Roughly ten years ago I read Hunter x Hunter (circa 2009). I was 14/15 at the time and just a bit too young and naive to enjoy the manga/anime to it’s fullest. I loved it, that’s for sure, but did I get the nuance, the queercoding? Unclear. I did latch on to the queer coded antagonist, but it would be years before I even heard of queercoding much less figure out how to look for it. All I knew at the time was that my favorite character was the very flamboyant clown who was horny for bloodlust.
Recently, I flew headfirst back into Hunter x Hunter. It’s really great and it’s really even better than I remember. I can’t say you can call this a traditional book review as I’m mostly just going to talk about what I love about the manga.
- It’s basically Naruto with a smaller, more fleshed out cast, on speed run. And also better, more self-contained arcs. The plot actually moves forward at a decent pace without sacrificing character development Within 13 volumes, you get through three entire arcs. If you enjoyed Naruto initially, but got annoyed with/tired of it quickly you might enjoy HxH.
- It’s really funny, but also really emotional and it can definitely get heavy too. The humor doesn’t feel out of place against the heaviness though.
- The entirety of Kurapika’s character. I did not appreciate this boy enough when I read HxH the first time around. Kurapika is drawn in a way that tends to reserved for female characters, with big eyes, what looks like eyeliner and a small mouth. His clothing is also very androgynous, he’s even mistaken for a girl at points, but the narrative is very clear that he’s a guy. Adding to this further, in the anime he even has a female voice actor. This has led to some Choice™ trans headcanons by fans.
- There may or may not be a canon trans character? I’m not actually far enough along in the manga to have met this character, but apparently there is some gender incongruity with Killua’s sister Alluka. The fandom as I’ve seen it seems to have taken it as canon and running with it, but I can’t weigh in on it myself just yet. I am definitely looking forward to getting there though.
There are some things that people might want to be wary of getting into HxH. It’s definitely not for everyone.
- Earlier I compared HxH to Naruto. The violence in HxH is much more graphic that anything I can remember from Naruto.
- Hisoka’s horniness for violence is explicit, there are allusions to erections. It’s not subtle.
- In relation to point two, Hisoka expresses interest in seeing how Gon, the 11/12 year old protagonist, develops his fighting prowess throughout the series. This is NOT an inherently sexual interest, but certain areas of the fandom see nothing wrong with shipping an 11 year old with someone who’s an adult at worst and an older teenager at best.