The digital entertainment world keeps growing as years go by. With new implementations of the classic game of baccarat online, casinos expand and provide fresh environments previously unseen, providing new variants of traditional card games. Similarly, modern, as well as classic media, are constantly innovating, offering novel visual elements in various forms of films, TV shows, social media, and the hot topic of discussion, anime.
Experiencing incredible growth, encompassing billions of worldwide viewers, the media is getting the recognition many think it deserved from the start. Creating unique, fascinating worlds, engaging storylines, and sympathetic, complex characters, the writers of these projects have given much great material to their audiences.
We will be going over Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter, or more specifically, will be covering one of the series’ most popular, and definitely most threatening and powerful antagonists, that being the Chimera Ant King Meruem.
What Makes Meruem a Unique Villain
Obviously, villains are normal characters, with distinct traits and personalities, but often times in anime they, share enough similarities to classify them under certain archetypes. The most popular ones tend to be, absolute evil/monster, and the broken/well intentioned, but questionable methods type.
The popular examples from the monster archetype, might be Frieza or Buu from the Dragon Ball series, Doflamingo from One Piece, or from a newer story, Sukuna, from Jujutsu Kaisen. The main goal of these characters, as common with most other villains, is to present an obstacle to the protagonist, or their allies. They are characterized as purely despicable, for the purpose of having the audience share the “hatred” that in-universe characters would feel facing them, making their eventual demise that much more satisfying.
The broken archetype on the other hand, presents not only a physical obstacle to be overcome, but also challenges the principles and morals of the “good” characters. Naruto, for example, is popular for having villains that fit this description, and that is why many of them found redemption at the end of their stories, whether it is Zabuza, Pain, or Obito.
The reason why these brief descriptions are relevant though is that depending on which point of Meruem’s progression you look at, he can fit these two, and even more archetypes.
Meruem’s Progression and Komugi
Born as the pinnacle of chimera ant evolution, with incredible physical and mental capabilities, and with a singular goal, to secure his species the top spot on the food chain, Meruem was absolutely a reprehensible monster. A creature, born on the throne, inheriting power, with an extremely limited, simplistic view of the world.
It was a recipe for disaster, to say it shortly. Meruem viewed himself as from a superior species, as opposed to humans, who for even the lesser chimera ants were simply food. In his view, his birth would be the dawn of a new age, where earth is overtaken, and the food chain is updated. He often mentioned human relationship with cattle, saying that his goal of conquest would be the natural order of things.
After taking over nearby territories with the help of his royal guard (other chimera ants), Meruem would stop to assemble his army, army made up with physically capable humans, who would be converted to chimera ants. To keep himself busy, he would bring the greatest humans in various different fields to challenge himself and learn more about the world.
None could best him until meeting at first glance, helpless, frail, blind girl, claiming to be a master of a board game Gungi. Besting many board game masters prior, the King thought it would be just be another day in the office. Quickly going through the rulebook and mastering the game, they began their match, a match that would serve as the first major point in Meruem’s progression.
For the first time in his admittedly short life, the King was bested. Meruem lost to an incredibly physically fragile creature, the one who would stand no chance in actual combat. Yet, alongside the shame, there was also an almost numb feeling of excitement. Finally, a challenge and the room to grow.
Over the days their matches would continue, with Meruem losing repeatedly while losing sight of everything that was not a board game that even he just days ago would describe as meaningless. Something fascinated him about this human, the girl who fearlessly stated that should she lose a match; the King should take her life. The girl who was almost psychic, reading him like a book.
These matches did help the king come to a realization that power can manifest itself in various shapes; however, due to loss of his focus and growing frustration, he would also conclude that ultimately brute strength would always trump other talents and skills. The night before the transformation of King’s army, he would make the decision to rid himself of his weakness, and kill the girl named Komugi, who bested him in Gungi.
His resolve though, would be immediately shattered once he saw the girl holding back screams of pain and tears, trying to fight off a predator bird, which appeared to be an eagle attacking her. Meruem’s instincts kicked in, and after eliminating the predator, to his own surprise he found himself distraught, asking why Komugi did not call for help. The girl slowly replied that she did not want to disturb anyone because it was so late.
Confused more than he has ever been, lost at the prospect of why a human would value her own life by so little, of why he could not just do what he was intending to do just minutes ago, Meruem almost inadvertently blurted out that Komugi was not disturbing anyone, and that she was an important guest.
The Fight with Netero, and The King’s Demise
For a bit of context, the threat of a powerful, ruthless ant king spread quickly around the world governments. Yet, they could not act due to the thousands of civilian hostages that were hypnotized, waiting to turn into chimera ants, and become the part of the army.
Due to this, there were obviously heavy restrictions on destructive firepower that militaries could use, and the governments turned to the Hunter association for help. Isaac Netero, the chair-man of the association, and commonly known as the strongest Nen user in the world even at the age of 120, would take it upon himself and his most trusted associates to take down the threat of Meruem.
Arriving at his castle during the time of the above-described events with Komugi and Meruem, Hunters would do a lot of work to leave Netero isolated with the King for a one-on-one encounter. Seeing Netero, Meruem entrusted the life of Komugi to one of his royal guard, asking them for help, and asking the old man to take the fight away from the castle to avoid collateral damage.
The king, confident in his abilities, offered the Hunter mercy in case of surrender, which left Netero quite insulted. He told Meruem that should he make him admit defeat, he would reveal him the name that his dying mother gave him. The king would previously be unfazed by such a proposal, but now, for some reason he was eager to learn his name.
After agreeing, Netero immediately unleashed his aura, launching Meruem into the ground, and genuinely shocking him with his speed and power. The king would soon realize that he was facing no ordinary human.
In front of him stood a man who honed his skill and strength through decades of discipline and work, a man who worked for every ounce of power that he wields at this instance. His polar opposite, a king born on the throne, destined to conquer the world, fighting a man who worked himself up from nothing and exceeded his potential.
Though even Netero’s skill would not be enough to best the King, Meruem could not help but admire it nonetheless, seeing once again the limits of human potential. Despite his newfound appreciation for human life, he had to win this fight not only to survive, but to also know his name. After taking hundreds if not thousands of hits from the Bodhisattva statue, he would find gaps in Netero’s defenses, taking his right leg, and left arm.
Netero would only admit defeat after pouring his entire remaining aura into a singular attack, his final attack, which would only slightly damage the king. Alongside his name though, Meruem would learn the lengths to which humanity is willing to go to win. Tied to the old man’s heartbeat, was a powerful bomb, intended to decimate everything around Netero and the King in case of the Hunter’s failure.
This means that Netero was ready sacrifice all of his hunters and thousands of hostages to ensure the victory over Meruem, and that would be the outcome if the King did not ask them to move away from the castle. The rose bomb would not kill, but fatally poison the King, who wanted nothing more than to call of his crusade, and spend the rest of his limited time with the person who made him feel human, the person who bested him for the first time, and demonstrated the true value of life.
That is exactly what Meruem would do. Despite telling Komugi that the poison was likely contagious, she was naïve and pure enough to stay beside him, and play Gungi till the end.
What is truly fascinating is that even this lengthy summarization does not do Togashi’s character work justice. There are so many more notable scenes and aspects of Meruem’s character worth mentioning, like his parallel with our main character Gon, who unlike the King, goes on an opposite arc, slowly losing his humanity in this dark conflict. Perhaps the scene with Palm, where the prideful ant King kneels down to ask for help, or the scene with Welfin, where he tells him he hopes he can regain his lost humanity.
Overall, Togashi created an incredibly unique villain, starting out at the peak of his despicableness, only to slowly realize what is truly important in life, learn what it felt like to be human, and to appreciate the potential that every single life may hold.