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Enter the spiders
on August 30, 2009
"Hunter X Hunter Volume 4" is the last volume of the shortish anime series, and it's also drastically different from the entire storyline that precedes it. Not only is it far darker and bloodier, but Kurapika and his quest for revenge become the center of attention rather than the goofy and less developed Gon -- and it's a brilliant piece of work, if a rather unsatisfying end.
On a trip back to Whale Island, Gon and Killua learn of a box that Gon's father left for him -- and among the contents is a video game memory card with the dangerous, infamously rare "Greed Island" on it. The boys immediately start trying to raise money on internet auctions and casinos, as they make their way to Yorknew City. Oh, and Leorio rejoins them for the time being.
Meanwhile, Kurapika has taken on a job as one of several Hunter bodyguards for a psychic Mafia girl, who is planning to attend the auction in Yorknew City. The Phantom Troupe is also interested in the Mafia's booty (not sure why), and the girl that Kurapika and his new compatriots are guarding. With Hisoka's help, Kurapika plans to find and kill the Spiders with his new power -- a series of deadly nen chains.
But when the auction items vanish from the vault, Kurapika ends up facing the first of the Phantom Troupe -- but they are soon as bent on vengeance as he. Worse, his young friends have become enmeshed in the Troupe's web.
Leech infestations, impalements, flesh-shredding punches, shattered bones, a man slowly eaten alive, and Kurapika's heart-squishing chain -- "Hunter X Hunter Volume 4" is a pretty gruesome affair. This is especially true because the entire arc really revolves around Kurapika's quest for revenge -- sure, there's some fluffy subplots about Gon and Killua selling stuff on the Web, but they pale by comparison.
And the writers wrap the entire storyline in a murky cloak, which seems to be half mob thriller and half dark coming-of-age. They also weave in some truly astonishing fight scenes (a multi-person fight against nen ninjas) and bleakly intricate thriller storylines (Gon and Killua's capture by the Spiders); viewers also get some glimpses of the heretofore unknown Phantom Troupe, who are terrifying in their sheer power.
Even the animators seemed to polish their work further, with some hauntingly shadowed, purple-toned images that are both beautiful and horrible -- the bloody ballet between Kurapika and his enemy, or the sociopathic Chrollo "conducting" terrorist attacks. The one problem would probably be that though the anime series ended here, it leaves several plot threads hanging loose. The story was picked up in some OVA episodes, but for the moment this is it.
These episodes also flesh out Kurapika into the best-rounded character of the series, as well as a truly tragic figure. He's a gentle, peaceful young man who has intentionally made himself into the ultimate nen fighter, despite his hatred of death and blood. His devastation after he kills for the first time is heartbreaking. And we see more of the iron-clad determination and resourcefulness of Gon and Killua, even in the worst circumstances.
There are also a new round of well-rounded, intricate supporting characters. Kurapika's ugly-but-kind friend Melody is a particular standout, and the Phantom Troupe turns out to have their own internal loyalties and personal ties. Their leader's doe eyes are rather freaky, though.
"Hunter X Hunter Volume 4" is a brilliant ending to a previously solid and slow-moving series, with a tragic edge and plenty of action. A dark affair, but a great one.