunter handled itself, I hope to find more longer-running series to copy their success.
Right off the bat, I’ll get one fear out of the way: of the 148 episodes of Hunter x Hunter, only two episodes are filler. ONLY TWO! Plus, they occur early, giving fans a ton of content that’s straight from the source material. It certainly helps that this manga series has been serialized since 1998, but it’s also nice knowing that nearly every episode is vital to the story. So while Hunter x Hunter will be running for a long time on the block, every episode deepens the viewers’ understanding of the world, characters, and story. Missing one episode could keep people from seeing the big picture, and this can be a blessing and a curse. Hunter x Hunter can help Toonami capture a larger weekly audience, but some fans might miss an episode or two and feel left behind, and then might stop viewing the series entirely. I hope that’s not the case, because I believe you can jump into the series at any point, but only time will tell.
To be fair, I was late to the Hunter x Hunter party when it was first simulcast. I didn’t know anything about it until episode 140 (when I happen to stumble upon a fan recommendation of this show for those that like long-runners), so I had A LOT of catching up to do. When it comes to long-running series, I enjoy binge-watching, since I know there are a lot of episodes to watch. In my opinion, watching four episodes in a row is binging, but I actually watched a lot more in one sitting, because this series really grabbed me. I’m unsure how well the series paced itself when it was watched week-to-week when it first premiered. The rave reviews it has received by fans makes me less worried about that issue.
The series itself is a typical shonen adventure, but there is so much more to the overall story. The violence makes me wonder if this series is suitable for children, considering how bloody some of the fights become. Thankfully with Toonami’s demographic these types of moments are more welcome than not. To add on to that point, there are a lot of adult themes that followed suit. That’s not intended to put people off; Hunter x Hunter is fun to watch. But there are moments that shocked me after watching and doing some research about the franchise.
It may seem a bit unfair build up Hunter x Hunter as the long-runner that every anime fan should watch but it can be argued that it’s that good. Especially since there isn’t much filler and it has truly captivating characters. The second series has a lot of material to refer to (since the time Hunxter x Hunter began its publication). It was so popular that I’m sure fans wished there could have been more after episode 148. However, due to the author Yoshihiro Togashi’s hiatus for health reasons, the anime caught up to the source material, which is why it ended where it did.
Unlike other long-running series it seems as if Madhouse and the other producers of the series were fine with letting Hunter x Hunter end where it did, without putting in anything pointless that might upset fans. We can look at other franchises like One Piece and Naruto Shippuden, and how they’ve been able to continue for so long. They may be way ahead of Hunter x Hunter when it comes to overall popularity (otherwise why would so many episodes be produced?), but I don’t hear as much backlash towards Hunter x Hunter as I do with those two shows in particular. It’s not as if it has affected the commercial success of One Piece or Shippuden, but those series could learn a little from Hunter x Hunter.
What might that lesson be? Well, for starters we can look at the amount of filler episodes in many long-running series. It can drive some fans crazy. This article isn’t meant to bash filler arcs, because they can be done well when executed correctly. There are a few filler arcs in shows like Bleach and the first Naruto series that I actually enjoyed. So when a filler arc is done properly, it enhances the show and adds more good content. Sure, it may have no bearing on the overall story, but sometimes it’s fine to reference those filler episodes (just like Bleach did with Jin Kariya) instead of pretending they don’t exist. That moment was particularly amazing to see, where a filler arc meant more than just something to prolong the story. The Bount arc in Bleach was an important step for Ichigo’s growth in the following story arc, and added to its lore. That’s not something I’m used to with filler arcs. That doesn’t mean every filler should be exactly like that particular arc, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Most filler arcs are not enjoyable to watch at all. It’s something that has plagued the “big three” JUMP shounen, as well as other long-running shows.
What I find puzzling about Shippuden is that the manga has officially ended. You’d think there would no longer be a need for filler arcs in that series (I’m talking about the Japanese broadcast). Since there is a clear ending, Shippuden can just follow the blueprint to the nice clean ending that the author Masashi Kishimoto scripted. However, in this series, filler arcs have been used to help build relationships for characters in this world that are still continuing now. Apparently some of the characters who become items in Naruto come out of left field, and so filler has been used to help establish these love interests (I haven’t read the series, I’m going by what I’ve come across in articles). I think we have reached a point where fans already know about these relationships and are being prevented from seeing the ending of an iconic series in animated form. I’m curious as to how much money the series is still making, because filler episodes are allegedly what “did in” Bleach, and I’m wondering if Shippuden might follow that path as well. That would be even more disappointing now that the manga is over.
Hunter x Hunter had a leg up from other long-running series, due to the amount of material that was available for Madhouse to animate. Of course, it’s even funnier how many fans wondered if Hunter x Hunter was going to add filler episodes to give the author time to recover and start writing again (so the series wouldn’t end, and fans would get to see more new episodes of this popular show). I never thought I’d see the day when anime fans ask for more filler episodes, yet the franchise seems to be that popular. So I believe that the lack of filler will make fans more accepting towards this latest acquisition despite it’s length. And with the manga resuming, this means that if it continues for a while, maybe there will be a few OVA’s made (30 were made of the earlier series than began in 1999 after the TV run ended). So maybe the other long-running series could learn a thing or two from Hunter x Hunter.
Are you excited for Hunter x Hunter coming to Toonami? Feel free to discuss anything about this series with C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris