Long-running shounen anime had fallen out of favor for me pretty early into my anime fandom. After realizing that I had wasted my time on the entirety of Naruto and the first 90 or so episodes of Bleach (whenever the first filler arc ended, can’t be bothered to check), I made it very clear to myself that I needed to find better things to invest my time in. That basically set up the basis of me watching so much anime from that point onwards, and soon became a person with the kind of taste you see on this blog today.
I didn’t hear a lot of praise for the new Hunter X Hunter until sometime in 2012 when two particular fight scenes from the Yorkshire arc gained a lot of traction with the fanbase, namely “Gon vs. Hisoka” and “Kurapika vs. Uvogin”. Back then, I figured that, hey, maybe this show would be worth the time and effort needed to blaze through the rest of the show, despite its shounen roots. Yet I suppose that’s the caveat. When you don’t know what happens in the rest of a show as long as Hunter X Hunter, it’s rather intimidating to even think that you’ll be able to get through those tens of episodes and still be interested in watching further. It’s not like this show was particularly profound to any degree. Everything I saw of the show just seemed… routine, though well-animated. I was also at the time content that Fullmetal Alchemist and its Brotherhood counterpart were some of the only shows I felt were justified in having such an elongated runtime. So I quashed my interest in watching Hunter X Hunter pretty fast with that reasoning.
Fast-forward to late 2013 and I notice on Twitter that many of the people I followed went “Chimera Ant” this and “Chimera Ant” that, belching out nothing but the most positive of feelings. This was for an inordinate amount of time, too. Just how long was this particular arc, and why isn’t anyone complaining about how long it is? Why was everyone clamoring and crying and endlessly posting spoilers about episode 131? And episode 135, for that matter? What’s so tearjerking about Cell playing a board game with a cripple? I was kind of pissed at first, to be honest, though I’m not sure what the primary reason for that was. Was this just a red herring? There’s a reason why the old phrase “it gets better, I swear” is so maligned. Voices suggesting that SAO or Index were to get better as they went on were things I had very little interest in believing. And actually reading some of these LN series such as Zero no Tsukaima and Haruhi didn’t really push my expectations higher than usual, and this was during my earlier “still liking Naruto warts and all” phase of anime fandom. I didn’t know what to think about so many people having nothing but praise for Hunter X Hunter.
Until I, of course, took it upon myself to actually watch the show. I went and binged as much as I could within a full week until I finally caught up with everyone else at episode 137, and then watched it weekly until it ended. And? What did I think of it?
Well, it’s pretty great. I thought it suffered a lot from superfluous shounen fluff from time to time, but everything in between was just a blast to watch, even when the high production values only kicked in for maybe four or five battles out of, well, a fuckton over the course of 148 episodes. That’s not to say, however, that the battles were the highlight as you’d think they’d be for a shounen series. Hunter X Hunter deals with a lot of its themes with a surprising amount of sophistication and depth and I could see why my peers fell in love with it once Greed Island and Chimera Ant rolled in. I ended up giving it an 8/10.
Though a review of this show isn’t the point of why it’s on my 12 Days post series. Hunter X Hunter was so significant this year because it reminded me of a time years ago where I didn’t mind going through the filler, the long lingering establishing shots, and the seemingly endless amount of episodes to get to the riches a long-running show could offer. Well, technically this comes naturally to me given I can suffer through the likes of Shinsekai Yori’s pacing without as much as a truly vehement complaint, but it was Hunter X Hunter’s length and its vocal and positive fanbase that really dissuaded me from trying it out. And I have to wonder if this whole experience was actually worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I still like this show a lot and I’m glad that I took the time to watch the entire thing when I could, and even got to join in on the weekly craze with the final Election Arc. Having been a part of that phenomenon, that collective, is valuable to me, and has certainly shaped my perception on these long-running shows that I used to love to bits.
- What would be a different story, however, is the people in my anime club, people in college, who still find the likes of Naruto, Bleach, and Fairy Tail interesting to watch. Maybe it’s just a matter of experience for me, because I see it as a phase that takes a year or two to finally get out of your system, and I went through that when I was in middle school and nothing more.
- Give it another ten or so years and someday we’ll see yet another reboot of the series. Not that I’d complain, of course, since I’d be watching episode 1 of that shit alongside the rest of you guys if it ever comes to pass.