The Hunter x Hunter anime follows Gon Freecss, a 12-year-old boy on his adventure to take after his father whom he has never met in becoming a Hunter: licensed, elite members of the world skilled in tracking down secret treasure, rare beasts and people. To obtain his hunter license, Gon sets out to pass the rigorous annual Hunter Examination run by the Hunter Association, which has a success rate of less than 1/100,000 people. The exam is where Gon meets his friends: Kurapika, the last surviving member of the Kurta clan who wishes to become a Hunter to avenge his clan by killing the band of thieves, The Phantom Troupe (or called “The Spiders” after their emblem spider tattoo), that murdered them, Killua Zoldyck, a young boy of a notorious assassin family, and Leorio.
Among the examinees is Hisoka, a mysterious clown-like character who takes a creepy liking to Gon and poses as a member of the Phantom Troupe. After Gon and his friends surpass the series of various tests to become a hunter, they depart temporarily on their own journeys to learn Nen, a Ki-life like energy used by its practitioners—especially by all members of the Spiders—to manifest parapsychological abilities, before reuniting in Yorknew City for the renowned annual auction, where they encounter the Phantom Troupe and its leader, Chrollo Lucilfer, who are there to steal all the auctions valuable items.
Chrollo Lucilfer and the Phantom Troupe symbolize major allegories to Christianity. First and foremost, just like analyzing any human, their origins are essential in understanding the complexities of the troupe. The Spiders derive from Meteor city, a place that welcomes all those orphaned and abandoned under the maxim: “we reject no one, so take nothing from us” (Aleczandxr). This proverb is analogous to the bible verse, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36-40). Countless times throughout the third season of Hunter x Hunter, the troupe reiterates this pious dedication to their troupe, as they are the only family, or the only neighbors, each other has: “if one leg of the spider falls off, it can always grow back” (volume 12, chapter 114).
It is important to recognize where The Spiders come from as it shapes who they are and their values (like family). By analogizing the maxim to Jesus’ teachings, viewers can empathize with and grasp a better understanding of The Spider's upbringings and morals.
Chrollo Lucilfer himself is walking symbolism of both religious and anti-religious ideas rooted in Christianity, not to mention his last name alludes to Lucifer, the angel that was casted down by God, becoming the devil in Christian teachings. From the image of Chrollo here, we can see the cross tattoo on his forehead and the St. Peter's cross on the back of his jacket.
In the biblical teachings of St. Peter, it is said that he was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus who was crucified on an upside-down cross because he did not consider himself worthy enough to die in the same way as savior Jesus Christ (Aleczandxr). This is seen as an act of humility in faith however there is a misconceived notion that the St. Peter's cross symbolizes the Antichrist (Hall). This manifestation of Christianity highlights the same misconception both characters in the anime and viewers of the anime have of Chrollo and the Phantom Troupe.
It suggests that there is deeper justification and reasoning as to how and why The Spiders choose this way of existence; perhaps they’re not the evil of society but rather they’ve recognized and embraced what they feel is their purpose in relation to society, especially when you consider their upbringings. While the phantom troupe has a malicious reputation and is feared by all in their world, the Christian symbolism in the visual creation of Chrollo gives outsiders the opportunity to recognize that within the troupe, the troupe is a family of rejects who care for each other and look to Chrollo for guidance and support, rather than a group of fearful, harmful creatures.
This manifestation also highlights the theme of importance of family and strong bond inside the anime and in turn in Japanese culture. This notion is reinforced yet again for the third time through the symbolism of the Phantom Troupe as Jesus’ twelve apostles. The Phantom Troupe is a band of 13 with one leader, Chrollo, and his 12 allies, as compared to Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles:
In this story of Christ, he is betrayed and sold out by one of his apostles, Judas (Aleczandxr). This is a direct parallel to how Hisoka functions as a member of the Phantom Troupe. If you recall in my synopsis earlier, we refer to Hisoka as a “posed” member of the troupe. In episode 54, he reveals his true, sole intention for becoming a member of the Phantom Troupe to its biggest enemy, Kurapika: “I wanted a chance to fight the boss… because he’s powerful” (Might we add that he has a creepy thirst for fighting powerful people). In season 3 episode 5, one of the members of the troupe actually suggests to Chrollo, “we’ve got a Judas among us” to which Chrollo responds, “Judas was nothing of the sort” in reference to being a traitor. Chrollo’s view of Judas further enforces the notion that the Phantom Troupe is not a band of evil traitors, but rather misunderstood individuals who can be compared to Jesus and his apostles. To the Spiders themselves and the abandoned souls of Meteor City, the troupe must feel like their own saviors.
Christian influence has provided the thirteen spiders a family and in turn a will to live on. Considering the analogies of Judas as loyal rather than a traitor, and St. Peter as humble rather than satanic, the manifestation of Christianity here provides a new, rounded perspective on The Spiders.
It justifies the Phantom Troupes actions and encourages fans to view them in a more positive manner because they are unknowingly being encouraged to empathize with even the “villains.” The theme of friendship and family is equally, if not more important here to the characters—as the spiders are just as devout to each other as Jesus’ apostles are—and speaks a lot to the values in Japanese culture.
Influential to believers and nonbelievers alike, religion possesses the ability to influence our life in facets far beyond a house of worship. Because Christianity is one religion thousands of viewers can identify with no matter their affiliation, creators of anime series like Hunter x Hunter use religious symbolism to create multi-dimensional characters that their viewers can humanize, transforming them from just viewers into オタク “otaku.” This encourages fans to explore the reasoning for why people are the way they are even outside of anime; we can grasp a better understanding of Japanese culture in regard to moral values of loyalty, interdependence and respect in family and friendship and apply to our own westernized lives.
Thanks For Reading!
Aleczandxr. “Hunter x Hunter & Religious Symbolism.” Youtube, 6 Sep. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzEZU0T8O9U
“Bible Gateway Passage: Matthew 22:36-40 - New International Version.” Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40.
Hall, Emily. “What Does an Upside Down Cross (Inverted Cross) Really Mean?” Christianity.com, Salem Web Network, 19 Mar. 2019, www.christianity.com/wiki/cults-and-other-religions/what-does-an-upside-down-cross-mean.html.
“Hunter × Hunter.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_%C3%97_Hunter.
Vanessa. “Japanese Anime Culture: TokyoTreat: Japanese Candy & Snacks Subscription Box.” TokyoTreat, 3 Mar. 2019, tokyotreat.com/news/japanese-anime-culture.