Hunter X Hunter tells the story of Gon, a 12 year old boy, who passes the cruel and grueling Hunter exam not to prove himself, or to earn the privilege of being a rich, elite, Hunter, but in order to follow in his father’s footsteps–both figuratively and literally, for Gon hopes to find his long lost father in this quest. Hunter X Hunter is based on Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga, the first volume of which is a free ComiXology download for purchasers of the limited edition steelbook.
Gon’s labors vary from the honestly arduous (the first phase is running many miles to the second phase) to the deceptively simple (a cooking task everyone fails), from the highly improbable scenario of trusting an updraft to carry him to the outcrop from which he leaped, to staking everything on coin flips or rock, paper, scissors. During these trials, Gon meets the aloof but loyal Kurapika, the slacker assassin Killua (whose slickest feat is having his hands in his pockets throughout the outro), the comic relief with a never-say-die atttitude Leorio, and more malicious acquaintances, such as the ‘red shirts’ that helpfully exemplify the consequences of failure, or Hunter X Hunter’s harlequin clown prince, Hisoka.
Although both sides of the line-up are full of stock characters, my first trip to the world of Hunter X Hunter was enjoyable, mainly because of the varied setting, which can’t be pinned down as either fantasy, science fiction, or 20th-21st century urban, and because of the varied tone, which encompasses the nihilism of the YA death contest genre, the over the top humor reminiscent of more merchandising-saturated anime (Pokemon, Yo-Kai Watch), and the locked glares and braggadocio of shonen battle manga. There’s also the sincere pleasure in rooting for a hero like Gon, who, like Astro Boy, is 100% good, not even indulging in a penchant for revenge or a harem of girlfriends, unlike many of the heroes of today’s manga. What I like best about Gon is that he is completely bulletproof to this tale; finding himself in a rite of passage story, he arrives at the other side untouched, every bit the boy he was at the beginning.
I would like to warn other new viewers of this series that if you’re not a fan of ‘clip shows’ you can skip episode 13. Under the guise of a letter home, this episode recaps the past twelve episodes for the benefit of new viewers. And parents that expect to watch this with their kids should know that while the protagonists are children, there are many scenes that deserve the TV 14 rating, as well as one or two things that would merit a higher rating if evaluated independently—particularly a hilarious but lewd scene involving Leorio and Leroute in episode 11, “Trouble X With X The Gamble.”
Both the standard Blu-Ray release and the limited edition steelbook contain episodes 1-13 on two Blu-Ray discs; English subtitles; English and Japanese audio; 1080 HD 16×9 aspect ratio; and, the following special features on disc 2: clean opening and ending songs, trailers, ending credits, an art gallery, and an interview with the English cast. The standard edition has a cardboard sleeve on the blue plastic interior, and the insert has art on both sides. The limited edition set has a plastic sleeve on the steelbook, which has the same interior art, but different art on the exterior that features Killua on the foreground. This is, of course, good and bad news for Hunter X Hunter collectors, as the art value of both sets differs enough to make both of them desirable additions to a collection. Both sets include, in a decorative envelope, three postcards: Whale Island, Airship, and Noggin Luggin’ Tortoise. Additionally, the steelbook contains a code for a free manga, as detailed above.
Not only will these Blu-Ray collections present well on your shelf, they also look exquisite on your television. The HD is high quality, the subtitles seem direct, and the English audio is well-localized so that while it may seem at times to present a different perspective on a situation, I would give the sub and the dub equal value here in terms of entertainment value. Usually I prefer the more direct sub to the idiomatic language of the dub, but here is one time that I had both running, and enjoyed both.
The Hunter X Hunter Volume 1 Blu-Ray set and Limited Edition Steelbooks arrived in stores on October 25th, 2016, and if you find them sold out, you can buy the standard set directly through Viz Media’s site and the steelbook through Best Buy.
Viz Media sent the review copies.