HxH 56: The most tragic character since Maes Hughes

Hunter x Hunter episode 56 review


Let’s put aside the fact that Squala’s death was the most predictable death outside of J.J. Abrams killing off Han Solo in The Force Awakens. (That was the lowest moment in Star Wars history, even lower than “Do Not Want.” That botched handling of Han Solo’s exit scarred the Star Wars franchise for life, and the blood is on J.J. Abrams’ hands.)

No, let’s look at Squala as the most tragic character in anime since Maes Hughes. Squala was just your average guy, who liked dogs a lot, and had a girlfriend. And here he gets murdered by the “morally ambivalent” Nobunaga. (Seriously, the guy at Tekko who claimed Nobunaga and the Phantom Troupe were just “morally ambivalent” proved his utter incompetence at comprehending the concept of good and evil. Granted, we live in a postmodern world where good and evil are twisted, but calling the Phantom Troupe merely “morally ambivalent” is the equivalent of calling North Korea “neutral.”)

Squala didn’t deserve to die. His death was totally unnecessary for the plot, too. The only purpose it served was to make us hate the Phantom Troupe more. But why him? Why such a beloved guy like him? He had no money in the pot, nothing on the line. He was just doing his job. Watching him die was heartbreaking. And we’re supposed to cheer for the Phantom Troupe 40 episodes from now? No thank you.

The most tragic part of this episode is when all the dogs run away. As an animal lover, that is just completely heartbreaking. Not only did they run away, but their owner was killed – an owner who loved them. You can’t write a more tragic tale than this.

While this episode was fantastic, I do have a problem with the whole situation. Gon and Killua pretty much just give themselves up for no reason. Killua, remember, is a world-famous assassin who is an expert killer. Now he’s turned into a helpless 10-year-old boy. And Gon has the power to hold his breath for 5 straight minutes while carrying three people on his back. Yet Gon and Killua just turn themselves in and make themselves hostages.

Why is this important? It’s not that I care about the fates of Gon and Killua; it’s that Kurapika now has his whole plan ruined. Instead of trying to get revenge on the Troupe, he’s got to now simply work to save the damsels in distress. He had a perfect chance to exact his revenge, but his goal has completely changed as a result. Granted, this does make him grow as a character, as you’ll see. But for Gon and Killua to just hand themselves over without a fight goes directly against everything we’ve learned about them up to this point.

Do you sense it? There are already major plot holes in HxH. These plot holes are going to turn into black holes that suck all the life out of HxH come 40 episodes from now. HxH doesn’t collapse suddenly; it slowly falls to pieces, with the groundwork set by small problems like these.

And yet I loved this episode. All the complaining and whining by me, and it was one of my favorite of the entire series. Poor Squala. Somewhere, in another universe, Squala got to marry his girlfriend and live out a happy life with his dogs.

Character of the episode: Do you really need to ask?

Episode rating (out of four stars): ****

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