Hunter x Hunter 29 – Dreidels of Doom
This almost looks like some crazy rocket booster power. Unfortunately, Gon’s spine is being beaten down by a Nen-powered top.
I wrote about this before at some point during my coverage of Hunter x Hunter, but training is pretty much a no-win situation in shonen anime. You want your characters to get stronger, but at the same time, watching training is mostly boring. That’s precisely why in, say, the Namek arc of Dragon Ball Z you get brief flashes of Goku training in increasingly absurd levels of gravity while Gohan, Krillin and Vegeta do the heavy story lifting throughout that arc. That way is probably the best way — you get just enough of Goku training so that you know he’s getting stronger, but it doesn’t bog down the narrative with repetitive bullshit. (Insert your own “lol DBZ is all repetitive bullshit lol” joke here.)
Anyway, Hunter x Hunter is at the opposite end of the spectrum — it cuts down on the sheer length of the training by making Gon and Killua prodigies, which makes the training process less boring but also tosses out the satisfaction of the main characters working hard and scaling the plateau. Fortunately, Hunter x Hunter works around this by emphasizing that while Gon and Killua have made tremendous progress, they are still utter newbies at this whole Nen thing and could easily be owned at any time if they aren’t careful. So in a way, the training Gon and Killua do in this episode is more like the key to unlock the real training: the trial by fire of floor 200. You can’t really learn how to use Nen unless you put it into practice, after all.
This is an effective storytelling strategy, too. We like showing rather than telling, right? What better way to show Gon and Killua getting better at Nen than by them putting it into practice in battle? The way the show gets to this point is kind of bullshit, but details.
I criticized last week’s episode for ineffective use of background music; however, I am nothing if not a fair, just watcher of anime, so I would like to expend equal praise on this week’s episode for using the normal music well. When Gon and Killua’s auras are unlocked, the music is suitably mysterious (if a bit on the cheesy side). Then everything quiets down as Gon and Killlua focus and quell their escaping life force. The music builds slowly as they understand how to master Ten, and then comes to a climax when Wing unleashes his Nen on Gon and Killua and they withstand the force of his hostile energy.
It’s not super brilliant, of course; this is just basic use of music to fit the mood of the scene. However, getting that right is always appreciated. It’s a subtle thing that shouldn’t call attention to itself unless you’re really looking to notice it. It’s when the music screams for attention that things usually go wrong, and that’s not the case with the aforementioned scene.