Thursday, May 25, 2017

Discovering anime: Hunter X Hunter

My two elder daughters (12 and almost 14) are heavily into Japanese culture in general, and anime / manga in particular. Both are learning Japanese language at school, and their level of excitement about our planned Japan trip next year is growing by the minute. (So long as I don't spend tooooo long dwelling on the flying-there part, so is mine. Seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom has been a lifetime goal for some years!)

One thing that my kids have introduced me to, that is a whole new world of revelation for me, is anime. (They both also love manga, but I have yet to actually read one - something I must rectify soon). They are both devotees of several anime franchises, and have roped my partner and I into watching a few movies with them. I took them to see the beautiful film Your Name over the summer (seriously good film, I highly recommend), and we've dug up classics like My Neighbour Totoro for family viewing. We haven't yet managed to see this year's big hit, A Silent Voice, but it's on our list to get to very soon.

My 12 year old is also very committed to my TV series anime education. I tend to have one viewing or playing activity on the go with each member of my family at any given time - it serves as an inexpensive, easy, and relaxing way to have some bonding time with each one individually. With my husband, we are currently working our way slowly through a complete rewatch of the X-Files (we're almost at the end of season 1). With my almost-14, I am watching Star Trek DS-9 (we've previously done Star Trek Voyager, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis). With my 8 year old, I play a couple of rounds of an online game we both enjoy, called, most days (a round takes about 10 minutes, so it isn't a big time hit).

With the 12 year old, though, the viewing of choice (hers!) has been a 2011 anime series called Hunter X Hunter. The episodes are about 20 minutes in length, but there are 148 of them, so at the rate of 4-6 a week, it's taken a long while to get to where we are now (within 20 eps of the end).

Watching anime has been such an interesting experience for me. Reading subtitles changes the viewing experience in subtle ways that both enhance and complicate the enjoyment of the story. Learning the tropes and norms of anime storytelling has been fascinating. I've become quite mesmerised by the visuals - it's really an entirely different beast to Western cartooning, and one that I connect with a lot more deeply.

Hunter X Hunter itself is strange, often complicated, sometimes a little dull (they drag out the fight sequences like WHOA), but also sometimes extraordinarily engaging. The two main characters, Gon and Killua, are enormously appealing without being syrupy (well ... Gon is a little ray of sunshine for most of it, but Killua is dark and tortured from the start). The plot arcs (we're currently in the longest and goriest, the Chimera Ant arc, but it was preceded by four earlier arcs) are effectively self-contained stories that we are carried into by the progress of Our Young Heroes (Gon and Killua). Some are much more exciting than others. Some are much more disturbing than others. Some are better written than others. I'm not used to quite this amount of variation across a linear series, I must say - it does almost feel like series-within-series sometimes.

So, as we approach the finish line with Hunter X Hunter, my 12 year old has already started putting thought into our next anime series adventure. I must admit, I am not unwilling (although I have drawn the line at something called Tokyo Ghoul that she is currently obsessed with). My anime education is likely to advance greatly over the coming years!

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