Hunter x Hunter concludes its television series with volume 4. The shonen comedy/adventure title starts with Gon Freaks and Kiulla Zoldyck opening the package from Gon's father and learning that they need to get a game called “Greed Island”. Sounds simple, right? Not when that item costs 8.9 billion and between the two they don't have even 1 billion. To top it off, Kiulla keeps blowing their money with huge gambles and Gon is so conservative he'd be better off begging money from strangers. Meanwhile Kiulla begins to track the Phantom Troupe (aka the Spiders), Leario gets a break from his medical studies and all hell breaks loose as a war between the mafia and the Phantom Troupe is ramped up to full throttle.
Hunter x Hunter is somewhat unique among the longer running anime series. While most long-running series start out with very little filler episodes and only short to no recaps, as they go along the amount of filler tends to increase. Most series now days try to fill time for the manga to get further with filler episodes or even arcs, sometimes with no relevance to the actual manga; Naruto is a prime example of this. Others like One Piece tend to incorporate items from their various spinoff media or even make up special episodes that are wholly unrelated to manga. (For those who haven't seen those episodes, a good example using Hunter x Hunter would be having a self-contained episode where the four main characters are all training to be mecha pilots with guests like Netero as the commander and Gin's father is a legendary mecha pilot who has saved countless nations often fighting a losing battle with little to no support). Finally you have a few like Full Metal Alchemistwhere the anime and manga diverge. However, Hunter x Hunter follows none of those trends. Instead while it does have some of those filler episodes early on, but as the series continues they become less and less until in this volume there are none.
Another thing to note about this volume is that unlike the previous box sets, Hunter x Hunter box set 4 is much darker. While the previous volumes there was often a sense of danger and excitement, except for a few instances the series was largely upbeat and positive. With box set 4 that sense of optimism is turned upside down. While at first Gon, Kiulla and Leario seem fairly immune to this as they are focused on getting money, much of the series centers around Kiulla and the Phantom Troupe which eventually ensnares the rest of the group. In fact, the episodes in this volume are so vastly different that if someone started watching from this volume they would have a radically different outlook on the series compared to anything before.
And the thing is, this is just the beginning. Yoshihiro Togashi is still continuing to work, albeit very sporadically, on the manga which has gone far beyond what the anime has. The series continues to becomes grittier and more violent, but also still goes back to its light-hearted style. With box set 4 the viewer is finally able to see the basic pattern of Hunter x Hunter; a light-hearted action/adventure part filled with comedy that grows far more serious and dark while at the same time maintaining the humor until you think that things can't get worse and your only partly right; there's usually a bit of a breather before Togashi plunges you even further into a pit of dark, depressing atmosphere that still keeps that odd sense of comedic tension even during the darkest hour. This constant tension where you are constantly wondering what'll happen next because of the the different pulls in direction is one of the things that makes this series so enjoyable.
While Hunter x Hunter box set 4 occludes the television series that aired in Japan, there is still more Hunter x Hunteranime. Three OVAs have been produced thus far totally 30 more episodes. The one good thing is that the ending for this OVA as it is the end of a series, is better than some of the others, like box set 1, however it's not really a truly good stopping point because it leaves too many obvious unresolved threads, one of which the anime builds up throughout this volume.
Because of the darker tone surround Kiulla, the anime tends to only show him outside at night. The few times you see him during the daytime, except in the end, he is inside a room or there is dreary weather. Contrast that with the rest of the group and they are almost always seen during the daytime. When they are out at night, the sky is always clear and while the surroundings might not be in the best condition, everything is much clearer. Only as the group gets caught up with Kiulla and the Spiders do things begin to start converge before some great battle scenes.
I am glad Viz finally released this volume and just in time for Christmas as it introduces several of my favorite villains:Chrollo Lucifer; Shalnark; Machi; and Shizuku. Although all of the Phantom Troupe are great villains. Unfortunately we don't get to see much of Uvogin and unless Tagashi ever does some flashbacks to the attack on Kiulla's town I doubt we'll get to see some of those that have been replaced. I would defiantly like to have seen the battle for the one Hisoka replaced, although since Tagashi is already quite sporadic in then releases of the manga, I don't want him to get sidetracked which means the anime won't have that.
Which brings me to my last point. In January, the Hunter x Hunter manga will be having more releases in Japan for the first time in a while. Given that any real fan of the series knows this, I hope Viz will be publishing the OVAs because if ever there was a great time to do so, now would be it since the tv series just finished and the releases in Japan will stir up interest. Hopefully more anime gets produced and translated for the series.
Hunter x Hunter is among the most beloved anime series of all time and box set 4 is a must get set. You really haven't seen some of Tagashi's great genius until this box set. The only real concern is that given the level of brutality in this volume is far beyond the others, parents might want to check it over before letting very young children watch it. Most of the episodes should fine, but there are a few particularly bloody ones.
ComicsOnline gives Hunter x Hunter box set 4 5 our of 5 Big Bang Impacts.