Following Chimera Ant – where Hunter x Hunter challenges humanity’s collective existential crisis in an arc that is equal parts uplifting and depressing – manga artist Yoshihiro Togashi knew exactly what his emotionally exhausted viewers needed. Someone to hate. Pariston Hill fits this role perfectly.
In seventh grade, my friend Jackie thought it would be fun to have our fortunes told for her birthday party. After loading up on Chinese takeout and piling into her mother’s station wagon, we arrived at a small, one-story house on Main Street. Wedged between doctors’ offices and minor law firms, a large neon sign stood outside of the house that read, “Madame Athena’s Fortune Telling” followed by a list of divination types: palm-reading, tarot, and the like.
Chattering nervously, we waited on a couch in the living room. One by one, we went into a small side room. My turn approached when my friend Erica exited the room, smiling widely at whatever fortune she had received. I walked in, greeted by a small woman approximately the age of my mother, and a folding card table with two chairs.
“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.