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.

  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. 

Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako


[Edit: Originally published July 23, 2016]

This was quite possibly the sweetest thing I have ever read and I am ridiculously disappointed that I can’t find the next two volumes of the manga for under 100 dollars. 

Wandering Son is about two transgender children and their self discovery and how it progresses through a year at school. There’s a young trans girl, Nitori Shuchi, and a trans boy, Takatsuki Yoshino. It was very sweet and it portrayed the gender discovery process very well.

There’s a school play that the class both kids are in puts on at the end of the year for the graduating students. The play is gender swapped, meaning the girls are playing the boy roles and the girls are playing the boy rolls. For Shuchi and Yoshino this plays a large role in them experimenting with their gender. Yoshino gets her hair cut and finds she really likes looking like a boy. Shuchi, who’s been conflicted about wearing dresses, finds something that he’s comfortable with. Neither of them are out to their parents and they find comfort in each other about what they’re going through. 

There’s an introduction in the beginning of the book that talks about gender in Japan. Japan and the Japanese language deals with gender differently than English does. The introduction is definitely important to read in order to understand the translation choices that have been made regarding gendered language for Shuchi and Yoshino. 

You may have noticed I referred to them with gendered pronouns that reflect their gender assigned at birth in an earlier paragraph. I did this because both Suchi and Yoshino are in that pre-transitional not out state where they’re only out to each other and no one else and that’s how they’re gendered, for the most part, in the manga. This may change in later volumes, but I’ve only read volume one.

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: The Heart of Thomas and Symptoms of Being Human

The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio

JULY 20, 2016The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio


[Edit: Originally published July 20, 2016]

The Heart of Thomas begins with a young boy, Thomas, the titular character, committing suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. He’s doing so after being rejected by the boy he’s in love with.

Cut to the prestigious boarding school that Thomas was attending. His death was an accident, it had snowed and he fell through a gap in the rail. This is the story that everyone believes until, Juli, the boy who’d scorned Thomas’s interest in him, receives the suicide note that Thomas left him. 

The story that follows is the story of Juli coming to terms with his guilt along with coming to terms with himself. Something happened to Juli, you’re not sure what, but it’s hinted at through scars and a fearful refusal to enter a particular room. You learn later that this is because he was assaulted the previous year by a group of students. It seems implied that the abuse was partially sexual in nature, but this is a Shojo Manga from the 1970s and nothing is super explicitly stated. Frankly I missed it the first time around, and I had to go back and look for it after there was mention of sexual assault in the introduction. 

While Juli is struggling with his trauma a new force enters, a boy named Erich who is practically the spitting image of the dead Thomas. There is an immediate rift between Erich and Juli, though Juli is a little obsessed with the boy because the appearance is so similar that he sometimes struggles to separate the two. Erich also spends a large portion of the story very angry that he keeps getting conflated to Thomas. 

The story is heavy. It’s not a light hearted romance. In fact there is no attempt at romance that goes well, though Thomas’s death is the only death related to romance things. The real heart of the story is dealing with trauma with Juli and coping with codependence and sense of self with Erich. Erich and Juli are not the end game though that would be a reasonable assumption as you watch their relationship progress. 

The Heart of Thomas deals with harder topics and has characters who make bad choices, it’s dramatic yet doesn’t tilt too far into the world of unbelievable. It’s a very well written and compelling story. More complex than I think you’ll find in most other Shojo manga.

You can find it here.

Related Reviews: Wandering Son Vol 1