A Beginner’s Guide to Hunter x Hunter

By Anthony Cocking (via AnimeLab)

So you’ve decided you want to find out more about Hunter x Hunter, have you? Great choice! You’ve taken your first step towards passing the Hunter Exam. That sure was easy, wasn’t it?

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Now that this hotly requested series has made its way to Funimation, there’s no better time than the present to immerse yourself in its weird, wonderful world. Of course, knowing is half the battle, so we’ve taken the opportunity to give you a little bit of background, in order to help you get started.

Take your weapons in hand, hold onto your badge tightly…and if you happen upon a clown-looking dude who wants to play…RUN.

What is Hunter x Hunter?

Like many of the anime you know and love, Hunter x Hunter’s origins were as a manga, written and illustrated by the talented Yoshihiro Togashi in 1998. Togashi-sensei made his mark a few years earlier with the hit manga Yu Yu Hakusho.

It is set in a bewitching world populated by grotesque monsters great and small. Though this may sound terrifying, humanity has adapted pretty well, and thriving communities have sprung up across the continents.

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There are a select few who are considered among society’s elite, known as Hunters. They are treated with great reverence, and have access to limitless facilities. Their profession is a dangerous one, and even managing to qualify for this illustrious position requires a grueling exam that has more than its fair share of casualties.

Hunter x Hunter anime adaptation series debuted in 1999, and ran for 62 episodes, followed by three OVA series. In 2011, the series was rebooted with a slick, updated look that more closely follows the manga! And you can watch the first 75 episodes (that’s through the Greed Island arc!), subbed and dubbed, right here on Funimation.

What are Hunters?

True to their name, Hunters are professionals whose major function is to hunt; however, the specifics of that can vary from person to person.

Among the members of the Hunter Association, there are numerous specialties, and successful applicants will end up with very different careers, depending on which route they take. 

Beast Hunters, for example, hunt in the more traditional sense, tracking the world’s fauna, while Gourmet Hunters scour the globe in search of culinary delights. That second one may sound like a breeze, but when you consider that practically every creature is out to kill you, the risk factor remains high!

Blacklist Hunters are effectively bounty hunters, and will capture their mark through any means necessary. Though some opt for this specialty in pursuit of thrills or money, there are others whose intentions are far more sinister.

As with any profession, a fair share of wicked Hunters are out to do harm, and their power is only amplified by the resources they have access to. Hunters can go almost anywhere, and do almost anything, much like your typical Hollywood celebrity.

To help weed out the unqualified or unworthy, Hunters must first complete the Hunter Exam. This is a series of trials designed to judge the physical and mental strength of potential Hunters, ranging from tests of endurance to one-on-one combat. This exam is not for the faint of heart, and poor judgement can result in painful death.

Who are the stars of Hunter x Hunter?

Of Hunter x Hunter’s many strengths, its fascinating cast may be its most prominent.

Characters introduced in each episode may prove to be just a blip you’ll never see again, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance—they’re so loaded with personality and earnest fallibility, they’re truly fleshed-out personalities you’d love to learn more about.

The story is centered around the bright-eyed youth, Gon Freecss. A 12-year-old boy looking to follow in his father’s footsteps, Gon is brave, honest and passionate.

His naivety is his most obvious shortcoming, and yet it often proves to be a particular strength. He sees things differently; tackles problems at a different angle. He’s untainted by preconceptions, and that’s what makes him such a valuable member of the team. His innocence is further bolstered by his unbridled potential.

In his journeys, he meets fellow aspiring Hunters, Leorio and Kurapika. They have their own reasons for becoming Hunters; Leorio is purportedly in it for the money, while Kurapika has unfinished business that can only be achieved with a Hunter License.

Leorio typically acts as the comic relief, and he’s often just as shocked by proceedings as we are, making him quite relatable. On the surface, he’s shallow and materialistic, but beyond that, he’s a decent, hardworking human being.

Kurapika is the other side of the coin, wise beyond his years and measured in his approach. He perceives things that go right past Leorio, though he is prone to uncontrollable fits of rage in certain situations that can prove deadly.

The trio soon encounter the cold, enigmatic Killua. He’s the same age as Gon, and acts as a parallel of sorts. He has many of the same motivations and desires, but his reasons and temperament are completely different. Where Gon acts out of determination, Killua seeks only gratification.

To become famous Hunters, they’ll have to overcome a myriad of baleful competitors, such as the mysterious ninja Hanzo and the towering, unnerving Gittarackur.

They all pale in comparison, however, to Hisoka. With a shock of neon hair and painted face, he may look like a carefree jester, but make no mistake, he will murder anyone who gets in his way.

In fact, even if you don’t get in his way, he’ll probably kill you anyway. Basically, he’s a big fan of murder.

What is Nen?

Hmm? You’ve heard of Nen, have you? You have been doing your homework after all!

Down the track, we learn of this phenomenon, where users are able to harbor the power of the aura that dwells within them. It has four principles that, when mastered, allow for manipulation of energy for offensive or defensive purposes.

Nen users have otherworldly capabilities, and those seeking true strength cannot ignore its potential. The issue, of course, is that you’re literally playing with your own life by tapping into such a volatile energy, so using it recklessly can have disastrous effects.

Much like Hunters, there are different types (six, in fact!) of Nen practitioners depending on how they implement their aura (the fourth and final exercise, known as Hatsu). Some can manipulate objects in this way, or even conjure weapons from thin air.

Sounds good! What else should I know?

Describing the elements of Hunter x Hunter is tantalizing enough to sell this anime, and yet, it’s even more impressive when you begin watching it.

As trite as it sounds, popular anime are popular for a reason. Hunter x Hunter is constantly tricking both its characters and its audience, subverting expectations and encouraging us not to accept the most obvious answer as being the correct one.

It’s invigorating meeting new opponents, not quite sure of their abilities or where their machinations lie. Will they prove a threat, or just be brushed casually aside? You can never be too sure.

We’re frequently reminded of how brutal this world is, and everyone seems to just accept that. Part of the absurdity comes from the apathy surrounding the demises of fools who don’t bother thinking things through. There’s a rather cavalier attitude towards death, unless it happens to someone you were particularly fond of, and it’s equal parts disturbing and hilarious.

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To summarize Hunter x Hunter in a word, it would be: engaging. Its exquisite storytelling seamlessly blends humor, tension and thrills with every moment. It starts off on a high note, and just keeps climbing with each episode.

Your journey as a Hunter may begin today, but the lessons you learn will continue for as long as you live…so keep training, work on harnessing the powers of your Nen and, most importantly, check out Hunter x Hunter here on Funimation!

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