One Character Was Particularly Painful To Adapt For The Hunter X Hunter Anime

"Hunter x Hunter" is one of the best manga around. Yoshihiro Togashi's story encapsulates what makes shonen action manga so popular even after so many decades, a story that continues to influence and inspire other artists to this day, and has got not one, but two great adaptations — including a stone cold masterpiece.

But this is also a story that is tricky to adapt, starting with the fact that even today it remains incomplete. Because of this, it is hard for the anime writers to know what stuff will be important later on, or how certain characters will be relevant to the story.

Case in point, there was one character who was particularly painful for the writers of the 2011 anime adaptation of "Hunter x Hunter," because they missed out on introducing the character at the same point as in the manga, which made building up the character's story a daunting task.

Spoilers ahead for "Hunter x Hunter."

Different hellos

In an interview with German outlet Manga Passion, director Hiroshi Kōjina talked about what he thought was the trickiest thing to translate to the anime.

"In the manga, the character Kite appears early on, while his appearance came much later in our adaptation for various reasons. Building in his performance was particularly hard. It certainly didn't go smoothly. If I think about it too much, too many painful memories come flooding back. The team worked very hard on it and everyone played their part until the end."

Kite is a hunter and a student of Ging Freecss, the father of protagonist Gon. In the 2011 anime, we first meet Kite at the very end of the "Greed Island Arc" in episode 75, when Gon accidentally teleports to Kite's location rather than his father's, who abandoned him when he was a child.

The problem is that, as Kōjina points out, Kite shows up much earlier in the source material; in the very first chapter of the manga, in fact. In that chapter, Kite saves Gon from a foxbear, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is Kite who first introduces Gon to the world of Hunters, a blanket term for elite individuals with extraordinary abilities with a license to do pretty much whatever they want around the world, from killing, to excavating ancient dig sites, to studying endangered and dangerous animals. Kite also tells Gon that his father is alive and that Gon can find him if he becomes a Hunter, kickstarting the story.

Same goodbye

Having Kite be the guy to set Gon off on his journey, versus being a stepping stone on his way to meet his dad months later make for very different emotional payoffs by the time we reach the famous "Chimera Ant Arc."

That arc involves an invasion by a special kind of ant that evolves by mixing its DNA with that of the creatures it eats, eventually turning into an army of hybrids like a koala ant, a lion ant, and more. Kite, Gon and his friend Killua all meet one incredibly advanced and powerful ant, named Neferpitou, and she cuts off Kite's arm as he tries to defend a powerless Gon, eventually sacrificing his life to keep the two young boys safe. In the manga, this scene hits hard because we know how big an impact Kite had on Gon's life, how he was sort of a paternal figure to him, even if he wasn't around throughout the story of the manga.

In the anime, however, this plays out differently. We have just met Kite a few episodes earlier, and we don't know nearly enough about him. The reason his death still works is that even if we as an audience aren't impacted by it, Gon is, not necessarily due to grief over the loss of someone close to him, but due to guilt over being too weak to help Kite fight. In Gon's eyes, Kite died because he was too distracted by keeping Gon safe. This ends up being the moment where Gon loses his innocence, the first time he properly sees death up close and is a direct result of his actions, or so he thinks.

Still, no matter the format, and no matter how we first meet Kite, the result is still emotionally devastating, as it leads to the mindblowing moment fans have dubbed "Gon-san."

"Hunter x Hunter" is streaming on HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Funimation.