Killua Zoldyck: An Awakening of Heart

Hunter X Hunter has a lot to appreciate. A vibrant world. An incredible power system in Nen. Remarkably memorable villains. Incredible fight scenes. On and on and on. It’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the best manga/anime of recent times, and easier to see why people want to see a proper end to it so badly.

At the core of it all are two characters. A beautiful friendship that would make any man envious. I am of course referring to the two bros: Gon Freecss and Killua Zoldyck.

Today, we’re going to have a look at the latter. Killua Zoldyck is easily my favorite Hunter X Hunter character, and one of my favorite anime characters of all time. His arc is incredibly emotional and engaging, even if it’s technically not finished. It’s easy to see why so many others consider him best boy. Especially after the Chimera Ant arc.

*Disclaimer: as I’ve mentioned twice now, Hunter X Hunter technically isn’t finished yet. Therefor, it is impossible to tell where Killua’s arc will take him later on. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be looking at Killua’s arc as it is seen in the 2011 anime, and maybe a few scenes from the 90s anime. I won’t be looking at any of the manga. Got it? Cool. Let’s get started.*

The Wound: Chains of Family

Calling the Zoldyck family toxic would be an insult to toxic families. For god’s sake, we’re talking about a family that literally poisons its children in order to make them immune to any toxin they might come across. And I mean the deadly kind of poison, not the kind that makes your face numb or your leg stiff, okay? The Zoldycks are fucked.

More than that, they’re controlling. Killua’s mother grew overly protective of him at a young age, all but separating him from the other children by putting him on a pedestal. Naturally, this created some level of animosity between Killua and his siblings, particularly his older brothers. This was especially bad with Illumi, his eldest brother, who abused and manipulated Killua at every turn.

However, Killua’s relationship with his sister, Alluka, is actually a very wholesome one. From the very first scene they share together, it’s clear that they cherish each other far more than they do anyone else in the family. Of all the bat-shit crazy assassins living in that house, of all the toxic relationships, the one shared by Killua and Alluka was the most healthy by far. You can tell as much just by how Killua addresses Alluka; note how he is the only one to respect Alluka’s preferred pronouns, addressing her as a girl while the rest of the family uses male pronouns.

Unfortunately, Alluka shared their body with Nanika, or Something, a mysterious being capable of granting any wish. Sounds great, right? Well, it has a catch: Alluka and Nanika ask for three things in return. Depending on how impossible the wish granted was, those three things could very well be impossible. And should the two get none of them, the person they’re asking them from will meet a horribly painful and gruesome death.

That said, Killua was a special exception. He loved the mysterious Nanika just as much as he did Alluka, and Nanika shared in Alluka’s admiration of Killua because he was the only one who never took advantage of its power for personal gain. Therefor, Nanika was willing to grant Killua’s wishes free of charge.

But the rest of the family didn’t know that, so into the box Alluka and Nanika went, only to be visited in the most dire of circumstances.

Here, at last, we come to the major crux of Killua’s trauma: loneliness. As we see throughout practically all of his flashbacks, Killua’s family have gone to great lengths to keep him from making personal connections. From Alluka and Nanika to the servants around the manor, Killua is never allowed to have a proper friend. They tried to raise him to be an assassin, cold and brutal and utterly alone.

Unfortunately for them, Killua would not have his own fate set for him.

The Want: A Friend

Killua never longed for anything material. Being a Zoldyck, his family was already one of the richest in the world. The young boy was never left wanting for toys or games or clothes or anything else a child his age might want. Its only natural that he wouldn’t care for any possessions.

He doesn’t even want to be that good of an assassin. From what we can tell, he was already a prodigy. A genius of his craft even before his brutal training began. His parents and grandfather all constantly acknowledge just how monstrously dangerous Killua will inevitably become should he live to adulthood. That’s why his siblings, except for Alluka, either resent him or want to manipulate him. In fact, it’s actually safe to assume that Killua resents his life as a killer, especially later on in the series.

All Killua ever wanted was a friend. To have a genuine human connection. One untouched by the darkness clinging to each member of his family. It’s safe to assume that his longing only grew worse when Alluka, the only sibling he got along with, was locked away, essentially being taken away from him. This caused him to grow more and more rebellious, as his yearning slowly grew from a want to a desperate need.

This is a perfectly natural reaction. Humans are social creatures and depend on having genuine, healthy connections, especially at a young age. It’s only natural that Killua, a young boy completely starved of a pure relationship, would rebel. Especially given his extreme prowess as an assassin. When you know you can get away with it, why would you not do it?

Ultimately, this rebellion ultimately led him to taking the Hunter Exam. And there, he would finally find what he was so desperately looking for. There, he found a friend. There, he met Gon Freecss.

The difference between Killua with and without Gon is frighteningly stark. The Killua we see when Gon isn’t there is a cold-hearted killer with lifeless eyes, a young boy who had seen horrors that would drive a grown man to insanity. But with Gon, we see an entirely different side to Killua. He is innocent, pure, and… well, childish. When interacting with Gon, he feels he can stop being the prodigy assassin and start being what he really is: a little kid looking for nothing but a good time to share with his friend.

But having one light in your life doesn’t magically make the darkness go away.

The Lie: The Shadow of Zoldyck

Killua is bound to the rest of the Zoldyck family. No matter how far away he gets, no matter how far removed he is from them, they still haunt him. They still control him.

This is particularly strong with Illumi. Killua’s eldest brother has tried to control him for all his life. He instilled a crippling fear of those stronger than him that not only allowed Illumi to manipulate him, but also to cripple the young prodigy’s growth. We can see this on full display at the end of the Hunter Exams, when Killua gives up his freedom and his friendship with Gon to return home.

Despite all of his abilities, Killua is afraid of his family. He knows exactly how dangerous each and every one of them can be and he knows that they are all willing and able to kill Gon and Killua’s other friends should they feel so inclined. If they were willing to imprison Alluka, a member of their own family, what would they do to a stranger claiming to be their son’s friend? So Killua lives his life on a leash. He’s willing to rebel, but only so far. Should he step too far out of line, it could very well mean the deaths of his friends.

Not only that, but Killua often feels that he doesn’t deserve to have friends. Years of his family’s psychological conditioning have left Killua feeling like he has no right to innocence or happiness. He fears that he’ll flee from a powerful opponent and leave his friends to die. His cold-blooded upbringing has left him heartless, which occasionally causes a rift between him and Gon, such as the time they found a wounded bird in the 90s anime.

But of course, none of that is true. Killua may be a cold-blooded killer, but he isn’t as heartless as his family. And as we learn in the Chimera Ant arc, he isn’t truly a coward; that was only brought on by the needle Illumi placed within him to help control him (which I’m not a fan of on a writing front, but that’s beside the point). The control the other members of his family put on him are only because he doesn’t push back.

Unfortunately for the Zoldycks, Killua’s rebellious spirit only grows stronger with each passing adventure.

The Need: Break the Chains

By the end of the Chimera Ant arc, Killua has grown far stronger in both body and mind than he was at the beginning of the series. The dude has stared down certain death dozens of times over and overcome every single one of them. Not only that, but he’s grown capable of reaching out and forging friendships beyond Gon, as we see when he saves Ikalgo.

Unfortunately, his worst fear came to life. Gon went way too far in his battle with Pitou, placing himself right on death’s door. Worse yet, every single doctor who examined him all came to one agreement: the young boy was beyond saving. Even after Killua finally overcame his fear, Gon’s fate seems sealed.

Luckily, Alluka and Nanika could save him. Not so luckily, they’re still locked in a big box in the Zoldyck mansion. Luckily, Killua no longer gives a single fuck.

The Election Arc is where Killua fully completes his arc as seen in the anime. We can see him meticulously shattering every single chain his family has ever shackled him with. While saving Alluka, he essentially tells his mother and father to fuck off or he’ll kill them. On his way to save Gon, he has to play the deadliest game of tag with Illumi in order to protect his sister. His spirit of rebellion has completely consumed his fear and submissiveness.

While this isn’t the complete ending of Killua’s story, it is an end to the first major chapter of it. He has fulfilled the need and became an independent, emotionally healthy young man. The depressed, cold-hearted killer we met at the beginning is long gone. Now, he has become one of the most pure-hearted and heroic youths Hunter X Hunter has to offer.


Who knows what’s in store for Killua in the rest of the manga? Perhaps his arc isn’t complete after all and he’s still got a ways to go. Or maybe he begins an all-knew story. My bets are on that one, given how he and Gon parted ways. Who knows what will happen?

Who knows if we’ll ever find out? Please, Togashi, stay happy and healthy. I can’t emotionally handle another Kentaro Miura scenario.

Whether Hunter X Hunter is ever finished or not, I still think Killua’s arc is absolutely brilliant. I fell in love with the kid almost as soon as he was introduced, but I could never have guessed that he’d become so wonderfully compelling by the end of it! As much as I love Gon, I can’t help but view Killua as the true protagonist.

Especially given what Gon did in the Chimera Ant arc.

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