Earlier on, I described this series as an ongoing demonstration. It showed the difference between how a scene sounds on paper and how it actually plays on screen. That was Togashi’s goal: spinning compelling yarns with characters that were almost intentionally bland. At the time, I meant that positively. The prospect, for instance, of Gon playing dodgeball sounded dumb, at first, but ended up playing quite engagingly in the episode itself.
While HxH still exists to demonstrate that concept-to-execution gulf, it’s now showing the negative inverse, instead. If you told me we’d see ten episodes where this whole gang of superheroes finally raided this horrific super-villain’s palace, and waged war against all his powerful minions in a non-stop series of highly-destructive battles… well… I would’ve said “Game on!”
Yet, here I was, watching over three hours of combat that was somehow never that exciting. Initially, I wondered if that might be due to something simple, like the unwisely-drab palette they selected. Thinking about it more, though, the colors wouldn’t really matter that much. Instead, this is actually the point where the cleverness of Togashi’s conceit has dried up.
YU YU HAKUSHO had fights that were just as protracted as this, but the key difference was that there was always some sense of stakes. Yusuke could spend 30 episodes trading blows with Toguro, but it was always stressed that, if he lost, Toguro was going to go on and kill Keiko and the rest of his loved ones. HxH has skirted any of that stuff, and simply thrown in any fighters to balloon its cast in a really self-defeating way. Why should I care what happens to Knuckle? Would it have made more sense to involve Kurapka and Leorio in this, since they were properly introduced? What does it matter if the King is defeated, if he’s just lollygagging over his world conquest plot? It’s just fighting for fighting’s sake.
You can accuse a lot of other shonen of that, but DBZ and YYH always at least maintain some sense of stakes. Innocents being protected. And I can’t really stay involved without stakes. After I fulfill my pledge to catch up with this show’s most recent episodes, I’ll definitely be parting ways with HxH.
Read my comments on the previous batch of episodes here.