The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge

Title: Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: Movie, 97 minutes
Dates: 12 Jan 2013

Synopsis: After defeating the Phantom Troupe in Yorknew City, Kurapika meets someone from his past who steals the red eyes that are the marker of Kurapika’s clan, the Kurta. His friends Gon and Killua team up to track down the person who stole Kurapika’s eyes, who turns out to be a former member of the Phantom Troupe. Will Gon and Killua be able to overcome their weaknesses to defeat this dangerous foe?

The Highlights
Story: Decent. There are good moments, but it’s clear why this isn’t part of the main story. Better suited for people already familiar with the show and/or manga.
Action: Solid. Good battles, though they don’t have quite the intense back and forth of the best of the main series.
Killua: His struggles are by far the best part of the movie and tie into a later arc of the main story in an interesting way.

Madhouse’s reboot of Hunter x Hunter has been one of the best anime out there since it started airing in 2011. Its unique world, harrowing battles and sympathetic, gray characters give it an appeal unmatched by many shonen series. The show’s first movie, Phantom Rouge, doesn’t quite match the heights of the TV anime, but it’s a decent effort that has some surprisingly interesting elements to it.

The movie takes place after one of the best arcs in the series, the Yorknew arc, but before Gon and Killua enter Greed Island. In terms of themes, though, Phantom Rouge has much in common with another of the series’ best arcs, the Chimera Ant arc, which is where the TV series is at the time of this writing. One of the movie’s main emotional themes is Killua’s fear that his upbringing as an assassin will one day cause him to leave his best friend, Gon, for dead. This ties in well with the Chimera Ant arc, which was written well before this movie as part of the manga, but rather than feeling like a retread, it adds an extra depth to Killua — it’s a problem he continually struggles with rather than something that comes out of nowhere. The distress and anxiety Killua feels is palpable. His instincts place self-preservation at the forefront, but he desperately wants to be there for Gon at all times.

Phantom Rouge symbolizes this anxiety in the form of Killua’s brother, Illumi, who is really the best antagonist in the movie. Similar to his appearances in the TV series, Illumi is a terrifying figure who is equally capable of dishing out physical and psychological damage. He has a strong grip on Killua’s psyche, and Phantom Rouge capably portrays the power Illumi wields over Killua. Unfortunately, the main antagonist is not nearly this interesting. He’s a former member of the Phantom Troupe, who are Kurapika’s enemies, but while his story has some nice flecks of darkness to it, it’s not developed enough to be all that harrowing. He doesn’t have the same strength of personality as the other Phantom Troupe members, either, so as a character there’s not all that much going for him.

However, his power — which I won’t spoil here — is decent, and it provides for some OK moments in the story proper. Despite the theft of Kurapika’s eyes acting as the impetus for the plot, the movie is more about Gon, Killua and a friend they meet, Retz. This new kid is actually sketched pretty well for the amount of time granted to Retz in the story. The nature of the main villain’s power and how it ties into Gon, Killua and Retz’s story provides some nice moments of existential dread that have good weight to them. These moments add flavor to a story that is rather simple and predictable, overall, whereas the normal Hunter x Hunter arcs a bit more intricate since they have more room to breathe.

Phantom Rouge is a good-looking movie, though it doesn’t match up with the TV series in several ways. The overall quality of animation and art is higher, of course, but it doesn’t have quite the same soul as the TV anime. The final battle, for instance, is quite straightforward — it unfolds like the climactic battle in your everyday, garden variety shonen series. It looks good and is entertaining, but that’s about it. There’s none of the strategy or give and take of normalĀ Hunter x Hunter battles; it’s a shame, because director Kojina Hiroshi and the rest of the TV series crew have mastered the art of making each battle a dynamic, heart-pounding experience, each different from the next. That’s one of the qualities that separates Hunter x Hunter from its peers: the way the series visually expresses the layers of detail in each battle written by manga author Togashi Yoshihiro. It’s a shame that same quality doesn’t translate to the movie.

Overall, Phantom Rouge is much like any movie spawned by a popular franchise — it’s an entertaining side-story, but little else. It at least adds some depth to a character that ties into the main story, but other than that has little impact on the main story, and isn’t quite entertaining enough on its own to recommend on its own merits.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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