AKA "PW Really, Really Hates the Future Saga"
Having now officially caught up in the manga for Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, I can now say that I have been into Shonen anime for much too long, having come up with a list of "references" used by Shonen titles from the past. The question now is whether each of those qualities helps or hurts it. Here we go:
I. Initial Pro/Eventual Con: The switch from gag-manga to action manga
When I found out that the series would eventually make the jump from goofball gag-manga to a full on action manga, I was actually pretty excited for it. For one, I was already getting tired of the ongoing gag of everybody falling for Reborn's disguise except for Tsuna (a la Animaniac's Chicken Boo) and I thought it was about time they get down to the nitty gritty of things. Besides, I personally think such a move is good, if the author truly wants to bring the series in a more action-oriented realm. All other recent anime/manga out there tend to be way too serious at times, but to have one series take that same route but have the excuse being that it was so silly prior is like a breath of fresh air. Besides, it worked out well for Dragon Ball.
II. Pro: Awakening a huge power in the protagonist
I gotta say, once the first non comedic arc rolled into the manga, I was pretty pleased. Furthermore, to have that same arc finish off with the main character unleashing this unknown power he had inside him (as trite as the concept's become) just wanted me to keep reading. It had the makings of every great "hero awakening" scene: the main character on the ropes while the baddie's about to give the finishing blow; the secondary characters down on their luck, but putting their trust in the main character; and the main character realizing that they have a responsibility of protecting all those around him. If anything, I'd say the scene was most comparable to Yu Yu Hakusho's Saint Beast Saga... except I actually liked the bad guy this time around.
III. Con: Over-explaining what was previously accepted regardless
Remember back when Shonen didn't bother explaining things like massive power levels or killer techniques because well... we didn't really care to begin with? Things like Neji's explanation of chakra flow in Naruto or erm... every shinigami's explanation of their zanpakutou in Bleach really just killed those series for me and made certain chapters just a chore to go through and Reborn's Future Saga is no exception. The first two action-oriented arcs had a good enough balance of action and gags to keep me reading, but a majority of the Future Saga just made me want to hurl from information overload, from the dying will bullets to those mystical things simply called boxes. The advantage of coming off of a gag-manga styIe of story-telling is that you don't have to give those kinds of explanations for every little thing that can't be possible in the real world. And on top of that... well, I'll save that for another point.
Honestly, whatever happened to someone just firing off a kamehameha from their feet and having you just accept it?
IV. Initial Pro/Eventual Con: StyIe in conjunction with new characters/character designs
I gotta admit, one of the big reasons why I even continued on with the series was due to its awesomely awesome art styIe Like Bleach, things like title pages were just ripe with character designs and clothing styIe that would make Tim Gunn wanna... eh, I won't go there, since he's a cool guy (seriously, who else gets an exclusive tour around the Marvel building?). Put simply, though, the designs would give off a sort of new school pop art-ish vibe that that alone would be enough to keep reading.
Sadly, like Bleach, Reborn's art styIe started to take a strange turn for the weird once the Vongola Rings were introduced... along with a new cast of baddies. By this time in the story, as good as it still was, I think the author was really trying to keep things interesting for himself by making characters that looked a bit well... flamboyant, which in turn would work as a sort of excuse to try and re-insert the funny back into the series. While I'm reluctantly forgiving this move since the series has moved on since then, I still think it's such a weird move to make. It doesn't help that excessive use of leather is utilized in those newer designs either.
V. Con: Giving a value to strength
Power, power, power. That's all that seems to be on the fanboys' mind once the characters end up reaching a certain level of strength in the series. Such ends up being one of the flaws of my all-time favorite anime/manga Dragon Ball in their introduction of those darn scouters and it looks like the same happened to Reborn during the Future Saga. With that particular story arc just getting so long and convoluted, I really just ended up skimming through some pages when massive amounts of text arrived, the prime example of this being Spanner's contacts he made for Tsuna. Heck, I still don't get how those things work. I just think of 'em as one step ahead for scouters, which is really just one step behind for my respect of the series.
VI. Con: The False enemy to set up for a real one
While it can be interpreted as a pro if pulled off correctly, as a whole I just frikkin' hate false enemies. I mean, I guess if you're able to pull it off like in mystery novels, but the way it was done in the Future Saga was just plain messy. And it doesn't help it when the story ends up lagging on, only making you believe that the baddie the heroes are facing is really the baddie. You invest so much time believing in one thing only to have things turned on you and you just feel like crap. An example of this being pulled off in a manga: Yu Yu Hakusho's Yujigen Mansion Arc. It was short and sweet with baddies you actually liked but in the case that you didn't there'd be an actual baddie coming soon so it didn't matter that much. Ugh... I frikkin' hate you, Future Saga.
VII. Pro/Eventual Con if overused and abused: Animal Partners
(Admit it; you thought Nuts was a Digimon when you first saw him too.)
Okay, a quasi new arc means new characters introduced, yeah? Well this time around it looks like we end up with not just one, but multiple animal partners for our heroes. Now I know the concept has been done to heck, especially in kid-centric things, but when I looked at the group shot of the Vongola and all their animal buddies, I just immediately thought of Digimon. Probable cause? I'm gonna say the author's trying to bring it back the cutesy factor, considering that the previous source (the Arcobaleno babies) have been squished squashed and churned to the point that even in their baby form, readers have learned to see them as more of a badass unknown than a cute baby that happens to be holding a lethal weapon in their hands. (I always thought they were more on the creepy looking side, anyway.) As for whether this is a good thing or not, I'm gonna say only time will tell, since we've yet to see too much of them (a chapter here or there, but not too much) just yet.
Thankfully, it looks like the events of the Future Saga are all a bad memory now and we've moved on to an actual plot connecting more to the characters themselves in those them there Arcobaleno folk. My one complaint into the arc so far: you have these Arcobaleno, these all powerful mysterious babies, introduced and sprinkled throughout the series so far and all of a sudden, we end up getting not just one, but each one of them's adult forms revealed in nothing but a title page. Ridiculosities, but still... it can't top the crappiness that was the Future Saga.