Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!
Today we are going to be looking at one of the most influential manga that has been on and off hiatus for many years.
We are going to be looking at the first volume for Hunter x Hunter. As usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please support the official release.
Let’s get started!
We begin the story following a kid named Gon, who catches a big fish as a way to prove to his Aunt Mito that he is capable of being a Hunter.
Now a Hunter in this world isn’t just someone who hunts big animals, they also hunt strange and dangerous creatures. Not only that, but they also look for exotic treasures and locations, making it incredibly lucrative and dangerous to become a Hunter.
Aunt Mito promised Gon that if he captured the big fish, known as the Master of the Swamp, that she would allow him to go out into the world to take the Hunter Exam.
Aunt Mito is afraid and hesitant to let Gon do so, because Gon’s father Ging was a Hunter and lived a dangerous life.
Gon is determined to become a Hunter, not just to prove that he can do it, but because when he met another Hunter he had learned that his father was still alive.
The catch is that no one has been able to find him.
That’s why Gon wants to be a Hunter, so that he can find his father.
After some tearful goodbyes, Gon leaves his village on a ship to go take the Hunter exam with several other hopefuls.
The Hunter Exam is incredibly difficult, and only a fraction of a fraction of individuals make it to become a Hunter.
Because there are a massive number of applicants to become a Hunter, there are individuals who are assigned to weed out the chaff, with the captain of the ship being one.
The captain sees potential in Gon, even seeing a bit of his father in him, and he also sees potential in two other individuals, Kurapika and Leorio.
Kurapika, a young man who is seeking to become a Hunter to seek out the group who killed his clan the Kurta Clan. This group, the Phantom Troupe, are known to be incredibly dangerous and evasive individuals, which is why having the resources of a Hunter would be beneficial.
Leorio on the other hand seeks to become a Hunter for the money, plain and simple. Kurapika sees this as selfish, which ticks off Leorio. The two decide to have a fight on the deck of the ship during a storm, and they are about to brawl when all hell breaks loose.
A man starts to fall overboard, but with Gon, Leorio, and Kurapika all helping each other, they manage to save the man, with Kurapika and Leorio making up.
This further impresses the captain and he decides to land them at a port near the next testing site.
The three make their way to the test site, following the instructions of the captain to head to a lone pine tree on a hill.
After dealing with a woman who asked impossible riddles and dealing with shapeshifters, the three are taken to where the exam will be administered.
We learn more about what being an officially licensed Hunter grants; a super passport, access to information, a ton of money, etc.
The three make it to the exam site and we see that they are the latest to arrive for the exam. They are greeted by a man named Tonpa, who introduces the three to a whole bunch of people.
The most interesting of the sort is a man by the name of Hisoka, who was a shoo in for becoming a Hunter the previous year, but his bad temper and appetite for violence did him no favors.
What else is not doing the three favors is trusting Tonpa, because he is known as the Rookie Crusher, who gets off on watching rookies fail the exam. Tonpa is on his 35th attempt, most of which were probably dedicated to crushing the hopes of rookies.
This year’s set of rookies however prove to be too much for Tonpa, especially a young man by the name of Killua, who drinks multiple cans of spiked juice that Tonpa was giving out with ease, saying that he has built up an immunity.
The first part of the exam begins with the exam proctor being a man by the name of Satotz who has a very simple exam: follow him to the second part of the exam.
What makes the first part of the exam difficult is that they begin running for a long time. After being berated for using his skateboard, Killua starts running, keeping pace with everyone else.
Killua and Gon seem to get along well, which is good because once 80 kilmoters hit, people start dropping out of the exam, with Leorio very nearly giving up but managing to persevere.
The challenge starts to intensify when there is a long series of stairs that makes more people drop out.
Kurapika picks up on the fact that Leorio, despite saying that he’s only in it for the money, is still going through th egrueling exam and manages to pres more information from him.
It’s revealed that Leorio’s childhood friend died from a disease that could have been treated if the price of the surgery wasn’t insane. Leorio wanted to become a doctor so he could treat people for free, but in order to do become a doctor you need money, which is why Leorio is obsessed about money.
Killua and Gon have a conversation about why they are taking the Hunter Exam with Killua saying that he had heard that the exam was difficult, but he hasn’t found it difficult so far while Gon explains that he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.
They eventually make it to the exit and the second part of the first exam, crossing an area called the Swindler’s Swamp.
The swamp is infested with creatures that will easily kill the applicants, with a creature very nearly convincing the group that the examiner is a fake.
This is easily disproved by Hisoka, who uses playing cards to kill the creatures, while Satotz manages to catch the cards easily. Satotz gives Hisoka a warning, and informs the applicants to stay close or they will get killed by the creatures of the swamp.
Many applicants do get killed in the swamp, and everyone gets separated. Gon and Killua are together while Kurapika and Leorio are together. Killua warns Gon to stay away from Hisoka as he knows that Hisoka is itching to kill some more.
He knows this because he says that he is just like Hisoka, he is just playing innocent.
Killua’s intuition is right as we end the volume with Hisoka killing some people and injuring Kurapika and Leorio.
This story is a classic for a reason.
The dialogue between characters is a combination of expository and entertaining, a hard balance for any story to manage especially for shonen.
There are often times when a shonen story tries to go for exposition that feels force or entertainment that feels excessive, where I feel that this manga does it well.
Gon, as a character, is fairly standard for a shonen protagonist. He is talented in physical activities while not always being the brightest bulb. However, that doesn’t mean that he is dumb.
During the question scene of the manga, while the right answer to the impossible question was to not answer, Gon was trying to think of an actual answer.
He states that he did so because there is a possibility of an incredibly difficult choice that needs to be made, where it could have very fatal consequences.
Gon is very much a good example of a low intelligence but high wisdom character. He isn’t academic by any aspects, but he is worldly, thoughtful, and incredibly perceptive.
Kurapika, on the other hand, is very much a logical individual, who is dead set on getting revenge. He has a one track mind, for a good reason, but that acts as a way for people to get under his skin and anger him.
Leorio is a classic example of a character that is much more than they seem, coming across as a standard greedy doofus, where he actually is a driven individual with a noble goal.
There is plenty more I can say about the characters, which is where this manga shines especially. The side characters, antagonists, and future protagonists are coming into their own, even if they aren’t a big part of the story just yet.
Where the manga has issues is the art department.
The character designs are not bad, let me be up front about that. It’s the overall consistency of the manga that is the issue.
Leorio, when he first states his name, has a goofy looking head that is very much “off model” as it were. There are plenty of proportion issues that plague the manga, some people looking shorter or taller depending on the panel.
There is still some good art, but overall the art is not the best. I will also say that the art does improve as the manga went on, which is always good.
I will also say, and this is bias coming from someone who watched the anime before reading the manga, that the pacing is very fast.
You move from one plot point to the next, one character point to the next, one location to the next, in the blink of an eye.
Yes the characters are very well written and the dialogue is entertaining and in-depth, but it moves at such a breakneck speed.
Now your mileage will vary on that, but I will say that the anime did add things that helped manage the pacing better, at least in my opinion.
I would highly recommend this story if you want to read a classic story, enjoy interesting characters and love well done dialogue.
This is a tough one for me, but I will probably buy the second volume at some point in the future, but I’m not sure when.
For the Saturday article (coming some time after this releases) will be about an interesting thought that I’ve had.
What makes a good adaptation of manga to anime?
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!