Remember when Hisoka killing people was the darkest thing in Hunter X Hunter? That seems so quaint now, after watching the Chimera Ant arc. And Yorknew. And select scenes in the Election arc. And… no, Greed Island was pretty tame.
As an introductory arc to Hunter X Hunter, the Hunter Exam is pretty good! It introduces the most important characters (those being Gon, Killua, Kurapika, Leorio, Hisoka, and Illumi) excellently. It’s just light-hearted enough to be fun and dark enough to be nerve-racking! Unfortunately, it does suffer a bit in the art department, outside of certain scenes. All in all, it’s a fun arc that serves as a great hook for the rest of the series.
The plot is simple. After our protagonist Gon catches a big-ass fish, he earns the right from his Aunt Mito to take the Hunter Exam, just as his father did so long ago. Throughout the test, Gon becomes friends with Kurapika, Leorio, and Killua, fellow candidates in the exam. However, the test isn’t all friendship and rainbows. Not only is the test brutally difficult, it also pits Gon up against Hisoka, an extremely powerful murder magician. Can Gon become a Hunter with all his friends?
This arc is wonderfully unpredictable. Each test may seem simple on the surface, but they all have a unique twist to them that makes them so much more fun to watch. You start to wonder: how could Gon and the others possibly deal with these ridiculous problems? The solution is often wonderous, adventurous, and satisfying.
There’s also a great sense of tension in the air. You know that Gon and his friends may eventually have to fight one another. That’s just how the test works. It plays with that tension so often and so brilliantly that you really begin to wonder: will all four of them make it?
Which makes the arc’s ending all the more shocking.
Now, this is ultimately a battle Shounen. So, how are the fights? Well, there kind of… aren’t any. The only real fight in this arc is Gon VS Hanzo, which is more of a beatdown than anything else. The lack of combat isn’t a bad thing, mind you. It makes it that much easier for the story itself to take center stage. But if you’re looking for a satisfying punch-out, you’ll need to wait until later.
The same can be said for the animation. While I hesitate to call any of it bad, it’s rarely anything spectacular. It’s all just passable.
Which can also be extended to the music. Don’t get me wrong. the tunes in this arc are still great! But when you compare it to what we’d get in arcs like Yorknew and Chimera Ant? It’s pretty hard to remember any of what we got here.
Why do I hear angry banging at my front door?
Now, you might think that Gon’s trip to the Zoldyck manor is also part of this arc. I disagree. I feel like that story is separate enough from this one to warrant its own analysis. So you can expect that at some point in the future. Maybe even next week, I dunno.
On its own, the Hunter Exam arc is a pretty fun story. It’s an enjoyable start, although not an amazing one. It’s like a gateway to the rest of the show. Get through the decent to get to the amazing!
Oh no. The horror.