Thumbnail: Yoshihiro Togashi, Master of the Fight Scene
Yoshihiro Togashi’s been making the best fight comic for almost 20 years in Hunter x Hunter. Let me show you why.
Hunter x Hunter is about people classified as “Hunters” that specialize in finding and hunting things. Sometimes these things are rare jewels, and sometimes they’re human corpses.
In the page below, Biscuit (she’s the one in the dress), a rare jewel hunter, faces off against Binolt, a bounty hunter and serial killer. The audience to the fight, two of the main protagonists, have no idea how powerful Biscuit is, and neither does the reader.
Togashi starts the page with Biscuit lifting Binolt up without effort; Biscuit’s body has almost no speed lines, emphasizing the ease with which she can lift a full grown man. Instead, all of the speed lines are focused in on Binolt’s body as it rises; he’s completely powerless to even move. The second panel emphasizes the same qualities: once again, Biscuit’s body barely moves, while Binolt’s spins at incredible speed. The final panel on the page boils the fight down to its pure essence: Biscuit, almost completely stationary while Binolt is sent exactly where she wants him.
And then there’s the page turn.
Forcing the reader to hold their expectation is one of the oldest tricks in comics, and Togashi knows it’s an evergreen technique. However, he also contrasts this new page with the former. There are speed lines everywhere, more impact lines, heavier crosshatching, and mild exaggeration in the features. (Notice how Binolt’s head grew larger over the turn?)
The previous page is time boiled down to a few moments, milliseconds even. This page is time speeding up. Biscuit hits Binolt so hard he vomits a frankly improbable amount of blood before he even hits the ground. It’s the next three seconds of the fight boiled down to a single, action-packed panel.
The middle-bottom panel is Gon and Killua, the protagonists of the comic, barely visible and stunned. And then Biscuit ends the page by clarifying that she wasn’t using her full strength.
In two pages, Togashi’s made a girl in a puffy umbrella skirt cooler than your favorite character, using comic techniques familiar to almost any comics reader.