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Perhaps one of the most vastly overrated series of all time.
This is not to say that it is bad. It has good-to-decent character designs, fairly interesting characters, and when motivated the artist is quite capable. But it also has glaring flaws that force it into mediocrity: massive inconsistencies in the art (which will occasionally look like he inked his storyboards and submitted them as finished work), weak story-telling, and awful pacing.
Its initial flaw is that it fails to properly explain what a 'hunter' is and does. We are told what it takes to become one, and some examples of jobs that they do, but not why what the purpose of the Hunter system is, who authorizes it, who funds it, why they're in such high demand, or why it's so godawful hard to become one. There is no sense of coherency to the concept of a 'hunter'. This makes it rather hard to care about whether Gon passes the exam to become one.
The first two arcs, comprising almost a hundred chapters, are nothing more than a shallow excuse for fight scenes, filled with threats of an entirely artificial nature. The danger is real, but the danger can also be walked away from at any time. There would be absolutely no consequences if Gon and Killua walked away from the exam, and from there the story catapults directly into a rather dull tournament arc with absolutely nothing on the line. It is difficult to maintain tension under these circumstances.
Even once it moves past this phase, it runs into another problem: training sequences. Endless, mindless training sequences. The entirety of the Greed Island arc is, more or less, Gon and Killua doing training sequences while guys nobody cares about muck around with game mechanics in the background. That's fifty chapters, flushed down the toilet. This is not even including the chapters devoted to lengthy explanations of the mechanics of the pointlessly complex Nen system. The series is constantly interrupting plot for this sort of arbitrary garbage.
And the fight scenes just are not that great. Not bad, but extremely typical of a shonen series.
Overall, not a bad series. But it does not even remotely live up to the hype.
Except for Netero. Netero is everything promised and more.
[EDIT] As of the most recent chapters, the author has officially gone insane. Manga is now utter shit.
About the plot: I'll agree with you on the Greed Island training sequences (even though there are some good plots within the Greed Island arc once you get past the training sequences). However, I disagree with you about the hunter exam. First of all, Gon not wanting to give up is a major character trait, and explains why he never walks away from the danger. True, there would be no consequences from leaving the exam, but all of the characters do have a serious interest in passing the exam. If they walk away, they would have to take it again to get what they want. Killua is never in any actual danger during the exam until he fights his brother (he curbstomped anyone who tries to hurt him before that), and then he does, in fact, walk away from the exam. The exam is also an interesting plot in and of itself, because it develops the world and gives the reader some actual information about what it is that hunters do (Gourmet hunters, for example)and some detail on the characters' pasts (Killua and Kurapika, for example). The exam comprises of relatively few fight scenes, and these 'fight scenes' are more often than not battles of wit coupled with a small amount of physical fighting. The tournament arc is mainly for the purpose of having fight scenes, but these fights show how the characters develop. So, it does have a purpose and I found it rather enjoyable (especially when Hisoka shows up). Of course, there is no major plot or anything major on the line, but hey, it was fun and gave the characters a chance to grow (and a chance to learn a major fighting skill). I can see how someone would disagree with me, though. The Yorkshin arc more than makes up for any deficiencies in the tournament arc. The Chimera ant arc does as well (the art in the tankoban volumes is far and above that of what most scans on the internet provide), and Greed Island, when not in a training sequence or talking endlessly about the cards, actually has a decent plot.
I agree on one more point: Netero is awesome.
I loved the Greed Island training sequences. I thought it was a great creative non-traditional way of upgrading the protagonists' skills and powers. Also Biscuit made the whole affair very entertaining.
There was nothing non-traditional about the Greed Island training sequences. It was practically paint-by numbers.
I just wanted to ask if you paid attention during the series at all?
They did say what Hunters are, they are whatever they want to be. There are many different types of hunters in the series (eg: gourmet hunters, head hunters, etc.). "Hunter" is just a title not a job. Also hunters are in high demand because they're strong and filled with specialists, so when the government officials need someone to do head hunting or when they want for someone to fulfill whatever mission there needs to be done, they contact the hunter association and request a hunter. Heck its explained on the main page what a hunter is. Hunters can do tough shady jobs off the books and can be hired by anyone as long as they have the funds (its why Kurapica got hired), and because Hunters are frequently stronger than the average person (it was explained that its actually illegal for non-hunters to know nen). Its kinda sad that they explain what a hunter is on the first two pages of the manga and yet you say you don't know what a Hunter is. 1 2 3 45 6 7 8 and9, Your complaining about something that was explained throughout the Hunter Exam.
Killua had no consequences from walking away from the exam (he did and it later on became a plot point), but Gon actually had a reason to become a Hunter, and if he didn't pass that year he would have wasted a year in finding his father, as he wouldn't have the resources needed. Also the duties of a Hunter appealed to Gon, as well its benefits. The Hunter exam is also very hard because its very dangerous and so is their world, in fact the Hunter Exam was safer than some of the dangers that Gon and Killua had to face over the course of the series. In other words had Gon not passed the Hunter exam it would have shown that he wasn't ready to venture out into the world to find his father. They say it several times in the Hunter Exam itself.
This is basic knowledge to the series which is explained in the main Hunterx Hunter page on this very website.
Yeah but that doesn't actually explain why such a vague title would come into being or what actual role in society it plays or any of that. 'Hunter' is just whatever the author needs it to be at the moment.
Why would there be a licensing bureau for 'guys who look for rare stuff'? Because it's a dangerous job. Why is it a dangerous job? Because they go after dangerous stuff. Why do they go after dangerous stuff? Because they're a licensed Hunter and nobody else is qualified. Etc. Etc. It's an Ourobourous job, eating its own tail. The simple fact that you listed off several types of hunters and none of them had a thing to do with each other is itself a demonstration of how nebulous the concept of a Hunter is. There is no real concept of a Hunter, just a title slapped onto characters that the author wants to make seem important or powerful by default.
That's a pretty weak consequence for Gon: just try again next year. It's not like there was anything hanging on him passing the exam this time.
I suppose the point of the licensing bureau is to give selected people the authority to travel, use Nen, and use the Internet freely. Now that I think about it, that sounds pretty authoritarian.
Why does there have to be a qualification for Gon to do whatever he wants? If you say, 'add interest and tension' there is- by his own convictions. That's the basis of the story, people doing what they want at the cost of their lives, drawn together because apparently Hunters have a lot of power to do whatever they want. Saying one of the main premise of the show (the job of Hunter, the other deconstructed characterization) is nebulous and pointless defeats the whole purpose of the story. Basically, you can't understand/accept the BASIC PREMISE, so you're fitting the rest of what you can understand/accept into a cookie cutter Typical Shonen mold. Er, no offense, it's just not your thing.
It's sort of not, by the way. It's like saying Puella Magica is a typical magical girl series because transformation sequences and glittery powers.
As of 2012, I totally agree this series has Jumped The Shark. I think the long hiatuses really gets into the pacing of the manga; the plot became stale, basically offered nothing new in the Shonen series and the author was banking on the long hiatuses to make his audience forget the staleness of the series. More and more broken "specialization" nen power was pulled out of thin air throwing the balanced "playing field" out of the window.
Gone are the days of incredibly short but gripping encounter of Kurapika vs. Uvogin, masterfully written Kurapika & co. vs. Phantom troupes, and even the "visit Killua's house" arc. The sad thing is in the beginning this series promised so much with all the established mysteries, epic settings, and Always Someone Better. The (somewhat) resolution of Gon father issues, crappy and downright disrespectful unprofessional art style, and hiatus with no end in sight just as the series is getting remade in the anime could just be the last straw that broke the camel's back.
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