I have been anxiously awaiting this movie to be subbed to watch it, deciding to skip out on the raws to get the full experience in my first watch through. Knowing that this was Hunter x Hunter's first movie left me with great anticipation for what would be delivered by Madhouse and Hunter x Hunter Phantom Rouge did not disappoint (for the most part).
The movie starts out as what appears to be a flash back as we are show Killua standing atop a building waiting for the moment to attack his prey. After a brief conversation with Illumi who is lurking in the shadows, Killua hops down and takes care of business. After escaping from the murder scene which he had created, Killua is shown walking in an alley where he encounters a group of normal kids who ask him to throw them their ball back. Illumi then appears and gives Killua a pretty memorable reminder of how he doesn't need friends by ruthlessly killing all 3 of the boys. At this point Killua awakes from his sleep in a state of panic only to realize that it was nothing but a dream. This scene for me stood out because it was one of few times we actually get to see Killua do what he does (or did) best. Watching the days of him as an assassin, even if it was just a nightmare, was very entertaining.
After this we are rushed quickly into the plot of the movie as Kurapika is in the hospital after loosing his eyes. Gon and Killua search to figure out where the man who stole his eyes is hiding while Leorio stays behind to look after Kurapikia. During their search, we are introduced to the street performer Retz, who Gon accepts full heartidly but Killua is weary of. Retz, in my opinion, was a fairly useless character who was too involved in the story's plot. Retz's purpose was only to be a plot wedge to attempt to drive Gon and Killua apart, much in the sense Bisky initially tried to do (unsuccessfully of course) upon her introduction in Greed Island. Retz doesn't knowingly do so, but it is blatantly clear that this was the only purpose the director had in mind for her. She is almost successful too when Killua tries to stand in front of an oncoming train to end it all after he felt like he abandoned Gon. Of course, the shining ray of light himself showed up to push Killua at of the way just in time and then continued to put his friend at ease.
This all leads up to a final, action packed showdown between the four main characters and Hisoka facing off against Omokage himself and the Nen puppets he created of Illumi, Pairo and the remaining members of the Genei Ryodan. At the end of the day, Kurapika is able to capture Omokage in his Chain Jail and attempts to place the Judgement Chain on his heart before he is stopped by Killua who convinces him to not bloody his hands and to leave the dirty work to him. Before Killua can commit the deed, Retz shows up behind her big brother and stabs him in the back, which ultimately serves as his demise. Before this however, Omokage unleashes one final attack with his puppets of Phinks, Franklin and Nobunaga. At this time, the real three Ryodan members show up to destroy the last of Omokage's puppets. This leads to a stand off between Kurapika and the Spiders before they claim that as much as they'd like to, they can not strike him down until the remove Kurapika's Judgement Chain from Kuroro's heart. At this point, Kurapika collapses from exhaustion and the Ryodan leave. Our four main characters leave Retz and Omokage to die together and the movie pretty much ends at that.
The movie was a decent start for Hunter x Hunter movies, but it easily could have been better. My main problems with the movie had to do with the pacing. Movies pacing differs greatly from they way the shows pacing entails, and in the case of Phantom Rouge a fairly good amount of scenes dragged on much too long. Most of these were the scenes that involved Retz too, but there were some others that just drug out for way too long. Another problem I had was the misguided characterization that was on display here. This isn't anything unusual with shounen films, but I was hoping for a little more out of Hunter x Hunter. The characterization was mostly on par, but it felt a little too over the top, primarily with Gon and Killua. That scene where Killua was holding Gon's Hunter license and attempted to get hit by the train was way too over dramatic. There were just way too many occasions where Gon and Killua had some rehashed exchanges where Killua feels like he's not good enough for Gon and Gon reassures him why he is so important to him. These aren't anything new for these two, but it was way too over the top and kinda over did it. The action scenes were decent, but were nothing compared to what the series offers. They lacked the strategic element present in all the fights displayed in the series.
The highlight of the movie was definitely seeing Hisoka's badass skills on full display. Other than that, the main take away I have from this movie was it was interesting to see who Hisoka's predecessor was. Omokage wasn't a great villain by any means, but he did just enough to be entertaining and prove that he definitely fit in to the band of misfits known as the Genei Ryodan.
Overall, it was a solid movie, but it had several flaws and left much to be desired. I'd give it a 7 out of 10, but for the most part it was a pretty average shounen jump movie. It lacked that amazing ability Hunter x Hunter has to outdo the status quo and instead settled on being sub par. Hopefully the second movie learns from the mistakes of Phantom Rouge, but Phantom Rouge will definitely be a solid shounen movie I can watch for years to come whenever I am bored and in the mood for a solid anime film that isn't too heavy on content.