Hunter x Hunter’s thirty-third volume was entirely dedicated to establishing the base conflict of the Dark Continent arc. Even with a full volume worth of board-adjusting and exposition, those chapters still felt like they were bursting at the seams with pure information. The king’s declaration, and his alliance with Beyond. The Hunter Association’s reaction to that announcement, and their conscription of Kurapika and other potential allies. The background interference of Ging and Paristan, and the concerns of the larger scientific community. The introduction of the king’s succession war, and Kurapika’s subsequent enrollment in the youngest prince’s service. All of that served as meaty but ultimately passive setup, setting the stage for volume thirty-four to come barreling out the gate with the true start of the arc.
There are a lot of anime out there! Literally thousands, with over a hundred more being released every year. There are new hits every season, and old favorites that have slowly lost their topical sheen. Given all those shows, it can be understandably hard to pick what to watch next – anime, like every other medium, is full of stuff that will disappoint you, and everyone’s tastes are different.
My own tastes in particular are a little weird – I like arthouse stuff and intimate character studies and occasional cathartic message-focused shows. But fortunately, there is indeed such a thing as “normal” taste in anime, or at least the most common preferences shared by fans outside of Japan. And today, I’m hoping to help that audience – or more specifically, hopefully, You.
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.
I had to stretch to get a top 10 this year. I’m ready to admit that. Last year, it was easy – in fact, it was too easy, and I ended up expanding my list to twelve shows basically by necessity. But this year didn’t have quite the top shelf of 2013, and so concessions had to be made. There are certainly a couple notable absences here, with I’m guessing the biggest ones being Kill la Kill, Space Dandy, and maybe Nozaki-kun. The reason for those absences is simple – I didn’t like any of those shows very much. If you’re looking for a general “all the shows that enjoyed positive appraisal among the kinds of people who make a point of appraising shows,” I’m guessing all three of those would be included, but this is my list, and I’m gonna talk about what I wanna. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a list like that, my fellow critics at ANN all contributed their own top five lists to this recent retrospective – and that’s all shows that started in 2014, so even my list over there is pretty different). My list may be a little shorter this year, but it’s still got some real gems, and considering three of the year’s best shows aren’t included simply because they aren’t finished (Shirobako, KimiUso, and Parasyte), I’d say we made off okay. Let’s run it down!
I’m not really much of a crier. This used to be pretty much a hard rule – basically nothing would move me to cry, regardless of how personal or how tragic. This has started to change over the last few years, starting with Katawa Shoujo and my reintroduction back into anime. And I’m actually grateful for this – my favorite media is the stuff that makes me cry, and I wish I did it more often. It happens rarely enough that I can still easily say any show that makes me cry is among my favorite shows.
Well, Hunter x Hunter made me cry. God damn did it ever.
I don’t even know what to say in this intro, because nothing else this week comes close to Aldnoah’s lunacy. Everything else was fine, good shows are good, yada yada. Let’s get to the show.
Oh wait, also, I’m apparently gonna be one of ANN’s staff reviewers now in addition to my streaming work. Meaning I’ll be doing regular full-show reviews there, along with participating in their completely insane Preview Guide. Meaning I’ll be watching the first episodes of basically every goddamn full-length show coming out this season, and writing some sort of reflection on every single one of them. Meaning my hands are probably going to be bloody stumps by the end of next week.
So that’ll be fun! Something to look forward to. Anyway, Aldnoah fuckin’ Zero.
Hunter x Hunter, why do you have to remind me of all the reasons it’ll be so hard to say goodbye to you?!? Uuugh.
I didn’t really expect this episode to start with a ten minute monologue on karmic cycles, the nature of the soul, and the ways human failings perpetuate themselves, but given everything that’s happened so far, it ended up being pretty damn appropriate! This was essentially a bookend to the themes and questions of Chimera Ant, and served to tie it in nicely with the questions of consequence and forgiveness that have dominated the Election Arc. Just like Ging tells his son, Kite tells our penitent koala that you can’t run away from the consequences of your actions. The koala (I wish he had a name, it’s kind of absurd to refer to him that way, but eh, HxH) gets pretty esoteric in his musings on the nature of fate and consequence, which is appropriate for the tone of Chimera Ant. That arc struggled constantly with the awkward contradictions of our nature – but here, with Kite actually present, the answer appears simple. “No one will allow you to take your own life and hit the reset button. You must live, and apologize to me every day.” Our natural instincts may perpetuate cycles of violence, but we can individually rise above that instinct. When you apologize, you have to promise to do things differently next time.
No complaints about this week in anime – my favorites were great, my second-strings were either solid or great, and I’m barely even watching anything beneath those. Aldnoah continued last week’s “wait, let’s try to be actually good again” streak, Zankyou recovered from its wonky Hollywood interlude, and Hunter x Hunter is just making me too emotional right now. Also, Shounen Hollywood whipped out one of the most absurd, confident concept episodes I’ve seen in… ever? A long time, at least. Let’s run them down!
A very convenient week in anime this time, since two shows didn’t actually air and oh wait that didn’t matter because I wrote three thousand goddamn words for Anime News Network anyway. Actually, that might be its own kind of “reprieve” – normally my writing motivation is “keep writing you goddamn word-monkey you’re wasting hours and drawing closer to death,” but my crazy output the last couple weeks (including writing a big friggin’ editorial that I’ll hopefully finish by this weekend) allowed me to briefly experience the feeling of not feeling guilty for relaxing. That’s actually a pretty rare thing for me, so I guess I got a mental vacation after all.
Incidentally, those ANN posts seem to have gone over very well over there, though I know you guys are understandably sad about the lack of timestamp SAO posts. It seems like ANN is more okay with some snark than I’d initially worried, so I’ll try to hit some kind of balance more of you can be happy with – I’ve only ever written for myself and my own audience before, so I’m still figuring out how to express my voice in a more official context. I hope you all stick with me as I figure this crap out! You’re an awesome, extremely supportive group of readers, and I want to be worthy of that support.
Alright, that’s enough blogging, I’m sure you’ve all got stuff to do. Let’s run down this week’s shows!
A low week in anime, my friends. Barakamon, Aldnoah, and Zankyou all had lesser episodes, meaning it was pretty much up to JoJo and Hunter x Hunter to keep things together. Fortunately, JoJo rallied magnificently, and Hunter x Hunter is just always friggin’ good, so I guess I can’t really complain. But damn, I really, really hope Zankyou keeps it together. Anyway, let’s get to the shows!