By Yoshihiro Togashi
After Kurapika distanced himself from the rest of the group after the York New arc, there was this worrying sense that he’d transgress into a Sasuke-esque loner. However, as this arc has progressed its become clear that the reason Kurapika separated from his friends was so that they’d not get involved in dangerous situations because of him again. He’d previously made the mistake of putting Gon and Killua’s lives at risk and only barely managed to save their lives with a desperate gambit. So he’s had ample reason not to rely on his friends and pursue his goals independently.
This chapter contextualizes this aspect of Kurapika’s motivations in a way that finally defines the direction of his character arc. He compensates for being alone by using a technique that allows him to use other nen abilities, specifically those of his allies. This way Kurapika can fight by himself, but he still has the power of his friends on his side. It’s an interesting compromise between fighting by himself and beside them. Kurapika doesn’t want to use his friends as “sacrificial pawns,” but he also understands the limits of what he can do. There’s a genuine sense of comradery when Sayrid tells Kurapika the details of his power and encourages him before being arrested, and speaks to where Kurapika’s emotional development will come from in this arc. It’s no coincidence that he thinks of Gon, Killua, and Leorio when he remarks how fighting by himself “was never so simple;” it’s been long overdue, but before this arc is over Kurapika is going to have to place his trust in his friends and stop carrying the burden of his responsibilities alone.
Kurapika’s new ability is also a great contrast with Chrollo’s nen power, which also involves stealing the powers of another person. When we last saw Chrollo, he had also used his power to take the abilities of his friends, and now that they’re dead, he has them permanently. Whereas Kurapika’s ability to use his friends’ powers is transient, Chrollo’s is permanent. Contrasting these two characters and what their stolen techniques symbolize to them will make for a great ideological battle when they inevitably clash with each other. I’m impressed Togashi has already sown the seeds of the themes that will underpin Kurapika and Chrollo’s parallel arcs and eventual crossing of paths, and it’s really frustrating knowing that this probably won’t receive any sort of payoff for a considerable while.
For now, Kurapika’s group must compensate for their loss of guards, and who he’ll choose to place his trust in will be interesting. Both options, Beyond and Pariston, are incredibly shady and unreliable. Narratively, this is a great way to intersect Kurapika’s mission back with the conflict between these characters, which hasn’t been readdressed since two hiatuses ago. With two of the Kakin princes receiving considerable build-up in this chapter – Momoze being presented as a potential sheep in wolf’s clothing and Halkenburg withdrawing from the succession battle, it seems the focus will shift again to the conflict between the princes as they start making their moves to massacre each other. Kurapika’s goal is to get Wobble out alive, but with so many factions out for blood and so few allies on his side, the odds are quite stacked against him.
Hunter X Hunter can be a hard series to return to after it’s lengthy hiatuses because of how dense the story is. Even so, this was a fine reintroduction, reestablishing Kurapika’s motivations and strengths as a character and progressing his character arc in interesting ways that have already set the seeds for its future development. The long rest has clearly done Togashi good, as his art was very clean and precise, showing he was able to spend enough time to comfortably draw. The battle on the Black Whale is really starting to get interesting, and there’s no predicting how things’ll turn out. For however long it’s back, this run of Hunter X Hunter promises to live up to last year’s exciting turn of events and maybe even go beyond.