Personal reflection on Killua Zoldyck
One of the recurring phrases that my parents would use against me in arguments: “When you grow older, you’ll understand the circumstances we were put in.” And well, today, I don’t doubt that they tried their best to be good parents, it always felt that they were challenging me. Their defeatist mindset and the antagonism in their voice, daring me to try it while acting like I had already failed, it always left me determined to do everything in my power to prove them wrong.
What started off as a challenge slowly became the approach I took to life. Everything I did I had to do differently from my parents. Every move I made, I became terrified that I was doing the same thing that my parents would do, invalidating my opinions and not offering the necessary emotional support. Whenever someone called me out for being hypocritical, it stabbed a deep knife into me, and the pain and fear that I was becoming exactly the person my parents was was almost unbearable.
Hunter X Hunter came at a terrible time in my life. My grades were terrible and rapidly declining. For gaming, I was at an all time low in confidence and in skill, and as for writing and singing, I could never finish the words I wanted to write about. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong, and while that fire in me proved to my parents that they were wrong about me still burnt, it felt like I had wasted my life, that it was over, and I was ready to give up.
But discovering Hunter X Hunter and watching all 148 episodes was one of the most melancholy but best experiences I’ve had. I loved the characterization of Leorio and Kurapika, was captivated by the dark transformation of Gon, cried during the death of Merum and Komugi, gasped at the brilliant fight scenes, and pondered about the nihilistic perspective Togashi sets on the real monsters being the humans.
But I think there was one character, or rather one character arc, that made the show for me; the character of Killua Zoldyck, and his journey to discover his own identity and self worth.
When being obsessed with something, when being so driven by something that you’d do anything to secure it, there is an inevitable price for it, and people you have to step on to reach the summit. In the case of the relationship of Gon and Killua, Killua would gladly sacrifice himself for Gon to achieve his ambitions.
It’s a tragic dynamic set up between two young teenagers, and one I’m sure most of us around the world can relate to. And while we weren’t raised as an assassin nor do we have special powers, Killua’s character arc hits us so hard because we see so much of him in us.
Killua is an assassin. From day one, he’s mentally and physically abused to the brink, poisoned mere milliliters away from a lethal dose, electrocuted, and trained to do nothing but kill. His family puts him through grueling training to force him to the assassin lifestyle, all to train him to become the future head of the family.
And yet Killua strives for more. Being forced to go through the horrid training of an assassin, being put under the mindset when meeting someone to think about whether they should kill him/her or not, most people would assume Killua would succumb to the lifestyle that his family forces upon him, but instead Killua is tired of it. He’s tired of being forced to a lifestyle that he never wanted in the first place, and runs away from it all, in search of a purpose and a life that he wants for himself.
In my cynical lens, one of the things that have always irked me was watching countless youtubers and video-essayists in my eyes misinterpret his dissatisfaction with his family as some innate sense of morality, that Killua’s character was a triumph of nature over nurture. In a more pessimistic take on his character, I don’t think Killua’s character is driven by a code of morality. Killua’s isn’t against murder, he is up to it when it’s absolutely necessary, yet he’s driven by this urge to find his light, so much that when that light is found, he is willing to sacrifice everything for him to be able to keep that light.
Killua doesn’t run because he is tired of killing. Killua doesn’t run because he thinks what his family does is wrong and he wants to do everything he can to fix the evils that his family has committed. Killua runs because of the damage his family has done to him. Instead of being motivated by his moral compass, Killua is motivated by pain, to never let anyone feel what he felt. After suffering so much at the hand of his family, he is motivated to be the everything but like them, and he even second handedly states this:
“I don’t want to stay in that house, or inherit the family business.”
And that’s the mistake that I think a lot of people make when discussing Killua. His character arc feels bland because of this, that due to his naturally kind morality, he runs away from his home. It’s a type of story dynamic that might have been good and powerful the first time it was used, but over time, it’s become stale and overused.
I see modern media make this mistake all the time. In today’s more progressive era, Hollywood often tells the story of a person fighting against tyranny and injustice and inspiring others to take up the fight as well. While this story is used so much, because of the way that old movies perceive fights for justice as a fight for the greater good, it confuses people into thinking that humanity acts on natural instincts of morality, that driving the character is an idea to suddenly do good, and in the end, fails to deliver a powerful message.
But Togashi rejects this narrative. Using Killua, he tells the story of one’s journey to find his/her voice and identity in a much more realistic, compelling, and most of all, powerful way.
That’s what makes Killua’s journey so heartbreaking yet so satisfying for me. It’s what makes my heart wrench when he fights against his instincts when battling shoot. It’s what makes me cry when seeing him cry when he realizes he can’t stay with Gon because of the way his family has conditioned him. It’s what makes me yell out in happiness when he completely destroys Rammot, it’s what makes me cry tears of sadness and also joy when he leaves Gon.
Because I’ve felt the things that Killua felt. The pure hatred toward the people who have made your life like this, the tentative joy you find when you find a light that directs you away from your parents, that someone who really cares for you and who thinks of you as a friend, and the terrifying feeling that you’re going to lose the light you struggled for, cried for, laughed with, had fun with, that you’re going to lose all of that because you weren’t good enough, and you have to go back into that cold harsh reality, cursed to find happiness and have it all taken away from you.
Watching Hunter X Hunter, watching Killua grow, it’s made me feel something that I’ve never felt before. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. That throughout my journey to find a purpose I finally had someone that understood feeling lost. Understood that feeling of terrifying anxiety and fear.
And when it ended, it felt like I lost a part of me. It felt like I had found someone that truly understood, but as soon as it came, it was gone.
To me, Killua Zoldyck represents hope. Hope of a better life. Hope to break free of tradition. He sets the example, and shows me that there is a way out of this hole I dug myself into.
After watching Hunter X Hunter, I felt the giant urge to not only create something, but to create something lasting. I knew I had to write something, to rediscover that magic and to rekindle that flame, to experience the multitude of emotions I felt as I watched Hunter X Hunter.
And now, after 5 months of being scared of sounding cheesy, scared that I could never truly capture the emotions and the ideas that I experienced, of planning, scrapping draft after draft, staying up late at night to finish my ideas, now I’m here. Scared as always that I still didn’t capture the magic. That I’ve made too many mistakes, that I’m a failure.
So I hope you’ll accept this lousy 1:38 am piece. I hope you’ll accept me trying my best because I know I’ll never be able to do it, that I’ll never be able to capture the magic. I try my best to get in the zone but it feels like there’s something that’s blocking me.
Thank you for reading.