Togashi’s first ever idea for a shounen manga, pre Yu Yu Hakusho or Hunter x Hunter; was a sports manga titled “Trouble Quartet”. In his words, it featured “homosexual characters and cross dressing.” He was heavily attached to it, but the concept was rejected by Shounen Jump.
The quality of this representation can’t be determined since it was never actually published, but he had an interest in representing LGBT people from the very beginning. Trouble Quartet’s main character was even supposedly going to be a gay man.
In his first ever shounen series, Yu Yu Hakusho, Togashi wrote the characters Miyuki, Itsuki, and Sensui. Miyuki was a trans woman, and Itsuki and Sensui were a gay couple. What some people won’t tell you, though, is that there were a few problems in his original queer rep.
Miyuki, I feel, is a character where his ignorance towards trans people became clear. He was a cis man who decided to throw a one off transgender villain into his story without really knowing what he was writing about. Once the main cast discovers her—
—genitalia (no, she hasn’t had bottom surgery) they immediately call her a man, and she gets defensive. Which makes sense considering the transphobia in society, but her entire identity is treated as a joke and not like that of a “real woman.”
I don’t think this was Togashi’s intention, but cis writers need to be careful when representing genderqueer characters, and he just didn’t seem like he was with Miyuki. This changed over time, of course, but let’s discuss the other queer characters within YYH.
There was also a gay couple present in YYH, but it teetered on the problematic side as well. Though it was nowhere near awful, and was an enjoyable pairing, cishet writers love queer-coding villains, and this could read as a stereotypical “gays are evil” instead of—
—like genuine representation. And of course, I believe Togashi’s intention was just to write a gay pairing, but he once again was not careful. There were two more queer characters in YYH, but, funnily enough, these two characters being queer was a complete accident.
Kurama and Hiei always had a semi-romantic relationship in YYH, which was great, considering they’re two of four protagonists. But they never tied the knot and the conclusion to their relationship was ambiguous. Even though it would’ve been the best rep in the story. So, why?
Well, when asked if they were a couple, Togashi said it was never his intention to pair them together, but he “easily could have done it.” He wasn’t opposed to the idea of making them canon, it just never occurred to him. He accidentally and subconsciously gay-coded them. Lol.
If you were disappointed in what you learned about Miyuki, not to worry! Togashi took a second try at writing a proper trans character when he created Level E. It features a trans man, Mikihisa. This representation isn’t great, but at least it has more serious treatment.
The problem with Mikihisa, was even though Togashi had corrected his insensitive, comedic treatment of Miyuki, was that Mikihisa’s story was told through a transmed view. A transmedicalist is someone who believes trans people must have dysphoria and MUST medically transition.
Mikihisa’s body, if I recall correctly, was transformed into a “proper” male body by aliens. The implication in the story was that in order to be a “normal” or happy trans person you simply needed to get surgery. And the alien thing was just a little weird
So, with a lot of messy LGBT rep under his belt, Togashi sat down and created Hunter x Hunter, with the most positive gay representation he’d ever created. He had an explicit and well written trans woman, multiple gay coded characters, a sapphic kiss, etc.
Let’s start off with Alluka since this thread has been heavily focused on his trans representation: Alluka is a thirteen year old trans girl who is clearly a trans girl without anything being awkwardly stated.
Her abusive family refers to her as a boy, her loving brother refers to her as a girl, she refers to herself as a girl, and she’s amab in a data book iirc. What makes Alluka special, though, is her being trans is not the center of her character.
In fact, it’s mostly irrelevant to her development. It’s not even brought up once beyond a passing “Alluka is a girl!” assertion. But it’s still handled well, as Nanika, the power residing within Alluka, is a euphemism for Alluka being trans.
Nanika is something hiding within Alluka that makes her family hate her. Nanika is something that her family wants to take advantage of and use. Nanika is a representation of what young trans girls go through. Being invalidated, manipulated, and controlled.
But, her brother, her only real family member, learns to accept that Nanika is her. She is Nanika. Nanika is not scary; Nanika is gentle. You can’t have Alluka without Nanika. You can’t have a trans woman without her womanhood. You can’t just push it away because it’s “dangerous”
Alluka is not a joke, Nanika is not a joke, and it doesn’t matter whether or not Alluka has had any sort of surgery. Alluka says she’s a girl, so she’s a girl! It was so simple, but so beautiful, and so meaningful.
There’s of course gay coded characters in Hunter x Hunter, like Pouf and Killua. Pouf being gay coded was obvious, with his jealousy of Komugi and love for Meruem, but Killua is more subtle. Proof for Killua being gay mostly comes from romantic Japanese subtext.
Killua is, or reads to many gay people as, representation for a young gay boy. We can’t be sure, knowing what happened with Kurama and Hiei, but the subtext this time seems far more intentional. (I.e, the “lovers suicide” line about Gon, or him handing a proposal card to Gon.)
I’ve made a whole thread on Killua’s gay subtext, so I’ll move on. There are more canonically or coded genderqueer characters in HxH. For instance, Neferpitou is canonically genderless, Kalluto is androgynous presenting and doesn’t care for gender—
—Kite could be read as genderfluid when you consider post reincarnation they use both masculine and feminine pronouns in self-referral, and even Kurapika’s gender was played around with in earlier arcs. Togashi basically said “fuck gender” throughout HxH.
Perhaps the most glorious queer thing to happen in Hunter x Hunter though, was the canon kiss between two women in the current manga arc. It’s not treated as weird or taboo, it just...happens, even though it’s not explicitly romantic.
So, in conclusion, Togashi’s LGBT rep has been messy, but he’s been making up for it and improving his entire career. He observes and listens to his LGBT audience and he delivers something better every time he does. I can feel that he cares.
I adore Togashi, and I adore what he’s done for LGBT people within shounen. I adore what he’s trying to normalize. I look forward to his return, and possibly more characters like this in the future. End thread.
This ended up being a little bit of a banger so if you want to, follow me! I make threads like this pretty frequently, usually centered around both argumentative and informative Hunter x Hunter topics. My favorite character is Kurapika.