Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is often said to be a rather difficult show to “get into” by a large portion of its fanbase, and for good reason. Even I myself, who now considers the show to be one of my all-time favourite Anime series, initially struggled to get on board with the shows premise, and found myself strongly disliking the series after the pilot episode. Given that the series was supposedly going to be focusing on super powered mafia gangs, it was a bit of a letdown that the first episode consisted mostly of unfunny, repetitive gags and an irritating, whiney protagonist being the victim of said unfunny, repetitive gags.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn’s introductory story arc, known as the “Daily Life Arc” is pretty damn hard to get on board with, and it’s probably the worst way this series could have started off, especially if you’re aware of the more serious, and emotionally charged events that occur later on in the story and just kind of want to “get to it”. The arc is allegedly the result of the Mangaka, Akira Amano, originally wanting to make Reborn! a gag comedy series, as opposed to a serious, battle focused Shounen series, before eventually deciding to shift to the latter because she realised that things weren’t working out. I’m not sure how true this actually is, but I’ve always just kind of taken it as fact, since it’s a pretty sensible explanation as to why this initial story arc is so very different from the rest of the narrative that follows it.
A lot of Hitman Reborn! fans will tell you to skip the vast majority of this arc, outside of the first few episodes that introduce key characters such as Gokudera and Yamamoto to the story, since the stories themselves are fairly self-contained and don’t connect to one another all that much. There’s even super detailed “watching guides” which break down exactly which episodes you should “skip”, similar to the ones for other lengthy Shounen titles like Naruto and One Piece, but this is an idea I’ve personally never been on board with.
In fact, as a die hard fan of Hitman Reborn!, and as someone who struggled to get through the arc on their first watch I implore anyone who hasn’t seen the series before to do the complete opposite. You should watch the entire Daily Life Arc without skipping any episodes. All 19 of them. And any other “Daily Life follow ups” that occasionally pop up from time to time in between the more “serious” story arcs.
Because while it may not seem all that important when you’re first slowly progressing through the episodes, many of them are actually incredibly significant to the overarching narrative and tie in with episodes from the later, more dramatic, arcs. Even the episodes that don’t still serve the purpose of familiarising the audience with the shows insanely large cast of unique and diverse characters. Sure, you could watch the episodes where they’re introduced and skip the rest, but to really know the characters, to understand them as individuals, the Daily Life Arc is pretty damn essential. Especially because many of the character traits and wacky quirks established in this arc; comedic or otherwise, provide some context to the actions they take in later parts of the story. Context is everything, and the Daily Life Arc provides context, even if it all seems unimportant at first.
As stated previously, this arc serves as the introduction to much of the shows primary characters, most notably the series’ protagonist, Tsunayoshi Sawada, or Tsuna for short, a bumbling, clumsy idiot of a character, who’s lack of self belief and incredibly low self esteem, along with his constant complaining, make him an incredibly difficult kid to root for, even if the show does everything it can to make you feel sorry for him. But he’s just so unwilling to do anything due to his lack of confidence, and has no interest in any of the situations that he’s been thrown into. And I suppose it’s understandable, since he more or less gets told “you’re next in line to become the boss of a very powerful Mafia family, despite the fact you have no knowledge or experience about the Mafia, or it’s world, at all” and he’s given no option to refuse, but still. It does get a little old a little fast.
I’ll be honest, I hated Tsuna when I first started Reborn. I couldn’t stand the kid. His constant moaning along with his lack of enthusiasm quickly got on my nerves. I’d even argue that it negatively impacts the comedy that the arc is so heavily focused on, since his lack of willingness to partake in the wacky situations going on around him just kind of puts a downer on any attempts at humour that the show is trying to deliver. …Not that the jokes themselves are anything you’d be rolling on the floor laughing at anyway, but… Yeah… Tsuna’s attitude doesn’t help. At all.
That being said, his character being so pathetic in the beginning does have a huge upside: it makes all of his growth that we see in later arcs much more apparent. Because we get to see Tsuna in such a pathetic and low state, for such a lengthy period of time in the opening arc of the series, when he eventually does start to grow as a character it feels like a more natural evolution that has occurred over time. As an audience, we spend time with Tsuna as a spineless, 14 year old middle school student with no special qualities whatsoever, which helps to emphasise his growth as the series progresses and he becomes a more confident and competent individual, worthy of being a leader. If one were to skip the majority of the Daily Life Arc, they’d miss out on really getting to know “No Good Tsuna”.
We’re also introduced to the titular character, the baby mafia hitman, Reborn, who serves as the catalyst to much of the series comedy, while also playing the role of Tsuna’s mentor. Reborn is a very interesting character, and his origins remain shrouded in mystery, and this desire to know more about Reborn is one of the arcs more compelling aspects, especially if one doesn’t find much appeal in the comedy. Reborn also introduces the audience to the world of the mafia and the various roles and power systems that are a part of their world.
The most significant concept brought into play is that of “Dying Will Mode” a power up that involves being shot with a magical “Dying Will Bullet” that enhances the recipients physical abilities tenfold, granting them super strength and super speed, among other things. It’s a very basic power up and is mostly introduced for comedic effect (as evident from the fact that Tsuna’s clothes are ripped to shreds every time he’s shot with one of the bullets), but it’s actually a very important story element that comes into play later on.
This “Dying Will Mode”, as it’s referred to, is a precursor to the much more complicated power system that will be introduced in the later acts of the story, and its very basic application serves as the basis for many of the series’ future battles. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that Dying Will Mode was never meant to be a precursor to anything, but it doesn’t really bother me all that much, and I feel that the series does a decent job at shoehorning in the more intricate Dying Will Flame power system later on.
Of course there are many other cast members introduced during the Daily Life Arc, and as said before the main appeal of the arc is how it establishes each of these characters values and beliefs and how these affect and influence the decisions they make during the more dramatic points in the story. My key point of reference here, is always Hayato Gokudera, Tsuna’s self-proclaimed “right hand man” who eventually becomes his best friend.
Gokudera is introduced in the second episode of the series, and originally despises Tsuna, deeming him unworthy of the position of the 10th Vongola Mafia boss and claiming that he deserves the position. However, in a rather bizarre, comedic freak accident involving the misuse of his own dynamite, Tsuna saves Gokudera from being blown up, and after this he feels indebted to Tsuna for saving his life, and immediately promises to be his right hand man and stand by his side as a token of his appreciation. It’s initially played for laughs in the form of jokes surrounding Gokudera’s insanely blind loyalty to Tsuna, with him even going as far as getting into conflicts with other characters who just want to be friends with Tsuna, out of fear that they want to “steal” the position of “right hand man” away from him. However, this comedic connection between the two of them eventually develops into one of genuine loyalty and friendship, and Gokudera begins to display a very honest and real dedication to Tsuna, to the point that he’d give up his own life to keep him alive and see him succeed as the Vongola’s 10th generation boss.
And this rings true for every single one of the main characters. We understand why Yamamoto is such an honest and disciplined kid, and those traits are reflected in later arcs when he masters the way of the sword during the later, battle intensive Varia Arc. We get insight into why Hibari is so dedicated to protecting the Namimori school district along with his love of fighting powerful opponents because we see how proud he is of his school and his desire to show his authority by disciplining those who are weaker than him and who don’t agree with his values. We get why Ryohei is so hotheaded and eager to play a role in the Mafia world when we see how easily riled up he gets over not being included in whatever crazy shenanigans Tsuna and his friends are currently wrapped up in. While initially an annoying little twerp, we’re introduced to Lambo and his time travelling bazooka, which while initially used as the subject of many silly time travel related jokes in this arc, plays an insanely significant role in the longest, and most dramatic story arc in the series, and believe it or not, these comedic moments help to set a little bit of the ground work for those later events by introducing Lambo and his nifty time travelling tool.
And do I need to talk about that awesome opening theme? Yes. Yes I do. Go listen.
If that doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I don’t know what would.
To say that the majority of the Daily Life Arc can be easily skipped over is, in my opinion, very wrong. The arc does drag out quite a bit, and can often be boring and unfunny, and many of its episodic stories feel insignificant in the moment. But if one takes their time with it and gets through it they will be handsomely rewarded with a lot of deep insight into the characters of Reborn’s story and their motivations, and see a ton of neat callbacks in the later, more dramatic, story focused arcs in the later parts of the series. I think that alone, makes the Daily Life Arc pretty damn significant, and an essential watch for anyone who has yet to give the series a try. I won’t deny that it’s a pretty big grind, and it’s most definitely the reason that Reborn is so hard for a lot of people to get into. But your perseverance is rewarded. At least, I think so.
As for rewatching the arc? Yeah… That’s another story… I wouldn’t begrudge any second time watchers for skipping a few episodes. I’d do it.
And that about wraps up this part of the retrospective. Even if it doesn’t hold up all that well as its own piece of the narrative, and even though it’s, in my opinion, a fairly poor introduction on its own merits, the Daily Life Arc does serve a necessary function in the form of contextualising the personalities and motivations of the main cast and setting up many of the later, more appealing events that take place further down the line. And that alone, makes it a much better watch, than if it were just taken as its own separate piece of work.
Join me next time in this journey, as we take a look at the second arc in the series, the Kokuyo Arc, where the series begins to move away from slapstick comedy and delves into slightly darker territory by introducing us to more serious battles, more dramatic stakes and the first serious antagonist: Rokudo Mukuro.
Be on the look out for Part 2: “The dramatic tone shift of the Kokyuo Arc”.