“A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf.”
― George R. R. Martin.
Watching Hunter x Hunter was for me, a completely lucky break. Although I was at first skeptical about the absurd length of the series, several other anibloggers managed to convince me to catch up. And I’m glad that I did, because what Hunter x Hunter specializes in is constantly defying expectations: what I expected was a simple shounen series about a boy searching for his father, something I can relate to on a personal level, but what I also got was a shocking, tightly written series of stories revolving around a search for either redemption or revenge. While many of the characters do seek out a physical, material goal, these objects are only a manifestation of their deepest emotional desires.
More so than that, each of the four main characters have that search born from deep feelings of loneliness, abandonment, and ennui, driving them on different quests for fulfillment. It’s through their goals and their quests to deal with abandonment that we see the true natures of these characters. At their best, the characters search something immaterial and irreplaceable, such as companionship and betterment of themselves and others; at their worst, they seek out something temporary and unfulfilling as money or revenge and become lost in their pursuit.
It wouldn’t be an understatement at all to say Kurapika’s York Shin arc was easily one of the show’s highlights, but what cinches the arc for me was the heavy, vapid contrast between the first few storylines of show which revolved primarily around Gon. Not only is the mood of entire arc far more solemn and moody, but the motivations of the two are completely polar as well: Kurapika’s reaction to pain isn’t introspection, but rather, revenge. Unlike when he’s first introduced during the Hunter Exam, Kurapika has a somber, brooding feel to each of his actions, like everything he does revolves around his narrow-minded quest for revenge.
A strength which tends to go unnoticed in the York Shin arc is how the character designs and art direction reflect the ugliness of the character’s actions and motives. There is no reprieve or forgiveness for Kurapika’s brutal slaughter of the spiders and much of this is reflected in the art. This becomes most noticeable in the battle between the Uvo and Kurapika, everything, from the changes to the setting to the emphasis on a character’s clothing only outlines the worst of human nature and the almost self-destructive downward spiral that comes with his unbending obsession with revenge.
Uvogin, the first Spider who falls victim to Kurapika, has a character heavily inspired by a largely western symbol, the wolf. Much like how the first Romans were said to have been nurtured by wolves, Uvo’s outward appearance reflects his wolf-like traits: feral, untamed, and absolutely ferocious, but more above all, loyal to the pack. The animators go far out of their way to give us shots at Uvogin looking into the moonlight all-throughout Uvo’s episodes, and even the application of his powers, from his destructive howling to his general rigidity, reflects this design choice. And although Uvogin stubbornly prefers to run alone, he becomes stronger when surrounded by his pack with others to protect. Uvogin is, quite simply, a wolf: simple but sharp, wild but informed, and stubbornly loyal to his friends.
Throughout Kurapika’s and Uvogin’s fight, we see the environment bring out the best and worst of the character’s. They choose a desolate, lonely plateau to wage battle in and as the fight continues, the moon shifts from a pale, glowing ivory to a burning crimson. When Kurapika reappears, his choice of weapons encapsulate the essence of a hunter, bringing about a brutal battle between man and beast. But no matter how many blows he lets out, no matter how much rage flows out from Kurapika’s two eyes, Uvogin never concedes the whereabouts of the Phantom Troupe. No man could ever hope to tame a wolf, even on the brink of the death.
As the screen flashes black and white and the color crimson overpowers the screen, we could only gaze at the birth of a newer beast, perhaps more ferocious and more depraved than the last.
- Man, I’m so fuckin’ deep.
- While I was writing this post, my good friend BokuSatchii happened to publish an awesome article on the same fight over at SatchiiKoma (which is totally in an attempt to make me look like a copier). I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME, BOKUSATCHI!!!
- Another friend of mine, Marow, wrote a post Hunter x Hunter’s excellent fight scenes over at Anime Viking. You can watch some of them there. Make sure to check it out!