What generally comes to mind when we think of gratitude? Is it being thankful for having a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs? Is it waking up feeling fortunate for your health and well-being? Or is it merely being happy to be surrounded by the people who love us? Regardless of what the traditional form of gratitude may seem to be, it is prominently displayed by Isaac Netero, the chairman of the Hunter Association.
On top of this, the gratitude demonstrated by this complex character is profound and deeply rooted into the core of his being. The viewer initially sees this innocent old man as a wacky and eccentric character with a tendency to create a little more than just mischief. But it’s not really enough to raise any noticeable red flags at first glance.
Despite this, however, he’s way more than what meets the eye, and natural showings throughout the story demonstrate that within his pure-hearted notion of appreciation and recognition, there are subtle hints of evil that Togashi sprinkles in the beginning of the story that ultimately reveal the chairman’s true nature by the end of the Chimera Ant arc, crossing beyond all lines of reason and sanity.
But is natural either good or bad? Well, that’s what we’re here to figure out today. Hey guys, welcome back to Anime Analysis, a channel dedicated to discussing and analyzing the best characters anime has to offer. Let’s take a deep dive into the complex character known as Isaac Netero and determine how this multifaceted character portrays the paradoxically opposing ideas of gratitude and evil. If you enjoy this content and want to see more Hunter x Hunter discussion content, leave a like and comment down below.
Also, make sure to subscribe as I release weekly blogs covering whatever anime character interests me at the time. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
The story begins as a lighthearted adventure about a boy seeking his father. On this grand adventure, Netero begins the story the very same way as this goofy and jovial old man who is clearly experienced and wise but doesn’t seem to harbor any ill feelings towards anything noteworthy.
Just like how the story progressively begins to incorporate darker elements and themes, the same can be said for Netero. Take for example the events of the Hunter Exam. It is apparent from the get-go that he values strength above all else and will go so far as to punish bully we should kill people that don’t fit this criteria.
This is obvious when he goads Gon and Killua into playing a ball game with him that he knows very well they have no chance of winning, even going so far as to create handicaps for himself to assert his dominance over them. What I’ve always found amazing about this series and this scene in particular is his ability to communicate such complex and mature themes using the simplest of ideas like a game of keep away.
To natural games of strength speak more to a person’s value than anything else. To highlight this even further, when Cheadle eventually becomes the 14th chairwoman of the Hunter Association, the first phase of the 289th Hunter Exam was a psychological test designed to assess analytical ability, intelligence gathering, and applied skills which had nothing to do with one’s own individual strength. He also administers tests that only the elite are able to pass and have an incredibly high chance of death, like the Milsy Wetlands or Split Mountain test.
Many have pointed out that this evil nature and indifference towards death mirrors our main protagonist. Gone, if you’re interested in checking out a full blog analysis on Gon’s characterization, I’ll leave a link in the blog right here. The last event is by far his most evil, as he creates a tournament bracket with the clear bias of strength in mind.
He designs it so that Leorio, the perceived weakest applicant at the time, has the fewest attempts at achieving his license. On top of this, he formulates the bracket so that Gon will go through an agonizing fight. Kilo may have the potential to run into his brother Illumi, and Krapika would fight Hisoka, someone who has crucial information about the Phantom Troupe, the group responsible for murdering his entire clan.
None of these examples were necessarily focused on in the events of the Hunter Exam arc, but they were still present. And just like the story’s gradual progression into darkness, we get to see bits and pieces of Netro’s character begin to develop. And this obsession with strength is further validated in the Chimera Ant arc.
But where did this obsession come from? What drove this man to accepting strength as the only source of worth and individualism? Well, I think the flashback during the Chimera Ant arc helps to answer this question. As Netro trains in the mountains, he watches the snow fall as he recites the same prayer of gratitude and punches 10,000 times each day.
He does this for two years straight until he’s as fast as the speed of sound, completing the routine before the sun had even set. As the passage of time throughout the world flowed as normal, Netro’s sheer dedication and gratitude for combat allowed him to reach a nirvana-like state.
Nirvana is defined as the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away. It seems to me that Netro suffered a crushing defeat by the hands of an unknown opponent. Netro declared that he would sacrifice everything to attain the strength he’s seeking to achieve and therefore end any suffering he would have felt through his inadequacies in combat.
These Buddhist-like themes are further explained through Netro’s powers. His non-ability, dubbed the 100 Type Guanine Bodhisattva, has the condition that it may only be summoned when Netro prays and shows his appreciation for battle and the martial arts. In Buddhist mythology, Guanyin is known as the goddess of mercy and compassion, being depicted with multiple arms so that she may help all those in need of love and healing.
In Netro’s fight with Meruem, we see these Buddhist ideas represented in the form of rose petals appearing behind him as they are symbolically interwoven with Meruem to show how much the fight means to him. I believe that Netro went into this battle knowing that he’ll never experience a fight like this again.
The overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation he shows towards the Ant King illustrates Netro as the Buddhist representation of tranquility, strength, spirituality, and most importantly, gratitude. I won’t delve into too many of the themes of Netro vs. Meruem, as I’m saving that topic for another blog, but leave a comment down below if you’re interested.
In contrast to Netro’s grateful nature, he showcases an incredible evil against Meruem, resorting to bombing him with the miniature rose. While Isaak Netro symbolizes these peaceful Buddhist ideologies, he is still very much human and will resort to whatever is necessary to preserve his species. Going even further, you could take Netro’s suicidal act as one of childish immaturity, given that there was no other way to win against the Ant King.
The monster-like death in Netero and the human-like death of Meruem left Netero in a truly ambiguous place in whatever way you look at it. Netero displays the evilest side of humanity through the most atrocious actions while staying true to his heart and devotion to gratitude. So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of the blog, I believe Netero is a morally grey character who leans on the side of good.
While he is harsh towards others, he is also equally as harsh towards himself. The juxtaposition between light and dark within Netero ebbs and flows seamlessly into a masterpiece of a character who ultimately got all that he dreamed of, a worthy adversary. Well, that’s about it for our discussion on Isaac Netero.
What are your thoughts on this character and his development throughout the story of Hunter x Hunter? I’d love to hear them in the comment section below. As always, make sure you like, comment and discussion content blogs. I’d love for you all to stick around. Take care, everyone, and until next time, stay curious, anime fam!
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.