Eyes are a passage to another person’s soul. You can tell how they’re feeling from staring into them. But, what happens if they’re suddenly taken away? Hunter X Hunter: The Phantom Rouge plunges Gon and Killua into a journey to find Kurapika’s eyes, which have been mysteriously taken. Despite feeling like a 90 minute episode of the TV show rather than a movie, The Phantom Rouge continues to successfully progress the series’ compelling characters and narrative.
For those who haven’t watched the series in a while, the movie does a good job of keeping you up to speed as to who the characters are, their personalities, and a very brief description of their history. It isn’t that detailed, however, as the story takes place before the Greed Island arc, which has Gon and Killua entering a virtual world (which isn’t really the case in the end), so they can get a clue as to where Gon’s father is.
Hunter X Hunter‘s greatest strength is its characters. The original group come back together in this movie, and it’s great to see them gelling again. The chemistry between the four work so well, and from this movie, it strengthens the relationship further. Gon is a happy-go-lucky kid who is pushing forward no matter what (but he doesn’t seem as naive as you’d think) and Killua is less accepting of others but willing to stand by his best friend.
Kurapika and Leorio also have a strong bond, and in this group of 4, the writers have developed a friendship that doesn’t feel forced; they really earn that believable friendship and you know that they would do anything for each other.
If you are a fan of the anime, you will be happy to see what Kurapika’s life was like before the Kurta Clan was defeated. There are also new characters for this movie. Retz (Retsu) is a kid that Gon and Killua meet, who has a strange air around him. Retz is the guiding character in the story for Gon and Killua and plays an important role in the story. His real identity is an interesting plot point, but I won’t spoil it if you haven’t watched the movie. There is also Omokage, which at first seems like a typical deranged villain, but he has a core to him that makes him more fleshed out than other villains in the series. His power is unique as well.
A problem with the movie is that it reiterates plot details from the anime into this storyline, especially for Killua. Once again, he is struggling to cope with his brother’s influence on him. He is scared of losing his best friend and betraying him. It goes over old material in a laborious fashion. It tries to go for a twist on this plot line, but in the end, it doesn’t amount to anything. It could have had way more impact, as he was a cause of something horrible happening. It turns out, that it wasn’t so horrible after all; in fact, it was planned.
The fights are quite disappointing too. Gon and Killua get their butts kicked throughout the majority of the movie due to their power level at this time, and the fights aren’t as intense as the ones in the latter half of the show. Despite the lack of exciting action, this movie’s animation looks slicker than the show. The animations are more detailed, colors are more vivid than the show, and there is slightly more polish to the look of the film.
The dub work, just like the show, is top notch as the cast has returned to reprise their roles. In fact, the cast of Hunter X Hunter for the dub were recording alongside the localization of the anime. The show (and the movie) has a wide range of emotions that the actors have to pull off and they do it well; Gon is happy-go-lucky in one moment and then he is intense the next. Killua is tough, but when he has to face his fears, he struggles to cope with it and whimpers. Gon, the once childish kid in the group, is the one who treats situations more maturely than Killua, who has gone through many tortures as an assassin in the Zoldyck family. The main cast portray these characters very well. What slightly took me out of it was Killua during the third act as his voice sounded more feminine than usual, but other than that, the dub work was great. If you have only watched the sub (which is also available in this Blu-ray), I’d recommend trying the dub!
The interviews included in the disc are great. VIZ Media interviewed Erica Mendez (Gon), Cristina Vee (Killua), Erica Harlacher (Kurapika), and Matthew Mercer (Leorio) about their roles, their thoughts on how their characters progressed in the film, and some behind-the-scenes details. The interviewer did wonderfully as the voice actors showed their personalities on screen. It makes me want to interview each of the cast and they all seem like interesting people. What compliments the interviews is a picture-in-picture of the voice actors in the sound booth and a clip from the movie. It’s cool to see how they perform each of their lines and lose themselves into the characters they portray.
The disc also comes with a recording of the Japanese premiere of Hunter X Hunter: The Phantom Rouge, in which the Japanese voice actors speak to the audience and answer questions about their characters and themselves. Interviews with the Japanese voice actors, the Japanese movie trailers, an art gallery with characters, props, and background drawings and illustrations are also included. Something I wish they added was a commentary with the English voice actors and director, but the interviews make up for lacking this feature.
Hunter X Hunter: The Phantom Rouge is a solid addition to the series. It gives you more plot details about Kurapika’s past, and it strengthens the bond between Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio. However, it does dwell on Killua’s tortured history with his brother once again, and there isn’t too much action to enjoy in this film.
A Blu-ray copy of Hunter X Hunter: The Phantom Rouge and a Steelbook Blu-ray version of Hunter X Hunter Volume 1 was provided by VIZ Media.