Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hunter x Hunter: Greed Island, Greed Island Final

(Originally 11 November 2006)

I finished marathoning a total of 24 episodes this afternoon. The plot is entirely driven by the need to complete the Greed Island game, and the only twist comes in the first episode of GI Final, although probably I should've seen it coming if I were thinking a couple moves ahead.

The main characters are designed to pander to kids, I guess — it's shounen after all. They're animated with the suddenly deformed faces, exaggerated beat downs by the trap character (more on that later). The main character is hard to appreciate or remotely feel sorry for, because he's more naive than I am, and he cries a ton (not literally, he just bitches so much). His sidekick is pretty badass, most of the time, and the trap character, a 57 year old "woman" who appears as a girl with excessive eyeliner is the most level headed, but probably age will do that to you.

At the end of the series, you might question whether that girl's true form is really female, though, especially just going on the voice. That's why I think it's a trap, in the cross-dressing sense. But without doing much more inquiry, from what I've read she is a she apparently.

Animation wise it's about par for a late 90's kids' action series, in the style of Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z in terms of the line and colour palette. Don't believe a word I say, for I did extremely poorly in the last visual arts course I took, which was in elementary school.

For me, the only reason to watch, besides the initial recommendation, was for all the strategy involved in defeating clearly more powerful and experienced opponents. Although there were only two significant engagements, the rest of the series being spent learning about game mechanics (which were largely irrelevant in those two battles), and training which was sort of interesting but mostly provided a bit of comic relief. To be sure, there were some moments of cleverness sprinkled around, but strokes of genius require at least a couple moves to play out.

The first major battle was a 8 vs 8 dodge ball game. It stretched out for something like 4 episodes, an episode too long probably. While there wasn't copious amounts of trash talking and "charging up" a la DBZ, there was a ton of talk explaining the rules, checking up on people hit by the ball (it packs a punch), and strategizing. It proceeded almost like a 4-episode YuGi-Oh battle, wherein they make up the rules as they go along, or they explain them over and over again. I don't think I've ever played a game of dodge ball that paused for 5+ minutes after the ball gets thrown to hear the rules again, or strategize. Hell, everyone should know what the rules of dodge ball are, or they can go look it up on their own time.

Strategizing, probably necessary, but while they argue over what to do for lengthy stretches, the actual plan is only revealed after it's been carried out. This makes the arguing beforehand a colossal waste of (my) time. I was impressed with the creativity used in attaining victory, but I was displeased that it took 4 episodes to do it.

The second battle towards the end of the series was much better. There was some talk about coming up with a plan, but that was before any fighting started. And while there was training and brainstorming going down, a few scenes were put in that demonstrated one group's plan to buy time through hit and run attacks, which kept the pace up. For the headline fight between the main character and the big bad boss, the plan is revealed piecemeal until it all culminates in victory. But the main character still has to say some dumbass things, which was mostly unnecessary. He did have to goad the boss into doing things, but much of the trash talk was just fluff. He also has this stereotypical trait of laughing to himself whenever he gets up after taking a thrashing.

The guy loses his hand in the fight, but the shock value of this incident is quickly cheapened by the fact that there's a magical wish-granting card, and it gets used to remove all of his injuries. For a brief moment I wondered if he was going to have a Luke Skywalker moment when it is revealed to all that his father also lost his hand. But it wasn't to be. I'm not sure how else they could've gone about it, though. It's impossible to totally reattach a hand, nerve connections and all, without resorting to a cheap plot device, and if they just let him lose the hand, that'd kill off the franchise right there.

Conclusion! Watch the series for the dodge ball game, and maybe a bit of the events leading up to it (the good guys deliberately lose on the first sporting games contest to gather info as well as the concluding battle.