The entertainment industry grows as each day goes by. The battle for consumer and audience attention rages on between different companies and corporations.
Digital entertainment, in particular, is on the rise, as people actively choose digital experiences over in-person ones, such as indulging in the thrill of high-stake classic games like blackjack, rather than visiting a land-based casino. With immersive gameplay, online casino games offer different card game variants, which raises the bar for many entertainment providers on the market.
Alternatively, people choose to spend their time at home, watching quality films, TV shows, or a type of media that has been gaining huge traction from all over the world recently, anime. This article will dive deep into the genre, which currently encompasses 2.88 billion viewers worldwide.
Seinen And Shonen
While anime was always relatively big, the heights that it has reached in terms of popularity in recent years were unimaginable previously. The genre is extremely versatile and multi-dimensional, yet most seem to separate it into two major categories, Seinen and Shonen.
The main differentiator between the two is the fact that Seinen is supposed to cater to a more mature audience, with projects like Steins Gate, or Berserk, while Shonen is targeted towards teens or young adults.
As it stands today, Shonen is the more popular of the two, with stories such as Naruto or Dragon Ball being known by even non-fans of the genre. The enormous appeal of these shows seems to be the flashy fights, which in addition to holding substantive weight narratively speaking, also have incredibly unique abilities and power systems.
Perhaps the most interesting, or at the very least the most complex is the Nen power system from the show Hunter x Hunter. The mentioned complexity is what separates this system from many other relatively straightforward ones, and gives the author of the story, Togashi Yoshihiro, the tools to create interesting, sometimes over-the-top abilities, while always operating under already established rules.
The Basics of Nen
At its core, Nen is not that different from any other power in various other media, like Chakra or Ki. Essentially, it is a technique that allows the character to utilize their inherent life energy/aura in various ways. Most inhabitants of the HxH world are not even aware that they possess a special aura and those that know not only that but also how to use that aura are called Nen users.
Traditionally, the Hunter association discloses all information about aura manipulation to avoid power being used by the wrong people. The aura is invisible to the naked eye and typically is leaking through a small node located on a person’s body.
The most basic way to utilize Nen is through the Ten technique. This allows the user to control the flow of the life energy in their body through the nodes, and give themself a basic protective aura that can be turned passive through enough practice. Notably, since Ten provides control over life energy, it deprives the useless waste of said energy, thus prolonging the life of the user by a significant amount. An example is Isaac Netero, who at 120 years old, was still the most powerful human character thus far.
The next application, Ren, unleashes a larger amount of aura, allowing the user to amplify their physical capabilities, in exchange for faster energy depletion. This strikes a fine balance, as the relatively more powerful technique is more costly.
There also exists Zetsu, a stealth technique that completely closes off all the nodes in the user’s body, stopping the aura leak and becoming almost undetectable from a distance. This technique bears huge risks though, as temporarily turning off Nen aura will expose the user to serious damage if hit by an attack. That is precisely why the technique is used only during tailing, assassination, or in niche scenarios, to heal, as keeping all life energy inside the body will quicken the recovery.
The differentiator, Hatsu
By far the most interesting and complex aspect of Nen though, is Hatsu. Unlike the fundamentals, Hatsu is unique to every single Nen user, as it allows various applications of aura, dependent on the personality and the aura nature of the character.
There are six total Nen natures. These are enhancement, emission, transmutation, manipulation, conjuration, and specialization. A character finds out their adjacent nature through a simple test, and cannot fully master any nature outside of their affiliate, however, can utilize their basics.
The protagonist, Gon, is an enhancer. Possesses the simplest variant of aura nature, amplifying physical capabilities, and mainly attack potency. The unique Hatsu that he was able to create is called rock paper scissors, an ability with three different potential attacks. Rock relies on a powered punch, the enhancer aura, paper is a projectile, relies on the basics of emission, and scissors, a slash generated by the transmutation aura.
The deuteragonist, Killua, is primarily a transmitter, changing the nature of his aura, and mimicking lightning, greatly improving speed and attack potency. Another major character, Kurapika is a conjurer, possessing the ability to materialize any weapon, as long as it does not exceed the realms of possibility. Conjurers typically have to be extremely creative to properly utilize their abilities, as they do not have the capability of creating something over the top.
Leorio, the final member of the original four has gained a decently advanced form of emission, allowing him to transport his aura across distances, and even essentially teleport. As for manipulators like Illumi for example, they rely on transmitting their Nen to objects or even living creatures to use them as catalysts and control them. Specialists, however, are quite rare and do not fall under typical classifications. Their abilities can vary, whether that is accurate fortune telling, or something niche like Chrollo possessing the power to steal and utilize other Nen users’ Hatsu.
Other Unique Aspects, and How the Nen System Aids the Narrative
With all the basics covered, there is one more thing that is notable to mention. That would be the condition of a power mechanic. In HxH, a user can obtain power depending on how much they are willing to sacrifice in return.
Examples of this would be the limitations that Kurapika placed on himself in pursuit of the Phantom troupe members. These limitations only allow him to use his signature conjure weapon, the chains against said members, in exchange for the weapon being significantly more powerful. If he breaks these limitations and uses the chains in any other scenario, he will die.
Obviously, death is the harshest form of a limitation, and it not only informs Kurapika’s power is on the level of the Phantom Troupe when they are fighting but also tells the audience about his desperation to bring the people who took everything away from him, to what he perceives to be justice.
Perhaps an even better example is demonstrated through one of the highlights of the story, and what amounted to be one of the most powerful payoffs in the series. The easygoing, cheerful protagonist that the audience came to know slowly turned into a vengeance-driven bloodthirsty monster, ready to sacrifice all for temporary power and the pursuit of revenge.
Both of these are textbook examples of how a power system can be married to character progressions and narrative substance. Power in the world of Hunter x Hunter comes at a big price, one that often is not worth paying.