While changing genre in the middle of a series is not a common thing to do, it is not a strange thing either. There are numerous big name manga that have done this already. Dragon Ball and Katekyo Hitman Reborn! changed from comedy to full blown action, Air Gear changed from sports to sci-fi thriller, Nurarihyon no Mago changed from horror to action, and there are many other examples as well.
There are also some mangaka out there who purposely jump from one genre to the next. The most obvious example is certainly Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. However, if Jojo changes genre through each part of its story and uses different characters in every part, there is a mangaka who seamlessly changes genre from one major story arc to the next while keeping the overall narrative intact and utilizing the same characters throughout. The name is Yoshihiro Togashi, and the manga is Hunter x Hunter. These are the different faces of Hunter x Hunter.
Hunter Exam Arc: Action x Adventure
The Hunter Exam is the first major arc in Hunter x Hunter and it serves as an introduction to the main characters and the world of Hunter x Hunter. When Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio work together as a team to try and pass the chaotic Hunter exam, we come to understand and care about them as characters and realize how hard it is to be a Hunter.
From fighting death row convicts in the puzzling Trick Tower to trying to steal another examinee's name tag in the mysterious Zevil Island, this first arc provides exciting action sequences and numerous adventures into strange places. By the time the Hunter Exam finally begins, it is clear to every reader that Hunter x Hunter deserves its place as one of the best action/adventure shounen manga ever made.
Yorknew City Arc: Thriller x Heist
After the Hunter Exam, the story goes through several short transitional arcs until we finally arrive in Yorknew City. Gon and Killua wish to find the legendary game, Greed Island, in order to get more information about Gon's father. Kurapika is there to work as a bodyguard for a millionaire who wishes to purchase the scarlet eyes of Kurapika's people, the Kurta clan. Both of those items will appear in the biggest auction in Yorknew City.
Since all kinds of valuable items will be available in the auction, the deadly group of thieves called the Phantom Troupe is also there. So begins a complex conflict of interest, and at its center is the Troupe’s plan to steal every item in the auction. And just like any heist story, we get to see the thrilling preparation phase, the clever heist phase, and the bloody aftermath phase - all in a single arc.
Greed Island Arc: Isekai x RPG
Once Gon and Killua finally manage to gain access to the Greed Island game, they jump right into it without hesitation. Their bodies are transported to a mysterious place through the game console, kinda like the usual tropes in the Isekai genre. When inside the game, they have to compete with other participants in finding and collecting 100 unique cards. They will have to use spell cards and peculiar in-game items that will grant various effects if they want to complete the game.
Using turn-based spells to attack and defend, leveling up by fighting fodder monsters, managing a balanced inventory, doing some missions to collect special items, and trading and sharing information with fellow players - those are quintessential elements of a Role-Playing Game. And just like an RPG game, it takes proper skills and strategy to win Greed Island.
Chimera Ant Arc: Creature Feature x Body Horror
After all the fun that we had in Greed Island, it is time to turn up the scary elements through the use of creature features and body horror. As the name suggests, Creature Feature is a horror subgenre that involves horrific, man-eating creatures, such as those in Gantz and Claymore. In the case of Hunter x Hunter, we get countless humanoid chimera ants who like to munch on humans.
As for Body Horror, it is pretty much self-explanatory. This is the kind of horror that thrives on disfiguring the human body beyond recognition, such as most of the works by the one and only Junji Ito. In the Hunter x Hunter universe, the chimera ants, especially the top executives, have the ability to deconstruct the body of a human and turn it into fellow chimera ants that often bear no resemblance whatsoever to their original body. That is why this particular story arc is so terrifying and devastating at the same time.
Succession Contest Arc: Political x Thriller
Now we come to the latest and current arc of the series, the Succession Contest Arc. And this is by far the most complicated and convoluted arc in the series, just like real-world politics. Because, as the name suggests, this arc is a game of thrones on top of a colossal ship en route to the Dark Continent. The throne in question is the highest seat of the Kakin Empire. And the participants are the current King's 14 children, with Kurapika and other pro hunters getting tangled up as bodyguards for the princes and princess.
There are assassination attempts, political intrigue, power plays, and some mysterious people with unclear objectives, all happening at the same time. The amount of characters involved in this arc, all varieties of nen powers, and all kinds of motives and objectives colliding together turn this arc into one massive political thriller.
Every mangaka has the liberty to tell their own story through any kind of genre that they prefer. Sure, there is editor’s input thrown into the mix, but for the most part, the final product is pretty much what the mangaka envisioned in their head.
What makes Hunter x Hunter so special is the degree of freedom that Yoshihiro Togashi has in shaping and molding the story as he sees fit, and the fact that he has the skill to pull it off and churn out one great story arc after the other. And this is why Hunter x Hunter has so many different faces.
Are you a fan of the Hunter x Hunter series? What are your favorite story arcs thus far? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.