Hey there anime/manga fans! Guess what? We’re going to take one of the grittiest, most cerebral shonen fighting manga out there, and remake it despite it already having a perfectly serviceable anime adaptation! Better yet, we’re bringing in 4Kids to produce, direct, and animate this show! Aren’t you excited?!
No, seriously. If 4Kids was an actual animation studio, this is exactly the kind of crap I would expect them to produce. It breaks my heart to say that because HunterXHunter is one of the few shonen fighting manga I can still read without losing half my brain cells in the process. And they’re taking it and kiddying it up into some crappy One Piece wannabe. “Oooh, look at me, look how I’m so fun and full of adventure and let’s ignore the fact that a guy just got his arms cut off because they turned into a swarm of pretty little flowers WHEEEE~”
What’s that you say? HunterXHunter is already for kids in the first place since it’s targeted towards the shonen demographic? Yeah, well, there are kids, and then there are kids. From the looks of it, HunterXHunter (4Kids Edition) is targeted towards the age group that still watches Barney the Purple Dinosaur… and enjoys it.
I am almost impressed at how well they’re giving the 4Kids treatment to a manga with Baccano! levels of violence. This adaptation gives Hisoka’s sole victim (so far) a bad case of flower dandruff instead of bloody arm stumps. Seriously, that’s worse than recoloring blood to look brown so you can call it chocolate syrup.
And really, it’s not the censorship that bothers me the most about Episode 3. It’s the way in which they’ve censored it. What happens is that the man’s arms slowly disintegrate into little pink petals. If you’ve read the original manga, you’ll know that Hisoka has two very specific abilities, neither of which can create this particular effect. So how the fuck does he actually do it?
If they handwave it away as “it’s magic, it’s doesn’t need explaining”, I’ll be swimming to Japan with a bazooka strapped to my back.
But Anna, you say, what’s the big deal? It’s a shonen fighting series, where characters pull superpowers out of their asses all the time without bothering to explain anything about them! Why all this fuss about some pretty little flowers?
Well. Let’s backtrack a bit.
Hi, my name is Anarchy and this is my very first post as a THAT blogger. I’m also one of those fans. You know. Those people who keep whining and moaning about how this adaptation sucks compared to the original. The difference with me, I guess, is that when I say “original”, I’m referring to the manga, not the first anime adaptation.
I will be honest and say that HunterXHunter (the manga) is like a teddy bear I’ve been sleeping with ever since I was Gon’s age. Does that mean I’m biased about it? Absolutely. Can I see past the milky white film of nostalgia clouding my eyes? Of course not. What I can do though, is give my reasoning for why I personally feel this adaptation is shit. Especially when compared to the original manga. I swear it’ll have more depth than just “THEY CHANGED IT NOW IT SUCKS BWAHHHHH”.
Remember that my opinions are just that: subjective, biased opinions of a fan hopelessly in love with the original. If you’re fine with that, read on. If you’ve been enjoying this anime so far and don’t want my comments to ruin it for you, stop reading. Now.
WARNING MAJOR MANGA/FIRST ANIME SPOILERS WARNING YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
HunterXHunter (manga) has two distinct characteristics that set it apart from other shonen fighting series.
Its trademark nen system is the most elegant, parsimonious fantasy system I’ve ever seen in manga. It’s deceptively simple, consisting of a few basic laws that can be elaborated on in a myriad different ways. It’s internally consistent, yet flexible: once the rules are established, you can bend them and play with them, but you can never escape the restrictions that have already been set.
Do you see now why the flower arms piss me off so much? It’s not even that they made it kid-friendly. It’s the fact that Hisoka could not have pulled that off with the nen abilities that he’s been known to have. Which means that it was an unexplained supernatural act. Which undermines the rule-based structure of the nen system, which in turn is the basis for how the entire HunterXHunter universe works.
Honestly, even though Hisoka might have some abilities hidden up his sleeve, it’s highly doubtful that they include something like turning people’s limbs into flowers. And even if the anime eventually explains the flower trick away as an anime-original nen ability that Hisoka has (which I highly doubt they will, since they’ve been following the manga extremely faithfully so far, which implies an inflexibility that will prevent them from adding in new material to cover up the plot hole which that entire flower debacle just introduced), that’s just not his style. His style is slicing people up into bloody chunks of meat. Sure, you can say that Hisoka’s gimmick is magic and the flower trick is very magician-like, but really, the flower trick is Harry Potter fare, while Hisoka’s magic is similar to what magicians do in real life. It’s based on illusions and showmanship and diverting the audience’s attention by being as outrageously bloody and gory as possible. Okay, that last part doesn’t apply to real life magicians (at least I hope not), but you get my point.
Which brings me to my next point about what makes HunterXHunter distinctive:
(2) Bloody Squishy Bits
Now, explicit violence doesn’t necessarily make a work good, nor is it unique to HunterXHunter. Plenty of shonen fighting series have blood and gore flying everywhere, though I must say that HunterXHunter tends to take it a bit further than many of them. But what really makes HunterXHunter different from your stereotypical shonen series is that all this brutality and violence is often treated like it’s no big deal at all. Human life is cheap. Death is commonplace, sometimes not even worthy of comment. And a certain protagonist, ostensibly one of the “good guys”, is a murderer who’s worse than Hisoka in a sense. Hisoka kills other participants because he loves killing. This guy does it just because he’s in a bad mood. And it’s just treated in passing, almost like an afterthought.
This casual way in which death, maiming, and explicit violence is portrayed in HunterXHunter creates an atmosphere of constant danger and anxiety. It’s a universe in which you never truly feel safe, unless you’re on Whale Island in Mito’s house, isolated from the rest of the amoral, kill-or-be-killed world.
And what does this adaptation do with this beautifully crafted atmosphere of horror and suspense? It turns it into a Pirates of the Caribbean rip off.
Is it because One Piece is so ridiculously popular in Japan? Is that it? Are they trying to make something more fun and wacky and adventurous and cartoonish and One-Piece-esque, targeted towards the younger end of the Shonen Jump audience? Certainly seems like it.
Now, I have nothing against shows aimed towards kids. What I do have problems with is the fact that they seem to think that all children are drooling, brain-dead idiots. This anime feels like somebody talking to me in a loud, slow, deliberate voice. You know it’s bad when a show starts insulting your intelligence. It’s like they feel like they can get away with anything as long as they make it FUN and HAPPY and ADVENTURE because all kids have ADHD and oooh look at the shiny colors~
Three Reasons Why Remaking This Show For Kids Was A Bad, Bad Idea
(1) The cartoonish visuals. Everything’s colorful and vibrant and the contrast is turned up to the max. There is no depth, there’s a desperately cheery feel to it, everybody looks like billboard cutouts, and to add salt to an open wound, we have QUALITY animation.
(2) The hideously bad over-acting. The director seems to think we are morons, and feels the need to RAM. EVERY. SINGLE. EMOTION. AND. CHARACTER. INTO. OUR. BRAINS. WITH. ICEPICKS. I burst out laughing every time someone attempts to be all cool or dramatic in this show. You know what, I love ham. I love ham when it’s played up for humorous purposes, not when it happens because some director tries to make a character look badass and fails horribly.
(Did I mention that I’m also a theatre student and so bad acting pisses me off to no end?)
Pretty much every character is a caricature of themselves, some more than others. Gon in particular is suffering from HAPPY CHEERFUL UPBEAT shonen lead syndrome, to the point where it crosses the line into creepiness. He looks absolutely manic in some scenes, suggesting that something’s not quite right with his head. Which would be a plus if it was done intentionally and the other characters actually acted like real people instead of a group of drama club kids putting on a play for the first time in their pathetic little lives. Again, the voice actors are more than competent; the director is not.
Another problem with making the acting so melodramatic is that it drags down the pace of the show (one of its only merits) because every single moment is given so much weight. There’s so much ham spurting all over the place in Episode 3 that the pacing feels heavy and sluggish compared to the first two episodes. A good director chooses only key moments to highlight, while sketching out the rest with a light touch… but if HunterXHunter had a good director, I wouldn’t be writing this post in the first place, would I?
(3) The godawful music. The way in which it is used should be punishable by death via endless loops of the Barney song. It’s so bombastic and overblown and over-the-top and just hilariously inappropriate for the scenes the tracks are used for. Especially Episode 3. The music for the Leorio-Kurapica elevator argument made me want to bash my brains out against a wall. Hell, I’d fund the anime equivalent of the Razzie Awards if it meant I could nominate it for worst use of music in an anime ever.
The use of music is almost as atrocious as this 4Kids parody:
At least Casey & Friends is deliberately trying to make the music as ridiculously mismatched as possible. Madhouse is actually being serious. Even though this version of HunterXHunter is “uncensored” and undubbed, it’s basically a homegrown version of Casey & Friends. The only difference is that they’re butchering HunterXHunter instead of Higurashi.
And fans keep gushing about how faithful this adaptation is. Ugh. No. Just because they’re following the manga practically frame by frame (except for some backstory removal in Episode 1), doesn’t mean that it’s being faithful. The style and atmosphere and tone is completely different. How is that possible, you ask?
Well. Take Hamlet, universally recognized as one of the best plays ever written in English. (It’s Shakespeare, let’s leave it at that.) Let’s say you shell out your life savings and watch a production of it done by professional actors at the West End. The very next day, you go watch Hamlet again – only this time it’s done by mentally disabled teenagers. No offense to the mentally disabled, but do you honestly think that the latter is going to come anywhere near to the West End performance in terms of quality?
But the content is exactly the same. And that is what’s going on with this adaptation. Similar content executed at entirely different levels of competence.
Even tiny little changes can make a huge difference. For example, in both anime and manga, Killua says basically the same thing when he chugs down the cans of laxatives: “Poisons don’t affect me.” In the anime, Tonpa’s reaction is straightforward: “He knew what was in there, but he still drank it?” In the manga, however, he reacts like this: “‘Poison’? He didn’t even know what was in there, and he still drank it?” It’s a subtle yet important difference, implying that Killua thought that the cans contained some kind of poison instead of a mere laxative, but went ahead and drank them anyway even though he had no idea what kind of poison it was or even if it was lethal. That gives his characterization a bit more of a dangerous edge.
The anime steamrolls over those nuances in favor of making everything as big and bold and colorful and over-the-top as possible, leaving behind nothing but an empty, psychedelic husk of the greatness that is HunterXHunter.
To be fair, there are things that this adaptation does well. First of all, it has very tight pacing. It succeeds in cramming in as much as possible while being faithful to the manga, and while a flashback had to be cut out from the first episode, I’m sure they’ll work it in at some point because it’s kinda important. Secondly, it has a kickass ending song.
Aaaand that’s it.
It’s questionable whether the faithfulness is a good or bad thing, actually. I’m watching the original anime adaptation alongside this one, just so I can compare the two (for the record, I think that the 4Kids version makes the original look like Oscar-winning material in comparison). Though the first anime has plenty of flaws such as the glacial pacing and yawn-worthy filler, it’s proving to be an enjoyable watch because it keeps the tone, atmosphere and worldview of the original, while putting its own spins on the actual story. It’s faithful in spirit, but not always in form. That’s the best kind of faithfulness when it comes to adaptations, because it gives fans of the original something new and fresh to enjoy.
…ah, I nearly forgot. There’s one last thing I absolutely adore about this adaptation. Learning HunterXHunter‘s fictional language via the eye-catches!
That’s the only thing I love about this adaptation, sadly.
I highly encourage everybody to check out the manga (get the tankoubon versions if you want to avoid the occasions where the art devolves into stick figures). If you’ve watched the three episodes that are out so far and like them, I suggest that you consider picking up the original adaptation, starting from episode 6.
But if you’re enjoying the fun, lighter tone that this adaptation has, by all means, stick with it. It certainly has the benefit of being much faster paced than the original anime. I guess this is where I should put my disclaimer saying that people’s tastes differ and what is melodramatic and overblown to me may be lively acting to you, and just because I like my fights with lots of blood and squishiness doesn’t mean that it’s bad if a fight is cleaner and softer. Of course, as a fan, it pains me to see one of my favorite manga ever turned into something that I find hideous, but well. To each their own, eh?