Poised on the very beginning of a new year, Anime Reporter opens up about the appropriately named manga series, Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, (or just Reborn! in English), Volumes 1 and 2 (chapters, or ‘Targets’ 1-16). Reborn! is the brainchild of Akira Amano and during its original run in Japan, the series was highly popular and acclaimed. The Japanese series ran for forty two volumes, though the English manga publication was put on hiatus after 16 volumes. I’ll be aiming to bring you what I can on this series, hopefully including more than a few reasons why it’s worth reading the available material. The first story arc, the Daily Life Arc, spans more than eight volumes, making it the longest arc of the English publications.
Life is not a lot of fun for thirteen year old Tsunayoshi Sawada, (known as ‘Loser’ Tsuna by his classmates). Tsuna has a pretty strong record of failure at everything from sports, to grades, to basic socialising and he doesn’t hold out a lot of hope that this will ever change. In the meantime, the Vongola Mafia family’s top hitman is sent to Japan in search of the next living heir to the Vongola throne. This hitman, known as Reborn, is cold, resourceful and refuses to accept failure for any reason whatsoever. He also happens to be a toddler and darned adorable to boot!
In the wake of his latest exam failure and, on top of his crushing depression about not being able to speak to Kyoko, the girl he likes at school, his mother hires a home tutor, (or ‘Katekyo’ in Japanese, giving the manga its name), to help him turn his school work around. This tutor comes in the form of Reborn who’s certainly interested in helping Tsuna bring up his grades, but only as part of whipping him into mob-boss material and/or killing him in the process. Tsuna is resistant at first, though this is quickly sorted out when Reborn shoots him point blank through the head.
Thankfully, and prolonging the series as a result, the bullet used is no ordinary projectile. The Dying Wish Bullet, a speciality of the Vongolas, will kill a person but bring them back with dying spirit, an overwhelming surge of super strength as well as the motivation and determination brought on by any regrets the person had upon being shot. It also seems to manifest by having Tsuna literally jumping out of his clothes, performing inhuman feats while running around in his boxer shorts. Tsuna is not much of a fan of being shot in the head, but he can’t argue with the fact that it seems to get results, with a few such occasions earning him a better reputation and even settling a few old scores along the way.
But Reborn isn’t just going to shoot Tsuna in the head whenever there’s a problem. Nope, his job is to teach and train Tsuna, making him a true leader, a man of character and pride. It’s also his focus to recruit a few underlings to serve Tsuna as the head of his own budding generation of Vongolas. The first volume takes up seven chapters and sets the tone perfectly. Cartoonish hilarity and over the top action go hand in hand with other, more reserved and realistic characters. The overall effect is something wonderfully bizarre and seriously clever in its humour.
The second Volume sees Tsuna’s makeshift mob-family expanding, whether he likes it or not, with Reborn ingratiating himself into every aspect of his life. The roster expands further with Bianchi, an assassin with a penchant for poison who also happens to be madly devoted to Reborn and, from Volume 1, Lambo, the cry-baby killer from a rival crime family who doesn’t seem sure if he wants to wipe Reborn off the map or become best friends with him. Not that Reborn cares much either way.
Reborn himself is the stylish amalgamation of James Bond and Bugs Bunny, overflowing with charisma, skill and ferocity, while very funny and capable of pulling a grenade out of anywhere or deflecting a missile with a pair of chopsticks. He’s also a master of disguise, at least to everyone except Tsuna and anyone reading the manga. His trademark greeting, “ciaossu”, a blend of Italian and Japanese, his ability to seriously pull off a fedora, even with a head bigger than his body, and his versatile pet chameleon, Leon are just a few of the small details that make him instantly likeable and it’s pretty close to impossible not to be charmed by the character.
Tsuna is pretty cowardly to begin with, happy to either fail or take the easy way out of a challenge and only wants to stay in school because it’s where Kyoko happens to be. Already, it seems clear that he’ll develop and grow into a likeable and endearing character. If not, readers can at least enjoy seeing him repeatedly get shot in the head.
Reborn! Volumes 1 and 2 are both currently available in English from Viz Media. For more info on Viz’s other titles, or possibly to annoy them about publishing Volumes 17-42 of Reborn!, check out their website here.
Likeable Characters: 9
90% – “Hits the Mark!” – It’s been a seriously long time since a series has charmed this anime reporter so much from the very beginning. It’s early days but this series stands out so far as an imaginative and innovative spin on the Shonen genre with as sharp and clever a sense of humour about itself as the very greatest series’ out there. Seriously charming, charmingly odd and oddly, not serious in the slightest!