Explaining Hunter x Hunter’s Chimera Ant arc is a rite of passage

Here are some very out-of-context things that happen in the Chimera Ant arc of the 2011 anime Hunter x Hunter, which is now streaming on Netflix. An octopus named Ikalgo decides he’s the BFF of one of the main characters. A woman whose power involves wrapping her very long hair around herself fights a kid in a dictator’s mansion. A nuclear blast culminates in a resurrection scene that doesn’t feel like someone coming back from the dead, so much as it resembles a cannibalistic orgy. (You really have to see it to believe it.) The protagonists meet a leader who apparently spent, like, two years standing in one place and punching the air ten thousand times a day. A mutant ant harnesses the power to whisk his opponents to a pocket dimension, and he uses it to force them to play tag with him. There’s this absolute brick house of a man, whose power is basically vaping. And that’s just scratching the barest surface.

Hunter x Hunter’s Chimera Ant arc is the most infamous storyline in all six seasons of the show, to the point where even anime fans who’ve never watched the series may have heard of it, because it’s so divisive. Some people love it and say it’s the greatest thing to happen to anime. Others despise it with a burning passion. It makes up almost half the series, clocking in at 61 episodes. And it’s exactly as batshit as promised — perhaps even more, if that’s possible.

Twice now, I’ve watched people try to explain this arc to someone who barely watches anime, and both times, I wanted to evaporate on the spot out of embarrassment for how completely unhinged the story sounded. Making it that far into Hunter x Hunter requires a high tolerance for totally out-there plot elements, but Chimera Ant really tests that limit. I am saying this as someone who adores Hunter x Hunter, who wrote a 35,000-word fanfic for it, who cosplayed her favorite character, who bought a clock with the main characters on it.

When most Hunter x Hunter fans reach the midpoint of the Chimera Ant story, they’re hit with a burning desire to explain the sheer what-the-fuckery to someone, to explain how this gory, absolutely wacky plot works cohesively, even though some of the individual pieces are so wild that they are embarrassing to discuss out loud. It’s basically a rite of passage to explain this emotionally taxing arc to people who’ve never seen the show. Unfortunately, since I watched the series in quarantine, I never actually got a chance to undergo this sacred rite. But with the Chimera Ant arc finally added to Netflix, it is now my time.

Hunter x Hunter takes place in a world where Hunters, licensed individuals with superior fighting skills and the ability to wield the in-universe magic system (“Nen”), trek across the world seeking treasure, glory, and other dangerous things. The main character, Gon, is a typical wide-eyed, big-hearted anime protagonist, whose one goal in life is to be a strong Hunter just like his father. His best buddy, Killua, is the middle son of a family of famous assassins, but he just wants to chill with Gon, and doesn’t care about joining the family legacy. (There are other characters, but this arc is mostly about these two, so I won’t wax poetic about my absolute fave, Kurapika.)

The arc kicks off when Gon and Killua encounter Kite, a Hunter who specializes in handling dangerous wildlife. He was also Gon’s father’s protégé, and once, when Gon was very little, Kite saved him from being attacked by a wild animal. Kite’s latest mission involves investigating a possible infestation of Chimera Ants, and because Gon just helps out everyone, he volunteers to join Kite’s quest.

The series uses “ant” in the loosest sense of the word here. Sure, the Queen Chimera Ant looks pretty much like a giant ant, and her first sets of offspring are bug-like. But these creatures are called Chimera Ants because they take on the hybrid appearance of whatever the Queen last ate. At first, she just devours regular animals, but then she discovers that humans make tasty treats — and after eating them, she produces powerful offspring that definitely look like DeviantArt fursonas. Pretty soon, her children start becoming stronger and more powerful, and then also start hungering for human flesh. So they start hunting more and more people, destroying entire villages and killing humans in increasingly horrific ways, like gunning them dead with powerful streams of water, or probing their brains for information.

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Here are some very out-of-context things that happen in the Chimera Ant arc of the 2011 anime Hunter x Hunter, which is now streaming on Netflix. An octopus named Ikalgo decides he’s the BFF of one of the main characters. A woman whose power involves wrapping her very long hair around herself fights a kid…

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