August 28, 2017

The Unorthodox Narrative of Hunter X Hunter

Narrative is the basis in which a writer can communicate to an audience a story be it overarching or self-contained. The concept of narrative is broad in the myriad of mediums an author can utilize in order to tell their story. The ethos of anime and manga that make these mediums so unique is that although often depicted or described to be synonymous with cartoons and graphic novels and comic books the cultural influence of their framework ties into the stories the mediums tell. One of the most underappreciated things about anime and manga is the actual diversity of the kind of stories each respective mediums has or is capable of telling. And this is mostly due to the West only airing and investing their money into the more marketable and ubiquitous of them, the most popular of which is the Shounen genre.

Shounen anime and manga tend to be criticized for valuing longevity over actual substance and quality by the more elitist diehard fans. This is usually due to how the genre seemingly adapts the premise of the "Hero's Journey" or "Monomyth" which is a structure for building a narrative comprising of 17 steps and 4 acts telling the story of usually though not always the progression of a character through an adventure in a fictional world. Some stories leave out some parts of this formula, others focus on one step exclusively while others execute them in a different order, regardless the general premise is still apparent as the protagonist undergoes a full character journey at the end of the story.

 There are many things that Hunter X Hunter has achieved in order to nuance  and differentiate itself among the plethora contemporary and similar Shounen series it is often labelled with. All the while continuing to immerse and captivate a faithful fanbase over the longevity of the series with it's baffling use of subverting the audience not for cheap shock value but to further explore the characters and to move the plot ever forward yet never feeling very jarring due to how they are foreshadowed. Making for nice shifts in dynamic which is a testament to the writing put into them.

 Regardless And Hunter X Hunter is no exception to this case. To date, the manga series written and illustrated by the author of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi Hunter X Hunter has spawned and reiterated itself through a manga serialization which is still ongoing, two anime adaptations, some OVAs, and two movies. However, rather than discussing the series specifically to the mediums of anime/manga and taking a crack at it in a reviewer format, we will be discussing the contrivances of the unorthodox general overarching story that takes place in the series. Odd as it may sound, this Shounen series' takes on 'power fantasy' is quite creative. But more on that later.

Side Note: I will be discussing the aspects of the series as a narrative and overarching story. Ergo, I may mention things that could spoil any people who are new to and/or looking into the series. So take this as your initial warning.



So, before anything else, let's review the premise of Hunter X Hunter. We start off with the simple setup for what seems to be a coming of age battle fantasy about a boy searching for his father and making new friends. Take note as this is an important point.

I think the first issue to address in this discussion is how Hunter X Hunter structures itself as a story. The thing is all the arcs have little to do with one another in conceptual and thematic terms. And exactly what I mean by that statement is that while other arcs build the foundations the series will stem from; others will execute them in mandate authority and might as the story gradually becomes grander and darker. Each separate arc tackles different themes and have their own self-contained nature within the context of the story. Particularly the York New, Chimera Ant, and the current Dark Continent/Succession War arcs. Whenever looking back and reviewing the arcs that are within Hunter X Hunter it's not hard to imagine Togashi trying to condense and implement as many of his ideas and opinions into the themes of the plot as he as he can. Though reading various interviews of Togashi, there's an interesting of him taking references to whatever he sees on TV. The name "Hunter X Hunter" is something the man came up with while watching a game show where the contestant must repeat their answers. The author's previous work in the form of "Yu Yu Hakusho" was also quite similar to this type of 'go with the flow' movement of plot events; however one could argue that it was somewhat more faithful to the battle fantasy structure despite having likable characters and an interesting premise. If done incorrectly, this sort of writing can possibly be a big turn off for a more general audience and could lead to a tedium approach to storytelling. However this somehow is not the case as the plot never really feels jarring or hectically striking due to how they are foreshadowed in little ways, continuously subverting the audience and keeping them guessing and expecting the most arbitrary and outlandish aftermath to get that "woah" out of them; mesmerizing them in the thread the  story weaves. This gives the narrative of Hunter X Hunter variety of which really pays off for the series in keeping it fresh despite it's longevity. Which is a needy disposition most contemporary Shonen anime are forced to handle the needy task of dealing  with. Though this is one of those cases that really pulls it off. Take for example the Greed Island arc wherein Togashi gives us some insight on his ideas about MMORPGs and trading card games. Then, take a look at the Election arc; where we're given some of his opinions on politics and how organizations and associations that concern several individuals of people function as a monolithic unit. Also, I think it's also worth noting how Togashi depicted humans throughout what is quite arguably the series' biggest achievement; the Chimera Ant Arc. The central theme of the arc is humanity and evolution and how we are all in our own right defined by our grasp on the line between good and evil. However in my opinion, the line between what is good and what is evil is not something preordained by any means. Rather, it is something each individual must grasp for themselves. My reason for this being that if the definition of good and evil were portrayed to be as blatant and distinct so naturally then the freedom to understand the view of the contrasting sides will be lost and replaced with what we could say to be something akin to prejudice. So how can we absolutely define this line? And as an ultimatum in that regard, what separates heroes from villains? As we progress throughout the Chimera Ant Arc Togashi defines the line between good and evil and even more so the line between the Ants and the Humans to be so blurred that there is no right thing to decide on anymore as we are forced to be the onlookers as Togashi makes the point that humanity as a race will always survive due to our infinite potential for malice. Which I am inclined to agree on by the way. The way he integrates his ideas into the thematic mood of the narrative of Hunter X Hunter is so nuanced in a very personal way which upon reviewing and reminiscing on really paints the man in a telling and relatable light throughout the longevity of the series.

Also, for those of you who don't know the concept of an arc is essentially the summarization of how a series is pieced together through the major storylines and plot events within a narrative that begin, climax, and conclude throughout the said narrative. Now for brevity's sake I'll try to break these down very simply.

Build-up - This is the part wherein the author pretty much lays down the ground work which the story will build off of. What I mean by that statement is that here is where the author will establish the main cast and their goals, the main conflict, the setting, and the mood or tone of the story.

Climax - This is the part where complications begin to occur leading to an increased tension. This allows us to view the characters on another level as they do what they can to resolve the aforementioned complications.

Conclusion - This is where the conflict is resolved and all the loose ends to the story are remedied.

Often was I surprised at how masterful Togashi's level of skill is in how he utterly broke my expectations. Often is it for events to be alluded to and foreshadowed only for it to concede into a completely unexpected manner. For example; much earlier on in the series just after the Hunter Exam arc concluded and the Zoldyck Family Rescue arc begun, I was under the impression for that it would simply be nothing other than another cookie cutter Shounen-esk rescue arc. However, when Killua simply left and the arc concluded only for them to move on to Heavens Arena; I was forced to realize that I was going to be repeatedly struck with such twists as the series would continue. Arcs would drift from one to another, relationships; both prior and recent are accentuated and fleshed out, characters are killed off as new ones are introduced. We are consistently given unexpected twists and turns in the form of subversive plot events yet it never feels forced due to how well Togashi executes establishing them. In conclusion, Hunter X Hunter's twists and turns felt so gradual that it was as natural as sliding over a glass surface. Painting the glass in detail with each drop as it crescendos in a cohesive narrative. Put simply, the ethos of Hunter X Hunter is nothing out of the ordinary, however the details in between are what truly make it special.

Now, I know I've left a lot of subjects untouched. But I'm saving those for later articles. But for now I'll stop here.
Author

The Great IR

Writer at WonderfulSubs

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