Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Divine(ish) Characters Clash in Hunter x Hunter

This is one of many frames in episode 128 that gives a sense of divinity to the
whole situation, and Meruem in particular. Also, this beauty is one reason I was
so trigger-happy with the screenshots last week.
Just in case you somehow missed it, Hunter x Hunter has been dripping with references to religion and deity lately. I have several screenshots from the most recent episode which display it, but it's not limited to episode 128, or even to the King (aka Meruem). I think it's worth taking a few minutes to explore.

First off, there's Netero, chairman of the Hunters Association. His character is a walking, fighting reference to Buddhism, and even we Westerners have very little excuse for missing it. I have very limited education on Buddhism, so my explanation of the connections will be, at best, sparse, and I highly recommend using your favorite search engine for more thorough information. But here are the connections I've been able to make:

The first clue is his ears. Those long earlobes are typical in portrayals of buddhas and bodhisattvas. I've read a couple of reasons for the long ears. The primary reason is apparently the Buddha's past princehood. He would have worn heavy earrings and jewelry like other people of his station before he gave it all up. After his "enlightenment," the earrings were gone, but the ears remained stretched. There are also associations with him being all-hearing and such... again, I highly recommend you research this yourself.

If the ears aren't enough, then Netero's 100-Type Guanyin Bodhisattva (Japanese is Hyakushiki Kannon) should alert even the least informed Western teenager to the fact that there's something religious going on. I mean, first of all, in order to develop this move, Netero went through intense training with a lot of praying and mediation, as shown several episodes ago. 

Then there's the ability's name. I don't recognize the "Guanyin" part from my past education, but bodhisattvas are Buddhist saints - enlightened ones who have refrained from entering Niravana themselves in order to help others reach enlightenment. A little research shows that Guanyin (aka Avalokitesvara or Kannon) is one of the most famous bodhisattvas, and has become known as a goddess of mercy (although Guanyin used to be portrayed as a prince). 
Episode 125, the King fights Netero. Behind, you see the
manifestation of his 100-Type Guanyin Bodhisattva.

Basically, the name "100-Type Guanyin Bodhisattva" is important. But even without then name, the imagery makes it stand out. It's gold and bright, for one thing. It has many arms, something I recognize from Eastern religious icons. A quick Google search refers me to a legend in which Guanyin is given a thousand arms to help her reach everyone in need. 

So, yeah, Netero is tied to Buddhism and one particularly well-known, powerful bodhisattva. That's a rather divine connotation. Plus, while he and the King fight, music reminiscent of old Western church choirs plays in the background. 

But the King proves to be a worthy opponent - perhaps even superior. That's scary, since, despite his changing heart, murder is still an important part of his plans. If Netero has supernatural ties, then what does this imply about the King? 

When Netero stops his own heart, setting off the bomb, I hope the King is really dead. Sure, he's gotten nicer, but he's not exactly Mother Theresa, and I don't think anyone besides Netero has a chance of stopping him by force.

At the beginning of episode 128, the King looks dead. His appendages are gone, leaving only his upper torso and head. Both Youpi and Pouf are sobbing. But then... they notice a sign of life. Pouf starts feeding himself to the King. Youpi sees the improvement and joins the effort, liquifying his cells to drip into the King's mouth. They are the most delicious food the King has ever tasted, and that flattery delights them.

So, the King basically comes back to life. Deity point 1.

"Absolute being," huh? I think that's a slight exaggeration, but
I admit this episode makes Meruem look rather absolute.
He now wants to be called by his name, Meruem, which means "the light that shines on everything" (source: wiki). Deity point 2.

He's golden as he comes back to life, like an idol. Deity point 3.

There is a generally heavenly/divine environment: sky, winged creatures, columns reminiscent of Mount Olympus, golden background, etc. Deity point 4.

The wings may remind us of angels, but Meruem's royal guards, especially Youpi and Pouf, are a lot more like demons. Meruem's moral identity isn't set in stone yet - there is still a possibility of him becoming good (if, in fact, good really exists in this show). He isn't exactly a god, and he's certainly not up to snuff by Christian standards (sorry, Meruem, but we know the real God, and you're... pathetic next to Him). From what I've seen, there is no real god in Hunter x Hunter's world. But Meruem certainly seems godlike, and it's hard to imagine his defeat.

In fact, it's hard to imagine any satisfactory resolution right now. Will they be able to negotiate peace with Meruem? He promised Netero that he would limit human sacrifice and allow for survival of the human race, but can he be convinced to do even more? And how? By who? Certainly not by Gon - not the way Gon is now. Will Komugi have more influence?

Will they need to physically defeat Meruem? And how in the world can anyone manage that? It will take scores of episodes before anyone's ready to kill him - maybe even hundreds.

I knew that any battle with Netero, and especially between Netero and Meruem, would take Hunter x Hunter to a new level. But this... this is unexpected. The world order is being threatened by a superhuman being, a being whose traits are implied to be divine. The man renowned as the strongest Hunter in the world died trying to take him out. From what I've seen so far, even with serious teamwork, none of the other central characters stand a chance against the King of the Chimera Ants. Maybe, just maybe, Ging Freecss and some other powerful Hunters can do something, but they're not in the picture at the moment.

When Hunter x Hunter characters start looking divine, and Gon and Killua aren't among them, I'm forced to reevaluate my predictions. My new evaluation? I need to hold my guesses loosely and make no bets. This is approaching Naruto Shippuden-level epicness, except there is no promised savior rising to prominence. I no longer know what to expect.  


  1. Guanyin is the Mandarin pronunciation for 观音. In Japanese, it's Kannon. If you watch that episode again, you'll see Japanese kanji "观音百式" shown on the screen when Neroto perform his ability.

    1. Thanks for that information! The only kanji I actively recognize and pronounce is "の," or "no." Thus, I don't catch things like that on screen, and I really appreciate it when people like you can point out connections for me (and for anyone else who reads through the comments). ^_^


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