When it comes to adventure series, my favorite is unquestionably Hunter x Hunter. Yoshihiro Togashi’s modern classic is still going strong twenty years in, with Vol. 35 continuing the Dark Continent arc. It’s unlike anything else the series has delivered thus far, but is it good?
So what’s it about?
According to the official synopsis from Viz Media:
On their voyage to the Dark Continent, the Hunters get tangled up in a war of royal succession. The 14 princes of Kakin, protected by Nen-powered Guardian Beasts, must assassinate one another until only a single heir survives. Infiltrating as bodyguards, the Hunters join this deadly game of intrigue. But the most dangerous prince may be the one they least suspect…
From the literal first page onward, Togashi impresses artistically. The dramatic facial expressions and body language, effective use of motion lines, and variety of perspectives used throughout all help make the action scenes fast-paced, dynamic, and fun to read. Then you have the designs of the newly introduced Nen Beasts, which are both creative and downright terrifying. There’s a set of two pages in particular that are more disturbing than anything I’ve read in any horror manga all year. Plus, Togashi delivers some fantastic two-page spreads. Highlights include a map of all the princes’ quarters that helps give one a better sense of the setting, as well as a shot of the expedition ship sailing across the dark ocean. It’s a mere blip in the wide expanse, and the image is beautiful while also conveying how scarily far from the known world the characters have ventured.
The writing is also strong. Strategy and mind games have always been a major focus of the series, and they’re effectively executed here. Even the characters aren’t certain of each other’s abilities, so the reader learns more information as Kurapika speculates and pieces details together. These mystery elements help add fun intrigue to the action. There are also some creative structural decisions throughout. The most memorable chapter is one in which a page is devoted to every single prince’s room, providing brief glimpses of all the key players in the conflict as well as their machinations. Just enough information is revealed to spark interest while also building tension and making one want to keep reading to see how events play out.
The character development in this volume is also solid. We haven’t gotten to see Kurapika at work without any of the other main characters to help him in a long time, and it’s nice to see how he’s grown since then. Oito is also a likable character who, though being protected by guards, gets enough focus and agency to not just seem like she’s being damselled. As previously mentioned, Togashi spends at least a little time with all of the princes, so we get at least basic impressions of all of them by the volume’s end. Even some of the bit characters like princes’ guards get relatively well-fleshed-out personalities in their brief time on the page.
My only real qualms with the writing here are that it’s sometimes unclear which character is speaking, and the exposition dumps can get rather unwieldy. In terms of art some panels can be quite cluttered, but this isn’t a constant enough problem to hold the book back too much.
All in all, Hunter x Hunter Vol. 35 is an engrossing read. The action is dynamic as are the schemes and Togashi’s visuals. The newly introduced Nen Beasts are downright terrifying, and a large amount of characters get at least some basic development or time to shine. There are some minor issues with clutter and clarity, but they’re relatively few and far between. Hunter x Hunter continues to be one of the best comics out there regardless of genre.
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