The looming Hunter x Hunter return has had fans going berserk all day, with lots of speculation circulating. The reason?
Earlier today, the manga author Yoshihiro Togashi posted a cryptic message on Twitter, stating “four chapters for the time being.” The announcement was swiftly retweeted by Yusuke Murata (the One-Punch Man mangaka) and has since gone viral.
Whether there is some credibility to the supposition remains to be seen. We can only hope the four-year-long Hunter x Hunter hiatus is finally coming to a close, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, let us look back at those (latest) four long years of anticipation and angst… and beyond.
Hunter x Hunter: the journey begins
Hunter × Hunter started in 1998. For the entirety of its run, it was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump. In the first eight years, everything was going smoothly. Since 2006, however, the manga has been on on-off hiatus, with the latest one (2018) extending to the present day.
The common reason that has been given for irregular hiatuses is mangaka Togashi’s back pain, but some instances have never been elaborated on. Certainly, rumors have run rampant among Hunter x Hunter manga fans, with common reactions being angst and disbelief, in some cases even downright offending remarks.
There’s a good reason why the fans have been dismayed. Hunter x Hunter is a brilliant manga, capable of withstanding the test of time. Generally speaking, whenever you see a manga getting multiple adaptations over time, you can be certain it’s worth it.
The first TV anime adaptation of Hunter x Hunter aired from 1999 to 2001 (62 episodes). Another 148-episode adaptation (6 seasons) aired from 2011 to 2014. A 30-episode OVA series ran from 2002 to 2004, and there are also two animated films and a slew of video games.
Before the manga entered its first hiatus (2006), the original Hunter × Hunter anime TV series had ranked 28th on TV Asahi’s list of Japan’s 100 favorite animated TV series (compiled based on an online poll), preceded only by the giants of the industry, such as Fullmetal Alchemist (ranked 1st), Doraemon (ranked 3rd), and Inuyasha (ranked 20th), among others.
The 2011 Hunter × Hunter TV anime series was no less popular upon premiering. The reason why that was so was, perhaps, best described by Michael Basile, a “nonstop consumer of anime content” in his own words, in his article “Hunter x Hunter 2011 – The Triumph of Long-Running Shounen” published on Gique:
“Rather than treat us to arc after arc of nothing but battling new enemies, each new arc of Hunter almost seems to reset the series entirely by introducing new elements of world building that drastically alter the world we’ve come to know, yet at the same time never feel out of place.”
Spot on. Still, the long-expected 7th season of the 2011 Hunter × Hunter anime never came out. Due to the manga having been on hiatus, there simply wasn’t enough source material even though Madhouse wanted to produce another season, and badly at that.
The story behind the Hunter x Hunter hiatus
As mentioned above, mangaka Togashi’s back pain has usually been blamed for Hunter × Hunter hiatuses, but there are other speculations as well.
Some rumors suggested that Togashi had a dispute with Shueisha (publisher of Weekly Shōnen Jump) over the Hunter x Hunter manga, with some reports even going so far as to state that Shueisha would eventually offer another mangaka to resume work on Hunter × Hunter while Togashi would remain the driving force behind the series. Regardless, the publisher has continually reiterated that the artist’s back pain is the only basis for prolonged hiatuses.
The reason why many believe this tell-tale lies in the fact that Hunter × Hunter is one of Shueisha’s best-selling manga series of all time (with over 79 million copies in circulation).
Gossip runs rampant when popular manga are on hold, so the safest (and the only decent) option is to stick to official statements. It’s not like we can do anything to step up the developments; the least we can do is not blabber on.
Still, there’s another, more believable take. Namely, some sources have claimed that, as the manga’s popularity grew and fans’ expectations rose exponentially, Togashi finally succumbed to the tension. It had happened before, too. Scilicet, while working on Yū Yū Hakusho (1990-1994), the mangaka complained of “chest pain” and “inconsistent sleep patterns,” both of which he attributed to an “immense amount of stress.”
It is only fair to say here that it is not uncommon for mangaka (especially authors of popular manga) to experience burnout.
With manga chapters being published monthly and containing 40 to 45 pages, on average, many artists simply reach their limit at some point, and who can blame them?
Take Vagabond mangaka Takehiko Inoue as an example. He has stated that creating the manga has put a strain on his mental well-being and stopped producing new chapters seven years ago. Officially, Vagabond is still not on indefinite hiatus, but seven years is a long time even for the most patient of fans.
Admittedly, it’s not an easy decision. All artists who have resolved to halt their manga have kept saying that once they’re feeling better, they’ll resume the work. Even so, how many manga on hiatus have come back?
We’ll be indeed lucky if today’s Tweet proves prophetic.
The hope remains as long as the mangaka feels the same way he did in 2018, when Hunter × Hunter last went on hiatus (full interview here):
“(…) I need to finish writing Hunter x Hunter. It has come to a point where either the story concludes first, or I die before that happens. But I do intend to finish it. Although you can say that at one point in the story — where Gon meets Ging — I have completed the story once. I believe that some readers must have thought ‘Wasn’t that supposed to be the endgame?’ and I did write it to seem that way. Still, I did not intend to cut off the flow of the story there, and I hope my readers could see that there was still room for continuation. As a reader of Jump myself, I also remember having thought ‘Shouldn’t this manga have just ended here?’ and feeling pissed when it went on and on. I want to always be in touch with that feeling as a reader. But Hunter x Hunter as it is now has a lot in it that makes me want to keep on reading, even from my own perspective as a reader. And from my perspective as a writer, there are still many things in it left that I want to write, that I would enjoy writing. And so if anyone would be willing to enjoy this ride with me, that is all I can hope for.”
And so can we. Fingers crossed for the Hunter x Hunter return!