A One-in-a-Hundred-Thousand Talent.

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“You should have more confidence. You are progressing at an incredible pace. You’re a one-in-a-hundred-thousand talent. However, those two are one-in-ten-million talents.”

-Wing, to Zushi, Hunter x Hunter 2011, episode 35

In traditional shounen fashion, Hunter x Hunter‘s setup necessitates power ups for its leads, logically followed by more power-ups. Protagonist Gon Freecss has set out to find the father who abandoned him as a child to pursue his own interests as a hunter. His father is one of the most powerful and elusive hunters in existence, therefore requiring Gon to increasingly become stronger. Gon’s first test is to pass the rigorous Hunter Exam, the latter portion of which teaches Gon to use a power called Nen.

Hunter x Hunter follows the standard narrative, providing ample mooks for Gon and best friend Killua Zoldyck to cut their Nen teeth on. It is in their Nen training that the traditional problem of the shounen power formula rears its ugly head. When characters become stronger, they must be balanced with more powerful adversaries. Creators run the risk of their protagonists becoming so overpowered that the strength of all others in the series is undermined.

How does Hunter x Hunter portray how powerful Gon and Killua have become without sacrificing the audience’s suspension of disbelief, or worse, the viewers’ emotional investment in Gon and Killua’s improvement?

The answer comes in the pint-sized martial arts student, Zushi.

zushi, hunterxhunter, hunter x hunter, heaven's arena arc, zushi crying

Zushi first encounters Gon and Killua en route to floor 50 of Heaven’s Arena. All three boys are attempting to climb up to train their fighting abilities. It is conveniently through Zushi that the two best friends are introduced to Nen teacher Wing. Throughout their training with Wing, Zushi nips at Gon and Killua’s heels, quickly realizing that the two have far more natural talent than Zushi ever will. What it takes him months to learn, Gon and Killua master in mere hours.

The test that measures their Nen ability is easily passed by both Gon and Killua, where Zushi is told by Wing to train for a few more weeks. It is obvious that Wing believes that Zushi has potential; however, it pales in comparison to that of Gon and Killua. As Wing says to Zushi, they are one-in-ten-million talents, where Zushi is only one-in-ten-thousand. Here, Hunter x Hunter illustrates Gon and Killua’s prospective power while framing their ascension to such power in a human light. The floor 200 “newbie hunters” are fodder for Gon and Killua’s growth. Zushi acts as a benchmark for how far they could go. Gon’s fight with Hisoka shows the immense gap that still exists.

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Throughout his training with Gon and Killua, Zushi suffers from several crises of confidence, spurred on by none other than his own master, Wing. Zushi is easily able to compare himself to the two prodigies and realize that they are naturally more talented. At one point in their collective training, he asks Gon and Killua to stop, under the guise of needing rest, lest he lose confidence. Killua picks up on this and they cease training for that day, sparing Zushi’s feelings so he can come back more determined instead of less.

However, as a Nen user, Zushi can still feel the presence of others relatively well. Specifically, he is in tune with Wing’s emotional state. When Wing becomes both excited and afraid at the prospect of training Gon and Killua, Zushi can feel it. He can feel that his master is excited to teach someone other than himself. He can briefly feel that Wing is more thrilled to teach them than he is to teach Zushi. To his credit, Zushi says nothing. There are hints of discouragement in his demeanor – the aforementioned request to stop training, his assertion that being told that he is a one-in-a-hundred-thousand talent means nothing if Gon and Killua are two-in-ten-million – but in the end, Zushi chooses to keep moving forward, assuring Wing that he will catch up one day.

“I’m glad to have met you! You have set a worthy mark for me to pass.”

-Zushi to Gon and Killua, Hunter x Hunter 2011, episode 36

It is doubtful that Zushi will ever catch up to Gon or Killua. Killua echoes these sentiments while Gon, ever cheerful, states that he looks forward to that day. When Zushi catches up to where Gon and Killua are at the end of Heaven’s Arena, they will have advanced beyond what Zushi may be capable of. Although Zushi cheerfully waves goodbye to the two prodigies, there is a lingering sense that he will never stand next to Gon or Killua as an equal. They are leads in this series, where Zushi is not.

10 comments

  1. I love how this is framed, just as I love how HxH deals with the situation. It’s been so long since I’ve seen that episode or arc, and even longer since I read them. But it really is a good example of how well thought out this series is. Often, I think of the ridiculous expansions of power that happen in a shounen show, and how that can ruin my excitement for it. All those formerly interesting and heavily interwoven characters tossed to the side as fodder, or mere spectators.

    Pardon me for using Dragonball/Dragonball Z, but you have Tien who at one point was an intimidating and ferocious opponent for Goku, but not long into DBZ he’s practically completely irrelevant, aside from a losing battle and holding off the main villain in the Cell arc for a few moments. A dead character. Then there’s Vegeta, who may have seemed like a great, incredible talent, but never measured up to Goku. But he hung around long enough to be a memorable character. And it was a pretty emotional moment when after all those years he had to finally admit that being a prince and formerly the greatest of his species meant nothing anymore.

    In HxH though, it is superiorly done because Zushi can be so easy to relate to if you’ve played a sport with someone really talented, played a video game with someone really talented or tried to enter yourself in some sort of writing contest and compared yourself to superior competition. Unless you actually become some famous, successful professional, you can relate to watch Zushi is going through. You’re good, but not THAT good. It’s sobering, sad and real. It’s one of the reasons why I think this could be the best shounen battle manga/anime ever made.

    1. Yeah, most, if not all, of us are Zushi and that’s why it works so well. It’s sometimes heartbreaking to watch how hard he tries knowing that he’ll never be able to catch up to Gon and Killua.

      Right now I’m in the Greed Island arc, which is basically a huge shounen training arc. Again, I love what Togashi does here by making this gigantic video game from Ging to Gon, offering an easy excuse to power-up while keeping it heartfelt and interesting.

      Here’s where I need to admit that Dragonball did not capture my attention whatsoever, although I understand that it is to many of my friends what Sailor Moon is to me. ^ ^

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. Whilst the Greed Island arc is the weakest in the series, imo. It does have its moments. The introduction of Biscuit or “bisky”. And the infamous Hisoka nude scene. Nothing beats Killua calling Bisky a gorilla though, a laugh out moment for me.

  2. Hunter x Hunter is a beast in multiple ways. It’s unlike anything out there. I started Yu Yu Hakusho a month ago and the difference in writing ability was huge. Hunter x Hunter never made me bat an eyelid at the protagonists powers. I never sat down and questioned how these kids could survive what came their way. They’re not invincible. They’re not palladins of justice. They are human beings who have been through hell and have much talent. The whole build-up of power is well excecuted and feels natural. Togashi and Madhouse deserve all the kudos they can get.

    1. I’m making my way through the recent anime first, and then will watch week-to-week while going back to the 90s version to compare directorial styles. It has already been an amazing ride and I’m only on episode 64.

      And oh man, I dropped Yu Yu Hakusho after a few seasons because it became really repetitive for me. Shounen action isn’t usually my thing, but I am loving Hunter x Hunter for all of the reasons you mention.

  3. The heavens arc will forever be known for one word: SCHWIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!. York New city is one of the best arc in the series, imo. As it puts Kurapika right in the center and the thick of things. And you get to see the group responsible for the decimation of Kurapikas clan.

  4. After this arc when things become more “magical” due to these nen powers, is where I truly feel the writer’s mastery of shounen.

    Through training and hardwork, anyone’s nen can become strong and equally powerful to everyone else’s… And instead of level-ups, we see a form of contract where prices must be paid in proportion to power (ability only useable on a specific enemy otherwise will kill self, permanently trading vitality for temporary raw strength, temporarily heightened senses at expense of permanently reduced senses, etc.).

    There are no beyond reason ass pulls of sudden main character power up. It also helps that a lot of these abilities are hard to compare directly.

    Forgive my lazy ipad writing.

    Great blog and post btw. I will be try to visit regularly now.

    1. I’m up to episode 93 now (just saw Gon’s date with Palm, hehe) and I can definitely see this. Everyone shown in the series has a unique give and take in wielding their respective powers. I love the series all the more for it because it requires every character to make choices, and consider the consequences of their actions.

      Thank you so much. That means a lot to me. ^ ^

      1. I think you’re coming on to the next arc. And it’s the longest arc in the series. If you like a lot of action, then for a shouen series, it picks up nicely.

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