Tons of spoilers ahead.
As I said in my last post, I want to make a few posts about writing elements/devices that I like, the ones that make the stories enjoyable for me. And for a while now I wanted to make a post about Hunter x Hunter. I already written a sort-of reaction post on the manga years ago, but I neither covered all that there is to say about it nor did I have enough understanding to even be able to do it. And I don’t expect to do be able to cover it completely now either. Because Hunter x Hunter is complex, there is lots and lots to be discovered within that manga if you put in the effort. And if this post manages to convince you that this last statement is indeed true, then I’ll be happy.
Being one of the HxH fans I have heard people praising the manga in all sorts of ways. People would say “the story is great”, “it is so well written”; but what exactly makes it great? It is hard to put a finger on, isn’t it? One of the most enlightening posts about HxH I’ve read suggested that one of the strong points of the story is that it follows something called three-act structure. This is a way to divide and structure your narrative. So let me give you my take on this.
The idea with the three-act structure is pretty simple. Your narrative has three distinct parts, punctuated by important events. The first part is the setup, it ends with an event that “changes everything”. The second part sees constant change in tension until the midpoint and then going on (maybe in a different direction) till climax. After the climax the last third part starts, and its role is to wrap things up. Sounds needlessly complicated and not very useful, isn’t it? Let me convince you otherwise :P
Let’s start with something simple. The York Shin city auction arc, remember that one? The first act in this arc lasted till the moment Kurapika saw the Spiders, that was the event that changed everything for this arc. Interestingly, from that point on the tension had actually been dropping, with Kurapika first defeating Uvogin and then the Ryodan faking their deaths. The panel where Kurapika walks through the night with a jar with scarlet eyes is the “lowest point” of the arc (I will keep using this phrase; I use the word “low” to describe the emotional state of the character or the emotional feel of an entire scene), the midpoint I mentioned previously. From then on, the tension picks up, with the start of the hunt for Ryodan, with their retaliation, and eventually the hostage crisis. The climax of the arc is, I believe, the hostage exchange moment. It is a bit spread out, but whatever, we don’t have to follow the structure exactly, that is not the point. The rest of the arc is obviously the third act.