It’s almost painful to read these chapters, knowing how close I am to the current stopping point, knowing how uncertain it is this arc will ever be concluded. So much of this reads like a fantasy dreamland idea of a Hunter x Hunter arc. Kurapika and Leorio are back, and they’re both relevant! Ging and Pariston are dueling on the sidelines! Biscuit and Cheadle are there too! It’s all too much happiness for one Hunter x Hunter fan to take in – the joy tempered by the cruel fact of Togashi’s terribly uneven health. I hope he finds some rest for his own sake. I can live with just these treasures.
Hunter x Hunter doesn’t waste much time – in fact, after a literal moment of silence for the aftermath of Chimera Ant, these chapters dive right in to the monolithic Dark Continent arc. The tree where Gon meets his father offers the first demonstration of the scale of the conflict to come: though it’s a massive tree by any standards, Ging lightly states that it’s actually just a sapling in Dark Continent terms. Scale is one of the key defining elements of the Dark Continent – adventure on a scale these characters have never seen.
Ging himself pretty much embodies Hunter x Hunter’s spirit of adventure, or perhaps what being a hunter actually means. Ging is constantly seeking something, even if he doesn’t actually care about the target in particular. Underlining a classic shounen theme, he directly tells Gon that riches aside, his rewards are the friends he makes along the way. His destination is always on the horizon, and reflects what makes Hunter x Hunter so uniquely engaging. The ultimate goal isn’t just “battling stronger opponents,” it’s taking consistent steps forward into a world that only grows wider the farther you seek. The greater the challenge, the greater the adventure. Living with your feet constantly moving to the horizon.
The Dark Continent is a perfect end goal for an arc focused on adventure itself. The continent’s dangers and mysteries are built up from a variety of perspectives in these chapters, as the various factions all respond to the king of Kakin announcing a grand colonization with Netero’s son at the helm. While Ging embodies the natural allure of adventure, other groups are unsurprisingly more prudent. From V5, the five-continent conglomerate that dictates much of international policy, we learn of the rare and exotic monsters of the distant continent. The brief glimpses here are both inherently compelling and enticing for their vagueness – everything we learn of the continent’s monsters implies those who’ve come before only had the briefest hint of exposure to its dangers. Expeditions are framed like deadly quests – there are worthy secrets here, but each is marked by an equally worthy guardian.
But just like how Chimera Ant refused to simplify its morality, Dark Continent does not shy away from the political complexities of adventure. Kakin’s journey is framed directly as colonization, and questions of immigration and disease control are brought up almost immediately. No hands are truly clean here; Chimera Ant demonstrated that V5 is a fundamentally cowardly, conservative organization, while the Election arc proved that the Hunter Association itself is a creaking, dysfunctional mess. Even without considering the perspectives of anyone actually dedicated to the Dark Continent itself (an omission that will surely be rectified as the arc continues), there’s a necessary weight of political and moral baggage attached to every action of every party.
On that note, it might be worth taking a moment to actually explain those parties. There’s a whole lot going on here, and much of what is important reflects not any specific organization’s stated goal, but the multifaceted motivations of the characters involved in it. Everybody’s hands are tied three ways to Sunday.
The King of Kakin might have the simplest position, though it’s still a multileveled one. He’s more of an instigator than character so far, and his journey to the new world is composed of two known goals: to ensure his own historical legacy, and to decide who will succeed him as king. In terms of the first goal, his announcement with Beyond Netero more or less ensured that Kakin would be accepted into V5, because anything less would demonstrate V5 were caught off guard by his words. Between that and the land he’s bequeathing to the many thousands of inevitable immigrants, his actions ensure the relevance of his country for years to come.
In terms of the second goal, the king has also announced that whichever of his children survives the voyage will crowned the new king. Meaning that one of this arc’s many sub-communities is the set of backstabbing princes, including the psychopathic fourth prince who holds Kurapika’s remaining eyes. It’s that prince’s presence that drags Kurapika into this story, first as a new zodiac, and then as the bodyguard to the infant fourteenth prince. No heir can refuse a request of the king.
The Hunter Association’s goals are similarly single-minded: endure, succeed, prosper. Beyond Netero essentially handcuffs himself to their fortunes, and with V5’s approval, they become his chaperone on the way to the new world. But of course, things aren’t nearly that simple – with Pariston, Beyond, and the princes all potentially feeding spies into the organization, Cheadle and the others are forced to make their own internal negotiations and alliances. Cheadle gets to demonstrate her own conviction here; negotiating from a position of constant surprises, she acts decisively to ensure the Association can at least dictate the terms of engagement. Dark Continent makes the participation of the Association feel inevitable to the verge of fatalistic – they’re trapped in this bounty, where they want to be or not.
Ging, of course, absolutely wants to be. Instead of allying with the Association, Ging joins Pariston in both abandoning his zodiac position and joining up with Beyond’s own private team. The scenes between Ging and Pariston are some of the most rewarding of these chapters; the two absolutely hate each other, but they’re also both smart enough to deeply respect one another. The two share one key quality – like Chairman Netero himself, they are always seeking a greater challenge. Pariston defeated the Hunter Association and immediately became bored; in this new venue, his opponents seem to be Ging specifically and also the world at large. Pariston was the true winner of Chimera Ant: the arc’s heroes mostly just survived to live another day, but the man back at HQ found himself with an entire army of chimeras.
That explanation largely covers the major parties: the king and his princes, Netero’s own faction, the Hunter Association, and the various interests of V5 overhead. The fact that I’ve actually taken the time to explain the plot should make it clear that Hunter x Hunter is not your usual story. I am not the type to be carried along purely by a desire to find out what happens next – but Togashi sculpts such compelling narratives with so many interesting interlocking pieces that I can’t help myself. These chapters are marked by consistent “twists,” but all of those twists are natural escalations of what has come before. Even though these chapters are full of exposition and internal arguments, there is an absolute weight and sense of consequence to everything being said. Each conversation is a puzzle, and each solution rewards your understanding of the various personalities involved. Dark Continent is building a towering skyscraper of narrative consequence, one steady brick at a time.
It helps that Togashi’s understanding of manga storytelling is so very, very good. This doesn’t mean every panel is hyper-detailed – in fact, the opposite is more often true. Togashi understands where he can afford to be clear and simple, and where he wants to add real visual flair. Even within this one page, you can see the tail end of a zodiac meeting is represented through very simple character drawings, since it’s simply conveying near-exposition. But the moment we cut to Ging, detailed backgrounds emerge, because these panels must convey an entire tone and environment. Togashi lets words do what words can, and art do what art must.
This willingness to lean into or out of detail continues throughout the volume, making for energetic conversations and tremendous visual highlights. After pages of describing the dangers of the Dark Continent, Netero’s reflections are depicted as one massive, staggering spread, where the scale and detail are clearly intended to shock the audience altogether. The concept of Ging actually fighting someone is articulated in the clearest possible terms, but his offhand conversations with Pariston use visual economy to establish the key points of Ging’s body language. And even the panel flow contributes to momentum, like in this brief moment of Cheadle considering the consequences of failure. After a page of evenly aligned panels, the extended silence of this panel creates a very specific effect – the eye is drawn to Cheadle’s gaze and holds in the distance, creating a small moment of mental silence.
I could go on, and on, and on. There’s plenty more to unpack in Ging’s presence, from the fact that this narrative is so complex it can actually afford such an overpowered ringer to the way he embodies the hunter spirit even in his failings. Ging runs on instinct, but his instincts are usually right – he makes the right call and then figures out why he made it afterwards, a habit common to the very successful and the very dead. I could talk more about Kurapika’s dramatic influence, and how his abilities and methods of action essentially add crime thriller undertones to any other narrative. I could mention how happy I am that Gon and Killua aren’t involved in this arc, because both of them are at points where they need to self-reflect.
It’s all just a wonderful smorgasbord of Why HxH Rules, and I’m happy to be witnessing it. Please be well, Togashi. Your visions are a magical thing.
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