Welcome back to HxH Detours! We’re now entering the short Heaven’s Arena arc which is focused on introducing the core of the Hunter x Hunter battle system. As I stated way back in my first character introduction, at the beginning of each arc I’ll introduce new, relevant characters as well as do recaps of ones we’ve already been introduced to in the past.
Now that we have all that preliminary information out of the way, let’s dig into our new (and old!) characters of Heaven’s Arena! And I’m assuming if you’re reading HxH Detours that you’re aware that there are rampant spoilers ahead. If you’re not caught up on the show then watch up to episode 36 then meet back here!
The Heaven’s Arena arc for Gon is actually the “final test” of the Hunter’s Exam, meaning he has to learn and master the most basic fundamentals of Nen in order to become a certified Hunter. In Heaven’s Arena, he and Killua learn Nen from Wing, a Nen master, while also training with his disciple, Zushi. Throughout the arc, we get glimpses of Gon looking over affectionately at Killua when the other isn’t looking, which takes us into the next phase of their relationship: adolescent crushes. Between their soft gazes, we also get further insight into Gon’s dangerous curiosity and tunnel vision, where his recklessness with near-death experiences and thirst for adrenaline rushes continue to escalate. This truly begins the foreshadowing of Gon’s ultimate downfall in the Chimera Ant arc, but until then, Heaven’s Arena shows us how eager he is to gain further strength. His encounters with dull adversaries and the concluding battle of the arc with Hisoka further excites Gon into learning more about Nen, and he finally starts to see a path he can follow to gain the strength to eventually find his dad.
After Gon busts Killua out of the Zoldyck estate in a gay rescue mission, Killua experiences a taste of true freedom for the first time in his life. He follows Gon to train and learn more about Nen, and even chooses to tag along with Gon to Whale Island at the conclusion of the arc. Killua makes a concrete decision to no longer kill in Heaven’s Arena, which we see when Zushi, a side character, is abducted by boring adversaries after training one day and Killua goes to save him. Killua is finally exercising agency in his life, and with Gon by his side encouraging him along the way, Killua slowly begins to show his emotions. This in turn leads to Killua continuing to remain on the same path as Gon — as he’s already qualified to start on a higher floor but chooses to start with Gon on the lower levels — which further reinforces how Killua is not Gon’s rival but an equal. Where the Hunter’s Exam arc saw Killua and Gon keep their feelings about each other more or less to themselves, Heaven’s Arena is when see Killua and Gon steal looks at each other when the other isn’t looking. They’re becoming softer, gradually getting to be on the same page with their queer, adolescent crushes that are beginning to turn into something more.
Hisoka’s back and extra as ever in Heaven’s Arena. This time around, Hisoka is here to idly kill time by battling in the arena while waiting to meet with the rest of the Phantom Troupe ahead of the Yorknew auction. That’s right — we learn that Hisoka is a masquerading Phantom Troupe member, who is biding his time until he gets the opportunity to battle the troupe’s leader, Chrollo. Until then, he’s in Heaven’s Arena to gauge Gon’s progress with learning Nen, giving him first-hand battle experience with a few of the nuanced applications of Nen, and giving a rundown of Nen personality traits. The battle between Gon and Hisoka is one of the most fluid, jaw-dropping battle sequences in the entire show. It’s also one that sets up a bait-and-switch anticipation of what the final “major” battle of the first, overarching story of the show will be. We’re led to believe this will occur between Hisoka and Gon since they’re constantly ruminating over battling to the death, but (spoiler alert!) the real final conflict is Gon’s much darker self-destruction in the Chimera Ant arc. But that’s much later and you’ll have to wait quite a while until I finally talk about it!
Kastro is an elite fighter of Heaven’s Arena and is only one battle away from being able to challenge a floor master. When he first fought and lost against Hisoka two years prior to the story, he spent those years honing a very specific cloning ability to exact revenge against Hisoka. Joke’s on him, though, since he’s foolheartedly trying to impress a Gemini by literally becoming a Gemini which Hisoka is not about at all. Kastro doesn’t understand astrology (or Hisoka, really) and this backfires spectacularly. His role in Heaven’s Arena is to show the downfalls of overextending one’s Nen abilities, and to teach Gon and Killua that flashiness over a solid grasp of the foundations can lead to one’s demise.
We meet our “first” official Phantom Troupe member in the explanation-heavy Heaven’s Arena arc! Machi is a member of the notorious Phantom Troupe which, you may remember, is the exact group Kurapika is seeking his revenge on for committing genocide against his people. Machi is one of the earliest members of the troupe (we learn about this more in the next arc), but in her first introduction, she serves as a guide for explaining Nen and uncovering some of the mystery behind Hisoka, and clues us into the next arc. Her Nen abilities allow her to create threads that she can use to suture wounds (and reattach limbs), take photos with her eyes for medical diagnosis, and as we see in the next arc, she can also use her thread to kill and track people. She doesn’t put up with Hisoka’s (or anyone’s) bullshit and her bantering with other characters is a true delight to watch.
NEXT TIME ON HxH DETOURS: I take a dive into the basics of Nen, the Hunter x Hunter battle system, and whether or not Nen is actually just horoscopes.