It's the first FIGHT SCENE FRIDAY, y'all!
Here it is, the first edition of FIGHT SCENE FRIDAY! Last week, I asked y'all to vote for the inaugural anime brawl that would kick off the column and thousands of you (26 percent of the votes) went for Gon vs Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter. So let's dive into what makes this fight so great! And remember, at the end of this article, there's a poll for next week's fight scene. So make sure to vote and I hope you find this week's fight to be as interesting as I do!
On paper, Gon vs Hisoka from Episodes 35-36 of Hunter x Hunter fits into quite a few fight scene categories: It's a "Newbie vs Experienced Fighter," a "Slightly Confused Protagonist vs Villain That's Obsessed With The Protagonist," and a "Larger Guy vs Smaller Dude" kind of fight all rolled into one. As it plays out in the anime, you see things happen that definitely help check off these boxes. Gon zipping around and throwing punches with his shorter limbs definitely brings to mind original Dragon Ball matches where Goku would often be waist-high to his opponent. And watching Hisoka's satisfied confidence in not moving a step while Gon tries in futility to hit him is reminiscent of many anime battles where a young hero was in over their head in a duel.
But Gon vs Hisoka stands apart because (spoilers) Hisoka's eventual victory isn't totally due to him just being more powerful than Gon. This isn't a case of Gon wanting to win and coming back after grinding and leveling up a bit to even the score. No, Hisoka's advantage is due to his confident knowledge of applying his strength in the context of the competition and the nature of his opponent. It's the knowledge that only sheer experience can give you.
Gon is a crafty fighter, flipping the stone at Hisoka so that he can distract him long enough to land a hit. But his inexperience hurts him when it comes to playing the long game. Hisoka is constantly throwing off Gon, first with his admittance that he hadn't taken a step, then by lecturing Gon on the types on Nen users, then by questioning Gon about the Bungee Gum. He even plays with Gon's head when, lost in euphoric thought over Gon getting stronger, Gon lands quite a few hits on him (though he's probably not even meaning to). For most of the fight, Gon is either rushing forward to hit Hisoka when he finds an opening or trying to evade him. Gon's strategy is all reactionary. And he hasn't been in enough fights to know how to properly counter.
Another component that adds to this is the referee, scoring each opponent on the amount of critical hits they get and awarding Hisoka many more points because he feels that the fight may become "dangerous" and he wants to end it quickly. This helps in destabilizing Gon, as just after he admits to himself that he's scared, he argues with the referee over his knockdown decision, claiming that one of Hisoka's blows did not have the impact that the ref claims it did. No matter what Gon does, he's never able to be on his game.
Yoshihiro Togashi, the creator of Hunter x Hunter, is well known for introducing these kinds of elements in fights. In his previous work, Yu Yu Hakusho, the Dark Tournament arc became a classic because of the attention Togashi paid to why and how the characters were fighting. It was more than just: "I have this power and you have that power, so let's see how they clash." There were different emotional states and different strategies and different attitudes toward specific characters that kept everything energetic and fascinating. He's a master of taking shonen formulas and tinkering with the details so that you're kept on your toes, all while the big moves remain satisfyingly awesome.
In Hunter x Hunter, might is useless unless you're able to wield it properly, and being the most powerful means more than just delivering an especially dramatic-looking laser or punch attack. So Gon's loss is never one that will be avenged by becoming stronger, but rather by becoming someone who knows how to use their strength.
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What's your favorite fight in Hunter x Hunter? What did this fight mean to you? Let me know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
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