Hunter x Hunter 344

The return of this series from its agonizing hiatus has been exciting for the simple reason that it is back, but such novelty doesn’t last long. With this chapter, the fourth of the current run, that novelty is being replaced by a need for two key factors: Forward progress, and a strong focal point for that progress. The latter issue has only been intensified by the focus on Ging, who is a fine character but not one of the established protagonists, so the recent appearance of Kurapika has been welcome. He is not only the kind of familiar face that can capture the audience’s attention, but he is also an existing fan favorite, a character whose personal peak coincides with one of the peaks of the entire story.

That said, like the return of Hunter x Hunter overall, Kurapika’s own return has not been without fault. Chiefly, the problem regards his current portrayal as a brooding loner who wishes no contact with the outside world, and who has been tempted only by the promise of revenge. That motivation is perfectly characteristic of his original persona, but what made Kurapika such a compelling character was that his anger contrasted with the personality he showed Gon and his other friends. His usual demeanor was pleasant and calm, which then accentuated the venom in his outbursts. The way he is being depicted here is entirely too one-dimensional, and strips him of much-needed charm and character balance. Hopefully, he’ll regain some of each when he meets Gon.

Kurapika is more than the single-minded recluse seen here, and he deserves to be represented properly

As for the character receiving the most focus lately, Ging’s present role and surroundings suit him better than his last appearance. Pariston’s group is looser and less rigid than the Hunters Association, and Pariston himself works excellently with Ging; strange as it sounds considering when each one was introduced, Pariston is a more developed character, so he is helping Ging to settle in to his new active position. Also of note in this scene is Ging’s strategy of doubling his potential subordinates’ payment, which is classic Togashi writing: An excuse to validate any scenario with heaps of dialogue.

That storytelling method is pushed to its limit in Ging’s subsequent explanation of the Dark Continent. Togashi is renowned for his love of forcing exposition through mass amounts of dialogue and narrative boxes, but the extent to which he does so here is ludicrous. The author’s overall aim in these pages is to continue developing far-off plot possibilities through advanced world-building. While preparing for future content is crucial, nothing has actually happened since the series has returned, so Togashi would be much better served replacing some of this potential with actual, immediate action.

Furthermore, the kind of information being dumped on readers here is not exactly pressing. This is nothing like the carefully poised back-and-forth exchanges found in the dialogue-heavy Death Note or other, similarly wordy series. No, this is all just exposition regarding plot elements which will require future re-introduction anyway, making this scene counterproductive at best and pointless at worst. Ging’s lengthy monologue gives the illusion of a massive, dynamic world, but when that world isn’t actually being explored, the information being presented only serves to heighten expectations that won’t be met. This is another instance of Togashi’s proven inconsistency working against him; only the most ardent fans will forgive delays and patiently await this plot coming to fruition, but those fans have already proven their limitless patience and loyalty. Rather than catering to guaranteed fans, Togashi had the opportunity to target the more cynical or cautious fans, who have every reason to be wary of empty promises and would prefer present-day development. Instead, Togashi remains stuck in his ways, and the result is this author’s latest example of manga by attrition.

Opportunity cost: The issue with Ging’s speech is less about quality and more about what could be happening instead

To the chapter’s credit, the impenetrable walls of text do provide good contrast for the nearly wordless two-page spread that follows. These beasts look horrifying, thus conveying the same impression about the New World as a whole, but the effect is not so profound as to make up for the ineffective dialogue that preceded these pages. Once again, a rival Jump title makes for a damning comparison; Toriko manages to introduce all sorts of fearsome beasts without first assaulting its readers with exposition, and that series is none the worse for it.

Four chapters into this long overdue return, the prevailing impression left by Hunter x Hunter is that Togashi is simply postponing meaningful and mandatory progress. He has technically returned, and some minor plot events have technically advanced the story, but the bulk of this publishing run to date consists of bare-bones ideas being presented as swiftly as they are glossed over. That sentiment is exemplified by the revelation at the end of the chapter regarding Don Freecss, which presumably refers to a new member of Gon’s family. This wasteful reveal has no real impact because it is only connected to concepts, rather than any events that have taken place.

The disparity between this author’s ideas and his inability to see them through to completion has always been frustrating, and so it is again here; these chapters are little more than a brainstorming session, full of genuinely interesting ideas but sorely lacking in execution. With enough intrigue already in place to tantalize readers, this chapter is far from bad, but Togashi would do well to remember that foreshadowing only works when it is coupled with resolution.

Final Flash: Decent individual moments fail to mesh into a successful whole. The honeymoon is now over; Togashi must deliver on some of his promises soon.

5 Comments

  • wow, I got to thank you for this review. For a whole month I’ve been hypnotized by the fact that HxH is back and simply enjoying each of its chapter without realizing that there are no plot progress at all.

  • Well, there actually -is- something going on, albeit, *very* slowly. Apparently, Togashi is taking the time to explain what the Prince is doing, and certain details about the Dark Continent for a reason.
    The question is: will it be relevant?

    We’ll see if this all pays off.

    • That’s a completely valid point on the prince, good call. Still, I think my overall stance is unchanged; in fact, I think the prince plot would be even more exciting if it was the only one being developed this slowly, while everything around it was moving at a normal pace.

  • Really the thing that’s been keeping me to the understanding that nothing has happened is the fact that the main characters themselves still haven’t really done anything yet. I pretty much cheered when I finally saw Gon on screen even though he was only present for two panels and even now I’m wait for actual action to take place.

    Regarding Kurapika and how he’s been handled so far, while I would agree that some of his charm is gone given the state he’s in now, I wouldn’t exactly peg it off as one dimensional, since that was really bound to happen given how he was already drowning into his own darkness in Yorknew. Thankfully it hasn’t gotten annoying (yet) but I do agree that seeing him interacting with Gon or Leorio would be the next thing I want to see him do.

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