After having it enthusiastically recommend to me several times, I finally started reading Hunter x Hunter earlier this year. I loved it instantly– so much so that I’m already halfway through the manga just a few months after I started. When the chance arose to review one of the films, Hunter x Hunter: The Last Mission, I eagerly took it. The film was recently released in a two-disk DVD/Blu-Ray set by Viz Media. It isn’t canonical to the manga or anime adaptation, although if you want to go in knowing all the characters then it would be best to at least finish the ‘Greed Island’ arc before watching the movie. Noncanonical anime films can be very hit-or-miss, so how did this one turn out? Is it good?
At the beginning of the movie I was excited. Admittedly I was biased by my predisposition toward enjoying Hunter x Hunter, but the first twenty minutes are so are solid. The colors are nice and bright, we get to see all of the main cast as well as some supporting characters, and we’re prepped to expect a tournament at Heavens Arena. It’s a nice upbeat start that promises some solid action.
Unfortunately, the film gets quite boring once the plot gets going. The main problem is how unremarkable the antagonists, and by extent the conflicts, are. The movie basically follows the common noncanonical spin-off formula of “old, previously unseen threat emerges, just to be thwarted by the end.” Gon and his friends are up against a whole evil organization, and the ninety minute runtime does little in the way of giving said group a fleshed out history or unique motifs. They’re all just very generic, and they neither receive their own solid character development nor serve to introduce anything new about the protagonists.
It’s not just the antagonists that get next to no exposition, but also their abilities. They use “On,” a fantasy power force that’s similar to the series preexisting Nen, only more evil and therefore rendered in a darker color scheme. Most of the movie’s concepts are similarly generic and forgettable. Both the new characters and concepts end up feeling underdeveloped and it’s easy to come out of the film wondering why the creators didn’t just tell an inconsequential story using elements the series already had. There are some sweet moments from the protagonists but they’re few and far-between and they don’t make the dull story feel like it was worth sitting through.
Unfortunately, the film’s art direction and soundtrack are similarly lacking. While the animation never looks bad, it never looks particularly impressive or distinctive either. The color scheme is also very drab. The further into the story it gets the darker the colors, and they just do nothing to catch the viewers’ eyes. The scenes all blend together not just thematically but visually as well. The music is a bit stronger than the art, but mainly just because it has no major low points. With that said, it doesn’t have high points either. Once again, the film is middling.
All of this could potentially be more forgivable if the action throughout was at least fun, but it’s not. Even though almost all the protagonists take part in the fight scenes, none of them have their abilities utilized in very cool ways. The choreography is unremarkable, the generic art robs the violence of any unique flair or style, and, due to the writing’s flaws, the results of the battles never actually feel significant. There’s virtually no sense of suspense or tension, making the concept of the Heavens Arena tournament more intriguing than any of the action that ever actually takes place.
It’s difficult to recommend Hunter x Hunter: The Last Mission. The drama relies on previously unseen villains who aren’t incorporated into the series’ lore in any meaningful way, and not even the protagonists have any time to shine. The action, art, and music are all utterly unremarkable, and I found nothing in the film to latch onto. I can’t imagine that any non-fans would have any better of a reaction. Unless you’re a devout Hunter x Hunter completionist, I would steer clear of this movie.
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