This or That: Who is the Better Shonen Protagonist?

Hear Ye Hear Ye Princess Pinkie has returned with a New Anime Post

Salutations Dear Island Guests and Loyal Subjects, which I hope are one and the same. Shonen is probably the most accessible genre in anime. The desire to be more than our current selves, to grow more powerful and to be respected as a hero might dwell in all of us .. at least a bit. Yet Shonen Protagonists are often a tad .. bland.. made without a very dominant personality so we can place ourselves in their shoes and feel empowered. So what makes a good Shonen Protagonist in my eyes?! Today we find out by comparing a couple and picking my favourite.

Round 1: Gon Freecss and Izuku Midoriya

Let’s begin with two characters who represent the target demographic the best.  Gon and Midoriya are kids of an age that Shonen watchers would be.  They both love the colour green, they both have outfits I do not find very fashionable and they both work by enhancing their physical strength by having a story that is deeply connected to having a father figure playing an important role in their life. Both have high moral fiber and join an organisation that is there to protect human kind from all sorts of unspeakable evils.  Yet which of the two is the better character? To me there is no contest here at all, because I really do not like Deku as a main character at all.

Izuku Midoriya | Wallpaper de anime, Anime

 I totally get why he is the main character and I can see why people like him but I found him so boring I dropped Hero Academia for it. He’s almost literally Captain America.. a trope that has been there since the 40’s!  Steve Rogers is a wimpy boy, that dreams of/wants to be a soldier, like all his buddies. Even though he is not born with the physical capabilities a benefactor gives him a serum that turns him into a super soldier.  One of extremely high moral fiber that always does the right thing… even if it isn’t always the lawful thing.  Midoriya is the exact same character..except soldier has been replaced by the word hero.. and instead of serum , he got a hair.

I already made a post in which I wrote how bland Shonen main characters can be and Deku to me is the epitome of that. On the opposite site of the spectrum though is Gon. Who in many ways is similar but one who has actual layers. Starting with his Goal.. unlike other protagonists of the genre Gon has an objective goal, rather than a subjective one. What is “ a great hero?”  What is a Pirate King, What does it take to become Hokage?”  All these goals are final destinations, when (and not if)  the character reaches them, the manga/anime ends.  Gon’s story is different, he wants to find his dad. Given how often we see and hear of Gin we already know that will not be the end of the story. 

Hunter x Hunter (2011) – A closer look at Gon vs Neferpitou – blautoothdmand

 From the beginning we know his dad might be dead, maybe he is alive and the reunion will be touching, or maybe Gon will be angry with him.  He is written as a protagonist whose journey can go anywhere.  Gon also feels much more like a kid. He is fickle, naive and has a dark side.  He can be very empathic.. but he also has enough apathy to let Killua do the terrible things he some extent. Gon does what he does, for a very personal goal at times maybe even selfish, power and status is not a goal but a means to an end for him making him feel much more real. Midoriya chases in essence what everyone in that world chases.. or at least the cast chases, translated in this world Deku chases the American Dream, which is the most generic story, with a character that has no real flaws.. he is insecure sure that can be noted as a flaw .. but when it matters he always steps up, his flaws vanish . Gon is frustrated and angry, Gon has abandonment issues and these show up as nasty traits at times, which hinder the story or at least his growing curve in a significant matter. Therefore his base narrative as well as the road trough that narrative is so much more versatile and holds excitement… we truly don’t know how his journey will go. With Deku you can make very well educated guess, Gon keeps the audience surprised  which makes him one of THE best Shonen Protagonist period.  No contest here at all!

Son Goku Vs Monkey D Luffy

I would like to classify  Gon and Deku as more serious protagonists, despite the fact that Gon can be carefree, their journey has some gravitas. It’s not about enjoying themselves along the road. Enjoying yourself on your journey is a trope as well and what two characters better to portray that as Goku and Luffy.  The top two selling anime franchises of all time.  Goku and Luffy are both carefree, glutenous characters, who have access to several transformations and continue to get new ones as their journey goes along. They journey across their respective narrative worlds to face their worlds strongest fighters to prove their own worth.  They make plenty of friends along the way and show kindness to both friends and enemies. Unlike the previous bout this one is a lot closer for me to call and not just because I am watching Goku through nostalgia goggles.

Goku x female reader - Deeper - Wattpad

On paper Luffy does seem like the character that is better equipped for the win. His character arc is more dynamic and he is a much better person than Goku. He also has a lot more personality than Goku does from the get go as well as the one that is more consistently written. Some aspects of Goku’s personality faded over time, which can be explained because we literally see him grow up from a naive kid to a more aloof man. Goku is often hated upon for being a bad father who only wants to fight. However it is that very aspect that draws me so much to later Dragon Ball and Z-Goku. Toriyama told his readers that there is a toxic element in Goku. I do like the idea of this self destructive toxicity.. Once again it offers excitement. How often can it be done before Goku truly bites something off too big for him to chew?!  Unfortunately Goku was ruined , to an extent..not by Toyataro but by the fans. 

Luffy could win this match simply for the fact that he basically is aromantic and will never be a character that I can see having a kid. That means Luffy’s journey can only be achieved by Luffy. Z-Goku was to an extend designed to pass on the torch to his son! However fan complaints ruined this, they needed to see more Goku.. NOT Gohan. This reduced Goku’s most interesting character trait, his toxic need for growth and bigger challenges, to a non issue. No matter how insane Goku’s decisions will become.. it will always be alright because fans won’t allow him to bear the consequences of his mistakes too much. It made the Buu-arc more convoluted as everyone but Goku had to be benched in the end… and it contributed in Toyotaro making Goku more helplessly naive rather than toxic.. which ruined the Moro Manga arc at the end.  

Luffy grin peace signs | Manga anime one piece, Anime best friends, One  piece manga

Luffy is designed better, his goal is strictly tied to him so he can never be replaced. He WILL have to be the one to overcome obstacles or his goals will not be met. The interesting element of Goku is that he does not want to BE the strongest, he wants to FIGHT the strongest, he doesn’t mind losing once or twice if it means he can continue to improve.  However that is also his detriment..his goal is the ultimate form of subjective..especially now that we have been introduced to the realm of the gods, surpassing the gods and all the other universes. Goku’s goal can only be obtained if the writer can’t imagine anyone stronger.. yet Toyotaro found the solution through the Dragon Balls, with Granola wishing to be the strongest in the universe… which means ANYONE can become the new strongest person in the universe.. his goal goes on forever and we will never see it conclude. Luffy has an end goal, Luffy will reach his finish..he is a character that can win. In a way.. Goku is pacman and Luffy is Mario. For the Audience it is much more satisfying to see Mario save the princess and take her home.. rather than see pacman establish a new high score before trying again.,, at least the majority of an audience.. That is what ultimately puts Luffy above Goku still.

Yusuke Urameshi Vs Kurosaki Ichigo

So we have had the bouts of the young naive kids,  the airheaded but insanely powerful adults, what is next?  The grouchy kid that gets dragged into this lifestyle thing against their will of course. The Delinquent type character. The characters I chose to pit against each other are Yusuke and Ichigo,,, can you figure out which one of the two I watched in Dub?! Other examples of this type of hero would be characters like Inuyasha or a great many of the Jojo’s. However Yusuke and Kurosaki both get visited by a girl from the spirit world, tether somewhere between life and death and face enemies in that theme. Both of them have an evil form they have to control so this seemed like a good fit. 

Evolution Of Ichigo Kurosaki By Order of Power Strength *Current up to  Manga chapter 640* ((CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS)) - Album on Imgur

What defines these characters is that oftenly they “lack” a bit of a goal.  They usually have a goal “by proxy” or at least a goal caused by another person. Both Ichigo and Yusuke get more “jobs” rather than a goal they strive for with all heart and soul. Which can at times feel a bit “forced”  The reason why they put up with this thing is oftenly explained through a macguffin, like Inuyasha’s necklace or in Yusuke’s case being employed as a spirit detective. This is where Ichigo takes a small lead over his rival, his story feels a bit more natural. Rukia is his coach for his new powers and as he learns she gets in trouble because of him.. he feels obligated to help her and from there his story flows naturally…until he defeats Aizen. Yusuke is a lot less likeable and a lot more resistant in the beginning, in fact he never really stops being an asshat until the very end of the show. That though gives mister Urameshi a trait that Ichigo somewhat lacks. Consistency.  He bounces around from having romantic moments with Rukia to having kids with Inoue and from delinquent to overpowered hero that does cool poses.

Character growth is important and Ichigo is a character that grows a lot more than Yusuke.. however I do think Ichigo is also a prime example of it being done in excess.  While Ichigo does start off as a better person than Yusuke already , he loses a lot of the elements that define him in the beginning, ending up as some generic cool looking hero.  The biggest problem with Ichigo is that he really doesn’t fight all that much.  The first part of the series is fine.. but around the Espada Arc it kind of follows a certain format.  Ichigo’s old powers get overwhelmed, he goes to train somewhere  to gain a new power. Hell breaks lose everywhere around him  and his friends do all the fighting and as soon as they begin to lose Ichigo shows up late.. but looking all cool and more powerful, obliterating the current enemy.
Then mid fight we travel to an alternate universe for a few weeks,  return to see him finish off this enemy before he is overwhelmed by the next enemy or encounters a new problem.. he goes back to training.. and shows up late for his next fight. Looking all cool and stuff one again not really having a challenge. As a result Ichigo kind of becomes a gimmick in his own show.  After every other fight he goes to power up and learn stuff again.. vanishes , then poofs back looking all cool.

boton ✨ (jizmund) - Profile | Pinterest

Yusuke kind of does the opposite. He gets his finger gun attack and then for almost half of the series he doesn’t really learn a new technique.. he just can fire it a bit more often. Only when the Dark Tournament Saga begins does he learn a new technique.. except it’s kind of the same technique still. A blue beam power attack.. this one is a bit wider though. That’s dozens of episodes in though!  Then two story arcs beyond that he gets a third power and that’s really it. Oh yeah he also gets a platypus bunny duck thing that only does something once, but I can’t help but feel Yusuke really does not grow that much at all…. yet I am not sure if I mind. Change is great but it has to feel natural. The way Yusuke gets roped into being a spirit detective would make it so that he probably would never go fond of the job. He treats his girlfriend pretty terrible and Botan as well, but he is never really given a very good reason to change. Yes they treat him better than  he treats them but with Keiko that has been ongoing since before the series began change has to be natural and I think Yuske is an interesting case study of it not always being needed.

The last Archetype

Fairy Tail - Natsu dragon slayer roar - YouTube

I thought I would place Natsu versus Sawada Tsunayoshi here as both “fire” based people who can float in the air and do big fire attacks as well as some punches… but they are very different archetypes. Tsuna is more akin to Gon and Midoriya. He would beat Deku but lose to Gon. Natsu is the fourth archetype. The shouty anger issues shone the protagonist. Characters like Naruto and Asta would find their way on this list as well as Edward Elric, though he can also fit in the previous category. This is my least favourite archetype because it oftenly invalidates itself as time passes. The “Wild” characters start out as the Scrappy Doo of anime but are then quickly polished out into something else.  I get this is probably a cultural archetype for Japan where loudness equals rude and undisciplined and seeing them grow into respectable people is part of the journey.. but to me at times it feels like we do not meet the real protagonist until halfway into the series. 

I think Tsuna is how this trope is done correctly. Naked Tsuna who is the super mode of the first part of the series doesn’t always show up so we get to know the real Tsuna already before he turns into this obnoxiously present trope. Until he is ready to learn discipline.. but we got to know him already. But he is such a different take on it that I don’t think he classifies. So how about I let you guys decide? Who is your favourite, high spirited, loud and almost feral anime protagonist? Let me know in the comments! Do note that I think that none of the shows I mentioned are bad. Some are just not for me. I am kind of picky with what I want to see in my main character. What makes for a main character you like?! Type a comment while I go imagine my own ideal Shonen protagonist in my mid day nap! Because remember folks!  Friendship is Magic, but dreams are even more wonderful! Oyasumi.

Analyzing Anime: Suspension of Disbelief

Why do we like anime so much? Why do we need it over western media? We can find a drama  about a dying daughter both in anime as well as in Hollywood, we have Superman  where they have Goku. Genre wise except for maybe the fan service we don’t differ that much, yet if I had to choose never Western movies or shows or Never anime again I’d bow out the first one. Why can’t I consume local  stuff? I try to find my answer. To find that answer I must first understand what separates anime from Western Media for me in the first place. Where are they different?

Today I will address something I noticed when I was watching a Spider-man Cartoon passing on tv. Anime and Cartoons to me have a different line on how far they can push me before they break the suspension of disbelief. For some reason I can take a lot more weird stuff from anime than I could in cartoons?! I am not sure if I am the only one but this to me is a thing.
Let’s take a look at Spider-man for example. Spider-man is written very differently compared to most anime characters. While either side is heroic in a weird way at least to me western heroes and villains are described by their flaws. Spider-man  might not be the greatest examples.. but we know him as Peter Parker the somewhat geeky school kid that loves Mary Jane Watson (or Gwen Stacy). Batman..well that is Bruce Wayne.. he has no actual super powers he is just really smart. Superman is Clark Kent, he can fly and shoot lasers out of their eyes and fly but they are also weak to kryptonite.  He loves Lois Lane and when we root for Superman to be alright and be well we hope he finds his romance with his partner.

Now let’s compare our superhero shows with anime. Put them up against Luffy, Naruto and Goku.  What do all of these have in common?! They have no Alter Ego. Luffy doesn’t suddenly become Hank Mugiwara .. a dusty old liberian bloke, nor does he become “Rubberman” No the human and the super part are interconnected. Why does this matter? Well because we are less confronted with their limitations, we do not see them as human’s persé but more as the heroes. Which means I can take a lot more from those weirdo’s as those humans.  Good Example, the choice Spider-man has to make in the Sam Rami movie when facing the Goblin.. save the cable car or save Mary Jane. He saves both. That feels cheap, the villian would know how fast he is .. he faced him before. Make Spidey at least a bit flawed he is not a god.Yet would it be Naruto of Luffy or Goku to save all of them by some shenanigans I’d be fine with it. First of all there is not as much a dilemma for them because they are less human that whole appeal of torn between two worlds is not a thing, secondly breaking limits is much more a part of that media, rather then where Western Heroes are more focused of achieving within your limits. So anime would make me frown less in confusion.

Of course this does not only take place in Shonen shows this takes place in just about every genre. Let’s make a bold move and compare romantic super natural shows,  such as The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Medium and even less supernatural stuff like Grey’s Anatomy with the more outrageous Japanese romance genre of Harem shows.. just to make a point. When Elena Gilbert has to doubt between picking Stefan or Damon you could add Katherine in the mix to complicated things and Caroline to basically give Stefan his Harem but because it is western media your limitations are within being human.If you dehumanise them and make them want to partner up for very vampirish reasons or own fictional ones, the romance doesn’t work. What the hell are they doing we would ask.  Buffy’s romance are Angel Riley and Spike with Xander trying to fit in. While two are vampires, one a super soldier and one a loveable goofball in the end you can not make them to different. Everyone has to  have the same goals of planning to settle down, treat Buffy right, give her some peace. No one will join that romantic pursuit because they just think the other is cute, or heck for a misunderstanding.  If Sookie Stackhouse suddenly would be in a prearranged marriage with a demon would all think the writers have gone insane. Still.. vampire shoes are kinda like our variants of Harem aren’t they?!

Now.. let’s turn Buffy into an anime. Let’s place Angel, Riley Spike and Xander all in the same timeline. Riley instead of a plain super soldier is this ridiculous pretty boy who believes Buffy is the perfect woman and that their genetic offspring would be the most beautiful thing of all, thinking it’s his duty to create this beauty he pursues miss Summers. Spike doesn’t just fall hopelessly in love with her no instead he initially  does fall in love with her like in the orginal but this time when he asks for a soul he accidentally gets that of Buffies former boyfriend who died during the vampire attack in LA. Angel just wants to use her to lose a ancient gypsy that turns him into a woman during daytime, which he can break during a moment of pure happiness, so he just wants to bed her, but he actually begins to fall in love with her. Xander still stands no chance.. some things never change. Now as an anime I’d immediately see this working.. yet as a cartoon or life action show it would not.. why? Because they are anime characters.. they are on some other sort of level with other laws.. we can accept so much more from them.

Never felt I like this .. broke my suspense of disbelief.. somehow

Now let’s delve into the territory of drama and turn Breaking Bad in both a cartoon and into an anime. Both have a much higher suspense of disbelief and just can push the reality out of the window.. for this experiment I would like to see where the suspense breaks for me when slowly adapting this to other forms of media. For this example I will use the Fly in the Lab episode , as it is pretty self contained. Both in Cartoons and anime you can turn the fly into something more menacing. In both cases it could lead to an experiment blowing in Walter’s face chatring it black or resulting in some comical effect. In both cases we can turn the fly into something more menacing.. like a spy droid for Gus.. he controls to mess with Walter to get his batch to fail to make sure he will die or something. However where cartoons can not change Walt and Jesse while anime can.  We can see Jesse put on a jetpack in a cartoon and chase the fly away.. him spying the fly with a magic eye  seems weird.  Walt can invent a device to swat it.. yet he should not be able to change too much himself . Him creating a type of meth that gives him super powers seem out of cartoons range.

In anime though you can push a lot further. Jesse saying ‘Yeah Byakugan Bitch’ before his eye turn all white and veiny I can actually imagine. Anime Walt throwing a  disc shaped object or attack with pinpoint accuracy at the fly could remind you off the Pizza power he displayed earlier so he just kept that in the back for his enemies. Holding back is a pacing thing that is much more common in anime as in western media. Testing out your opponent rarely happens in Western comics. In manga and anime it is a constant. Western Narrative is a lot more straightforward, what you see is what you get. Superman and Batman rarely train, nor does Spiderman.. on very rare occasions they get new tech but over all western media characters deal with what they have. In basically any anime you can add on old lady that kills a fly by throwing a chopstick. Even in the more serious ones or dramatic ones, Bloom Into You for example. If Yu was bothered by a fly while pondering what she should do I could totally see her kill it with some super human action. Like tossing a chopstick or a pocky with sniper accuracy. I’d not notice anything to off.. in a way anime caters more to how they are different.. we can relate to THEM rather than that they should relate to us.  They don’t have to be relatable we will find something relatable about them.

This section title asks a very good question?! Why would I think a show is better if it is less relatable.. or further away from us?  The answer is, it doesn’t feel wrong as often. For a Western show to be good, it has to colour strictly within the lines. We know that it is right because we can it is coloured in between the lines.. or in reality we can sense it. We can sense if Tony Stark or Bilbo Baggins are being stretched too thin. Give Bilbo a Power to turn green instead of invisible and I would ask.. what were they thinking. Let Kazuma from  Konosuba wake up green and I would go like… who cursed him now?! The difference.. with Konosuba I am still thinking within the show I am not taken out of the plot yet with LOTR I am thinking of writing. Another good example is that very first episode of Star Trek the Next Generation. Encounter at Farpoint , an interdimensional being plagues the ship. With trials, time travel shenanigans and weird space jellyfish.  I felt very conflicted about this setting.. how do they balance this out? Yet would it have been an anime i would have consumed it without a single question. Exact same scenario. Where I watched the Star Trek episode as an observer through a screen, I would have watched the anime in world.

I would not go as far to call anime the more immersive experience, but once anime has you sucked in.. it can stumble a lot more before it spits you back out. The medium has less limits and as such we believe the worlds despite some really odd choices.  It can hide mistakes. Not everything we see in anime happens as we see it. Take a magical girl transformation.. I do not know how it would like seeing it as a spectator but I know the world does not fade away. When Menacing appears in front of Jojo characters I know they are not really there but I know what they mean. Now imagine Dr Octopus talking to spider-man but to indicate he is lying we see red flags appearing all around him or danger sounds.. it would feel jarring.

Anime has more options at its disposal to convey a message be it through exaggeration, parallel imagery or even side jokes. It all keeps us in that world while with Batman we ask.. would he really be able to lift that.. in Comic 73 page 12 panel 5 he was unable to lift an item that would weigh about as much. In anime.. not so much.. we can nitpick sure.. but all in all we can accept a whole lot more which makes it much more pleasant to watch, nothing seems fake because trough 90% of the medium, anything can happen.

Apologies for the bad quality.. but this. gif served my point way to well not to use!.

My Favorite Shonen: Hunter x Hunter

When I started anime, I only know Shonen, I never knew there were different genre. I thought Sailor Moon belonged in the same genre as well. After all, transformations, fighting evil brightly coloured attacks. It all felt the same. It did not matter to me because I loved and devoured it all. Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z Kai, Fate Stay Night, Sailor Moon. I loved it all to bits. Yet after  many hundreds of episodes that same, uniformity in the genre led me to fall out of love with it as well. I still love the tropes but I lost magic. It began to feel cheap and in retrospect None of these felt that great to me. Not a single shonen would make it even close to my top 10 anime ever.  Except for maybe one. No it’s not my Hero Academia, it is the delay plagued Hunter x Hunter that won my heart.

Shonen Fatigue

The weirdest thing about this show was that I watched it around the time my shonen fatigue was at its highest.  I dropped One Piece, dropped Shippuden and while I saw the end of Bleach I had little positive to say about the Fullbring Arc that ended the anime. Back than I was actually reading some shonen Manga though, mostly to read ahead and gain some closure on some of the series, except for One Piece. However Hunter X Hunter was very different to me. It felt fresher it felt more real. However this feeling did not immediately extend to the character of Gon. I didn’t really like his design nor his way fighting style was depicted. It felt so loose!

The episodes where he met the cast felt very generic and I was just about to drop it. However I decided to wait a few episodes after they had set up. I did like Leorio and Kurapika and Killua, just Gon felt a bit meh to me. The Hunter Exam was completely my type of shonen. I like those little competitions and tournaments. However throughout the entire first arc I never felt really impressed. I just stuck with it because despite of my Shonen Fatigue I usually liked this genre still that main character is soooo boring. For some reason I always have issues with a main character when they wear green. I have never been a fan of Yuseke from Yuyu Hakusho either and I am not the biggest Midoriya fan either. The nature of the challenges kept me invested and I thought Hisoka would be the first arc villain, which kept me interested enough.  The shounen fatigue was real though and sitting trough an entire arc that is soso might be a bit much for most but after that first arc ended , oh boy….

So many shonen

The short Zoldyck family arc  intrigued me, Killua was a much better character as Gon. Gon felt more like the “player” character. A main character made like a simpleton to be able to explain the world to both Gon and the viewers/readers in a less intrusive way. I really hate those other kind of exposure dumps “As you all know…… last night we have discovered …” If everyone knows there is no need to bring it up guys! Don’t talk to the audience if you don’t plan to break the fourth wall.  In a way Gon was like us viewers. Just his fishing rod as a weapon was sooo dumb, and his outfit was not very fashionable. I really liked the darkness of the second arc.  Then we got the Heavens Arena Arc and I was blown away. Wait.. now is the first time we get introduced to the ACTUAL fighting style of the world? That’s so interesting, sure I saw it in Katekyo Hitman before but this one felt more significant to me. As it changed something for me. Everything felt so earned in this anime. Never do we get a convenient power up, the main character doesn’t learn their first signature move until very late into the series. This show felt so much tinier and so much bigger at the same time. Rarely is Gon ever incredibly powerful or the strongest during the adventure. Except for one exception he is always just trying to catch up, close the gap or fight with the resources he has been trying to close the gap as well as possible.

Both the Greed Island and Chimera Ant arc felt like something completely unique as well, each arc had their own set of rules. Each arc was something different, showing that both Killua and Gon still only have had taken baby steps in the world of Hunter x Hunter. It made the world feel alive, and never had powers gone stupidly out of control. All powers , except for maybe the power of Netero and Meruem felt.. manageable.  Let me explain this by saying throughout the first few arcs basicly up until the end of the Chimera Ant arc it feels that powerwise we are more in the Dragon Ball area of power levels, compared to Dragon Ball Z. So many shonen now push their powers to mountain shattering punches in the first few arcs that the sense of progress is trivialised. Like how scaling from crushing a pebble to crushing a mountain is impressive, but from crushing a mountain to crushing a huge mountain… meh! Most Shonen resolve around the main character being one of the strongest after they learn some secret technique or gain some form of power. A bigger dog shows up, they need to gain a new technique , rinse and repeat. As if the world resets each story arc. Hunter X Hunter does it differently, it shows there are multiple tiers of skill , there is several levels and the main characters try to scale this, each time in a very new setting with a new atmosphere as if a series on their own! Which I find a great way to convey a challenge and to show diversity. They even switch up the protagonist. 

Hunter X Legos!

This show doesn’t shy away to take the focus away from the main character. The Zoldyck family arc already put a big emphasis on our favorite white haired assassin boy, the Hunter Chairman Election Arc, despite how flawed it is, took that a step further. We don’t do that “the hero is downed, lets insta heal him and see him return more powerful thing!”.. No! Down is down.. if a character is in the hospital or needs to recover it will take them actual time to recover. No sensu beans or chakra transfer in this one. As a result the stakes of this anime feel so much more real. .. except for when Badass hunters return as little chimera girls.  A cut, a broken arm, a bad night’s sleep. It all affects the characters so much more. Somehow Hunter X Hunter never pushes what seems to be completely impossible for humans. Sure they later develop the mystical powers of Nen, they still feel human. Compare this to Luffy, Ichigo or even Yamcha who still run while impaled a million times, can blow up the planet or gain new powers and transformations willy nilly. In Hunter X Hunter they use mini nukes to kill of their enemies because that is still more powerful. Thank you! That way all the powers feel earned and it is nice to see Gon’s compagnions gain the spotlight. This world feels about the closest to real life as Shonen go for me. 

Killua’s arc is a bit of a stinker though! However the same can’t be said about the Yorknew City arc which uses Kurapika as the main character. By Arceus, this is a great arc. Probably my favorite Shonen story arc along with the Chuunin Tournament and Katekyo Hitman Reborn’s final anime arc. In this arc we follow Kurapika as he seeks vengeance on those who wronged him. Given so much depth to his character, but also fleshing out the posibilies of Nen so well. Let’s compare this anime with Lego’s for a moment.  The Hunter Exam Arc is basically your standard lego build. You know those classic red and white bricks from the age of lego before everything was an overpriced movie scene or something with it’s own animated series. It’s some solid groundwork but nothing special. The Zoldyck family arc then had you build something with a lot less blocks. An anxious but quite fun build. During the Heavens Arena Arc we get shown.. “Hey did you know there is something called Lego Technic?  With a little engine you can make things move! Here’s how it works!
After you learned about the existence of those special lego’s the next arc takes you away from your journey for a moment just to highlight what is possible with Lego Technics. A showcase  of Nen Powers, a parade of colourful and powerful foes, with mental games, staying true to oneself and a charismatic big bad! All the while you expect Gon to show up having developed his own powers of screen like Kurapika did. .. but no! This is not his story. We see the potential of Nen , which allows us to wonder… what Nen Powers will Gon get? Well guess what! It’s extremely limited! Even Killa’s Nen is still very basic. Just like when you are playing with Legos. That guy that is really good at it can show you how it’s done to open your mind ..but you still gotta build a lot of basic thingies in order for you to understand the concept well enough to do something special. That’s exactly what Hunter X Hunter does for me. 

Slow Burn

Hunter X Hunter is one of the best paced Shonen I have ever seen.  Where Naruto Bleach and One Piece have deeply flawed pacing this to me is a shining example how a narrative is paced. (Not talking about the manga production or health issues of the mangaka). The only other Shonen that comes close in terms of great pacing is Hero Academia. Yet that series I still find very tropelike. Midoriya and All Might are the good guys and they fight the evil guys. Hunter offers a bit more debt. Meruem ain’t that EVIL of a guy he just is bad for the world. In his own way he kinda makes sense. There was some kindness in his heart. Chrollo very much cares for his Troupe Members and even prefers to be arrested or killed if it safeguards the continuation of his organisation. Hisoka is a loose cannon. Rarely do we get an *evil laugh* type of villain. Maybe the Zoldycks.. but that’s about it. Never are the heroes THAT good as well. Most of the time they do badass stuff they are inspired by vengeance rather than saving the world. Which makes it all just so much more real. Again so much more human and on a smaller scale than we usually deal with in these Shonen. We follow people in a big world  but they don’t become a runner up world martial artist in season one! Most of them all small fish in a very big pond.

This results in a briljant Shonen anime that can tell a new story each time while it still feels fresh and plausible. While I do doubt we will see the series continue far enough to ever reach its full potentials, as long as you drop off after the Chimera Ant arc, this show will definitely give you some tingly and happy to be a fan. However you really have to wait until the Heavens Arena Arc to fully see that potential come to life. Which is kind of funny, the characters grow at a very mallow pace, the manga crawls forward in a snails pace and it will also take a long time to really get to the good stuff. So if you have that three episode rule this show will easily lose you. Give it a try anyway, don’t binge it just take your time and watch an episode whenever you know nothing to watch! I will tell you will find there is a lot of music in this one! And first comes rock.