The Hunter Exam reaches its conclusion at the very end of this set which means we get fifteen episodes of tournament style fun with puzzles and more.
What They Say
Gon and his friends have passed the first two stages of the Hunter Exam, but they still have three more grueling phases to complete. The applicants must escape the maze-like Trick Tower and survive a free-for-all on an isolated island before they can battle it out in the final tournament. Will Gon and his friends prove their worth and earn the right to call themselves Hunters?
Contains episodes 16-30.
Hunter X Hunter is given a pretty solid pair of stereo mixes, both of which are encoded at 256kbps. The series is a fairly standard show in that it’s a very center channel based mix, but it has a good strong sound to it and it plays out well. Dialogue is very clean and clear through the presentation and it works well with the material. The show doesn’t play much for depth or placement for the most part so the mix comes across as a good one since it’s keeping things where they need to be. There’s nothing exceptional here, but it’s a good problem free mix that gets the job done well.
Originally beginning its airing back in 1999, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release is spread across three discs in a 5/5/5 format with no real additional extras that would impact space. The layout of the show is straightforward for Viz with each disc running just under two hours as a single title with proper chapter marks and breaks. The show has replaced title cards and logos as well as the logos in the eye-catches. Visually, the series is what you’d expect for a shounen show from this time in that it has a very earthy feel to it with a fair bit of grain along the way. The dark scenes are the most impact where it has a bit of blocking to it and is less than solid. This wasn’t going to be a standout show in general, but the transfer overall is pretty good for what it is and it’s rather representative of the source material. With just a bit of line noise here and no cross coloration, we came away fairly pleased by it.
Hunter X Hunter is a fairly standard package design from Viz Media in that it’s a three disc foldout digipak. The slipcover piece is a little different as it has a cut into it where the X showcases the character artwork underneath. The main slipcover is free of character artwork on the front side otherwise, as it is primarily the logo and the X cut with a band across it in bright yellow. The greens and yellows really feel gaudy here but it certainly does get your attention. The back of the slipcover is a little better as there are several shots from the show and a nice chunk of black text that describes what the premise is. The middle portion is the shots from the show while the bottom has the production credits for both the Japanese production and the DVD release and adaptation. They do a nice job of plugging the episode and disc count here as well.
The interior part of the package is a solid three disc pullout piece that has a good selection of bright, vibrant character artwork across it on the outside. The dark purple background works well here, much better than the bright green and yellow in the logo. The disc side of the package features a listing of the episode numbers and titles under the disc as well as a small headshot mirroring what’s on the disc silk-screening itself. It’s a very nicely put together piece that overall outshines the slipcover.
The menu design for Hunter X Hunter is a straightforward piece with no animation to it, nor any interstitials as well which is a big positive. The menus use the same gray, green and yellow color design in the cross cut fashion where each disc has a different piece of character artwork, which is also seen on the interior of the box itself. Each disc has little to it for navigation with just language selection, episode selection and a play all feature but it’s very quick and easy to navigate. Submenus load quickly but the disc doesn’t read our players’ language defaults and runs with English language with no subtitles. These aren’t flashy menus, and they’re a big gaudy, but they’re functional and quick and they don’t have the English language blip of animation that usually plays when you start the feature that other Viz discs do.
The only included extras in this release are on the third volume and it’s a simple set of fifteen storyboards from the show. They’re also scrunched down to just half the screen and framed so they aren’t exactly all that visible, even on larger setups.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this set, Hunter X Hunter moves to the halfway point in the series and closes out the story of the Hunter Exam itself. In traditional shonen mode, the show has covered a fair bit of group and a lot of competitions through the four phases it’s worked through and that’s enough to turn away a lot of people who can’t stand the genre. I’ve never been a huge fan of the genre, but even in the manga I was enjoying this kind of storyline more than I normally would have. Though some segments run a bit overlong for my tastes, it always comes down to whether the characters are fun and they have good interactions. Hunter X Hunter achieves that.
The Exam moves through a few different areas with this set of episodes, though one of them phases ends up being longer than you’d think. The opening segment continues to work through the Trick Tower portion of the Exam as the main group works against the prisoners that are trying to get their sentences reduced. There’s a good bit of fun wit this as Leorio really shines as the pervy guy that he is, but Killua also gets to show off his stuff in one of the matches. This segment does come to a close fairly quickly considering how much time was spent on the first set with it, but at least the waiting period that the group goes through is glossed over for the most part. Once things are settled, it’s down to one last challenge with the Majority Rules aspect before everyone moves on to the next phase.
Each phase of the Exam is intended to test different things and the next piece, which is still part of the Trick Tower phase, pushes the remaining examinees to actually work together. Not that this group will really work together completely, but watching a sizeable chunk of them come together to pass it is a lot of fun to watch as they have to deal with getting off of an island and making their way elsewhere before the big storm ravages the area. This starts to push the bonds between some of them even more, especially as some save others from an uncertain fate, which in turn can make things more difficult when the next phase starts and they may be pitted against each other. Challenging the potential Hunters to the possibility of having to deal harshly with someone who saved them – or someone they saved – is an interesting dilemma to provide them with.
The phases of the Exam have been fun to watch, but I was certainly glad when things got to the point where it was down to the final nine and the final exam. With the crazy Chief Examiner now getting into the mix of things and administering the last exam, that sense of closure is there. With so much having come before it, including the very fun to watch hunting sequence where the examinees had to go up against each other to swipe certain badges, getting to the finale has the right feel. That they turned it into a tournament was off-putting at first, but when it was revealed that out of the nine, only one wouldn’t pass, it takes on a very different feeling. There is a lot of emphasis on the things that make these core characters who they are and why they act as they do and the final exam is there to let them rise to the occasion to show who they really are.
At the end of this arc and the halfway point in the series, it’s achieved a fair bit. A group of characters have made it through the Exam and are now officially Hunters. Gon has to determine his future now based on what has happened and move forward from there. The group that made it to the Exam are unlike any other group considering how many rookies were in there as well as the age of quite a few of them. With people like Killua, Kurapika and Gon there, it’s highly unusual and it’s an impressive feat to make it this far. While there is certainly a case for streamlining it so it happened faster, the show is keeping with the manga fairly well and that original form had to satisfy a different kind of market. But as mentioned earlier, it’s the characters that sell it and the first thirty episodes have given me a fun cast that I want to see many adventures from. This set marks the end of the first chapter of that story.
Hunter X Hunter admittedly doesn’t break any new ground here but it is a very fun and solidly enjoyable Shonen Jump series. It has all the hallmarks of what’s considered something from that branding and it’s one that simply clicked with me better than a lot of them did. This set does move things forward, revelations are made and the relationships between characters are slowly changing. The challenges that Gon has faced, particularly with Hisoka, provide some larger things to happen in the future while still giving us a good show right now. Hunter X Hunter is somewhat light and fluffy at times and it has the silly premise of these young kids being so skilled, but it carries it off well. Or at least, well enough for me. It’s a reminder of the kind of anime I do like from this genre without the completely overdone and far too long sequences from some other series of the same genre. The second half of this series can’t come soon enough.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Storyboards
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.