First of all, I am under the assumption that viewers interested to watch this movie have at least a little knowledge or background of the Hunter x Hunter franchise before watching. If not, it might be a little hard to completely get the best experience out of this. But at any rate, enough talk about interest and let's talk about the movie itself. For fans of the ongoing remake series as well as the original Hunter x Hunter, this should be a gift delivered early from Santa.
The movie itself is called Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge. It is a side story rather than a prequel/sequel. For those who have seen the original series though (at least up to episode 58), there should be enough interest already because the series deals with what the synopsis mentions – the Phantom Troupe. In particular, a young boy with golden hair and scarlet eyes (Kurapika) plays the role of an avenger. He still holds a blood thirsty vengeance against the spiders. However at the same time, he seeks answers to what's happening in the present. It is also noticeable that the movie takes events after the actual Yorknew Arc from the original/remake series. Therefore, expect some surprises as we see old faces return but also new characters pop up.
As for the movie goes, it offers a good balance of comedy and more of that darkness. In terms of comedy, perhaps the brotherly bond of Gon and Killua are the most noticeable. In fact, it is very clear that they share a strong friendship despite coming from very different backgrounds. Gon was raised from a normal family while the latter comes from a family of elite assassins. On the other hand, we also see a more in-depth past of Kurapika. His brotherly bond with a new character in the series can be mirrored with Gon/Killua. In essence, both of their relationships are tied by trust with great values. Additionally, they are even joined together by a new comrade along the way. It's an adventure tale all over again and one that fans of HxH must see.
The plot itself follows as the premise goes although with certain twists. For instance, we see the Phantom Troupe return but in a different way especially in regards of a particular character. Then, there's also the story involving Kurapika and his old teammate whom he once trusted with his life. There are plenty of foreshadowing going on. In particular, some of the little important scenes are shot with more depth in term of music and artwork. Then, there's some of the intertwined arcs where our main characters gets involved with events related to the spiders. They encounter familiar faces while also facing off against a new threat.
Epic is also misused word. If I would used the word epic, I would describe the majority of the movie as such whether it's from the fights, the dialogues, the comedy/darkness, or just a mere character. However, this movie can be summed up with such a single word at several stances. The action scenes are pretty fluid. Most of the are quick paced that combines both physical and psychological aspects. That's also one of the strong points in Hunter x Hunter. The franchise makes usage of the fights to incorporate it into more of a psychological mind game at many instances. In this movie, these mind games comes to fruition especially into the head of Killua. The concept of vengeance, betrayal, and struggle are packaged together that brings out the entertainment at its finest. Even the Phantom Troupe tastes some of that in particular of a member whom once shared a strong bond with.
Despite of the action scenes being well performed, some of them are a bit too quick paced and old fashioned. It would have been better to see some new techniques from the Phantom Troupe but most of them are still what they are. Perhaps it's because they are in a different form that they lack their true power. But at any rate, it's nice to see some of them back again in action mode.
As for characterization goes, the main characters make their stance and presence well known. Obviously, the main focus of the film focuses on Kurapika but it's also nice to see Killua and his side shine when he faces his struggles. Then of course, Hisoka makes his stances with the way he talks and walks. Furthermore, we even see Leorio playing more of a direct role. Considering his lesser screen time during the Yorknew Arc, it's actually refreshing to see his character shine more so. Indeed, the four main characters functions well as a team and together, they take on any challenge they face together.
Visual wise, the series maintains its composure and balance just as well as the remake of Hunter x Hunter. The beautiful landscapes and cities are designed to give off that adventure like feeling. The Phantom Troupe displays their ferocity with their stances. Then, there's are the comedic and lighter toned artwork during the more humorous scenes. As even more so, a particular character gets dressed different for the first time in a way they feel different. The artwork makes the movie somewhat memorable although nothing spectacular. It doesn't incorporate the usage of CGI so expect fluid scenes but again, nothing considered a masterpiece in the arts department.
As for the soundtrack, Hunter x Hunter have been criticized in the past before for its orchestra. In this movie, it reuses some of the OST from the remake. However, it does fit within the series quite well. The VA who plays their roles in this series also did their job well. In particular, Hisoka and Retz's voice tones should be praised for their performance especially for the latter. Considering Retz's gender, the voice of its character must seem to be ambiguous and Hirano Aya portrayed her part quite well. The overall OST is above average but not earth-shattering by technical standards.
All in all, Hunter x Hunter Phantom Rouge is a gift for the fans. Obviously, this gift can be opened and enjoyed by different standards. For me though, I was quite satisfied with the results. If you're a fan of the Yorknew Arc, this is definitely something to keep an eye on. The way it incorporates the usage of its characters again show that the A-class band of thieves is still around. At the time of this movie was being aired, the Yorknew Arc was just reaching its conclusion but we still can't forget about the spiders, can we?