Hunter x hunter is one of the most popular shounen anime out there, with fans still following the series after more than 24 years. The story follows Gon Freecss as he pursues the lifestyle of a professional hunter alongside the assassin Killua, budding doctor Leorio and Kurapika of the Kurta clan. The quartet tackle the hunter exam together and ultimately help each other pursue the goals that brought them to the hunter culture.
The anime is consistently considered by fans to have subverted the structure of shounen anime; but this is not necessarily the case. While it sways from the classic tropes seen within the genre, it also played a role in creating the same clichés. Alongside other popular anime at the time, Hunter x hunter helped start what fans now consider the shounen — so can it really be considered subversive?
Hunter x Hunter Started in 1998 – While Shounen was still fairly new
The Hunter x hunter manga was first released in March 1998, when the Shounen landscape barely existed compared to what it is today. The counterparts were also released around the same time, including Naruto in 1999 and Bleach in 2001. Usually these three anime — side by side One Piece — considered by the animanga community to be ‘average shounen’ and the genre’s archetypes.
One Piece published in 1997, and while it is older than Hunter x hunter, this timeline still doesn’t provide enough grounds to suggest that the anime was already shaking up the landscape of such a fresh genre. At the time of release, the concept shounen was still being discovered and built and was considered very new to the industry. HxH, One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto essentially helped to build the genre’s foundation.
Hunter x Hunter was an archetype for Shounen Manga and Anime
When the story to Hunter x hunteranime and manga are put into perspective, it’s hard to suggest that the franchise actually revolutionized what other generic anime usually does. It’s odd to suggest that the series subverts archetypes that, at the time, didn’t even exist yet. It can be argued that the concept of HxH originated from Dragon Ballwhich started in the 80s, but even then the argument does not carry much weight.
Dragon Ball is an exception to the shounen genre, as it was essentially the only series of its kind when it started. One Piece was essentially considered the sequel regarding the modern shounen, so while it might have inspired Hunter x hunter, the genre had not yet solidified. As an anime historically considered an archetype for shounen animanga, it may not necessarily be considered as revolutionary as it is.
The tropics which HxH is said to subvert are the same ones it played a role in creating, along with other influential anime of the time. Although it occasionally deviates from the path of generic shounen, it is considered to be one of the series that helped shape the entire landscape of the modern genre — so the supposedly subversive nature of Hunter x hunter in fact contradicts history itself.