For clarity’s sake: this covers everything up until the King is born. Everything after he shows up will have to wait until next week. Because good GOD is that part of the arc dense. Hell, this part of the arc is dense!
If you expected me to cover this entire arc in one article, y’all are crazy. This arc isn’t just dense as hell, it’s also long. Out of the entire 148 episode series, this arc alone takes up almost half of it, being a whopping 60 episodes long. To put that into perspective, Greed Island was 16 episodes, Yorknew was 19 (excluding the two Whale Island Ging focused episodes that preceded it), Heaven’s Arena was 9, the Zoldyck Manor was 6, and the Hunter Exam was another 19. If this arc were ten episodes longer, it would be longer than every other arc before it combined.
And I binged the whole damn thing in a week. Thanks, quarantine!
The Chimera Ant arc is often the one people point to when they recommend Hunter X Hunter. Which, if you ask me, is kinda bizarre, considering how dramatically different this arc is from the rest of the series, tonally speaking. Seriously, previous arcs got dark, but nothing in any of them came even close to the shit we’d see in the Chimera Ant arc. This shit made me feel genuinely uncomfortable at times with how grim it got! After all the fucked up shit I’ve seen in anime over the years, it takes a lot to make me feel that way anymore.
The story picks up immediately after the end of Greed Island, with Gon and Killua warping to the mysterious Nigg. Instead of finding Ging, however, they find Kite, Ging’s apprentice and an older brother figure to Gon. During this encounter, Killua is attacked by a small ant called a Chimera Ant, a creature that consumes others and passes on the traits of what they eat to their offspring. Elsewhere, a giant Queen Chimera Ant has started to grow her swarm and develops a taste for humans. Now, Gon, Killua, Kite, and a few others must race to find and eliminate this queen before she expands her swarm too far and gives birth to a Chimera Ant King, a monster that, with human genetics, could become unstoppable.
Like I mentioned before, this arc is super dark. For god’s sake, two children get eaten literally right off the bat! And it doesn’t stop there! The Chimera Ants carry out some super horrific acts, all with a big smile on their faces and a laugh in their hearts. Such as when Pitou literally picked a guy’s brain and when poor Ponzu… well, I don’t want to spoil that. But it was certainly impressive, given that it actually made me feel sick.
This part of the arc also does a fantastic job of world building. Not just the setting, but also the structure of the Chimera Ant’s chain of command and evolutionary process. It makes the threat they pose feel all the more real. We as the audience understand perfectly just what will happen if they aren’t stopped. And given how frightening they are already, the extra touch makes them all the more terrifying.
The concept of the ants stealing traits from those they eat is also used to brilliant effect. Not only does it lend itself well to their power, but it also lends itself well to their designs. Rather than a series of copy-pasted designs, each ant has their very own unique appearance and abilities. It gives the arc a great sense of variety; you never know what’ll be thrown at you next. Plus, it lets you do a bit of guesswork whenever you see one. What kind of powers would a human-rhino-armadillo-ant hybrid thing have?
But none of that would matter if the story weren’t populated by likable characters. While this arc is missing greatly in Kurapikas, Leorios, and Hisokas, it makes up for it with a whole slew of new, lovable, and memorable characters! Shoot, Knuckle, and Palm are all incredible additions to the cast, each bringing with them their own charming personalities, unique and interesting powers, and incredible designs! All three of these guys are among my favorites in the entire show!
And then, of course, there’s Kite. Now, on his own, I think Kite is a great character. He’s got a fun and interesting power and his backstory is compelling. But his relationship with Gon feels a bit rushed and thin. It’s my understanding that it’s more fleshed out in the manga and the original anime (I’ll need to look into that) than in this version.
The Chimera Ant characters are pretty cool, too. Granted, I can only remember a few names, but that’s because there are so many of them, not because they lack in character. Whether they be psychotic or reluctant, they each add a unique dynamic
If you’ve seen this arc, you know why this is a problem A big problem. Unfortunately, the scene I’m referring to is in part 2, so I’ll save it for then.
Killua, on the other hand, has some of the best character development in the entire series here! No joke, this arc turned Killua into my favorite character! Not only are his fight scenes the best, but he’s also got some of the most heartwarming moments of growth! Before, he was one step away from anti-hero. In this arc? He becomes one of the most kind and heroic characters in the whole show! Compare and contrast this to the Hunter Exam, wherein Killua tore a motherfucker’s heart out without so much as blinking and threatened to kill Leorio, Kurapika, and Tonpa if any of them tried to keep him and Gon from moving on! This is how you do compelling character growth in a long-running series!
Action wise, this part of the arc doesn’t have much to offer. The few fights it does have are often short, although they’re undeniably animated beautifully. Granted, I can’t knock the arc as a whole for this. Thankfully, it’s clear that action isn’t supposed to be in the forefront of this arc as a whole, much less this part.
This is also the arc where we got some of my absolute favorite Hunter X Hunter music! Seriously, ‘Kingdom of Predators’, ‘Hegemony of the Food Chain’, ‘To Give a Marionette Life’, ‘Legend of the Martial Artist’, the list goes on! And it gets even better in the second half! OST wise, this arc is easily the best one so far!
Holy shit, this arc was a breath of fresh air! After the rollercoaster ride of quality that was Greed Island, it was nice to experience an arc that was consistently great. It’s got some minor issues, but they’re not nearly bad enough to ruin the arc as a whole. This is Hunter X Hunter when it’s climbing towards the peak.
Then, when the King is born, that peak is reached.