Zero x And x Rose
So. Hunter x Hunter. Long time no see. Or rather, I’ve been following you just as diligently as before, being one of the anime highlights of many a week. But with not blogging for a while, I’ve seriously missed covering some of the best content to come out of this already super solid show. And for that, seriously sorry for whoever might care. It feels almost a little insulting to come back to it now, when it’s clearly reaching / at the climax, without having covered the set-up, but with how events both real and fictional played out, there’s honestly no way I could keep myself from it.
We’ve got the actually factually really REAL announcement that Togashi is coming back with more Hunter x Hunter this June. Honestly, who knows what this means. Togashi’s activities for the past few years, particularly the hiatus for the last two of them, is kind of shrouded in mystery. And it’s not really all that fun speculating over what could be beneath that veil of mystery, be it Dragon Quest jokes or something else entirely. What the actual question here is that whatever it is that keeps Togashi from away from the manga, will it persist. Is he gonna go on for his typical 10, 20, his herculean 30 chapters? Or this a return beyond the scale of what we’ve had from him before? What ever way it goes, this would be my first experience with Togashi’s manga, this being the rare WSJ I don’t read the manga of, so it’s exciting times. Regardless, the series returns in less than two months with the line “What is being aimed for is darkness. What is being hunted is hope. What blocks the way is endless despair.” Beware the scribbles, hope for the chapters, may the hiatus stay away.
So naturally, what better time to return than with that announcement. With that announcement, and this genuinely fantastic episode. This episode that is rife with so much quality. The Chimera Ant arc has been a a long trek. It’s been a year (and two days) since the arc started last April, and by far the longest arc of the series. And there has been a lot set-up in that time. It hasn’t been without it’s share of amazing episodes, and just generally great content, but this is episode is one of those moments. One of those moments where the long build-up comes to a boom, where threads from multiple needles show their mark in the fabric. It can either sell people on that long travel, or leave them feeling that entire trip was wasted, regardless of how the trip itself was. Really. It’s that kind of episode. And what we got is damn wonderful. Wonderful on multiple levels. This is already a series where the big fights are few and far between, and that might honestly work in Madhouse’s favor. Not to say that what we get isn’t visually nice normally, but the fight between Netero and the officially named Meruem is splendid work. The fight itself is gorgeous and animated, but even beyond that the imagery used is absolutely stylish and appropriate for every example of it. Gratitude for the work done here is all I can really utter, but there really is more to be looked at here.
Since it’s genuinely an interesting conflict here between the two individuals, who by all means feel their own sense of amazement over their fight. Netero’s gratitude for every swat of his giant status and for every time the King comes right back at him with nary a scratch. Meruem’s overwhelming admiration, his feelings even depicted as a mural with magnificent light coming from the human who only continues to impress. The continuous volley between the tomb and the statues golden palms only helps Meruem evolve even further, beginning to deeper and deeper understand the concept of individuality. Netero’s long time spent expressing his gratitude is something only an individual could have accomplished, the task being one without reason for others and perhaps even Netero himself. These ineffective strikes which come from years of madness, which show what it is an individual is capable of, which push Meruem’s growing understanding of such concepts. Individuality which Meruem came to discover with Komugi,, which has been his step from King to Meruem and integral to the Chimera Ant arc, he comes to truly admire that pinnacle of individuality in Netero.
It comes back to Gungi, the game where Meruem has never once beaten Komugi. He demonstrates how he’ll continue to attack, unrelenting, in order to find even the slightest hint of individuality within Netero which would allow for a bias to observed. Every individual has a rhythm, and with that rhythm, he can find the correct way to strike. The many needles which cannot harm Netero hide the correct path unconsciously hidden, and although it rings in the viewer’s mind that he has never accomplished this with Komugi, he will continue to strike as long as the “old soldier” lives. It’s striking how this Meruem is currently, both the king which is rules the chimera ants with absolute power and the Meruem who will play against Netero until the chairman screws up. Of course, this is as far as Meruem sees it, and as far as it looks, it really is how it seems. Even as Netero mentally turns the previous checkmate comment around, the King seems an impossible force to stop. Even if damage will accumulate after thousands of hits, the reality is that it can all be paid back within the shortest of moments.
One leg down and words of praise from Meruem, Netero is forced to call the game is over… not by a long shot. The King calls the next move of the game, and in under a minute, the move is confirmed. In this minute, Netero recognizes the his life will come to an end during this conflict. He fights at the peak of what he could possibly fight in this time, going into another gorgeously animated scene, this time of the two peak powers in their exchanged of thousands of punches above a bed of the rose flower motif. Be that is it may, the rose loses it’s petals, and Netero loses his hand. The inclination less than a habit or bias had shown. The King has collected on his left arm, much like he had on his own during one his matches with Komugi. As smooth as ever, he sits down as if the game is over. But really. The chairman has a history to uphold. Long ago he’s fought with just one leg and one arm with a spiky haired kid, and his gratitude is not to be shaken so easily. As he puts it: “A prayer comes from the heart.”
With those words, he unleashes his Zero Hand, wherein the statue appears not behind Netero, but the target of his love instead. Taking back to an earlier episode in the arc (which I did not cover), Killua had once come across the sensation of love before, one of great murderous intent which spreads across a vast distance. We finally see the source of Killua’s unwillingness to go in that direction, and it’s all very reasonable. Netero’s gratitude was a lifelong journey, and now at the end of this journey, he leaves behind what he has gained. All of it. And what he had spent decades building, lost within a moment. The chairman full of energy, literally a husk of his old self (And looking perhaps much more what his old self should). For all that, the King is a little worse for wear.
And it’s in this where the episode goes even further. This was the peak of Netero’s self, the peak of this one human. It’s far beyond what Meruem would have ever expected to come from this exchange, but still clearly below his level. “The pinnacle of individual strength.” It, if anything, reaches the King of the Chimera Ants, but it does that alone. The King born to rule over all organisms, the result of evolution of an entire species. This battle he fought for his name, but he is also the King. The strength of an individual cannot beat the strength born from the contribution of every member of his species. And this is where his understanding of individuality culminates into at this moment, that the individual Netero cannot contest such a strength. That humanity, with it’s individuality, cannot contest. His admiration for human ego is no less for this realization, but it is deemed unnecessary for the Chimera Ants. It will only, despite the boon it had given, serve to eventually sever what makes the Chimera Ants strong. It’s in this where it becomes more than clear, if it hadn’t already, that the King will only bring about a grim future for humanity. It’s in all of this, where the King continues to be his ever calm self, laying out his plan for the future of humanity, and asks for the final time for his name.
What comes after is perhaps the strongest rebuttal the King could have ever received. He receives his name, at long last. But in turn for his setting himself as the symbol of hope for his kind and it’s evolution, Netero gives a sinister sounding response. “I am not alone.” For all of Meruem’s understanding up until this point, Netero lays down how things are. “Meruem, King of Ants, you understand nothing of humanity’s infinite potential for evolution.” A line which could not have been portrayed with visuals more horrifying, Netero’s near corpse an image which only strikes fear. Even the King can understand this. With Netero’s 心 t-shirt, with his heart symbol at the end of the previous episode, it’s fitting that Netero would die with his heart. The man was full of heart, but even he recognizes himself with his final line. “If there is a hell, I’ll see you there.”
The King of Ants finally understands what his position had been all along. Not just in checkmate from Netero, but by humanity itself. Humanity’s evolution has come to create and build upon previous generations endlessly, and here we see what terror they can inspire with creations meant for destruction. The rose blooms, as the we get details on the bomb planted within Netero. Low-budget. Compact. Lethal. Bombs of terrifying scale, but can be mass-produced. A creation displaying human kind’s ugliest side, the Miniature Rose. And with that beautiful image painted, the episode comes to an end.
When it comes to depictions of how ugly humanity is, it’s really easy to come off too strong. To lose somebody in how on-the-nose it is. It works here. It works with the topic of individuality, it builds upon what we’ve seen with story’s like Gyro’s, and it works as a counter to the nature that the Chimera Ants have shown, in both their original nature and their human nature. It works with the increasing knowledge the King has acquired, it works with the heart that Netero has displayed, it just damn works. I probably spent most of my time here simply relaying the episode to people who have already seen it, but my appreciation for any episode like this is simply what it is. I honestly don’t know what will happen to Meruem following this episode, nor do I know what Togashi will do in the coming near future of the series, but for now.
Thanks old dude. You were rad.