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DVD Review: Hunter X Hunter – Volume 2

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Gon and his friends have passed the first two stages of the grueling Hunter Exam, but the worst phases of the exam are still to come in volume two of Viz media's Hunter X Hunter series. Gon and co. must still escape the trials in Trick Tower, fierce sea storms, a mad free-for-all on an isolated island and an all-out fighting tournament to prove that they deserve the title of "Hunter."

This popular Shonen Jump series has everything that fans love about shonen: overcoming impossible odds, friends-turned-rivals, well-timed humor and, of course, loads of heart-pounding action. Fans of Yoshihiro Togashi's other popular anime series, YuYu Hakusho, will have no problem getting into Hunter X Hunter. The two shows follow many of the same shonen stereotypes, but while YuYu Hakusho feels more original and fast-paced, Hunter X Hunter can occasionally feel painfully drawn out and more than a little cliche. There are certain moments where the characters and plots seem like they came directly out of an episode of Naruto (even though both series have stolen from other shonen), but much of the time this isn't a bad thing. Between the occasionally boring scenes and the action sequences, supporting characters are given the opportunity to develop and build bonds with one another that become tested as the series goes on. Emotions run high throughout the Exam, which ups the stakes and involves viewers in the lives of the characters.

In Trick Tower, Gon and the others must choose whether or not to fight one another while racing against the clock. After barely making it through, the Hunter candidates must pull together to battle fierce storms as they head toward the next phase. Once on the island for the next phase, everyone is forced to work on their own to survive. And finally, after some rest, the remaining candidates are forced to fight one another tournament-style for the title of Hunter.

Sadly, the bonus features on this set feel like they are a little lacking, featuring only a few selected storyboards from the show and a collection of promotions for other Viz products. Anime purists will be happy to know that this three-disc set includes the original Japanese voice track as well as the English dub. The dub is great for younger viewers, who may not be as comfortable with reading subtitles, but including both versions of the anime will leave some viewers scratching their heads and wondering why the dialogue can differ so greatly between the dub and the sub. There are also quite a few points in the show where the English voice actors sound like they are reading off a page rather than acting, making the voices feel stilted and emotionless.

Sprinkled with just enough humor, spiced with witty dialogue and mixed with plenty of action, Hunter X Hunter Volume 2 is a fun show and great continuation of the series. It's ideal for fans of Naruto and other shonen but still has enough action and emotion to appeal to older audiences who enjoy an exciting ride.

This volume includes episodes 16-30 of the series, which consists of the second half and conclusion of the Hunter Exam. Even though it seems like Gon finally has everything that he has ever wanted, a surprising twist leaves viewers with a bittersweet ending, along with the possibility that Gon, Leorio, Kurapika and Killua's adventures are only just beginning.

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