Now here's a shounen with class.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is the adaption of Akira Amano's popular manga series of the same name that ran from 2004 to 2012 for a total of eight years. The anime ended prematurely, and it's unknown whether or not it will continue. However it ended in a good spot as a big arc had been just resolved. So if you're worried about it ending on a cliffhanger, you have nothing to worry about.
Anyway, the story. The story starts out with Tsunayoshi Sawada finding out he is to be the 10th boss of the Vongola Mafia, or as they call mafias in the anime, "families", so the Vongola Family. He is also to be tutored by the Vongola hitman Reborn (Hence the title) so he can become a proper mafia boss. Of course, "Loser Tsuna" doesn't want to be one as he's just a middle school student with no interest in the mafia. The premise doesn't sound too interesting, and really the story never is as serious as it sounds, even during its most serious arc that starts in the 70's. You figure this out right away when you first start the show. Speaking of starting...
One of the main issues people have with the show is the first 20 or so episodes. This follows a Daily Life arc, involving characters doing funny and stupid things. You even have a character training by dodging baseballs being shot out of a tank on school grounds. While this sounds good, people will just want to get on with the plot, instead of just the show being very episodic. Many of these episodes are not to be skipped however as they introduce some characters that become much more important later on, and you miss various developments.
This will be an uphill battle for most, but believe me when I say things get much better after you get past these episodes. Things soon start becoming a little more serious, and you really start getting more and more plot and character development. Not to mention they step up with the animation and soundtrack.
The soundtrack at the beginning of the series doesn't have really any special tracks. They fit the mood well during the daily life arc, but you'll be left wanting more. Fortunately the series during the arcs that come after the first one have far more interesting tracks, and it helps the show become more engaging. The soundtrack will fit each mood perfectly.
The animation and artwork isn't that great either at the beginning, but Artland eventually steps things up more come halfway through the show.
Now back to the story, during its first "serious" arc, the Varia arc, it follows some of the typical stuff you find in shounen (Ex: Tournament style fights, various special moves being revealed, opponents going "Impossible! There's no way this can be!"), but where the show starts to shine is the characters. You learn what they've gone through, what they're willing to sacrifice just for their friends' safety and a tomorrow where they can laugh all they want without a care in the world, among other things. While this sounds like all the various shounen you've probably watched in the past, it ends up doing more than most, especially with the relationships of the characters. I have not seen many shows do what this show has done with the relationships of the main characters, and it actually ends up caring a lot about them. It develops all of them, and continues to do so the entire time. You really get just how real and strong their relationship is, and what they'll do to maintain it.
One big problem I have with the story is the issue of time travel. Come halfway through the show, the show has an arc that uses time travel. It ends up unfortunately greatly testing the established theories of this, and even throws parallel universes in there. For this reason, I cannot justify giving the story a higher score, it just ends up being that messy in this area, and brings down what was already established in the previous episodes. Another reason why I can't justify giving it a higher score, the pacing. While the show past episode 20 has all around good pacing, the arc involving time travel is where the series met the same fate as many other long-running shounens, it caught up to the manga, and as a result they had to do something to allow the manga to get farther. Instead of going for filler episodes, Artland decided to just stretch episodes out far longer, and this results in some of the slowest pacing I've ever seen in a shounen for quite a while.
Speaking of filler, eventually they decide to put in filler episodes, and while this sounds bad, it actually was for the better. The show involves two short filler arcs that were actually written by Akira Amano herself, and something rather surprising about them is they actually ADD to the story and characters, and CANNOT be skipped. They actually are filler episodes that are truly worth watching. Even after the arcs are done, the show continues to reference them.
I can only hope more series try to do what Katekyo Hitman Reborn! did when it comes to the characters, and filler episodes. It manages to succeed where others failed.
This is truly a shounen that manages to stand out from the others.
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