Non-management: Hi. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything anime-related, but I’ve been busy with my day job and Japanese studies, and now that Japanese test day is over and done with (for now, until December, oh no), I had the time to whip something up. However, I hit an issue of not being able to write anything about recent anime because (1) I haven’t been watching many recent anime because of real life, and (2) I didn’t think there’s anything about the recently anime that I have watched that I feel I’d be interested and capable enough to write about. So, I thought about past anime I’ve watched, and decided that yeah, I could whip something up about Hunter x Hunter (HxH). I say that like it was simple, but it’s been a while since I last watched it, and I don’t have the greatest memory, and oh boy let’s talk about Dragon Ball too… oh no this ended up being a lot.
So I wanted to write an angle to HxH that people online haven’t really talked about all that much, and one angle that came to mind was comparing Goku to Gon. People have talked about how Goku is a problematic guy, and people have really talked about how Gon is a troubled kid, but I haven’t seen a lot of chatter of comparisons between these two characters. It was curious to me, because I think of all the shounen heroes I’ve watched and observed since Goku debuted on the shounen battle genre stage, it was Gon who felt like the most direct spiritual successor to Goku. Goku being as iconic to the genre as he is, bits of his personality have reappeared in subsequent shounen heroes in subsequent shounen series time and time again (like Luffy in One Piece), but Gon seems to have inherited the most bad shit from Goku as well as a lot of the good stuff. Especially in the original Japanese, Goku isn’t a paragon.
Goku’s made selfish decisions that led to worse consequences for the people around him, but I feel like with lot of the cult of fan idealization that’s grown up around him, combined with (if not quite uncritically) how softly the narrative treats him compared to other stories about heroes with fatal flaws… perhaps Goku’s flaws are overlooked a bit too much for comfort. Not Gon though. Oh no, not Gon. Gon reaps blight from what he sows, and what was sown in him feels seems to partially stem from Goku, so I suppose the Hunter x Hunter author could have been implicitly criticizing how lightly Goku got off for his self-centeredness. I hate to throw out this term lightly (which is why I decided not to use it in the article proper), but rather than ignoring or downplaying the negative consequences of that Goku-esque self-absorption like other shounen series do with their protagonists, HxH embraces it with Gon before, dare I say, deconstructing it.
By deconstructing the Goku-inspired shounen hero, HxH innovates on the kind of storytelling the shounen genre is capable of. Here, we have to be careful of what is meant by deconstruction, because the term in the way it was intended to be used constructively wasn’t supposed to make narratives darker and edgier and subversive because those qualities are inherently more engaging. It’s meant to expand the possibilities in what a genre is capable of doing by driving the prevailing archetypes within them to an extreme that’s uncharted but still arguably follows the in-universe logic: a flawed shounen hero that falls really hard… but is then carried really hard by his friend.
On a different note, I got to write about the narrative significance reincarnation one day, and how that differs mightily with resurrecting or coming back alive like normal.
But anyway, I’d like to give a big thanks to ANN’s Lynzee Loveridge for commissioning my article. Below is a summary short of the article. If you’re interested in reading further, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the article sample:
It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to say the most iconic face of the shounen manga battle genre would be Son Goku from Dragon Ball. Goku works to be the strongest in every arc, training especially hard when the next toughest villain appears. He’s also a pretty good-natured and down-to-earth guy. Honestly, he’s not unlike Superman in those respects. I suppose it’s little wonder then that online nerd forums periodically pit Goku and Superman in one clash or another: who’s stronger, who’s better.
I’m not interested in arguing who’d beat up who, nor do I want to argue who’s better written. All I’m saying is… if there’s one thing that Goku has that prototypical not-Snyder Superman doesn’t… it’s an obsession with fighting strong opponents. He likes it too much, to the point that it affects his other priorities. Despite this issue, Goku is such an iconic face in shounen battlers that he’s influenced so many MCs in the genre since, fragments of his personality reborn into new faces, good and bad. In Gon Freecss from Yoshihiro Togashi‘s Hunter x Hunter (henceforth HxH), we see a more biting exploration of the bad: that self-centeredness that Goku embodies.
It is in HxH‘s exploration of this self-centeredness that the series takes the shounen battler to new heights, and it achieves this by giving us a flawed hero, one that physically, mentally, and emotionally succumbs to their worst impulses… READ MORE