Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi: A Ten Year Retrospective

Volume One Cover Feat. Gon Freecs
Hisoka the clown

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.

Kurapika
  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

  1. Earlier I compared HxH to Naruto. The violence in HxH is much more graphic that anything I can remember from Naruto.
  2. Hisoka’s horniness for violence is explicit, there are allusions to erections. It’s not subtle. 
  3. 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. 

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

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[Edit: Originally published December 3, 2016]

A mythological adventure story where everyone is queer. The main character, Pen, is a bi/pan girl. Her love interest is Hex, a trans man. Their other companions, Ex and Ash two gay men. Ash is a man of color who is described as being literally the most gorgeous. It’s a great cast.

I was concerned, as I always am when there’s a trans character, about how Hex would be written. But it was done fabulously. I am definitely happy with how he was portrayed. And he was the love interest! He had a character that was formed around other things than just him being trans. That was obviously an important part of his story, but he also had tattoos and knew how to use a sword, loves junk food, is a recovering addict, and collects books. He’s a multifaceted character and it’s just fantastic. 

Fans of Greek Mythology this is a book for you. Things keep popping up that seem like they’re from The Odyssey and they actually use the book to try an navigate their world, which has become a post apocalyptic wasteland.

The main character is Pen and her goal is finding her family. She’s lead to believe that they’re alive after the Earth Shaker that destroyed seemingly everything. It’s on this journey to find her parents and just survive in the waste of the world, that she meets, Hex, Ez, and Ash. 

Warnings:

  • There are a couple sex scenes between Pen and Hex. It’s nothing graphic, but they are there.
  • Eye injury. There are two times in the book where a character loses an eye or sustains an eye injury. It’s a little bit graphic, but not terrible. As someone who is bothered by eye stuff this wasn’t bad at all. 
  • Drug usage and mentions of. While Hex does talk about having used drugs, that’s not the biggest part of the warning. There is a section that is based of the Lotus eaters in The Odyssey. 
  • Parental death. There’s a lot of death because end of the world and there are very few people left alive, but the death of Pen’s mother towards the end is a little bit more than most of the other mentions of death we get. 

I would highly, highly recommend this book. Finally, it’s genre fiction with queer protags. Not one, but four. 

You can get the book here.

Related Reviews: Changing Times, The Song of Achilles, Eggshells

Snaps: 

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StreetSlam: Wishes of a Broken Time by Leon Langford

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[Edit: Originally published July 30, 2016]

Hold onto your seat belts because this book is a wild ride from start to finish. 

Devin Maxwell joins Titan Force after his mother is killed by a menacing green beast. His goal? Bring her back to life. 

Simple story, pretty cliche, right? 

Cliche yes, simple no. The plot is much more intricate than I expected. You’ve got the green energy monster responsible for the death of Devin’s mother, you’ve got a man planning to use a young girl to cause insurmountable death and destruction, you’ve got a rogue agent with an unclear agenda, and that’s not even everything. It can be a bit confusing, but it works out.

However, not every plot piece is tied up at the end, in fact, the book leaves you with more questions than get answered. There’s a reason, it seems, that the cover of the book declares it to be “Volume One.”

StreetSlam is action packed to the point of rollercoaster and I love it. Where does the fight scene take place? Literally everywhere, also I think you mean fight scenes. Palatial mansion, on the open highway, a mall. The real question is where doesn’t a fight take place. The one thing I’ll say is that the fight scenes can get long. The fight scenes strike me as very anime in their style, they’re the kind of fight scenes you might find in an anime/manga like Naruto and the weapons like something out of Final Fantasy 7. 

As much as I loved the fight scenes, my favorite parts of the book were the characters. They were so amazingly developed and diverse. I mean, just take a glance at the cover to get an idea. It’s a stellar cast of characters and I promise you’ll come out with at least three characters that you adore. 

Issues and warnings: 

  • There was an issue of women getting killed off (or presumably killed off) to further male character development/provide angst for the protag.
  • There are some minor inconstancies. Such as a characters hair color sometimes being brown and sometimes being blond. It’s not a huge thing, but it can throw you out of the text a bit.
  • Typos. There’s not an enormous amount, but it’s definitely more than just one or two things. Sometimes it took rereading a sentence a time or too, but it was nothing that threw me too terribly out of the story. 
  • There were a few instances of fatphobia coming from various characters.
  • Animal injury. There’s a shapeshifter bad guy who turns into animals, he gets his ass kicked.
  • Violence of a level pretty typically for a fight driven action packed book. Descriptions of blood and injury, but nothing I’d call over the top gore.

Despite the issues that popped up while reading I really enjoyed this book. It was very fun. It was definitely tropey and cliche at parts, but that was just part of the fun honestly. Sometimes you just need something fun and tropey and StreetSlam delivers. 

@blackexcellence101

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: The Valhalla series.

Snaps:

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman

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[Edit: Originally published May 28, 2016]

I love that this is a story within a story. I love the effect of a book being one story written by an author and then edited by another, (but in all actuality author and editor are the same person). A very similar thing happens in House of Leaves

Goldman tells us in various introductions (for various editions) about his troubles with the Morgenstern estate as well as about the making of the movie. All of this framed like real things that happened when, in fact, they are just fiction. The Princess Bride (and Buttercup’s Baby) are treated as a slight fictionalization of real events with real people. It’s not fiction, but a history of Westley, Buttercup, Fezzik, and Inigo.

The story is fantastic, “True Love and High Adventure” just as advertised. I’m not even bothered about the heterosexual romance cause it’s just… it’s The Princess Bride. Also it felt like there was more “High Adventure” than really obvious “True Love” scenes. The true love got threaded through all the adventure scenes, and it was done so well sometimes you almost forget that it’s there.

One thing I’ll note is that there’s an interactive bit! Originally, when the book was first published, you could write in to the publisher and get an “additional scene” to the book (I won’t spoil it, but it’s not quite what you think you’re getting). Now, thanks to the internet, you can go to website for the book, and enter your email and get the additional bit that way. Very cool and interactive, I really liked it. 

If you loved the movie, you’ll love the book it’s as simple as that. I put off reading it after I bought it cause it was kind of thick and I was worried I wouldn’t have time to read it. I will say I’m glad I waited until the summer because I was able to finish it rather quickly. I do believe that if at all possible, The Princess Bride should be read without interruption. Not to say that you need to read it in one sitting, but you should not get sidetracked and stop in the middle to read something else (which is a bad habit that I have). 

Now I mentioned Buttercup’s Baby earlier. Buttercup’s Baby is the sequel to The Princess Bride. It tells what happens to Buttercup, Westley, Fezzik, and Inigo after the events of The Princess Bride, as well as (and you may have already guessed it from the title) Buttercup and Westley’s child. It’s not the whole book, just the first chapter, there’s a lot of “editor’s notes” surrounding this, in fact there’s an entire explanation section before Buttercup’s Baby begins. About why there’s only one chapter and the hopes that Goldman will be able to finish the book at some point.

All in all, it’s wonderful and clever and definitely a must read. Particularly if you’ve already seen the movie. 

You can get the book here.

Snaps:

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