Review: Hunter X Hunter Election Arc- It’s Departure Time

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Synopsis: With the battle against the Chimera Ants over and Gon on the verge of death after his sacrifice, Killua seeks to heal him by using the powers of the youngest Zoldyck sibling, Alluka. However when Illumi learns of Killua’s plan he partners up with Hisoka to stop him. Meanwhile after Netero’s death, the Hunter Association decides to hold an election to decide the next Chairman, which finally brings Ging into the picture. As the rescue mission and the election begin to overlap with each other, the final chapter of Gon’s journey unfolds.

Review

Most fans of the manga had seen this moment coming from the moment the reboot was first announced but we’ve at last come to the end of the journey for Hunter X Hunter (well the anime at any rate).  It’s been a solid run run for the series and one filled with many high points and very minimal lows compared to others of the shonen genre. Though while most series would go out in a much more spectacular (if sometimes too overblown for their own good) fashion, the Election Arc is a much lighter and more heartfelt story than the look into the evils of human nature that is the Chimera Ant arc. In spite of that though the arc delivers not only another good tale from Togashi, but a proper sendoff for the anime run as a whole.

With Gon out of commission thanks to his insane power-up in the Chimera Ant arc, Killua takes over as the protagonist of this particular story and fittingly so. After discovering that even the best Nen healers aren’t capable of helping Gon, Killua goes to seek out the help of his younger sister Alluka, who has the ability to grant wishes at a price. The price for these wishes can have some pretty devastating effects and it allows the audience to get a better look at some of the inner workings of the  Zoldyck family when it’s made clear how far they are willing to go keep Alluka’s powers both under control and secret from the rest of the world. Illumi in particular is the most desperate, and when he learns that Killua wants to use those powers to heal Gon, he fears he may be caught in the backlash and plots to stop him with Hisoka in tow.  Killua on the other hand, doesn’t see Alluka as just a tool and while he ultimately wants to heal Gon, he wants to save Alluka as well, and it signifies his first real step towards finding his own reasons to live besides helping Gon.

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 And to think you missed out on so many potential battle orgasms during the Ant arc. Sucks to be you Hisoka

On the other end of things. The Hunter Association calls together it’s highest ranking members known as the Zodiac,which includes Ging, to figure out what to do about deciding on a new chairman and decide to hold a general election involving all Hunters. When Ging decides to opt himself out of the running however, it brings the vice-chairman, Partison into the lead for victory. Partison himself is a very interesting character, and one who is difficult for both the other character and the audience to get a read on, as he’s the kind of person who’s not so much out to win as he is to screw with everyone else’s chance of winning and finds joy in hindering others. Of course none of the other Zodiacs really want someone so twisted running things, so they decide to make sure to do whatever it takes to make sure anyone but him is the victor.

These two seemingly separate storylines come to a crossroad when Leorio makes his triumphant return to the series and inadvertently makes himself a top candidate when he punches out Ging after unsuccessfully convincing him to see Gon. From there the other Zodiacs work to make the reluctant Leorio the winner of the election, as the rest of the organization goes after Illumi when he starts involving civilians in his plans. Despite most of what’s been laid out however, the arc is mostly devoid of any major conflicts outside one fight scene(sorry you had to be our sole victim Gohtou). In the end Illumi isn’t so much defeated as he is set back, and for all of Pariston’s trolling, even he is ultimately revealed to be less of an antagonist and more of a rebel rousing troublemaker as he concedes to have someone better suited lead things when it’s made clear he’s actually going to win.

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The moment we waited the entire series for…

Instead where the real heart of the arc lies is in Gon and Killua having finally come to the end of their respective journeys. After being healed and reconciling with the reborn Kite, (whose revival is controversial to be sure but somewhat needed to highlight the pointlessness of Gon’s sacrifice in the Chimera Ant Arc) finally gets the chance to have a real talk with Ging. Killua on the other hand has finally found his path in safeguarding Alluka and plans devote his life to protecting her. Though the two boys part on good terms, the strain on their relationship after the events of the previous arc is something that has taken it’s toll, and they both have their own individual journeys to set out on now. In many ways this could be considered as proper an ending as you could get.

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 Good luck you two

Of course this isn’t quite the actual climax to the story. The true ending comes in Gon’s heart-to-heart with Ging as Gon reflects over his journey and Ging tells that there’s a whole lot more adventure to be had and a greater world to explore, but that the detours towards getting there matter more than the actual destination. Though the show doesn’t end on an actual cliffhanger, more obsessive fans might ask, “what about Kurapica avenging his clan?”, “what about Hisoka fighting Chrollo?”, or “what about IIlumi still wanting to use Alluka?”, as there are certainly a few loose ends. The truth though, is that Hunter X Hunter isn’t really about any of those things.

For all of Togashi’s masterful writing and his ability to connect things together really well, Hunter X Hunter has never been about defeating some evil tyrant, saving the world from doom or some otherwise clear end goal (okay so that second one DID technically happen but you get the idea). Hunter X Hunter is ultimately about the journey moreso than the destination and it’s a journey filled with the friendships, tragedy and challenges that come with it. The travels of life never truly end and thus it’s fitting that much like life itself, that as Gon departs from his current journey, his next one is just about to begin.

The show has delivered on a magnificent run and has been a joy to  watch from week to week as it consistently pumped out great content. This arc may not have ended things in as big of away as most would come to expect of a shonen series but the impact remains the same if not stronger. Perhaps someday Togashi will write enough material for a continuation but for now this is enough. Until the next journey starts, it’s departure time for this adventure. Farewell.

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Overall: 8.9/10 

Available for streaming on Crunchyroll

Animation Talk- 10 Best Events in Naruto

It’s been several years in the making, but at last we’re towards the end of Naruto, though it’s an event with met with mixed feelings. Naruto has dragged on it’s final arc far too long for it’s own good so I’m personally not too torn about it on that end and yet as the show that got me and many across the globe into the hardcore anime scene, it’s also a little sad to know it’ll be gone for good. As we head closer towards the grand finale of the series, let’s reminisce for a bit and look at some of the greatest events from the journey of our favorite orange jumpsuit wearing ninja.

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#10- Naruto’s Graduation

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It’s often said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step and so it’s fitting to look back at what got the journey started in the first place. Naruto started off his tale as the village outcast with everyone staying away from him. He was also the class clown, not being good at any jutsu, and his teacher initially failed him on his final exam. Since his worst skill was the Clone Jutsu he did some secret training with the help of a special scroll given to him by another teacher (who’s CLEARLY not evil) and masters it just in time to find out the real reason why everyone in the village hates him. Before he can give into despair, his teacher tells Naruto about his own past and says that he still has faith in him, giving him the courage he needs to beat the evil teacher and also conveniently graduate.

#9- Birth of the Rasgengan

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Every hero needs a flashy special move and while the Shadow Clone Jutsu did some cool stuff, it just wasn’t cutting it. Naruto had some trouble figuring out the technique at first due to the complexity of having to do two things at once, but thanks to his skills with Shadow Clones he figures out a loophole to accomplish that and figures it out just in time to rip a giant hole in poor Kabuto’s chest. Thus the Rasengan was born and would then go on to have a ridiculous amount of variations and movie tie ins including one done by riding on a speeding fat guy (I kid you not)

#8- Naruto vs Neji

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Before Naruto added “war is bad” to it’s list of convoluted messages, it was a originally the tale of an underdog defying expectations. This fight best highlights that message as it pits our favorite underdog against Neji who’s regarded as a genius and believes that everyone’s abilties and fate are determined from the outset. The odds are (obviously) against Naruto and he appears pretty outclassed at first but with some clever tricks and a newfound mastery over his Nine-Tails chakra he manages to defy expectations and win the match as well as teach Neji that talent and skill aren’t necessarily pre-determined.

#7- Squad 10 vs Hidan & Kakuzu

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Shikamaru was already a stand out amongst the other Konoha rookies (and was also deservedly the first to become a Chunnin) but Asuma’s death at the hands of the zombie duo marked the highlight of his character development as it forces him and his teammates to grow up the hard way. They decide to get their revenge on the duo and even though Naruto partially steals the spotlight with a new technique, Shikamaru still gets to show off his smarts by luring the immortal Hidan into a trap he can’t escape and leaving the guy trapped in rubble (hopefully no one gets any ideas about digging him out). The battle ends with our heroes victorious and Shikamaru  inheriting Asuma’s will to protect the next generation as well as his unborn child.

#6- Naruto vs Gaara

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Naruto’s been an outcast all his life, but through hard work and finding people who have faith in him, he’s managed to get by. However he’s given a pretty clear picture of what he could have become without all that encouragement when he encounters Gaara, a murderous psycho who grew up an outcast much like himself, and also for the exact same reason. Though Gaara’s past is much more tragic and he’s a lot more unstable, Naruto still manages to see a bit of himself in Gaara and after duking it out with him in spectacular fashion he manages to convince Gaara to believe in others again, eventually leading him to become the Kazekage years later (whoever said bloodlust looked bad on your resume?)

#5- Taming the Nine Tails

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The Nine-Tails has long been at the core of Naruto’s anguish as it’s the primary reason he grew up isolated and without the beast inside him, he’d have probably grown up as the son of a hero. So when Naruto is forced into his final confrontation with him. he’s also forced to face parts of himself he hates the most and the resentment he felt towards those who shunned him. At first he’s overwhemled by the fox’s power but with some beyond the grave assistance from his mother, he manages to gain control over the Nine-Tails and also marks the beginning of humanizing him.

#4- The Truth Behind the Uchiha Massacre 

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Itachi was the initial source of Sasuke’s massive angst trip over the course of the series, and was bitterly remembered by his resentful brother for murdering their entirely clan. After finally managing to track him down and narrowly defeat him, Sasuke eventually learns the truth behind his brother’s actions. As it turns out the Uchiha clan was planning to overthrow Konoha which would have consequently lead to another world war. Itachi was forced to make the hard decision of selling out his family and killing them to prevent future tragedy but ultimately couldn’t bring himself to kill his precious little brother, turning a cold enigma, into an extremely tragic character. Too bad his precious little bro’s response to said revelation was to decide to wipe out everyone in the village in retribution, even though the elders were the sole ones responsible, but eh what can you do?

#3- Kakashi Chronicles

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Despite being occasionally mishandled and Kishimoto constantly teasing at his death, Kakashi still remains the best character in the series, so it’s appropriate his backstory is a huge highlight(even if it ties into the main storyline less than ideally). Before becoming the cool and protective guy we know today, he was cold and distant thanks to his father having died disgracefully and bringing shame to his family for putting his allies over the success on the battlefield. When a mission with his teammates Rin and Obito takes a turn for the worst though, Kakashi learns the importance of camaraderie when Obito dies protecting him and allows Kakashi to inherit his trademark Sharingan eye. This event is the first in a series of tragedies that turns Kakashi into the man he currently is, and why he’ll put his life on the line every time to protect those closest to him.

#2- Naruto vs Sasuke at the Final Valley

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Naruto and Sasuke’s relationship got off to a pretty bad start (and a moment that would launch a thousand slash fanfics) but over time the two began to slowly connect so when Sasuke decided to run off and join Orochimaru, Naruto chased after him eventually resulting in a confrontation. As the two fight, Naruto reveals just how much Sasuke has become like a brother to him, though the latter is pretty desperate to break that bond between them. The battle itself is pretty intense but in the end Sasuke emerges the victory and spares Naruto’s life, showing that he’s not quite as willing to cut ties with him as he thinks. Though Sasuke has abandoned him and Sakura, Naruto vows to chase after Sasuke for as long as it takes to get him back (and boy is it a long chase…)

#1- Naruto’s Talk with Nagato

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After battling against several incarnations of him. Naruto eventually comes face to face with Nagato, the man behind Pain. Nagato reveals his views on the world, it’s endless wars and the cycle of hatred that comes from it as he questions how Naruto intends to resolve any of it. Unlike most of his previous encounters with villains though, Naruto can’t bring himself to muster up any level of forgiveness for Nagato’s actions as they helped to bring about the death of their mentor Jiraiya and forced him to experience his first true loss. In spite of the hatred he feels towards him, Naruto decides to spare Nagato states that while he doesn’t have a definitive answer to Nagato’s argument he won’t stop until he does find and answer and resolves to struggle for as long as it takes. This allows him to win over Nagato and marks the biggest moment in Naruto’s character development. The resolution so heartfelt that it’s almost easy to overlook the deus-ex-machina that immediately follows it, but even that’s not enough to fully take away the impact.

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And there you have it folks, the greatest highlights in Naruto’s journey. Thoughts? Comments? Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review- NANA: Life, Love & Music

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Synopsis: Nana Komatsu is a young 20 year old girl , who decides to move to Tokyo to live with her boyfriend Shoji. On the train ride there, she meets Nana Ozaki, a punk rock singer who also happens to be moving to Tokyo.  Upon arrival, they both end up trying to rent out the same apartment and decide to compromise by becoming roommates. The two become close friends as they deal with the men in their lives and the inner pain they both have to overcome.

Review

The shojo genre is  one that is generally filled with ideals as romance stories are its most primary staple.  Though many shows in the genre do tackle genuine drama and struggle, most of them never stray too far from the ideal of pure and innocent relationships, not always giving into total fantasy, but rarely much further. However Nana is a show that understands that ideals and reality are two different things and breaks the mold in a sometimes painful but ultimately compelling display of this truth.

Before the show even begins to build the two girls relationship together, it first dives into each of their pasts and examines them fully. Nana Komatsu, later nicknamed Hachi, to make it easier to differentiate the two, is boy crazy, dreams of being a bride someday and tends to fall in love at first sight, which has lead her into a series of failed romances, including an affair that leaves her somewhat scarred before finally finding a real relationship in Shoji. The other Nana was abandoned as a child, and lived a life of social isolation before joining a band called Blast, and falling in love with the band’s leader, Ren before he ends up moving to Tokyo to join other band. She vows to surpass him and become a great musician in her own right, which leads her to Tokyo and ultimately becoming roommates with Hachi.

One thing that eventually becomes apparent about the show is that it revels in a lack of escapism, as compared to most other shojo series. The beginning of the story follows Hachi’s perspective on life, and initially things go pretty well for her in her attempts to be independent and become a proper adult. It doesn’t take long though, for her idealism to clash with reality and it sends her on a downward spiral as life’s situations prove much tougher than she expected as she deals with financial struggles and a tough breakup. Through it all, the one thing that remains a constant positive in her life is her relationship with Nana, and the other members of Blast as they make their march towards stardom. However as things push ahead, the more the band’s situation improves, the further isolated and empty Nana feels as she struggles to find a purpose for her life. Her pain eventually leads her into relationship that serves as her biggest wake up call, and forces her to confront both painful new reality and a relationship far below her ideals.

While Hachi attempts to come to terms her new situation, the show moves over to the perspective of the other Nana as she tries to cope with Hachi’s problems in her own way but ends up feeling betrayed as the two part ways.  As Hachi’s struggles force Nana to come to terms with some of her own, the other band members go through their own various love affairs and strained relationships with things becoming painful for everyone involved. However while the show understands that ideals and reality don’t truly mix, it also knows that the two can sometimes mingle in unexpected ways. and this fact becomes more apparent as it goes on.

Hachi’s does eventually become the bride she’s wanted to be but the journey there is harsh, and she ends up losing her ideal men to get there. Similarly, Nana and Blast’s path towards fame is also one that gets fuffiled and allows her to finally obtain a family of her own,  but it also turns out to be a path riddled with compromises in both business and in love. When everything is said and done, the two girls do eventually reconcile and find peace with themselves as life goes on for everyone, and while the ending is a bit more ambiguous about Nana’s future than it needs to be, the show manages to wrap things up satisfactorily for the most part and while no one really manages to find unabashed happiness or love, they come to understand that’s life and it must go on.

The english dub for the series, done by Ocean Group is very solid and provides a good mix of strong performances. Kelly Sheridan delivers a good performance Hachi, making the character sound sugary sweet while also managing to give some heartwrenching delivery during some of her weaker moments. Rebecca Shoichet’s Nana sounds intitially strained during some of her comedic moments but ultimately captures the character well. The rest of the cast provides very down to earth performances that fit the nature of the well show, with some stand out roles such as Brian Drummond’s Yasu which really captures the big brother nature of the character well. The insert songs for the show aren’t dubbed which makes for some occasional dissonance, but it doesn’t effect the dub enough to seriously take away from it.

Madhouse’s production on the show is solid as their usual works, and the animation budget is consistent. The character designs are somewhat standard in terms of shojo but have a pretty good look regardless and they manage to avoid making all of the characters look too pretty. Tomoki Hasegawa’s musical score for the series provides a pretty distinct mix  of orchestral and rock tracks and the all of the opening and ending songs for the series stand out pretty well though the biggest highlight of them is the first opening “Roses” done by ANNA.

Nana is a coming of age tale for young adults and is filled with all of the heartaches and harsh realities that come with it. More than that though, it’s a story of varying degrees of love be they relationships with family, friends or lovers and how they can effect each of us. In a genre of idealized versions of love, Nana stands triumphant as a much more honest portrayal of those ideals and that’s not such a bad thing as it allows for a story that is more than capable of standing the test of time in it’s genre.

Overall: 9.8/10

Available on Hulu