Why I Can’t Enjoy Hunter x Hunter and Defining Shonen Part II

Okay, so, some of you may recall in my Gon’s downfall post that I said I secretly trying to hate Hunter x Hunter. Well, since I had just recently released my “defining shonen” post last week, as a followed up, I decided to elaborate the reason as for why that’s the case because, in some ways, it ties to my attraction toward shonen. Also fandom.

The secondary reason is, that I noticed, while I already laid out the peculiarity of the shonen naming, I never actually try to define it by my “own” knowledge and experiences. That, kiiinnnd of made me guilty. So…..I guess you can say that this double as another apology post? 😛

Anyways, Hunter x Hunter!

Yeah, I can’t enjoy you. Sorry buddy.

Now, before all of you started poo flinging at me, let me just say this. Just because I try to dislike Hunter x Hunter (hereby abbreviated as HxH), it doesn’t actually means I think the series is actually “bad”. In fact, I think it’s actually great. Loveable cast of characters, great battle dynamic and understanding of grounded conflict, solid plotting, and I can say without any exaggeration, that the Chimera Ant arc is a masterpiece.

But, despite my own admittance of its quality, I can’t help but secretly try to dislike it, or trying to find even the tiniest slip of flaw the series might have, thus hampering any enjoyment. One of the reason being, as I found out, turns out to be on the way few of my online acquaintances, who very much love the series, and several online fan treatment of it. More specifically, how they regard the series transcend the shonen genre and every series that has such label should treating it as an example, Jump’s shonen especially.

This statement rings wrong for me for few reason.

You see, when those people are making such statement, I get the impression that they said it with the frame of mind that shonen (again, Jump especially) are all just about hot-blooded battle and protagonist, where friendship triumph and the one punching and screaming the hardest wins (well admittedly, they’re not entirely wrong about that). And now, with HxH came along, with its smart plotting and its clever puzzle-like battle came around, people started to put it up in the pedestal, and point it as go to example for “shonen”.

Here we go again.

And with that, lets start by defining what is shonen for me.

If you look solely through their narrative, premise and overall plot, shonen can technically be called a sort of “coming of age” story. A story where a young man (most of the time) set out to fulfill his ambition/goal in life, which most of the time involved in finding his place in the world, and on the way, progress and mature throughout his journey as he gain companionship with others. Whether the journey was to become the strongest on his occupation (ninja, shaman, soccer player, and what have you), or just simply use his power to protect the people he loved. Now, of course not all of this applies to all shonen, but if you look at the popular ones, this is all of the emerging pattern, especially Jump titles.

But, despite the seemingly similar outer skin, there’s a slight subtlety in the execution of all of those titles. Both on plot and a little of thematic. To name a few example, One Piece is about an unlimited adventure navigated by loveable charming crew in a vast expansive and varied world, full of lores, and populated by over the top, larger than life characters that intersect and butt heads with one another (with an equally over the top set pieces and great ensemble handling of those characters). Naruto is about a boy’s journey for social acceptance and love, while at the same time chasing his dream and surpassing his predecessor (with some nudge to the idea of generation). Katekyo Hitman Reborn is about a boy acceptance to his heritage and his own self-made “family” (which is weird since Reborn is about “Mafia”, so the word goes both way). And finally, just for the kicks, Medaka Box is a rumination and introspection of the things that Shonen often uphold, the value of effort, the meaning of victory etc. Complete with NisiOsiN brand of meta-ness.

But, because much of the title within those genre are so synonymous with fighting and conflict (especially after the genre was popularised with the rise of “big” anime on those genre, like Dragon Ball) alongside its hot-blooded tropes (again, tangible detail), it seems like it’s the only thing that some people think about in shonen, and by extension, what they look for within those genre. Since much of them are about screaming competition, in a way, for some people HxH is like a revelation or…..something.

Now, I’m not one for judging people in what they look for in a genre, but when it comes to those people judging it and comparing the series with its peers, I got little touchy because it ignoring that there’s more to the genre. That all of them had different appeal and strength.

Okay, so, that’s the one of the reason why that statement feels wrong. So, what are the other? How does it relate to me trying not to like HxH?

Well, the thing about shonen is that is kind of genre that I grew up with and I mostly consume in manga and anime. Especially the Shonen Jump titles. Admittedly, not all of them are all equally good, some stays in my heart, some are just decent, some are just……eh. Admittedly I’m but a frog in a well, unaware over the vast genre that anime provide, and I have hots for high pumping action, which many title outside shonen could provide, and also lack of awareness for what counts as a “good” story. All I know is whether I enjoy it or not.

But, looking back, there might be why I’m so touchy about that statement, I mean if I really just into it for the spectacle alone, I probably move past the genre right now. So why am I becomes defensive like this? Well, maybe that’s because I find things in my definition of shonen, and to some extension its well-known trope, personally resonating, even though I never really thought deeply about the genre till now. I mean, for a lonely loser boy who has tons of self-doubt/loath and zero self-confidence like me, seeing a spirited protagonist trying to race for his own goal with passion and energy, is very inspiring and touching.

And so, the statement rings false to me, because it translated as ” Hunter x Hunter is the only title that matters within the genre.”

So, I get a bit pissed and apparently decided to take it out to a japanese cartoon/comic.

Okay, that got a bit personal.

Well, that’s pretty much what made me try to dislike HxH. Like I said earlier, the series by no means bad, I admit outside of the battle dynamic, it’s storytelling are far above your average shonen (especially, for a long running series) nor am I want to desecrate the series just to piss of fanboy. I’m just itchy every time people come along and say how this genre is supposed to “work”. Of course, this are all partly just me being oversensitive, what’s with all of us to some degree think how what you consume = what you are.

So in summary, I can’t enjoy HxH because fanboys ruined it for me.

Author Notes:

– This post could be more or less applied to why I also try to dislike JoJo (which doesn’t really fit my definition of shonen. Its more of an action……thingy. Though I admit judging from the style, aesthetic, and conflict construction, it looked kiiiiinnnnnda cool).

– Also Full Metal Alchemist.

– Okay, maybe I just don’t like popular stuff that I have no interest over. So, sue me.

– Looking back, the reason why shonen title still resonate to me, is maybe the same reason why Kumagawa from Medaka Box  is attracted to Shonen Jump. Granted, it was never explained in the series, but I think I get it, it’s just I couldn’t precisely tell why in a cohesive manner. Orrrrr…its just part of Isin deep meta-humor that I don’t get.


  1. miharusshi · July 8, 2015

    Enjoying an anime we think is good enough is a pretty tricky thing. If we try to watch in isolation, we dive into the series without preconceptions from the opinions of other fans. If we watch it along with others, we see all these different voices surrounding the show. But I think there’s not exactly a single perfect way to watch any series such that we’d have our best impressions on it.

    Group watching (i.e. watching and discussing it with others as it airs) is great for exchanging observations and we may see a lot of things we didn’t notice at first. And then we try to internalize and examine our own notions on the show, and how they differ with our peers’ opinions. But that also has its limits. Sometimes, if we listen to other people’s voices too much, we forget our own voice. There’s a tendency to go with the trend and just submit to whatever is the popular opinion. Meanwhile, watching alone lets us listen to our own thoughts, without getting filtered by other’s impressions. But we all have different experiences in watching a series, so there’s ought to be differences, at least.


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