It’s time to look at the first big Hunter X Hunter film. From the poster and the name you’d expect it to be all about Kurapika, but instead he shares it 50/50 with Killua. That works for me since Killua’s always pretty hype even if this might not be his best appearance. It’s a pretty solid movie that delivers a fun plot and some good action scenes. It’s a good all around title.
The film opens with a quick recap of what Hunter X Hunter is and then a Killua flashback. In the present Kurapika meets a kid he used to know from his clan. The problem is that his whole clan was murdered so how can the kid still be here? The answer is pretty clear, he can’t be. The kid steals Kurapika’s eyes and then escapes. Gon and Killua are quickly called in to find the kid and recover the eyes. The problem is that they can’t really fight so how can they get the eyes back without engaging the enemy? They’re going to have to count on the kindness of strangers/enemies this time.
I do think the opening scene with Illumi was pretty unnecessary. We know that Killua had a tough childhood and was probably put on many assassination missions like the one we saw here. Still, I don’t think we needed to see those kids die like that. It’s a dark element that could have been cut out or implied a little more than shown and that would have gotten the message across. It does show a little more into how brutal this world is though, nobody’s going to be around to save you if you can’t fight. That’s part of why being a hunter is so appealing in this series.
As for the main plot, it’s pretty interesting. HXH always has a good story to tell. I think you’ll likely get where the film is going with the mysterious kid from Kurapika’s clan from the start though. The film isn’t too subtle about it, especially as we are introduced to a new character named Retsu who controls puppets. Puppets you say? Hmmmmmm. They look pretty life like too. Retsu isn’t bad I suppose, but there’s not a whole lot to her character. There is a twist where you find out that the character is a girl, but if her disguise was meant to make you think otherwise then I can’t really say that it worked. Still, she means well I suppose even if the way her character arc ends doesn’t feel like it needed to have been played out that way. She didn’t plan things out too well.
A big part of the film is how Killua is intimidated by this new character since she became friends with Gon so fast. It’s pretty out of character and is really only here to create conflict. I think Killua working through the fear Illumi put into him was handled better as he resisted his urge to escape when Uvogin showed up. He did fight with Gon for as long as possible and did a good job there. It’s just a shame that he isn’t particularly strong at this point in the series. You’ll notice that throughout the movie they are unable to fight back against any of the villains. As a result they do a lot of running, but after a while you may get a little annoyed at that. Fortunately this shouldn’t be an issue in the next film. Although they are still fairly outmatched by most of the big villains in the current manga, they have closed the gap to the point where they can at least try to fight now.
Gon looks pretty good here. He may be a bit trusting as always prior to the Chimera Ant arc but that’s how you’d expect him to be. It’s not like he ever tries to ditch Killua or anything that would hurt him like that. He does a good job of just trying to be there for everyone. Meanwhile, while Kurapika is sidelined until the climax he does get to look pretty good there. His Emperor Time ability is definitely very handy. Since he can only use it against a spider we don’t get to see him use this ability much so it was nice that he got a reason to use it here since the villain was an old spider.
Speaking of the old villain, Omokage isn’t all that great. The guy definitely didn’t take being booted off the Spiders too well. There are some twists and all so it isn’t that straight forward but he’s not exactly the “calm and collected” type of villain. He’s more the panic type and it shows. He can still fight to an extent, but take away his puppets and it’s game over. I’d take just about any of the real spiders against him. Still, his powers are perfect for a movie like this one since he can bring back all of the old characters. It was nice to see them show up.
Meanwhile, the animation is pretty solid as always. I’d say that the movie feels like a 2 part episode or like some kind of special. The animation isn’t necessarily any better than the show which gives it that feel. As the show already operates at a high level that isn’t really a problem. Based on the looks of the second film that will change though as it gets kicked into the next gear. The soundtrack is solid. The show always had cool themes. It was also pretty neat to hear the ending song during the climax. You usually hear it only for a few seconds, but this time we get to finally hear the whole song.
Overall, Phantom Rouge is a solid action film. It pretty much checks off all the boxes for what you would expect in a classic Shonen Jump film. It has good fight scenes and you get to see all of your favorite characters. While it isn’t quite as off the rails hype as the more recent Shonen films like Resurrection F, the SAO film, or Boruto, there aren’t any real problems with the film. Barring the intro scene which still wasn’t that bad, I can’t think of any negatives for the film. The heroes being unable to fight is frustrating but not really a negative. It was also cool seeing the Spiders fight a bit since that’s so rare. If the manga keeps on going on hiatus eventually we may just need a big movie to wrap things up and I think that could end up working just fine.