Hunter x Hunter 2011 – Episode 87

Management: Late by a week, and this isn’t a show I’m actually covering, but it’s a very good show and this kind of covers a good number of the reasons why.

This show is so damn good. Everything is just so well-written and well-paced and well-directed and blah. It’s close to the only thing that I can watch as pure entertainment, because while everything that’s happening is right there on the surface, it’s also creative and professional and expertly produced. The characters, who all feed off their great visual design to be understandable in a few broad strokes of characterization. The humor, which builds off without defining the characters. The many-strained plotting, at its best in Yorkshin and again now in Chimera Ant, which seems more reminiscent of a tightly written thriller/drama than a shounen. The very understandable yet still creative system of battle, the ever-shifting definition of battle, the… alright, I’ll stop. This show is awesome, and I haven’t talked about it before, so I just wanted to set something down.


This episode actually features the most significant step in Gon’s character development we’ve seen yet, which is nice. He’s been repeatedly warned about his pride and headstrong nature becoming a threat to both himself and the people around here – but now, with Kite’s loss fresh in his mind, he’s finally acting on that, and restraining himself. This episode was also damn funny, with street punk’s (yeah, I don’t remember character names pretty much ever) soft side getting me every time, and crazy hair’s knife-shaking kind of lampshading how silly her overall presence has been. I also like how Bisky has learned to rely on how goddamn charming Gon and Killua are in crafting her training schedules – it wouldn’t have worked on a less charitable Hunter, but it’s a nice beat of progression in their relationship.

The Ant side displayed some of the efficient plotting this series excels in, revealing the Hunter organization’s battle strategy and powers in a couple efficient, pretty intimidating beats. The cracks in the assumed unity of the Ants as they embrace their human-imbued independent streaks are doing more and more damage to their organization, with the original ringleaders now scared to even ask Neferpitou for help. Neferpitou is obviously just the best – her character is the clear breakout of this arc, with her whimsical love of violence and boundless curiosity now leading her to become some kind of mad scientist. We also got a breakdown of the ants’ overall organization, as well as both their response and the Hunter organization’s counter-strategy. I really love how a show with powers and setups as wild as this one can always ground its conflicts in reasonable stakes – managing exposition to keep everything grounded while avoiding losing tension is a difficult trick, and this show pulls it off with ease. And then it finishes off with by adding a new variable and next-episode cliffhanger that naturally ratchets the tension of Gon and Killua’s training. Again, if shounen writing and direction were always this good, I’d be in real deep trouble.

5 thoughts on “Hunter x Hunter 2011 – Episode 87

  1. I hadn’t watched this yet, but how would you compare it to Fairy Tail, which to date is my favourite long-running shonen, and the most mature/well produced?

    • Haven’t seen Fairy Tale, but I’d say this one’s main strengths are fantastic, purposeful pacing, excellent production and direction (it’s Madhouse), a continuously shifting narrative that avoids normal shounen hangups (first it’s a series of trials, then it’s a rescue mission, then there’s a crime drama, etc), and just an overall great sense of weight and storytelling that keeps conflict from feeling arbitrary (no “they powered up! we better power up more!” nonsense). It’s very, very well-constructed pure entertainment.

      • They powered up so we must power up more is what shonen is! *Trembling lower lip*

        To be honest, most shonen just have you power up more or say “Well, you’ve been fighting stronger opponents, so you learn and grow!” often you get beaten up once, train and come back again (Poke’Mon episode 5, where Ash gets beaten by Brock and uses a dynamo-bicycle to charge up Pikachu, or Bleach where Ichigo has to train hard between being beaten by an opponent and beating them the next time).

        But one of the anime sequences that made me the most annoyed was in Naruto Shippuuden, where Guy’s team fights their clones, and were getting beaten. I was sure they’d just switch opponents in order to win, but nope. It was a simple “We decide to be stronger than the we of 5 minutes ago, so we are, and we’ll defeat the much fresher we of 5 minutes ago.” – and they spent so long in the anime about it, as part of trying to not catch up to the manga… that part was just awful.

        • Yeah, one of the things I always go on about when it comes to action shows is making sure the rules are understandable and stakes are coherent, so there’s actually a sense of weight and danger and the audience can understand when something actually impressive or interesting happens. Shounens… tend to break all those rules over and over again forever. One of the best things about Hunter x Hunter is it basically never does that – characters are never just “I am stronger now for some reason! Now my power of ten plot conveniences will just barely defeat my opponent’s power of nine plot conveniences!”

      • More script writers should read indie-rpgs, most definitely agreed. Many of these topics had been discussed to death and refined in indie-rpgs/Story-Games since ~2000.

        “Stake setting”, conflict resolution rather than task resolution, which is what you get in DnD.

        But not all shonens do silly power-ups in the void. Poke’Mon is a perfect example of the show obeying strict rules.

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