Life after the Hunter Exam may be even more complicated than Gon thought it would be.
What They Say
Gon has finally been licensed as a hunter, and things are about to get a whole lot tougher! First he has to rescue his friend Killua from the clutches of ... Killua's own family?! Then it's off to Heavens Arena, home to the biggest fighting tournament on the planet, where Gon must square off against his old enemy Hisoka. Gon is committed to being the best hunter he can be, but will he have to overcome more than a few broken bones to reach his goal?
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 olive green 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 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):
The third set in the series firmly moves the show in a new direction by hitting up a few storylines that are all fun if simple. As was learned from the first two sets, it's a show that revolves around creative tournaments and challenges in order to progress. It may be predictable but there are some creative ways of doing it and if they manage to keep it interesting then you don't mind. This set takes us out of the formal Hunter's Exam at long last and changes the setting, though there are more exams and things to learn along the way.
The first of the three arcs is one that is short but could be longer, but would be more problematic if it was longer. After the Exam is over, everyone is set to go their separate ways but they decide to stick around with Gon as he's heading off to find Kilua .The two have become such good friends during their Exam that he wants to meet back up with him and prove that he's a good friend to him. Leorio and Kurapika are set to go their own way, but decide they don't want to separate from him just yet. The journey to his family home is short, but getting in takes a lot more effort as the Zoldyck family has quite a few traps and tricks prepared for anyone who tries to get in. As is the case, Gon's stubborn nature helps quite a lot but his nature revolves around believing in his friend and wanting to see him. It's a decent arc that pairs them together and gets us to know more of Kilua's family and their odd nature, though his father comes off as the most interesting of them all.
The second main arc has two distinct stories to it, though they're intertwined with each other. Leorio and Kurapika head off for their own destinies, at least for the time being, as everyone agrees to meet in Yorknew City in six months time to work together. In the meantime, the show turns its focus on the friendship between Gon and Kilua as they head there early and spend their time in the Heavens Arena citadel. The Arena is 250 levels of fighting fun where it has a variety of rules to it where participants “level up” and gain money and luxuries, such as rooms to stay in and more. Kilua actually has been to the Arena in the past – when he was six! - and spent a few years there working his way up to just under level 200 before heading off to something else related to his family business.
The arena side is rather fun to watch though it is largely just another tournament piece. For Gon, it gives him a lot of direct one on one challenges that he needs in order to figure out how skilled he is and what he needs to focus on. There are scenes where he's in a match and you can see the bliss of it all as he flows through the motions. When he discovers that Hisoka resides in the upper levels and is close to becoming a Floor Master, he starts taking everything far more seriously. Gon has gone through quite a lot of challenges since he first started his Exam and this storyline really shows you his increased strength and ability overall. Kilua has an interesting turn with it as well as he starts taking it seriously as well after they fly through the first two hundred levels in short time, especially compared to what he did a few years ago. His growth is smaller here overall when it comes to the challenges, but his growing relationship with Gon and the influence Gon has on him is the real focus.
Throughout all of this is the other main story that impacts the other. As Gon and Kilua rise up in level, they make a discovery about an ability called Nen through which people essentially use their chi, ki or other named inner spiritual power. The two realize that they need to understand and figure out how to use it, and they luck out when another participant in Heaven's Arena is a young boy like them who is learning it from a very skilled master. The two work to win over his trust and get him to teach them what they need to know. Being who they are, they have to work hard to figure it all out fast as their ascent in the Arena goes quite fast and they need it before they can get too far. The Nen side has me a little uncertain since it essentially provides everyone with a kind of power-up that takes them above and beyond what we saw before, but it does explain away Hisoka's abilities and the arc really shows us more of what motivates Hisoka.
Hunter x Hunter is a show that I know what to expect from it and I went into it with a set of expectations because it is an adaptation of the manga, and a fairly good one at that. This part of the series has some good moments, such as the first arc at the Zoldyck family estate as I liked the way it continued to push forward the friendship of the group. The Heaven's Arena arc is very important on a number of levels, from giving us more about Hisoka to showcasing Gon's growth with his skills as well as introducing the concept of Nen in a formal way. The setup for the fourth set is certainly here with Yorknew City, but with that being the last set I don't know how well they'll bring it to a close considering how much more of the manga there is. Regardless, this is a good series in the classic sense of fun that held an appeal in manga form as much as it does in the anime form. These are simple but interesting characters with varied challenges and fights that keep me wanting to see more and more of it. It may be a guilty pleasure, but it most certainly is a pleasure.
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.