Hunter x Hunter, Succession War arc – side characters’ riot

As you probably know, Hunter x Hunter anime has ended a while ago, but the manga is still going. Right now, a new batch of chapters is being released, so maybe it is a good time to jump in! The current arc in the manga is referred to as “Succession War”, and it is a part of a bigger arc, which we usually call “Dark Continent”.

I am telling you this to make it clearer what I am going to be talking about. This post isn’t going to be a recap of what happens in the arc, and it is going to be light on spoilers. But still, I will have to tell you a bare minimum about the Succession War arc, like its setup, the parties involved, etc. The arc is really good, and I’ll understand if you’d rather not have any spoilers before reading it; so, decide for yourself.

morning Biscuit

Morning Biscuit with her hair down, feel free to consider this a fanservice

To put it simple, the Succession War is all about a bloody game the king of Kakin Empire came up with in order to decide on his successor. The Hunter Association got involved because Kakin was instrumental in the expedition to the Dark Continent, which the association was planning. The Hunter Association wanted to just let things go their own way, avoiding any problems; obviously that was not going to work. In order to manage the problems, Kurapika and a group of hunters he selected entered this war as bodyguards for different Kakin princes.

I’ll stop the exposition here. So far, I have presented about 0.1% of arc’s content. Kurapika has multiple motives in this conflict and some of the hunters he enlisted have their own motives too. Each of 8 queens and most of 14 princes have some ideas and plans; most of them have their private troops and guards, and those include individuals who yet again, act out of hidden agendas, not just off their loyalty. This arc is complicated. So much so, that the infographics and charts that circulate on reddit and show just basic info over the characters, they got unwieldy big and now are replaced with 15+ page long documents. Even the Kakin wiki page had to use some fancy designs for their infographics, with tabs and all, just to be able to fit all faces that we saw this arc.

If you have read or watched Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin), imagine a couple of those novels condensed into a manga arc, and further compacted temporally and spatially to fit into a week spent on a passenger ship. And, add more characters. That is what Succession War is.

concert

More fanservice. Just read the title card on the left. Basho in a freestyle rap battle, it is golden.

Bassho rap battle

Did you think it wasn’t for real?

For realz

Izunavi’s rock concert. Okay, that is good enough for now.

Now to the topic of this post. In his last few arcs, Togashi experimented with complexity and structure of the story. Making the protagonists never even meet the arch-villain, making the villains and the good guys switch their moral images, blending separate fights and encounters into an inseparable stream of events: I feel confident saying that he knows how to write unusual and complicated stories. And judging by the looks of it, this new arc will be one of them.

But, there is something else, besides it being complex, that stands out to me a lot. I am talking about the side characters. Just to make myself clear, let’s step back and remember the York Shin arc. The main characters on the good guys’ side were Kurapika, Gon, Killua, Leorio, maybe Melody and Hisoka. The main bad guys were the Troupe (counting each member as one). The side characters are people like Neon Nostrade and other Nostrade family members and employees, the mafia, the Shadow Beasts, the ten dons, the freelance assassins (who were “helping” Zoldycks to fight the Troupe), etc.

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Sensei Hakusho

So, apparently there is this guy, Kunio Ajino, who worked as a manga assistant for Yoshihiro Togashi. Togashi is the author of Hunter x Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho, one of my favorite manga writers and artists. And this Ajino guy draws a short manga about his work experience as an assistant back in the Yu Yu Hakusho days.  I think the manga is called Sensei Hakusho, though I am not sure.

I understand if this sounds boring to you, but I am pretty excited about it. I like Togashi’s stories and I think he is pretty interesting as a person too. Also, I am interested to see how the manga production works. And you get a bit of both in this little story. So if you share my feelings here, please check this manga out!

Togashi's back

Of course, I don’t expect Togashi’s assistant to portray him in a completely objective way or anything. Reading the manga, you get the feeling that part of it isn’t about making an accurate account of how it was, but rather about Ajino expressing gratitude to his sensei. It doesn’t really take away from the story, I think. And there are plenty of moments where Ajino makes fun of Togashi, some of those are funny enough.

Hakusho sensei, Togashi passed out

And I also like things like this, that show details of how manga was drawn back in the day:

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Three act structure – Hunter x Hunter

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.

gon killua kite

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

Gon and Killua

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.

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Hunter x Hunter, reaction

A while ago I finished Hunter x Hunter manga. Yeah I know, 349 chapters. No, I am not crazy. No I didn’t have so skip work to read it. Come on, is it really that big a deal? 349 chapters?..

Yeah I know it is. Can’t believe I’ve read this huge manga. Though I was reading completely different from how I normally do. But to explain this I’ll need to say a few things about the manga. Spoiler alert, by the way.

Kuroro

Hunter x Hunter is a shounen story with most of the well known attributes of the genre. The story follows a 12 years old boy Gon and his friends who do things. It is kinda similar to the first part of Naruto, where there were random adventure, tournament, random but climactic enemy attack; and all of that didn’t happened specifically with Naruto, he just got involved in the things. Same here, HxH has a “hunter exam”, a fighting tournament, a big fight against a group of criminals, and so on. And I’ll go ahead and say this – all of those plot chunks in both Naruto and and HxH are examples of lazy writing. Tournament, exam – those are the easiest things you can throw in your story. And the payback is low as well, cause the events end up being mundane. Same with random adventures and fights, when you provide no motivation for them they don’t have as much impact.

You think I am being too negative? Hold on, i am not done yet :P

illumi

Look at this panel though. I love how Yoshihiro Togashi experiments with his art.

On top of what I said, unfortunately HxH is suffering from a few other diseases. First, the manga is heavy on text. And it is not an interesting text, just a bunch of explanations that you don’t really need. Second, every new arc starts really weak. For example, the biggest (and, in my opinion, the best written) arc started with this premise: “there is an ant queen that spawns soldier ants combined with humans and animals, and we are going to fight them”. Why would I be invested in that fight, even a little bit? These are new born soldiers, they can’t have any interesting motivations or thoughts. And there is no mystery, no sense of wonder. So why would I want to read that?

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