You expected the Phantom Troupe in a Phantom Troupe movie? Hah! Too bad!
Well, now this was underwhelming. Not that I had any high hopes for this in the first place after the countless bad Yahoo.jp reviews but still. I expected little, I got nothing. Heck, I didn't even get what they had promised. Kurapika? The spiders? The first one was spending most of the runtime in bed and among the latter, only two of them made an appearance at the forty minutes mark, one of them for about 5 minutes, the other one for a single minute. Six of them also showed up at the last minute to save the day and then left. Providing some fanservice for the crowds who thought this was a movie heavily featuring them, eh?
Most of its runtime was spent on looking for the antagonist and literally only that (which was about as thrilling as not) and Killua's special problems like being envious of Gon because he befriended a (admittedly cute) girl. Yes, that crap got more time than the spiders. I'm not kidding. I wish I was though. The Killua drama got so inanely stupid at some point that he ran away from Gon rather than trying to get his eyes back as you'd expect from him (the writer had some troubles keeping the characters in-character as also demonstrated by the stupid shipping lines) and then even trying to commit suicide. Oh boy. I totally laughed out at what was supposed to be a dramatic scene (the train lights/rain combo did look nice though). Who was in charge of that, Okada? Other than that, it was also kind of about the "curse" Illumi cast upon Killua and Killua breaking free of it which doesn't mesh all that well with the actual plot since that's precisely what the TV series is about at the moment. While the movie did reuse some ideas (Nobunaga's partnership with Uvo, Killua's curse, Killua being unable to become friends with anyone to name a few) of the show, instead of adding anything to them, it just repeated them - over and over again. I haven't seen anything getting this repetitive with its themes within that short span of time in quite a while but eh. Retz wasn't much of an interesting element either despite a lot of the movie being focused on her. They seriously tossed the spiders, the most be-liked shounen antagonists, this one's key premise and its main claim for fame, away for her? Please never let a PreCure writer get close to HxH ever again, I beg you. Not that the part Togashi wrote, Kurapika's flashback, was much better either but that one clearly suffered from poor adapting as well. The original two chapters were mediocre stuff, here it was just outright bad with 0% of the emotional impact. I also smirked at the "Don't take anything from us." line followed by Gon's response "So that indicated the spiders killed them?". Anime-only viewers probably had troubles understanding how those are related, so let me explain: In the manga, there was originally a chapter about Meteor City (the anime had a briefer explanation by Leorio) and how taking anything from there is clearly a very, very bad thing to do and will probably lead to murder. The spiders are from Meteor City, hence the connection but with just the knowledge of the anime, it seemed weird.
On that note, I don't think this movie is canon and considering the several instances of inconsistencies with the universe, it better not be. I don't see how it could be anyway. When is this supposed to take place? Between the Phantom Troupe arc and the Greed Island arc? The thing is, there aren't any gaps between them. There aren't any gaps between GI and CA either and it's impossible to take place right before the Election arc and after that, there's nothing left. Besides, Kaito's still alive in this one. You do the maths. Furthermore, suddenly including something as big as the killing of an ex-Phantom Troupe member and never mentioning it again is about as elegant as not.
The writing was bad. For the entire first half, hardly anything ever happened. Heck, 3 major flashbacks didn't help either, particularly not the first one. The movie spent several minutes on Gon and Killua fooling around on an airship, then meeting Leorio who then casually told them flashback-wise about how Kurapika had encountered his dead best friend all alive and kicking who then proceeded to steal his eyes. That's how you introduce the plot? With a flashback? Yes, just shoehorn in a short flashback on the most important part. I don't even see why they couldn't have gone with a chronological flow of events which would have been 1.) far more climatic and 2.) not have hurt the overall structure so much but what do I know?
After that, things just stopped happening. Gon and Killua were looking for Omokage's hideout, Gon encountered Retz while everything about her was screaming "SHE'S A PUPPET!", making the waver-thin plot even more foreseeable and with that, large chunks were spend on how Killua was being jealous of Gon having a friend and was acting like a dick towards the poor girl. Because badly-written out-of-character drama is totally what I was in for.
Thank goodness, at some point, things did get more interesting. Only a bit though. I guess I better not comment on how using puppets of the spiders for the fights was just lame as fuck and didn't make an ounce of sense, as their strength seemed to drastically vary depending on the situation. Sometimes we got indications that the puppets were inferior to the originals, sometimes that they weren't. Fake Uvogin's big bang impact certainly seemed to prove the latter (and also made me question when exactly it became an emitter ability but let's not mind the details since neither did anyone in the writer's room) but then there was that entire deal with Killua and Gon blocking Uvogin's attacks even though when Kurapika did that in the TV series, he got his arm broken, not to mention how Killua and Gon shouldn't know any Ken by that point but eh. Killua only chickening out after a while wasn't really all that convincing either, given how fucking insecure he was about fighting Shoot from the very get-go on. So Shoot's apparently scarier than Uvogin? Okay.
I guess if not for Nobunaga's sudden appearance (don't think too hard about that part), they would have been screwed but Nobunaga easily finishing off Uvogin's puppet seemed to indicate that the puppets are far weaker than the the originals, soconsistency, this had it not. I suggest you don't even try to make any sense out of Omokage's ability anyway, it'll only give you headaches and stomach pains. Let's see: He can create several, incredibly strong puppets with the same abilities as the original Nen users, retain their memories even though they are created from the eye-bearers' hearts which could impossibly have all that information and when he wishes for it, he can use their Nen abilities for himself. As a friendly reminder, let it be said that even Chrollo has to fulfill several tricky conditions in order to steal a single Nen ability and can only use one at a time. It kind of makes you wonder how much of a strong Nen user Omokage is.
After half the movie, there was still no new content other than what had already been known from the promo material and I think you're off far better if you go into this not knowing what it is about or ignore it entirely. Watch the PV, think about stretching it to 1,5 hours and that's it. If you choose to ignore my warning, you might still get a laugh or two at how little sense the differences of strength make in this movie. I think my favorite moment was when Gon couldn't free himself from a needle. Forgetting about that Nen thing which makes you stronger, eh? I also don't see why Leorio and Kurapika couldn't easily defeat Pairo, someone who can't use Nen, although apparently he could use it which means that Omokage can enhance his puppets' Nen and that is yet another thing on a long list of things Omokage can do. Meanwhile, Gon and Killua somehow defeated Illumi's puppet. Anyway, puppets are fairly boring and lame enemies to begin with, so even apart from how redundant they were, the fights weren't any exciting and for the aforementioned reasons, didn't make much sense either.
"But!", you say, "If the content was crap, then the animation must have been good!". Well, I'm sorry to say, but it doesn't work the other way around. Sure, while the animation was better than the TV series', you never really got to see any impressive stuff and if you think this might warrant a watch for the sakuga and the sakuga only, you're in for a disappointment. They never really reached the TV anime's peak and outsourced a lot of it to DR. MOVIE which, yes, is said to be more skilled than other Korean studios but you'd expect a bit more budget from a cash-cow franchise's movie. I think the most animated thing was a CG doll (which was still better than fake Chrollo's CG indoor fish) and a fat clothing store owner for reasons beyond me. Because why animate something that actually matters if you can just give the sakuga treatment to an irrelevant joke instead? Let's not talk about the anti-climatic, placative direction and on that note, the scoring was kind of weird. Contrary to the series' misuse of music (although it has become much better and the Chimera Ant arc actually got fitting tracks), there was next to no involved with this one and even if there was some music played in, it was generally far too quiet to get any response from me.
A few words on Omokage to come to a closing: He's a fairly weak, generic villain and adding him to the Phantom Troupe wasn't a good idea, not to mention how he could have easily defeated Gon and Killua at any time but noooo, he had to lure them in and get his ass kicked. That only added insult to injury. As an antagonist, he wasn't fearsome and even as a character in general, plain flat and uninteresting. Most of his lines only consisted of "WHY WON'T YOU JUST UNDERSTAND MY PUPPET FETISHISM?!" anyway. Eh.
Long story short, the movie was a generic, clich d, half of the time boring, soulless thing that doesn't even come close to the writing of the original and instead of thoughtfully adding anything to the universe, just messed with it. For what it's worth though, it's probably a good demonstration as to why you just shouldn't produce an HxH movie and why there'll better never be another o- oh boy, they already announced a second one and it's going to be about Netero and the dark secrets of the Hunter Association. Sounds like a great premise but originally, that was also the case for this one and if this movie is any indication, then the next one is probably going to be about Sabazushi's free time activities while guarding Battera's castle, playing after the Greed Island arc, a point in time when Sabazushi had already been killed, just to max out the confusion that can be had over HxH's timeline. Also, Netero might get to appear in his own movie. Perhaps not though.