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Expectations Vs. Reality: Hunter x Hunter

In a world where anime is bigger than ever… one woman hasn’t actually seen much of it.

Can she successfully piece together the premise of a popular series based on knowledge she’s absorbed from being online? Or will she endure the shame of believing that there is a talking dog which merely turns out to be an extremely hairy man?

Placing a poll on Twitter dot com, she puts her fate in the hands of the many. Whatever show they choose, she is honor-bound to describe what she thinks she knows, watch several episodes, and compare her knowledge to the cold truth.

This is… Expectations Vs. Reality. (Previously known as “What Do I Know About…”)

And this time, she’s faced with her greatest challenge yet: the titanic force known only as Hunter x Hunter.

What I Think I Know

Here is an exhaustive list of everything I know about Hunter x Hunter:

Not a lot to work with, so I’m going to have to go full Mind Palace on this one.

Hunter… Hunter x Hunter… to me, that implies multiple hunters engaged in direct competition with one another. Are they fighting? Or are they competing to literally hunt some other entities?

Regardless, I assume we’re dealing with a boys’ adventure story, in which the characters go on a journey through a series of challenges to accomplish their goals or realize something about themselves. I expect this involves a lot of training, fighting, and dramatic plot arcs.

Looking at the characters on the cover art, I like the tall guy in the suit—partly because he reminds me of Lupin and partly because I like any character who wears a suit regardless of practicality. I bet he’s kind of a dick, too, because he’s the only character who isn’t smiling and facing forward.

Lastly, a number of my friends were excited when Hunter x Hunter won the poll, and given that my friends are mainly degenerates and shippers, I’m assuming there’s some intense emotional moments, unusual characters, and romantic tension. A few of them have mentioned a smirking, sexual clown. Unsure how he fits into all this.

And the Truth Is…

Gon, a plucky little boy and our protagonist, lives in a world populated by magical creatures, filled with lost treasures, and suffused in mystery. Who investigates these mysteries? The titular hunters, of course! Living on the sleepy Whale Island, Gon dreams of following in his fathers’ footsteps and becoming one of these hunters.

It’s clear that the woman who raised him, Mito-san, didn’t want him running off to live this dangerous life. But when Gon catches a huge sea creature in a thrilling fishing sequence, fulfilling their bargain, she decides that she doesn’t understand his lifestyle but supports it. And so Gon heads off on a ship to take the Hunter’s exam.

I have to stop here to say that the score for the first episode alone is incredible—it’s all dramatic swells and cheery tunes that feel distinct from the heavy rock or pop fares I’ve come across in a lot of anime, and it perfectly sets the mood for a boyish adventure story.

Anyway, aboard the S.S. Sailor Tropes, Gon meets two people who could not be more different—Kurapika, a quiet, incisive boy, and Leorio, a brash, aggressive man. Leorio wears a suit and wants to become a hunter for the money. I love him.

They get into some oceanic trouble but the three of them persevere, coming out as the only hopefuls who will be allowed to proceed to the testing area. From there on, they face a number of obstacles on their journey, most of which they solve not with direct confrontation but in unexpectedly creative ways. For example, when they’re confronted with shapeshifting, razor-clawed creatures, Gon is able to tell two of them apart. This shocks the beasts—who turn out to be husband and wife—because humans can rarely distinguish between individuals of their kind. I love Gon! My sweet son!

There are a Lot of episodes of this show, which cover a series of arcs that you might expect from the genre—training, challenges, and confrontations with evil forces. But it’s so creative and charming that despite the daunting backlog, I’m tempted to keep watching. There’s so much I love here: the simple but appealing character designs, Gon’s fishing rod tricks, and the fact that he seems like a sensitive kid who isn’t at all fazed by the fact that his father abandoned him to run off and be a hunter. I can’t help but wonder if he’s hiding his pain behind a facade of cheeriness. If the show gets into that, oof, hachi machi, that’s gonna be a tearjerker.

There are 148 episodes of Hunter x Hunter available now on Crunchyroll. If you jumped on the My Hero Academia! train, I hope you’ll give this show a shot—I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy. Also, come on. We gotta know what the deal with that sensual murderclown is.

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My Brother, My Brother, and My Original Character, Do Not Steal: MBMBaM’s Top Ten OCs

My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBaM for short) is an “advice show for the modern era.” But that doesn’t quite get across the charm, hilarity, and heart of the podcast run by the three McElroy brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin—or its television counterpart, which is available in its entirety right here!

Of all the gags and goofs MBMBaM has generated over its long run, my favorites are the characters the McElroys happen to develop in totally unexpected ways. Some of them are recurring, while most are one-offs. There are too many to count, so in a celebration of comic creativity, I give you my highly scientific top ten McElroy original characters.

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The Must-See Anime That Inspired Countless Creators

1991’s Otaku no Video is a two-part OVA that serves multiple purposes. It’s a wildly fictionalized parallel to the history of anime studio Gainax, a loving but harsh portrait of what it means to be an otaku, and a severe cautionary tale to those who walk the thin line between normal citizen and all-out maniac. It also sits firmly on the Itano Circus ground zero of a bunch of heavyweight careers, from Hideaki Anno to film director Shinji Higuchi. The former had just wrapped Gunbuster a few years prior, was smack dab in the middle of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and just four years away from sending ripples throughout the otaku community with Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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Barf Bags Not Included: Italian Zombies Invade VRV!

Zombies: I’m sick of them, you’re sick of them. The only thing that could possibly make me cringe harder than a zombie is a pirate — and if you make a zombie pirate joke, I will stand up and walk away. But it’s not just a mere case of overexposure. They’ve become too safe; they’ve become Sunday night TV with the fam. And zombie movies should be like porn: you watch them alone or with a group of like-minded companions, but never with your family.

Frankly, they belong in the gutter. I like the gutter, you like the gutter. The Italians, they LOVE the gutter. Pick any disreputable film genre, and the Italians have not only dragged it down into the gutter, but tossed a bucket of maggots on top and bathed it in an overturned port-a-potty. They’re a beautiful people.

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No Matter Where You Go, Everyone’s Connected…Serial Experiments Lain (1998)

Made during the sci-fi anime renaissance, Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is a hodgepodge of 90’s tropes that, even 20 years later, is still relevant.  The first of Yoshitoshi ABe’s cyberpunk projects and directed by Ryūtarō Nakamura, the series revolves around Lain Iwakura, a typical middle school girl living in suburbia. Representative of most 90’s thrillers and sci-fi dystopias, Lain slowly starts to become undone as a shadow organization working for something called the “Wired”, a Matrix-esque version of the internet, that is slowly bleeding into the real world.

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Hope, Change, and Monsters: The Legacy of Digimon Adventure

I’ll be honest—when I first encountered Digimon Adventure during its original US broadcast, I had the same response as a lot of kids: “what a ripoff!” While the animation was eye-catching, it seemed like a much slower-paced story than I was used to, you had to follow it closely to know what was happening, and the monster designs weren’t always cute—sometimes they were downright scary. But I gave it a chance, because back then we didn’t have Crunchyroll or Cartoon Hangover. We didn’t have much choice—we just hunkered down in front of the TV every Saturday morning, scarfing down a bowl of sugary cereal and dutifully watched whatever cartoons happened to be on the air.

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Midnight Void: I Drink Your Blood

Hippies, man, with their crummy homemade deodorants and annoying bongos and jam bands with songs that never end (and don’t even get me started on the various hemp products). You know what happens to hippies in The Midnight Void? They get rabies. That’s right, and if you’ve never seen a hippy with rabies, well then that means you’ve never seen…

I Drink Your Blood

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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Haibane Renmei (2002)

Beginning life as a short-lived dōjinshi before being adapted into an anime, Haibane Renmei (2002) is a story about loss, pain, and redemption couched in Christian symbolism and a complex mythology. Set in the walled off town of Glie, the world is populated by humans who live in the town proper, the Haibane, angel-like humans with wings and a halo, and from outside the walls, the Toga, a group of mute traders who is the only group that can move in and out of the town freely. For bookworms the show is replete with references to the work of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. From the concept of a walled off city, animals as guides towards epiphany or transformation, the site of a well being an important setting, and the magical realist aesthetic all make Haibane Renmei a cousin to Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

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Freakazoid! A Lesson in Internet History

Way way back in the 1990s, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created a cartoon about a superhero. No, not that one. In contrast to the Caped Crusader’s brooding pathos, this was to be an off-the-wall comedy. While Timm and Dini wanted a straight superhero show, Steven Spielberg—coming off the success of Warner Brothers’ Animaniacs—wanted another comedy. Thus was born Freakazoid!

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Birth of the Cool: An Appreciation for the Cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville

With the birth of the gangster genre during the early part of the twentieth century, the figure of the gangster protagonist has suffered the same fate in countless pictures, good and bad: to die an ignominious death or be locked up forever removed from society’s purview, yet even though the template for the gangster genre hasn’t changed since the time of Griffith. The genre’s adoption and re-appropriation by filmmakers from all over the world has led to several unique strains of the gangster archetype. Whereas the American gangster follows a rise-and-fall narrative, usually employing an immigrant or minority protagonist, the Japanese yakuza is torn between the contradictory values of duty and personal loyalty, while the Gallic version of the gangster archetype was a blend of American genre tropes and existentialist angst. Our French cousins injected Camus and Sartre into characters that wouldn’t be too far off from the early Warner Bros. gangster pictures of the 1930’s. And while there have been many contributors to the Gallic strain of crime pictures the most important of these is French auteur Jean-Pierre Melville. A man that not only dabbled in making gangster pictures he invented the image of the hip, cool, laconic gangster. An image appropriated by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann, John Woo, Wong Kar-Wai, Johnnie To, and Jim Jarmusch.

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Habit Forming, Mind Controlling, Life Absorbing: The Films of Larry Cohen on VRV!

Larry Cohen is a genre unto himself. A movie is no longer horror, comedy, action, or thriller when Larry Cohen is involved, it’s simply a Larry Cohen film. Who is Larry Cohen? Why do I insist on writing “Larry Cohen” over and over?

Larry Cohen is a writer. Larry Cohen is a producer. Larry Cohen is a director. Often, but not always, Larry Cohen is all three at once. Starting out in television in the early 1960s, he created The Invaders, Branded, and Coronet Blue (which heavily inspired The Bourne Identity), while simultaneously cranking out scripts for the top shows of the era, such as The Defenders and The Fugitive. In 1972 he made his directorial debut with Bone aka Dial Rat for Terror, a scorching racial satire about a black thief/rapist invading the home of an upper-class white family in Beverly Hills. It also contains a scene where someone slips on a banana peel.

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How Shows Like HarmonQuest Lure in Role-Playing Newbies

It feels weird to type this, but in 2018 I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons. I’d go as far as to say I’ve never played any form of tabletop role-playing game, but I ended up joining a one-night session of Dungeon World a little over a year ago. How did I get there, though? By listening to every episode of The Adventure Zone, binging HarmonQuest, and dipping my nerdy toes into similar shows like Critical Role, of course! It was just the start of a ride I never expected to take and my first introduction to a world in which I never thought I would be remotely interested.

That’s right, no matter how nerdy your interests may seem now, rest assured: There’s always room for more. The winning formula behind this irresistible pull is surprisingly simple, so go ahead and place those Amazon orders for 100pc translucent dice sets before digging in further.

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My Anime Dad Can Beat Up Your Anime Dad!

This Sunday is Fathers’ Day, and in the great tradition of the schoolyard Badass Boast, I asked a few of my friends to tell me their favorite anime dads. Anime has no shortage of fathers and father figures to draw upon, and their picks run the gamut from the classic to the modern.

But before we get to them, a few clarifications. First, I have a very expansive definition of “dad.” You don’t have to be a literal parent to be one, or a dude. Ladies is dads too. Second, this isn’t a literal contest in the vein of “who would win in a fight, Goku or Superman?” It’s more a sampling of the favorite father figures of a few of my friends. No blood drawn, just an intellectual conversation between anime lovers.

So, without further ado, I present a selection of the Best Anime Dads.

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How an ’80s Sci-Fi Movie Changed the Destiny of Anime Forever

Rainy, cloud covered grey skies, towering skyscrapers, neon lights, muted colors and a dim prognostication of our future: if this type of imagery brings to mind certain anime titles, you may be surprised to learn that many of them share a unlikely common origin. While not the only film to ever influence anime, and certainly not the only sci-fi film to do so, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner shares an inordinate amount of importance in developing many of the anime classics we know today, and influencing many of anime’s biggest directors.

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Midnight Void – Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou

Canada: a country best known for its free Medicare, hunky Prime Minister, maple syrup porn, and, during the ’70s and ’80s, a much-abused film industry tax incentive program that sent The Great White North spiraling into a little place we like to call… The Midnight Void.