There aren’t many OVAs that are based on TV-series that actually manage to contribute to their respective story. Most of the time, they’re just silly DVD-extras, or have side-stories that just aren’t as interesting as their TV-counterparts. But oh boy, when an OVA is made with a clear goal and purpose, it sure does become good. Take Rurouni Kenshin Tsuiokuhen and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni for example. The first OVA from Hunter X Hunter is also such a wonderful example of this.
Seriously, this is EVERYTHING a shounen series should be. Creative, intelligent, a plot that for once doesn’t try to prevent the destruction of the world, a huge emphasis on strategy, an awesome cast of villains, the main character doesn’t scream, yell or play the hero all the time, nothing drags on whatsoever, whenever the show threatens to catch up to the manga, it simply takes a hiatus rather than come up with a bunch of pointless fillers, it’s without a doubt one of the best shounen series ever. It’s an incredible shame that today so few anime take up the example that Hunter X Hunter provided.
So anyway, the OVA basically continues where the TV-series left, and it’s actually one big cat-and-mouse game between Kurapica and the Spiders. Because the TV-series already did all of the building up, it really can immediately dive into the action, and the result is a very tense and complex strategical battle, which for once has the biggest focus towards using one’s head; in fact, there’s actually hardly any fighting aside from a few key scenes here and there.
This OVA really opened my eyes on the use of intelligence in anime. Usually, if shows even bother to use their brains during a fight at all, there is one party who actively uses his head, while the other stupidly rushes in without much of a strategy. In this OVA, everyone thinks carefully about his/her actions. As a result, this show can get away with powers that would be entirely overkill in most other series: the ability to read minds, the ability to copy any technique you want, the power to create clones or simply pull out the heart from one’s chest. This OVA carefully examines the different advantages and disadvantages of all the different powers, and it doesn’t even try to make use of every single obscure loophole to create tension.
The cast of characters is also really good. Both main and side-characters, everyone is in this story for a reason; no matter how small, they contribute to the story. Out of the most important characters, especially Pakunoda leaves an impression. We hardly know anything about her, but the performance that she puts down is very convincing and gripping. The leader of the antagonists also is unlike any other of his counterparts: for once you have a leader of an evil organization who doesn’t spend his time sitting on a chair doing nothing: this guy isn’t afraid to get his own hands dirty, and yet at the same time you can clearly see why he’s the leader of the bunch. The protagonists Gon, Kurapica, Leorio and Killua also get their own share of development.
There is one point of criticism I have for this OVA: I feel that it’s already done a wonderful job in characterizing its villains, but this would have been even better if some of the history of these guys had been revealed. But then again, there have been hints that the next two OVAs are going to delve into that.
The Hunter X Hunter OVA is exactly why I love those short but very intelligent and well-crafted series, and why it’s also a shame that there are so few of them. This OVA is basically the best of the TV-series, stripped from all the long training arcs and any kind of other boring part, and showed us eight episodes of what this series is best at: characters and actually intelligent strategies. For me, the best shows of the shounen genre are the Law of Ueki for the humorous and fun side, and Hunter X Hunter for the serious side.