Hunter x Hiatus (Again)

This article refers to the 2010 hiatus. For the 2012 hiatus, please read Another Hiatus for Hunter x Hunter.

News in Issue #26 of Weekly Shonen Jump indicates that Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter will once again be going on indefinite hiatus beginning in the following issue. This news is not surprising to any longtime fans of the series, as Togashi has frequently taken breaks for unconfirmed reasons. Rumors abound as to the reasons for so much time off, ranging from a serious medical condition to personal issues regarding the merchandising of his works to an overwhelming, life-ruling love for the Dragon Quest series of video games. These rumors are all speculation (well, except for his love of DQ), so it’s difficult to formulate an opinion of Togashi as a mangaka. Is he lazy for taking so much time off? Is he brave for drawing as much as he can while his health allows him? Is he foolish for not expecting Shueisha to capitalize on the popularity of his series, given that he previously wrote the successful YuYu Hakusho?

Regardless of the reasons for his absences, Hunter x Hunter and its fans have suffered. This most recent run of HxH began this year, in Issue 5-6 (double issue), 2010, with chapter 291. Issue 26 contains chapter 310, the last chapter before the new hiatus. In that span of 20 chapters, we’ve seen two major, conclusive fights (Netero vs. the King, Gon vs. Pitou), two minor fights (Killua vs. Palm, Ikarugo vs. Werefin), one huge plot point (Kaito), some other minor / inconclusive action (various people vs. Pouf, King vs. Melereon & Knuckle, the “game”), and whatever the hell chapter 299 was.

This run for HxH has actually been one of the better ones. 20 chapters is enough for two volumes, an improvement from Togashi’s recent tendency to release one volume’s worth at a time. Also, the amount of action and plot advancement in those 20 chapters would be considered good for most shonen series, and is laudable when compared to other HxH runs, but this Chimera Ant arc began way back at the end of chapter 185. 125 chapters in WSJ without breaks would span over two and a half years, and would clearly be considered a long arc for any series. In terms of publishing schedule, though, Hunter x Hunter isn’t just any series; chapter 185 ran in Issue 28, 2003. Seven years ago. This arc has continued for seven years, but without the satisfaction of actually progressing through plot along the way. That, combined with the fact that some of the characters who helped the series reach its peak in popularity (Kurapica, Hisoka) aren’t even in this arc, makes for a frustrated audience.

Even when the series is running, it may not provide a fully enjoyable manga-reading experience. Since he began his frequent hiatuses, Togashi’s returns have sometimes been marred by poor artwork. Here is a comparison of an earlier chapter, when he was releasing at a reasonable rate, with a chapter in the hiatus-intense years. (Click images for full size.)

Chapter 127, Page 2

Chapter 252, Page 12

Clearly, at his best, Togashi is a talented artist, and to his credit, he cleans up his work and creates proper art for volume releases. That said, sketches like this, for which he has become infamous, are unacceptable for a series in a major shonen magazine, let alone one by an established mangaka.

Most glaring, though, are the hiatuses themselves. Here are the shocking statistics:

  • From its debut (Issue 14, 1998) to present day (Issue 26, 2010), Hunter x Hunter has been absent from Weekly Shonen Jump 276 times.
  • The longest hiatus was 79 straight missed issues (2006-2007).
  • The series was absent the most in 2009, missing 46 of 48 issues that year.
  • There have been 585 issues of Weekly Shonen Jump since HxH began; Togashi has missed over 47% of them.
  • Given 48 issues of Jump in one calendar year, that’s 5.75 publishing years missed.
  • By comparison, One Piece (debut: Issue 34, 1997) has missed 33 issues to date. Naruto (debut: Issue 43, 1999) has missed 19 issues to date. Amazingly, KochiKame, which began in Issue 42, 1976, has never missed a single week!

Of course, most of these figures will be obsolete beginning in a couple weeks, as yet another hiatus begins. The future of the series remains worrisome, not in terms of publication (Shueisha is unlikely to choose now to cancel the series, over any other opportunities it has had to do so) but in terms of the story. For all these shortcomings and legitimate issues, Togashi remains a creative and engaging author who devises fascinating stories, clever powers and fighting styles, and interesting characters. His biggest failing is an inability to see his ideas through to an acceptable conclusion, as was evidenced by the end of YuYu Hakusho, and as has been unfolding before us for years now with Hunter x Hunter. Feeling appropriately frustrated, some fans have called for the series to end with the climax of this arc, but that would be a disservice both to those who have stuck with the series through all the delays and scribble-art, and to Togashi’s own unresolved plot. Other fans clamor for Togashi to hand artistic duties over to another mangaka and concentrate on the writing, which Togashi surely is unwilling to do, or it would have happened years ago.

In any case, Hunter x Hunter deserves a proper finale beyond this arc. Will Gon ever find his dad? Will Kurapica ever achieve the full extent of his revenge? Will Leorio ever… matter? This series is too good to die without suitable resolution for its most important storylines, but whether said resolution is acceptable or otherwise, it seems we’ll be waiting quite some time before we get there.

Source: Jump Intelligence Agency

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