When I first laid my eyes on Hunter X Hunter six years ago, it surprised me. This remake is equally surprising- and for all of the right reasons. I'd like to begin by stating that though I am a fan of the original animated work, I will evaluate the show based off of its own merits. Towards the end of the review, I will draw a few comparisons to the original animated work.
To begin, the story is pretty simple. A twelve year old boy by the name of Gon wishes to meet his father. To do so, he decides to become a hunter- in this show, hunters are world class trackers, fighters, criminals, you name it.
Even though the basis for the story is so simple, it diverges in many meaningful ways. What begins as a very lighthearted adventure quickly becomes a dark genocide, and then goes back to being a light adventure again. The show explores themes related to innocence. I won't go into any more detail relating to its themes, but suffice to say, this show is NOT for children despite its initial light-hearted draw. It is bloody, gruesome, and there were a couple of times during the third arc that I (a grown man) had to look away from the screen for.
Next, the arcs are excellent. Each one feels distinctive and unique. One big pitfall for shounen animes like this is that after a while, it is just the same darn thing over and over. This show encounters no such pitfall. Because each arc is so different, it might throw people off. What should be understood (or at least what I have come to understand) is that this is not a shounen anime about the main characters becoming strong enough to overcome any obstacle, but rather a showcase of their adventures and the lessons they learn from the people they meet in them. One very admirable feature is that though the show consistently retains the two main characters, each arc has its own set of meaningful primary characters. Even though the main characters are around and constantly improving themselves, the arcs stories (after the initial one) never feel just about them. They are about everybody. I'd also like to say that while other shows attempt to do this, I have never seen any show (anime or not) that has captured this essence so well.
Character development is top notch. It is a long series, and spacing character development in shows like this is a tough feature. This show nails it. Every character feels like they grow substantially from the time that they first appear. Furthermore, each character is used effectively to convey the themes of each arc. I had already seen four fifths of the show due to the original animation, but the show got me both excited and tense when the characters were faced with tough situations. I knew obviously that this remake wouldn't diverge too much from the original animation, but I still felt like some situations were hopeless for the characters (who came out on top, as I knew they would)
One thing that is absolutely unique to this series is its unpredictability. This is a long, super-power type shounen. In all of those ever, there is a specifc formula of fight-lose fight-train-win fight though brute strength and new found powers. It works for them, and that's alright. But in this show, it is different. There is a lot of losing fights and training, but it is never power alone that determines the victor for the serious fights. Each and every battle is short and to the point- every battle I've seen so far has felt like a match of wits rather than brawn, and it suits the mood of the show very well. One other facet, the main characters NEVER become impossibly strong. (It is consistently implied that they've great potential, but they never take out the big baddies, and if they do they never do it without the help of somebody stronger or wittier than themselves.) As I stated before, the show is tense. When things get serious in a battle, they get reeeeeeally serious. Each situation to me felt truly like a life or death situation (Past the second arc, that is to say. The first two are still too light-hearted for that.) Also as I stated above, the battles are short and to the point. Most of the time spent on battles is spent on showcasing the preparations for them. The battles take many forms too- not always are they direct fights. The creator is great at coming up with unique applications for unique powers which really shake up the foundation of the fights and force the characters to think rather than punch. Some might say above all, the combat is where it really shines. In this show, you won't find five episodes in a single fight- you're lucky to get ten minutes of straight up fighting, in fact.
So far, there haven't been any fillers either. The anime is catching up with the manga though, so that may change. (The original show, as opposed to airing fillers, would go on hiatus and then deliver the addition arcs as OVAs as they were released, but this show hasn't had that problem yet.) Due to the lack of fillers, it is easy to keep the viewers in the action. There is no side stories to take the viewer out and make him or her lose interest. It is a straight dash from beginning to end.
I could talk about the brilliance of the unpredictable combat for hours, but I've got to move on. The art and animation- they are good, but they are not fantastic. Well, the art isn't fantastic. The animation is. One thing I noticed is that it is stagnant- it doesn't change like most long running shows do. At its best, Naruto looks absolutely fantastic. At Naruto's worst, it looks like a group of my high school buddies could have made it. Hunter X Hunter's art and animation never looks quite as good as Naruto at its best, but also never looks as bad as Naruto at its worst. It strikes a good balance. There aren't many times when fluid animation is needed in Hunter X Hunter, as I said earlier the combat scenes are pretty short. But when the characters are in motion, they leave a lasting impression.
The musical scores and sound effects are good. Some tunes stick in your head, and others are forgotten. The music is generally appropriate for the mood that the show is trying to display at each time it plays. Some of the sound effects are intensely satisfying, others are less than notable thuds. If there is something that kinda ticks me off, then it is the fact that the same two opening theme songs are used repeatedly. The themes are good songs and they suit the overall tone of the show well, but I always wish for something more. The ending themes are all fantastic. While we're on the subject, the opening and ending animations change with each arc, and they are all also fantastic. They get you pumped.
That concludes the breadth of my review, but I want to call attention to a few points that I made and make a few comparisons to the original show.
I want to start off by saying that out of the two, this is the one that is meant to be closer to the manga. Supposedly, if you so desired, you could watch the entirety of the original animation and then switch to the remake's Chimera Ant Arc (The original stopped just prior to that arc, as the manga went on hiatus and stuff happened) and you'd know relatively well all that happened, but there are a few plot differences along the way.
Next, while I applaud the new series for its character development, I personally found the originals main character character development more appealing. That might just be because I saw it first though.
The original animations opening themes outclass the two used in the remake. Some of my favorite in all of anime, so again I might be partial.
This is the big point I wanted to make, this show is not for children. If you are a parent and think that the show would be good for your children, you should reconsider showing it to young children. That said, I do remember the original being more kid friendly. Of course, before you let your child/children watch any shows, you should review them through watching them yourself first.
To end it, I could give the original the exact same review. I love both versions- there are some things the original does better, and there are some things that the remake does better. read more