I make no secret of my affection for Shounen Jump anime, from Dragonball Z to Rurouni Kenshin, by way of Naruto and One Piece, it’s a genre – incredibly formulaic though it is – that I drag myself back to again and again, pumped and ready for another sweaty training montage and trash talking decidedly diabolical villain. The protracted action, the limitless melo-drama, I just love it.
On to my latest adventure then – Hunter X Hunter; acclaimed by a passionate few as one of the best this genre has to offer, my curiosity was peaked by the fact that it remains unlicensed outside of Japan. In an age where Bleach and Naruto are the most popular anime licenses in the world, it’s odd that Hunter X Hunter is fading into the realms of mere otakudom.
This evening I had the pleasure of sitting down to watch the first two episodes and although this isn’t really a surprise given my track record, I enjoyed them. While the action is hardly jaw dropping eye candy, Hunter X Hunter provides a warm and realistic perspective on the “adventuring” story-line. When plucky young Gon decides to become a “hunter” and track down his absent father, the inevitable parting with his adopted mother is met not with an enthusiastic thumbs up but a sad and worrisome hug, set against a dark red setting sun. Later in episode two, Gon’s naive country-boy innocence sees him stray perilously close to the murky world of child slavery.
This attention to realistic human struggle is perhaps what separates Hunter X Hunter from its peers, that Gon’s road to adventure is paved with harsh and elegant truths about life and love means his growth as a character is all the more heartening.
As you would expect of a Shounen Jump anime, Gon’s personal quest – though central to the story – is but a means to introduce us to a massive world of eccentric hunters, wild animals and colourful landscapes. Fantastical and fun escapism. In comparison with say Naruto, there are no cool ninja head bands or crazy killer moves – Gon’s only weapon is his trusty fishing rod, but with such an emphatic emphasis on personality, he could be fighting with a spoon for all I care, the heart and soul is what counts, and Hunter X Hunter has made a fine first impression.