Reading the last two chapters of Katekyo Hitman Reborn! together, “ambivalent” is probably the best way to describe my feelings after the experience.
While the second last chapter was possesses the standard characteristics of a rushed and abrupt ending, the closing chapter does wrap things up thematically, and the shots of the various cast members reinforce Tsuna’s journey quite nicely (not to mention they’re nice to look at!). It’s always a troublesome challenge thinking of a suitable ending for long-running shounen series, and for Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, at least it ended; not quite the ideal finale I imagined, but the series has its closure, which is more than I can say for many of its counterparts (e.g. Bleach).
It was a whimsical decision to start reading KHR!, and despite its flaws, it has been an endearing and enjoyable series. I’ll always remember it for the zany characters – the cast was large, but they somehow managed to stay differentiable and shone in the spotlight when given the chance. This was undoubtedly the series’ greatest strength, and looking at her work over the course of the series’ run, it would seem she excels at creating memorable characters and giving them life. There were a select few that I personally couldn’t be bothered to care for, but none of them became so offensive that I questioned the necessity of their existence. Amano, intentionally or not, knew how to distribute the spotlight properly so that bland characters stayed out of the center stage just enough for their weaknesses to remain hidden, while dynamic characters were allowed to breathe. This lends an interesting duality to Amano’s writing though – many characters such as Dino, Yamamoto, Hibari, Squalo, and Gokudera even, can come across entirely flat and one-dimensional when in actuality all of them have very subtle nuances to their characters. It all depends on how much the readers are willing to read into their characters, interpret their actions, and extrapolate the possible trajectories their personas can take based on their personality. Amano provides ample ingredients to do this, which is probably why I found the series so enjoyable.
Unfortunately though, the execution of the plot is the series’ biggest pitfall, and it’s somewhat saddening since the basis for some of the events and the ideas behind the arcs are solid and even grand – the potential was certainly there, and there were moments in Katekyo Hitman Reborn! where it was evident Amano was capable of something greater. But for some reason she seemed to almost chicken out at the most crucial of moments (e.g. the endings of every arc), building the events of an arc to great heights only to deliver lackluster conclusions/explanations. I’m not sure if it’s just an inherent weakness or just a matter of polishing her skills, but the proper execution of some of its plot points really kept KHR! from reaching its full potential.
Although I would have preferred to see more of Tsuna as the Vongola Decimo at the end, perhaps it’s best that these blanks are left to be filled in by the readers. There are a myriad of possible paths the story can take from this point on, and the readers are free to choose any one of them – it’s the greatest freedom an author can offer their audience. The story has come to an end, but only thematically. The characters are unbound by a specific outcome and their potential from here on is unprecedented, their stories free to be written however one wishes. In this aspect Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is excellent, proving it was more of a gift to fans rather than a ploy to make money.
Note: Extremely sorry for the delay on this post – I was sick and had to do some shuffling around, which made this post fall to the back burner unfortunately.