On its surface, Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter feels a lot like Dragon Ball. A young kid with immense hidden power has the ability to easily beat the breaks off a ton of grown warriors. People in the show are able to use this life force like substance called “nen,” kind of like “ki” on DBZ. There is an old master with a ton of power, weird villains who are just bad for the sake of being bad — but sometimes can join the good side if they so choose — and monstrous aliens who hope for nothing more than the destruction of humanity. But, Hunter x Hunter set itself apart with one of the greatest story arcs in anime history in which the villain, not the hero, takes the anime to instant classic status.
Tying themes like humanity, power, and our connections to others together with a child-like story about following our dreams and becoming the greatest at what we do, Hunter x Hunter might seem overwhelming at first. But at its heart, Hunter x Hunter is the story of Gon Freecss, a 12-year-old boy seeking to reconnect with a father he had always believed dead. Gon also wants to learn from his father, who is a hunter of great skill. Hunters are a special class of explorers who specialize in a multitude of areas and are also often considered elite-level fighters. The anime first aired in 1999 in a 62-episode television series, but what most people focus on is the 2011 version of the anime. It is in the 2011 version where we see probably one of the best story arcs in anime history: the chimera ant arc.
The chimera ants are humanoid figures who develop a taste for humans. When the chimera ants discover the power that can be garnered from eating hunters, they seek out hunters with strong nen, who are ultimately used to birth the chimera ant king, Meruem (who somehow looks like an odd combination of Frieza and Cell). Although Gon is the main character, it is through Meruem that the story really begins to develop this take on what it means to be human and to be gifted with extraordinary power.
Meruem knows he is strong and because his strength is untested, he is actually a dick. He kills humans and his subjects without a second thought. Weakness, in his eyes, is to never be tolerated and is always met with swift and exacting force. But, what happens when a powerful being is challenged by their equal? What happens if they are incapable of beating the challenger? Meruem has to wrestle with these feelings: He may not actually be the most powerful person in the universe. And as Meruem starts to develop this sort of humanity, the audience begins to develop feelings for him as a character. His realization and growth serves as a stark contrast to Gon. As Gon is learning how to get stronger, Meruem is learning how to humble himself.
The introduction of Meruem changed Hunter x Hunter from a regular anime to a classic worthy of rewatching many times. Sadly, the original creator, Yoshiro Tagashi is sick, and the series may be introducing a new writer. But, hopefully the story manages to remain on the trajectory that it was going. All the constant hiatuses has kept the anime from achieving all the fame that it rightfully deserves.