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Nen (念 lit. mind [force]) is one of the defining features of Yoshihiro Togashi's manga Hunter × Hunter. It is an energy created within the body that can be utilized and manipulated in a variety of ways by a skilled user. Within the series, this energy is also referred to as aura (オーラ ōra).

What is a Nen ability?

A skill to utilize 'life energy,' aka 'aura'

Nen is an energy produced by the human body. A skill to utilize or enhance
Gon rock

Gon using Nen

Nen is called a Nen ability. Nen, which has a profound connection with both the mind and the body, can be regarded as the total energy of a human. There are very few people who can use Nen without training. Those who are born with the ability to use Nen are often venerated as immortals, geniuses or supermans. Nen is such a special energy. Furthermore, there is usually some Nen left on the works of great artists[1].

What can Nen be used for?

Wing using Nen

Wing demonstrating a Nen attack

Basically, Nen is used for attack and defense. Nen attacks are particularly effective against ordinary people, who are incapable of using Nen, and can cause them irreparable or even mortal damage. Because Nen attacks use life energy, they are better suited for killing than inanimate objects. In addition to that, there are very many ways to attack with Nen, for example enhancing the body, strengthening the weapon, or conjuring weapons out of Nen. The possibilities are, in theory, limitless, only bound by a user's imagination. There are also people who have acquired unique Nen skills such as healing, prophesying, counterfeiting, and creating doppelgangers[2].

How to awaken Nen?

The human body has countless pores from which aura can flow out called
Gon Killua Nen awakened

Gon and Killua having their Nen forcibly awakened

Aura Nodes (精孔 shōkō). By opening these aura nodes, thus activating the flow of aura, Nen will be awakened. There are 2 methods of awakening Nen. The first one is slowly kindling it through meditation. This method is dependent on the talent of the person in question; gifted people will have their Nen awakened within several weeks[2]. The other method is asking another Nen user to force the aura nodes to open with Nen. After that Nen should only be used in emergencies because there have been cases of people with no Nen expertise dying due to using it rashly.

Quantification of aura

Knuckle aura quantification

Knuckle applying aura quantification prudently in combat

Sometimes one wants to calculate and express the decrease or increase in Nen as a number, such as 'How much aura can be stored in the body?' and 'How much aura can be released at a time?'. Remembering the following will be very useful for combat:
  • MOP (maximum ōra power): the maximum aura capacity of the body. A user's actual Nen power can be estimated using this number. A greater MOP indicates a more powerful Nen.
  • POP (potential ōra power): the amount of the body's latent aura. Just before a battle, aura is consumed at the rate of 1 point per second, but during the battle, the rate goes up to 6 to 10 points per second.
  • AOP (actual ōra power): the amount of aura that can be emitted. A user with a higher AOP is more capable of performing powerful techniques. However, that may cause POP to be used up quickly[2].


Nen training

The Four Fundamentals (四大行), namely Ten, Zetsu, Ren and Hatsu, are the most basic elements in using Nen and the first step of Nen training is to learn them. This section explains these 4 techniques in detail.

Ten (纏)

Ten

Ten

This technique allows a Nen user to contain aura by
Gon Killua ideal posture Ten

Gon and Killua assuming an ideal posture for Ten

enfolding their body with it. All human beings possess aura, but unbeknown to most of them, it slowly leaks away. Making aura stay around the body is called Ten (纏 lit. wrap around). This is the most basic technique. Thanks to it, the body will be strengthened and the aging process can also be slowed down. It is best to adopt a natural posture when practicing Ten[3].

Zetsu (絶)

Zetsu

Zetsu

Zetsu (絶 lit. sever, suppress) stops the flow of aura from the body completely. It is a technique whereby a user suppresses the Nen formed by using Ten surrounding them and suspends the small natural leakage of aura from their body. Zetsu closes all of the aura nodes so that Nen is fully contained within the body, therefore it can help the user to conceal their presence or recover from fatigue. If Zetsu is executed properly the user will be hard to detect. Thus it is very suitable for clandestine actions[3]. However, Zetsu must be used carefully because it leaves the user's body defenseless against the enemy's Nen. In Zetsu state, it is very dangerous to even take a weak Nen attack, or to come into contact with the enemy's Nen.

Ren (練)

Ren

Ren

Ren (練 lit. practice) involves training
Gon Ren

Gon showing a surprisingly large Ren

with and improve the aura formed by using Ten. In this technique, the user expands their aura nodes and generates more aura than normal[4] while keeping it from flowing away. If practiced properly, Ren will allow the user to produce and use unusual amounts of aura. It can be compared to a basic physical exercise, which means it is essential for anyone who wants to become strong. The moment when a Nen user shows their Ren is the best moment to evaluate their potential[5].

Hatsu (発)

Hatsu

Hatsu

Hatsu (発 lit. release) is the technique
Gon practising Hatsu

Gon practising Hatsu

of freely releasing the aura cultivated by Ren and is the last one of the four fundamental Nen techniques. From simple abilities like Gon's Jajanken to crafty abilities like Hisoka's Bungee Gum, every single one of them makes use of Hatsu. It is truly both broad and deep. Practising Ten and Ren earnestly can help a Nen user learn Hatsu, which is very difficult, quickly[5].

Fake Fundamentals

Because Nen can be turned into dangerous weapons, it must not be taught to
Gon and Killua practising fake Ten

Gon, who cannot practise Nen due to injury, focusing his mind using the fake Ten.

outsiders carelessly. For that reason, some Nen masters devised a fake set of Four Fundamentals in which the real Nen terms are either replaced by homophones or are explained incorrectly, for example, the true Nen (念 lit. mind [force]) is replaced by the fake Nen (燃 lit. inflame). Nonetheless, these fake techniques are useful for mind training and therefore Nen users can still benefit from them[5]:
Ten2 Ten (点 lit. a point): Focusing your mind, examining your inner self closely and defining your goal.
Zetsu2 Zetsu (舌 lit. tongue): Expressing your Ten-defined goal or your thought after meditation in words.
Ren2 Ren (錬 lit. refine): Intensifying and heightening the thought that is formed by using Ten and Zetsu.
Hatsu2 Hatsu (発 lit. release): Putting your Ren-intensified thought into action.


The Nen system

Understanding the Nen type hexagon

Nen is divided into 6 categories: Conjuration,
Nen type hexagon chart

Nen type hexagon

Emission, Enhancement, Manipulation, Transmutation and Specialization . Which category one falls into depends on what they are born with, their desires and the environment they grow up in.

With the exception of Specialization, for any Nen user, learning the Nen type that is at the opposite corner on a main diagonal is the most difficult and practising adjacent Nen types is the easiest. For example, a Transmuter will find learning Manipulation techniques the hardest, but they can easily become skilled at Enhancement and Conjuration[6].

In general, it is good enough for a person to practise only their Nen type, but sometimes, practising other types can help the development of their own type. The additional types that they should practise are the ones next to their own type on the Nen type hexagon chart. For example, an Enhancer like Gon should also improve his skills in Emission and Transmutation. However, the basic rule is that one only practises one type a day[7][6].

Identifying Nen types through Water Divination

One of the first steps that anyone who wants to
Water divination

Water divination; anticlockwise: Enhancement, Manipulation, Conjuration and Specialization

become a first-class Nen user takes is finding out what their Nen type is. By using Water Divination of Shingen-ryu (心源流 lit. Shingen style), they can easily know what category of Nen they belong to. This method is very simple: filling a glass with water, putting a leaf on the surface of the water, cupping hands around the glass and performing Ren. One's Nen type is revealed by what happens:
  • If impurities appear in the water, the user is a Conjurer.
  • If the color of the water changes, the user is an Emitter.
  • If the volume of the water increases, the user is an Enhancer.
  • If the leaf moves, the user is a Manipulator.
  • If the taste of the water changes, the user is a Transmuter.
  • If any other change happens, the user is a Specialist[8].

Nen and Personality

The following are the systematic speculations about different personality traits of Nen users summed up by Hisoka. Many people use them because they have proven to be very accurate in general[8]:

  • Conjurers are high-strung and methodical. For
    Nobunaga guesses Gon's Nen type

    Nobunaga: You're an Enhancer, aren't you?
    Gon: So what if I am?

    example: Kurapika, Kortopi and Shizuku.
  • Emitters are impatient and not detail-oriented. For example: Leorio and Franklin.
  • Enhancers are simple and determined. For example: Gon and Nobunaga.
  • Manipulators are logical and do things at their own pace. For example: Zushi, Illumi and Shalnark.
  • Transmuters are whimsical liars. For example: Killua and Hisoka.
  • Specialists are independent and charismatic. For example: Chrollo and Neon.

Sometimes, it is possible to guess the Nen type of a person based on their personality. For example, judging by Gon's outspokenness, one can easily conclude that he is an Enhancer[8].

Types of Nen

Conjuration (具現化 Gugenkakei)

Conjuration is quite similar to Transmutation. The main
Kurapika's Chain Jail

The unbreakable Chain Jail is the result of Kurapika's efforts

difference is that Conjurers create real objects or weapons out of aura. While they cannot conjure overly supernatural objects such as a sword that is capable of cutting through anything or an infinitely long spear, it seems many of them are able to give conjured objects special abilities[9].

Notable Conjurers:

Emission (放出系 Hōshutsukei)

Emitters can shoot out or project aura. The emitted aura
Franklin's Double Machine Gun

Franklin's Nen bullets are even more powerful than the real ones!

and the intensity of a user's Ten are directly proportional. Being proficient at Ten will allow them to shoot out aura like bullets. Emission is very similar to Conjuration and many Emitters can also give their auras special abilities which have many applications[10]. The two categories, however, are fundamentally different in that the objects created by Emitters are made of pure aura, believed to be invisible to normal people.

Notable Emitters:

Enhancement (強化系 Kyōkakei)

People of the Enhancement category have the ability to
Uvogin stops a bullet

Uvogin can stop a pistol bullet with his teeth

use Nen to improve the natural abilities of their own bodies and objects. Of the six Nen categories it is the most well-rounded. Just by training their Nen, Enhancers can deliver powerful attacks without the need to develop special deadly techniques[9].

Notable Enhancers:

Manipulation (操作系 Sōsakei)

Manipulators can control living and non-living things
Shalnark's cellphone

Shalnark remotely controlling humans through a cellphone

through the use of aura. On the outside, this category is somewhat similar to Enhancement but they are different in that Manipulators are capable of remote control, thus their Nen abilities are highly applicable. The more a Manipulator likes to use an object, the better they can control it. Therefore, many people have chosen to manipulate favorite things of their own[10].

Notable Manipulators:

Transmutation (変化系 Henkakei)

Transmuters can change the properties of their aura.
Killua changes aura into electricity

Killua, who can tolerate high-voltage currents, changing his aura into electricity

Some Transmutation abilities copy the properties of real objects such as Hisoka's Bungee Gum, which has the characteristics of both rubber and gum, and Machi's threads, but some are not based on any tangible things, for example, Killua's electric shock and Zeno's Dragon Lance[9].

Notable Transmuters:

Specialization (特質系 Tokushitsukei)

Specialization is made up of rare Nen users who do not
Chrollo's Skill Hunter

Chrollo's stealing ability really fits with his status as a thief

belong to the other five categories. In most cases, Specialists either came from Specialization bloodlines or had their abilities awakened by the special environments they grew up in. It is extremely difficult to develop a Specialization ability on one's own. However, some people like Kurapika were able to become Specialists later in life thanks to training[10].

Notable Specialists:


Nen applications

There are countless ways to use Nen[11]!

Gyo - using Nen to see

Gyo (凝 gyō lit. concentrate) is a technique
Gyo

Gyo

used to detect In whereby a Nen user concentrates their Ren-amplified Nen in their eyes to see clearly the flow of their opponent's aura. Activating Gyo is the first step in dealing with Nen users and it is also the first Nen application that must be learned[11].

In - concealing Nen

In (隠 lit. conceal) is an application of Zetsu
In

In

that can hide a Nen user's aura almost completely. This technique should only be used when the user is sure that the opponent does not know they are using Nen. Even though In is simple to perform, if the user studies its applications carefully they will get excellent results, as shown by Hisoka's and Kurapika's clever use of it in combat[11].

Shu - covering objects with Nen

Shu (周 shū lit. encircle) is an application
Shu

Shu

of Ten which allows a Nen user to surround their objects with aura. If they use Shu on a sword, the sword will become sharper; and if they use Shu on bullets, they will be able to alter the bullets' trajectories[11].

En - ultra high-performance radar

En (圓 lit. circle) is an application of Ren
En

En

and Ten. To perform En, the user expands the aura surrounding their body until it reaches the necessary range. They will then be able to feel the shape and movements of anyone within the range of their En. Those who have mastered En can extend it to a sphere of 50 m radius[12]. There are some exceptions, for example, Zeno can extend his En to a radius of 300 m and Neferpitou has an irregularly shaped En with tendrils that can reach up to several kilometers in length.

Ko - focusing all Nen on one point

Ko (硬 lit. hard) is an advanced technique
Ko

Ko

which combines all the Four Fundamentals Ten, Zetsu, Ren, and Hatsu whereby a Nen user focuses all the aura of his body on one point to attack or defend[12]. Zetsu is used to completely stop the flow of aura in all other parts of the body. This technique is very risky because while it makes one part of the body exceptionally powerful it leaves the rest completely unprotected.

Ken - protecting the whole body with Nen

Ken (堅 lit. firm) is a defensive technique whereby
Ken

Ken

a Nen user maintains a state of Ren over their entire body. Compared to Ko, which concentrates all the user's aura on a body part, the defensive power of Ken is weaker on any given part of the body but it allows the user to defend from all directions. Hence, it is suitable to use when fighting against multiple opponents. However, one must be careful not to overuse Ken to avoid running out of aura[12].

Ryu - changing between Ken and Ko

Ryu (流 ryū lit. flow) is the technique of
Ryu

Ryu

instantly switching between Ken and Ko. It allows the user to concentrate aura (Ko) or disperse aura (Ken) in a timely fashion, making their attack and defense more efficient. To use Ryu properly, one must also use their brain[12].
  • Once a Nen user have mastered the Four Fundamentals and known their Nen type, they must start practising Nen applications because it is impossible to win Nen battles using only basic techniques. The importance of applications will become noticeable when they reach the intermediate level in Nen where difficult and complex skills are the key to victory. Using Gyo, Ko and Ryu as the starting point, they should devise their own original application skills[11].

Transferring offensive and defensive power

In hand-to-hand combat between Nen users of the
Gon and Killua practise aura distribution

It is important to practise measuring the opponent's aura.
Gon: Right fist!! Power 80!!
Killua: Left elbow!! Power 80!!

intermediate level or higher, Ryu, the technique of instantly switching between Ken (defensive power) and Ko (offensive power), is especially important. The reason is that a Nen user only has limited aura, which requires them to pay special attention to the transfer and distribution of it so that the right amounts of aura are used in the right places and at the right times. In addition, because aura is concentrated in the body parts used to attack or defend, it is also very useful to observe the opponent with Gyo and predict the movements of their aura[12].

Notes

  • It generally requires dedicated training to be able to use Nen. Children do not have many distracting thoughts thus one can expect that there are a good number of child Nen users. However, only a very few of them are strong fighters[1].
  • Nen evolves or develops in accordance with the purposes of the user. Most children have very low Nen combat capacity because they usually practise Nen not for fighting[2].
  • Nen is life energy. If a Nen user dies with a vengeance or a longing, the Nen left behind by them will have stronger effects on their enemy or the object of their affection[3].
  • A person with a Nen-based restriction imposed upon them by a Manipulator or a Conjurer can only ask another Nen user to remove it for them. Those who have the ability to remove other people's Nen are called Exorcists (除念師 jonenshi)[5].
  • There are very few Exorcists. And even fewer are the experts who can remove the intensified Nen left by dead people. In the whole world, there are no more than 10 such experts[6].
  • Exocists are also called Spirit Removers or Spirit Purifiers. Exorcist Abengane borrowing the power of the spirit of a forest is simply a supernatural phenomenon[8].
  • If a Nen user is willing to take more risks or sets more restrictions on themselves, the effects of their Nen will also become stronger. The deliberate applications of this feature are Limitations (制約 Seiyaku) and Vows (誓約 Seiyaku)[9].
  • An illustrative example of Limitations and Vows can be found in the case of Kurapika's Chain Jail. If he uses it against anyone other than the Phantom Troupe members, he will die[10].
  • Nen users can supplement Nen with God's Letters (神字 shinji). At first sight they seem to be normal patterns, but if one uses Nen on the floor or ground where they have written God's Letters the effectiveness of their abilities will be improved[11].
  • Specialization contains unique abilities such as Kurapika's ability to use Nen of any type with 100% efficiency. Many people have become Specialists from Conjurers or Manipulators[12].


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 2004 Databook, p.90
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2004 Databook, p.91
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 2004 Databook, p.92
  4. Vol 13, p.128
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 2004 Databook, p.93
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 2004 Databook, p.94
  7. Vol 15, p.89
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 2004 Databook, p.95
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 2004 Databook, p.96
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 2004 Databook, p.97
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 2004 Databook, p.98
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 2004 Databook, p.99


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