This show really has a way of making villains seem sympathetic as we get to know them. I just finished Season 3 of Hunter x Hunter (yes, I’m steamrolling through the episodes and stayed up into the hours of early morning to finish them) and found Pakunoda’s character to be one of the highlights of the season. Initially in the season we’re introduced to Pakunoda as one of the members of the Phantom Troupe, but she doesn’t particularly stand out. But she becomes one of the most fascinating members by the end of the season.
Like someone has already observed on Reddit, what makes Pakunoda’s character interesting is the internal conflict she faces. She receives a fortune prediction that tells her she will either have to choose pride or betrayal – but which is pride and which is betrayal? She is forced to make between abandoning Chlorro, her closest friend and the leader of the Phantom Troupe, and ensuring the survival of the Spiders by killing Kurapika, but both can be considered choices of pride and betrayal. Leaving Chlorro to die is betraying him, but isn’t saving him also a form of betrayal to the principles he set down and upheld for the Spiders? Similarly, you would think that saving Chlorro would mean abandoning her pride – she remains helpless at the hands of Kurapika’s demands and must follow her every dictate if she is to save him – but so is abandoning him, as she must swallow her personal feelings and go with what the survival of the Phantom Troupe dictates.
I think what is interesting is how the Phantom Troupe – products of the waste dumpling land known as Meteor City – have formed a sort of family on their own. We are introduced to the Phantom Troupe as a bunch of cold-blooded killers and psychopaths, but a significant portion of them treat each other not merely as allies but as genuine friends. There’s a strong parallel between Kurapika and Pakunoda in the way they fiercely protect their friends above all, and one wonders whether they would have been friends in a different world and different place.
Also interesting is Pakunoda’s abilities – she’s able to scan through a person’s memories, and uncover the subconscious of those she uses her skills on. It reflects her own personal connection to memory – much of what drives her to make the choices she does are the memories she’s shared with Chlorro.
Of course, what is most moving is the final scene, where Pakunoda asks Gon and Killua why they continue to act as hostages despite the fact that they could easily run away or kill her in her weakened state. The whole scene is deliberately crafted in a way that we’ve reliving them through Pakunoda’s perspective – or through Pakunoda’s memories which have been transferred to the rest of the Troupe – and we’re able to see one of her last moments. It’s almost a breaking of the fourth wall as we, too, are struck by Pakunoda’s memory bullets. I cried a little.