PG-13/16 for violence, mild sexuality, and other shounen standards; official series website (manga)
I really want to do a full review on this someday, because Reborn is all kinds of awesome and it would take a while to explain all the finer points of why that is. But here’s the main reason:
Reborn is a complicated parody of all things shounen. And it is brilliant.
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious prick, I think this series doesn’t get enough acclaim because not enough people understand that it’s a parody. Let’s start a list of shounen cliches and how Reborn measures up.
“I’m gonna be the best!” premise: Reborn’s junior high lead named Tsuna is training, whether he wants it or not, to be the best mob boss in the world. Check.
Bizarre rules and set-up: Tsuna is being trained by Reborn, a tiny mafia baby/sharpshooter, who shoots Tsuna in the face in order to bring out Tsuna’s inner desires and the power to make them come true–albeit while Tsuna is in his underwear and on fire. Check.
Rival/best friend: Within ONE CHAPTER, a new transfer student shows up, tries to kill Tsuna, and then, when bested by Tsuna, swears to be Tsuna’s right hand man for life. Check.
Wacky teammates: There’s the nice guy classmate who doesn’t know what’s going on but joins Tsuna anyway, the evil bishounen hall moniter who dishes out justice via thugs and nightsticks, and even Reborn’s failed rival Lambo, another baby dressed like a cow who hurts himself frequently and can shoot himself with a bazooka to turn into a fully grown bishounen with a lazy eye. Check.
Cheap pandering to the female audience in order to get a bigger readership: Look at that picture above. Look at it. It’s the cover to Volume 3…and the first time I saw it, I laughed so hard I hurt myself. Check.
I think Reborn is pretty popular because it’s funny, cute, entertaining, and the above list of cliches has been proven to sell books time and time again. But I just don’t know if people get the joke. All comedy series that include good satire get extra points in my book, so for including a satire subtle and successful enough to fool a fair chunk of its fanbase, Reborn is absolute win.
Educated impression: Very much worth a try. I’ve seen more of the anime than I’ve read of the manga, but both are good, and the anime has toned down the adult content enough that it’s appropriate for a wider audience. (Lianne)