To Catch A Cloud

August 17, 2008 at 2:22 pm (Animanga, Character Focus) (, , )

(1) Essentially doubling an essay to embarrassing lengths was not really what I had in mind when I said “revise” to my brain. Just sayin’.

(2) I tried to write this so that anyone not versed in Katekyo Hitman Reborn! can hopefully also follow along and enjoy.

(3) Spoilers up to the latest chapter — 205

(4) Long essay is long.

Some info about the series.

Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is a manga about the Italian Mafia in Japan. Sawada Tsunayoshi is the next head of the famed Vongola Mafia family. The Vongola own seven special rings, imaginatively called the Vongola Rings. Each is able to generate a different attribute of “Dying Will Flame”; this flame is able to unlock devices called ring boxes, which may contain a wide variety of (often animal-themed) weaponry. It is the job of each heir to the Vongola throne to gather six Guardians, one for each Vongola Ring with one left over for himself. Hibari Kyouya eventually becomes Tsuna’s Guardian of the Cloud Ring.

The manga is currently in the middle of the Future Arc, where the characters have been mysteriously flung nearly ten years into their rather dismal future. Until very recently, Hibari was one of the few characters who hadn’t been switched with his future self, and that future self had kept up a significant presence in the storyline. Since we’ve gotten a pretty good look at Hibari’s adult self, this essay will examine both Hibari’s younger and older selves.

Some background to Hibari.

Hibari Kyouya is a violent upperclassman at Namimori Junior High, and he is a powerful and skilled fighter. We literally know little else about him, other than basics like birthday, zodiac sign, and favorite foods. His entire history is a mystery.

That’s part of why Hibari’s so difficult to pin down. On one hand he’s easily the most violent of all the characters, frequently beating the stuffing out of anyone he deems a “herbivore” at the slightest provocation, such as crowding a room he happens to be in But opposite that you have his fierce love for his school; he keeps his school song as the ringtone of his cellphone. Hibari’s one of the most brutal and merciless Guardians, yet he’s also managed to tame a fluffy little bird away from his enemies—and keep it tamed, to boot.

At first glance it’s almost like he contradicts himself. And that’s why I love him so much—because he’s a twisty, tonfa-happy enigma wrapped in a mystery, that’s just so much fun to try and pick apart.

What he looks like and what that means.

Hibari initially depicted as a tall, skinny teenager. His grey eyes are drawn unusually narrow, compared to other characters in the manga, and he has thick black hair that is long on top and generally neatly combed.

The aspect of Hibari’s appearance that differentiates him the most from other characters is the way he is always shown in school uniform. It’s true that the details of his uniform have varied throughout the manga—for example, he began the series wearing his jacket over his shoulders like a cape; later, he left off the jacket and simply wore a sweater vest over his uniform shirt. The one constant is the armband around his upper left arm, which declares him Head of the Disciplinary Committee at Namimori High.

Young Hibari’s attachment to his school’s uniform can be traced to several things. One is that he takes great pride in his school and town (also called Namimori); hence, wearing his uniform is his way of showing school spirit. Another lies in his armband. Hibari uses his status as Head of the Disciplinary Committee to command a great deal of respect and a good deal of fear from his schoolmates, using his position of authority as an excuse to beat up anyone he feels deserves it. Wearing his school uniform at all times reinforces his authority and allows him an excuse to continue doling out discipline on school grounds, even after school hours.

Ten years later, his older self shows this same penchant for uniforms. His favorite attire seems to have become the uniform of the Mafia: a simple black suit. He wears this with even less variation than his younger self—shirt always fastened, blazer always buttoned, shoes always shined. However, unlike his younger self, Hibari’s hair has become short and choppy all over—a decidedly less orderly look. This may signal that Hibari has come to loosen up a little as he ages, perhaps becoming less fight-happy and uncompromising than his younger self.

The arc where Hibari’s older self appears also allows us to see Hibari out of uniform for the first time. He is seen dressed in a simple kimono. This continues a theme seen in Hibari’s personal quarters and his favorite food. His personal section of the Vongola’s base is decorated in traditional Japanese style, and one of Hibari’s favorite foods is stated by the mangaka to be Japanese food. The combination of all three seems to suggest that Hibari has a liking for traditional Japanese culture. Even his weapons reinforce this—tonfa are said to have originated from Okinawa Prefecture of Japan, and are still used in traditional Okinawan martial arts today.

Hibari and his catchphrases.

Another one of Hibari’s unique characteristics is his myriad catchphrases. They’ve managed to persist through his younger years to his adult self.

I had to search before I found this one, actually. From what I can tell, Hibari seems to say “wao” when he’s in a good mood, or something good happens to him. As far as I can tell, he’s never actually been seen to laugh in the manga—maybe “wao” is his way.

This is Hibari’s favorite insult, he uses it often. Generally a “herbivore” is anyone Hibari feels takes up unnecessary space or has annoyed him. “Herbivores” are therefore free game for he and his tonfas.

“Bite to death”
Related to the above, this is Hibari’s favorite threat. Mostly he tends to simply say “I’ll bite you to death” or something along those lines, shortly followed by an extended hospital stay for the statement’s unfortunate recipient.

This phrase has only been uttered once, in the recent chapters where the older Hibari was facing an opponent he acknowledged as equal. Specifically he stated that he hadn’t had a chance at such interesting “prey” (ie. the other man) for a long time. From this one incident, “prey” seems to be Hibari’s term for anyone he deems his rough equal in combat ability. It’s possible that this statement is an alternate translation for “herbivore”—but the context of its use seems to suggest otherwise.

The last three phrases provide the most insight to Hibari’s character as they are thematically connected, being animalistic in imagery and making references to predator/prey relationships. Together, they seem to suggest that Hibari has a “survival of the fittest” way of looking at other people, where the weak are trodden on (or severely disciplined) by the strong. Judging by the fact that all three phrases are uttered from what would be a predator’s viewpoint, it would seem that Hibari views himself as the fittest and strongest “animal”. This fits well with Hibari’s view of relationships, where they tend to be based more on respect for power (with the respect going both ways) than anything else.

Fighting the Hibari way.

Another major aspect of Hibari is his fighting ability. As I’ve said before, Hibari’s a rather violent individual, seeing brutal beatings as just desserts for anyone who should be unlucky enough to interrupt one of his rather frequent naps. His weapons of choice are a pair of steel tonfa.

As a teenager, his tonfa have hidden compartments which have so far been shown to contain spikes and grappling hooks. Hibari’s fighting style is simple, brutal and direct: he essentially leaps at his target head on and overwhelms them with his usually superior strength and skill, and does not appear to know the meaning of the words “going easy” when he fights. Hibari’s strength is referred to with awe by various individuals in the manga who are themselves considered strong. Hibari has been repeatedly stated to be an exceptionally strong and skillful fighter, an asset to the Vongolas—a statement he lives up to, when he defeats a powerful combat-oriented robot in a single blow.

Hibari’s straightforward, relatively unsophisticated fighting style might make it seem like he is himself an unsophisticated person, but this is untrue. Along with his strength, Hibari possesses considerable speed, agility, and intuition. Hibari has been seen stopping a bullet with his tonfa, while not even facing the direction of the rifle from which it was fired. He has also been seen catching thrown knives with his bare hands, from which he was easily able to deduce that they are connected to and controlled by razor wires. When face-to-face with the challenger XANXUS during the Ring Tournament Arc, Hibari was one of only two Guardians to realize that XANXUS was hiding something behind his smirk.

As an adult, Hibari has only gotten stronger—to the point that he is referred to as the strongest of the Vongola Guardians. His innate Dying Will Flame has also become impressively powerful; when using rings weaker than the Vongola Ring of Cloud, they shatter after a single use, unable to withstand the power of Hibari’s flame. He continues to use a pair of tonfa as his weapon of choice; however, he now embraces the relatively new ring box technology. His tonfa are stored in just such a box, and do not appear to contain the hidden tricks of his youth. Now, they are themselves capable of emitting a Dying Will Flame, making them far more powerful than their ordinary counterparts. In addition to his flame-emitting tonfa, Hibari continues his association with cute little animals—he also possesses a pair of ring boxes which contain weapons based on your garden variety hedgehog. Hibari is able to use his hedgehog with great deal of skill and ingenuity—at various times, he has used the hedgehog as a simple projectile, an airtight cage, and as a battering ram.

Hibari also shows a greater awareness and use of strategy than his younger counterpart, being more willing to cooperate with others. More specifically, he is more willing to work with other Vongola Guardians. He volunteers to fight off hordes of Millefiore (the enemy family of the future) in order to create a diversion so that the main attack force can sneak into the Millefiore’s base unhindered. Later, he works with the younger version of Dokuro Chrome (another Vongola Guardian, this time of the Ring of Mist) and his own subordinate, Kusakabe, in order to sneak into the base and join the attack force. In both cases, Hibari participates in a plan formulated or at least headed by another, and he cooperates with other individuals in order to execute the plan. Unlike his youthful days of straightforward beatings, Hibari is now at ease with using deception and trickery in order to complete his goals (which, it must be said, frequently require him to beat the hell out of many unlucky individuals anyway). In recent chapters, Hibari has also made cryptic references to being on a schedule, suggesting that he is cooperating with and following the lead of yet another individual or group of individuals—though who, and to what end, remain a mystery.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day Hibari’s fighting style remains mostly unchanged. Hibari has only a finite number of rings to power his ring boxes. He also has no way of directly counteracting illusions generated by Mist-attribute flames with his own Cloud-attribute flame. Nor can his ring boxes. Thus, when faced with a powerful Mist-using illusionist, Hibari’s response is to use his hedgehogs to create an area where ring boxes are useless. By doing so, he forces the battle to a level where he can compete against his opponent on equal footing: to a physical fight where the winner is the one who can beat the stuffing out of his opponent the fastest. Something that’s right up Hibari’s alley.

Personality Part I: Teenager

Now let’s jump to the juicy stuff—Hibari’s personality. As I’ve said before, at first glance it seems like he’s a contradiction of himself. He’s the juvenile delinquent with school spirit, the brutal disciplinarian with a knack for fluffy little pets.

The first layer to Hibari is that he’s frequently and violently impulsive. This is best shown during the Kokuyo Arc. We see that Hibari is very easily offended, nearly maiming Tsuna when he and his friends unwittingly beat Hibari to the best place from which to view cherry blossoms. We also see that Hibari goes off half-cocked. When several Namimori High students are landed in a hospital courtesy of Rokudo Mukuro (an antagonistic illusionist who later becomes a protagonist), Hibari immediately sets off to find and beat Mukuro. At no point does the fact that he has been temporarily but severely handicapped by a weakness to sakura blossoms, which are in season and therefore abundant, cross his mind. Nor does the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about his opponent’s fighting skill or style or indeed, anything about his opponent at all. As far as Hibari is concerned, Namimori has been wronged by the attacks and he demands vengeance for them. End of story, no thinking or planning necessary—he’ll just beat his way through anyone or anything unlucky enough to obstruct his path.

The interesting aspect of his impulsiveness is that Hibari seems to finds an outlet it and his violent tendencies by disguising it under the banner of authority and enforcing rules. Having proclaimed himself Head of Namimori High’s the Disciplinary Committee, Hibari can then dole out beatings to his schoolmates, justifying it as preserving school discipline. The fact that he wears his school uniform is every appearance his younger self has only serves to further legitimize his role as school disciplinarian. Even his weapons, a pair of tonfa, follow this theme of discipline and authority—the modern police baton’s design is derived from the tonfa. The best example of this aspect of Hibari is when Tsuna and two friends are caught in the Disciplinary Committee’s designated meeting room. Since they have trespassed and therefore violated Hibari’s rules, he feels free to discipline them by letting loose with his tonfa.

The games Hibari likes to play also serve the same purpose as his claim to authority. They allow him to justify his violence and impulsiveness. The impulsiveness reveals itself in how easy it is for other people to lose at his games. For example, one game he likes to play is maiming anyone who disturbs his naps. He naps frequently, increasing the chances of him being wakened. And if you do wake him, he immediately punishes you for losing—by, yes, another beating. Since the unlucky you has lost, he is therefore within the rules set by his game to punish you for such stupidity. It’s not his fault that you have earned a beating: he told you what not to do, and you did it anyway.

Why Hibari would choose to use authority, rules, and games to disguise his impulsiveness and excuse his violence is up in the air. Possibly he does so in order to consciously reign in his impulses, possibly he does so in order to bypass pesky questions about why he’s beating everyone in sight red, black and blue. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t quite work, because the problem with rules is: whose rules are you playing by? The Ring Tournament Arc consists of a tournament where Tsuna and his Guardians face a challenge from XANXUS and his Guardians. Roughly, every one of Tsuna’s Guardians faces their corresponding Guardian on the XANXUS’ side in a battle for possession of the corresponding Vongola Ring. The arbiters of the tournament are the mysterious organization known as the Cervello. Hibari knows these rules; however, as soon as he has defeated his own opponent, he attacks XANXUS. This is obviously not part of the tournament, but Hibari refuses to play by the rules set by the Cervello; he chooses to play by his own—XANXUS’s challenge to Tsuna’s claim as Vongola heir has caused massive damage to Namimori High, and as disciplinarian and guardian of his school that is unacceptable to Hibari. Therefore XANXUS must pay, and he will see to it that he does—never mind that XANXUS’ rightful opponent should be Tsuna, and no further battles are necessary anyway. Hibari doesn’t care for the Cervello’s attempts to impose their rules on him at all.

And as a result of that headstrong nature, Hibari has enormous strength of will. During the Kokuyo Arc, Hibari faces Mukuro in battle twice. The first time he is easily defeated by the other boy; the second time he fares better but ultimately, still loses. Later in the battle, when Mukuro fights Tsuna, he doesn’t bother possessing Hibari’s body. The reason for this is that Hibari’s body had been extensively injured during their first fight, bearing multiple broken bones. Despite that, Hibari fought Mukuro with the same strength and ferocity as he had fought at full strength, literally fighting until he dropped. He wanted to take Mukuro down for defeating him earlier and also for daring to trespass on Namimori—and nothing, not even the failings of his own body, could stop Hibari from fighting until he had achieved his goal. Even when he passed out halfway through the battle, his body finished the fight on automatic, so great was his will to win. Mukuro was right to call Hibari “a frightening man.”

Personality Part II: Adult

Ten years into the future, Hibari seems to be a different creature from his younger self in some ways—though of course, in other ways he’s still the same. We don’t know what might have happened between the present of the manga and the future we’re now reading, so any cause for Hibari’s changes is purely speculation and nothing more

One significant change is that Hibari has seems to have also gained some tolerance for other people, specifically the other Guardians. In his younger days, Hibari clearly preferred to stick to himself, not once seeking the aid of others and reluctantly accepting help in fine-tuning his fighting skills. In the future, Hibari’s connection to the other Guardians is stronger and clearer in his older self. He intervenes to save the younger Gokudera and Yamamoto from a deadly Millefiore foe, though he claims that it was only because the Millefiore man was annoying him and he was in a bad mood. Later, when Tsuna finally masters the weapon his older self had used, Hibari states that Tsuna now “excites” him as his older self and other worthy opponents do. This suggests that Hibari gains respect for Tsuna and was willing to follow his older self, which is supported by an incident where an opponent calls Hibari “the Vongola’s man.” When the adult Sun Guardian, Sasagawa Ryohei, intrudes on Hibari’s private section of the Vongola family’s base, Hibari doesn’t immediately throw Ryohei out or even attack him for daring to trespass. He agrees (relatively amicably) to a fight, though he later blows this off in favor of napping. Not once are any threats actually acted upon. It seems that Hibari has grown to accept the other Vongola Guardians as his allies and fighting equals, in the process giving up some of the solitude that had characterized his younger self.

Hibari’s capacity for rational thought and foresight also seem to have leveled up. The moment Chrome’s illusory organs start to fail, Hibari bursts into the infirmary to help her, stating that “if you die, we’ll all be in trouble.” Chrome is the only access the Vongola have to Mukuro (now an ally), adult or otherwise, and she bears the coveted Vongola Ring of Mist. For these reasons her survival is vital. However, Hibari has been shown to have an ongoing grudge against Mukuro, to the point that the possibility of a rematch has been used to entice Hibari into functioning as a Vongola Guardian despite his usual preference for solitude. There is evidence that this enmity hasn’t faded with the years. Would a younger, more impulsive and touchier Hibari have bothered saving what essentially amounts to Mukuro’s life? The older Hibari’s willingness to aid Chrome says that Hibari has learned to work with and tolerate Mukuro, and that Hibari is now willing and able to set aside his personal vendetta against the other man in favor of aiding the Vongola as a whole. This is quite a departure from a Hibari who preferred to fight his battles alone and refused to accept any help. Hibari’s volunteering to distract the enemy Millefiore family and his willingness to work with his subordinate Kusakabe and the recovered Chrome in order to join the main attack force also speak to the older Hibari’s ability to plan and cooperate with others. So does greater sophistication of his plans—rather than barging into the Millefiore base directly, he disguises himself as the leader of the attack force he defeated in order to sneak into the base unawares and obtain a map of the base’s layout.

Of course, the adult Hibari is still Hibari. Even if he seems content to have followed the older Tsuna’s lead, he still demands independence and autonomy, creating his own sub-organization within the Vongola, which acts independent of the family. As leader of this sub-group, Hibari is not above leaving Japan to conduct his own research without telling anyone what he’s looking for or where he’s going—before his initial appearance, it’s stated that no one knows his whereabouts and haven’t for several months. After he appears Kusakabe, his subordinate, states that Hibari plans to stick around for a while—as if this was something unusual for Hibari to do. Even as an adult Hibari still won’t play by other people’s rules: he goes where he wants to, when he wants to, on his business of choice. Hibari’s impulsiveness also remains, if not as prominent—when facing the Millefiore’s resident illusionist, Genkishi, Hibari rashly uses up all of his remaining rings in a bid to defeat Genkishi once and for all, despite the fact that without rings his boxes are useless. Hibari’s grudge against Mukuro appears to have lingered as well; indeed, it seems to have grown even worse. Despite his willingness to help Chrome, Hibari states to Genkishi that while he “[doesn’t] have anything against [him] personally” he does happen to “hate [his] kind.” It seems very likely that Hibari’s hatred of Mist-using illusionists could have begun with Mukuro—the only man to have defeated Hibari, and without even raising a hand.

Interactions with other characters.

My personal view of Hibari and relationships is that they tend to be based on power and respect for that power. The other person is usually powerful enough to catch Hibari’s attention, and eventually gains his respect. Such a relationship doesn’t necessarily have to become romantic or sexual, but it can be—and if it is, I think that aspect remains secondary in Hibari’s mind. It’s another way of fighting, almost, but (hopefully) without the massive property damage and copious injury.

The relationships I’ve chosen to talk about aren’t meant to be ship manifestos or bashing, so if any pairing bias comes through I apologize, but it’s not intentional. The following are meant to be examinations of Hibari’s established interactions with other prominent characters in the manga. To that end, they’re listed in chronological order of when they are first established.

Hibari & Kusakabe – You’ve Got a Friend in Me
While Hibari’s teenage self was a solitary individual, he still had a cadre of loyal followers—namely, the rest of the Disciplinary Committee. Chief among these delinquents was one Kusakabe Tetsuya. As teenagers, Kusakabe had much admiration for Hibari, happy to follow him anywhere, though Hibari seemed to mostly ignore his presence. As adults, Kusakabe’s admiration hasn’t lessened one bit as he continues to follow Hibari, though now as a member of his Foundation. The adult Hibari, however, has come to rely on and acknowledge Kusakabe. Kusakabe has been shown waiting on Hibari’s orders while in Hibari’s private quarters—which are strictly off-limits to even other Vongola Guardians, the highest ranked men in the family. Hibari also trusts Kusakabe enough and involves Kusakabe in enough of his business that he allows the other man to stand in for him at official Vongola meetings. Most significant in their relationship is the fact that Hibari allows Kusakabe to refer to him by his first name (“Kyou-san!”), and refers to Kusakabe by his first name in turn (“Tetsu!”). This is quite remarkable, as no one else in the manga does that—to everyone, he is referred to as Hibari-san. Kusakabe seems to have built the closest relationship to Hibari of anyone else, an impressive feat and testament to his loyalty—loyalty that Hibari has grown to acknowledge and, perhaps, reciprocate.

Hibari & Reborn – Hit Me Baby One More Time
Hibari’s relationship with Reborn is established early and only reinforced by the Vongola 77 Character Book. Hibari’s fascination with Reborn stems from his respect for Reborn’s fighting skill and his desire to fight Reborn. Such is his regard for Reborn that it spills onto anyone who he knows to be the baby-shaped hitman’s friend. When he first meets Dino Cavallone, another Mafia boss mentored by Reborn, Dino introduces himself as Reborn’s associate. Hibari’s immediate response is that Dino must be strong himself, if that’s the case. However, despite all that Hibari continues to refer to Reborn as “baby,” emphasizing Reborn’s apparent weakness (ie. his appearance as a walking, talking infant) and refusing to acknowledge him by name. This seems to have continued into his adult years, where he continues to refer to the time-tossed Reborn as “baby.” However, he does exchange friendly greetings with Reborn (“Well met, Hibari.” “Same here, baby.”), so perhaps Hibari’s relationship with Reborn has evolved into something more amicable over the years.

Hibari & Tsuna – I Don’t Understand
Hibari’s fascination with Tsuna stems from the way Tsuna switches from between being weak and strong, depending on whether or not he’s using his Vongola-given abilities. Hibari doesn’t understand why Tsuna switches, and this intrigues him because when he’s weak, Tsuna’s pitiful, but when he’s strong, he’s a match for even Hibari himself. Reborn’s constant presence around Tsuna piques his interest even more—why would someone as strong as Reborn stick by a weakling like Tsuna? Hibari’s interest plus Reborn’s constant presence is probably what keeps Hibari hanging around Tsuna even when he doesn’t want to be. As an adult, Hibari seems to have come to acknowledge Tsuna as an equal, maybe even a comrade-in-arms. Upon meeting the younger Tsuna for the first time, he greets him in a friendly way, asking “What have you been up to, Sawada Tsunayoshi?” Later in the Future Arc, the younger Tsuna finally learns to use the weapon his older self had been famed for using. That is the point where Hibari begins to look interested at what’s happening, stating that the adult Tsuna now resembles the Tsuna he knew, the one who “excites” Hibari as Reborn did. Hibari is implying that he the regarded the older Tsuna with the same respect (and it must be said, thirst to battle) as Hibari had once had for Reborn. Hibari’s acknowledgement of the older Tsuna’s power is also shown when Reborn agrees to let him fight the younger Tsuna—as soon as Hibari has the go-ahead, the entire room is swamped with his “killing intent.” Clearly he regarded Tsuna’s older self as a foe (and ally) not to be trifled with.

Hibari & Dino – Around the World
As with Tsuna, some of Hibari’s high opinion of Dino Cavallone stems from Dino’s association with Reborn. Dino himself also has high regard for Hibari’s fighting skill, and seems to take great pride in Hibari from his position as his home tutor. Hibari seems to have some healthy respect for Dino as well, judging by the fact that he allowed Dino to train him for his battle in the Ring Tournament Arc, despite his initial refusal to accept Dino’s help. He even agreed to training that took him far away from his beloved Namimori. However, beyond their established relationship as mentor and student, little else of their interactions are shown. Though we know the Cavallone Family is still fighting by the side of the Vongola, Dino himself has yet to appear in the Future Arc. We can’t say whether Hibari’s regard for Dino has lessened—or grown.

Hibari & Mukuro – Grudge Match
Hibari’s interaction with Mukuro began way back in the Kokuyo Arc, where they faced off twice: the first time, Hibari was defeated with appalling ease. The second time, Hibari literally fought ‘til he dropped, though it was still left to Tsuna to ultimately defeat the illusionist. Since those two losses, Hibari’s had a grudge against Mukuro, desiring a chance to meet and defeat the other boy. Unlike his relationships with other characters, Hibari’s ongoing grudge seems to be motivated by a lack of respect on Mukuro’s part—he brushed Hibari away as not being a threat, and both times he was right. Being unused to being the weakling, perhaps Hibari feels that he needs to regain his spot as “top predator” and views Mukuro’s defeat as the way to do it. In addition to payback for his defeats, Hibari could possibly also want payback for Mukuro’s momentary possession of his body. Mukuro was unable to use his damaged body, and Hibari was unconscious when possessed, but perhaps he sensed it anyway or found out about it later. Either way, it’s likely that the solitary, independent Hibari wouldn’t take kindly to someone else imposing their control on him against his will. Hibari’s grudge against Mukuro endures through the manga, and burns strong enough that Reborn successfully uses just the possibility of meeting Mukuro again to lure Hibari into acting as Tsuna’s Cloud Guardian during the Ring Tournament Arc.

In the future, Hibari’s relationship with Mukuro is murky. Upon his death, Mukuro transmits top secret information directly to Hibari’s private servers—puzzling, since Mukuro hasn’t been shown to have any great love for Hibari either. It’s possible that he did this because he thought it would be more secure than the general Vongola servers, or even because he wanted to get in one last needle at Hibari by forcing him to accept Mukuro’s aid and the fact that Mukuro had managed to hack into his privacy unawares, but Hibari didn’t seem to be unduly distressed by the occurrence. Also, Hibari of the future would know full well that Chrome’s existence is necessary for Mukuro to manifest and interact with the world; indeed, the only way Mukuro can interact with the world in any way. Yet he intervenes to save the younger Chrome’s life without any sign of reluctance or discomfort. Both would seem to point to them having a more amicable relationship than their younger selves. On the other hand, when facing Genkishi, Hibari states that he hates all Mist-using illusionists, which would include Mukuro. His hate of Mist-users may even have stemmed from his grudge against Mukuro, intensifying and spreading as he grew older and was still barred for assuaging his hurt pride by beating Mukuro into the ground. During the fight with Genkishi, Hibari is also shown using several techniques that are specially tailored to counteract illusions created by Mist attribute flames, which suggests that Hibari either learned after numerous bouts with Mukuro, or made sure he would always be prepared in case a rematch should occur.

Interestingly—and on a slight tangent, but if I don’t talk about it here, I’ll never get a chance to—Hibari’s own fighting style is the total antithesis to Mukuro’s. Hibari’s is very straightforward, focused on hand-to-hand combat and blunt force. Mukuro (and other illusionists by extension) focus on long-range combat, subtly and indirectly wearing down foes through psychological manipulation. Opposites attract? Or maybe they just repel each other.

Hibari & Hibird – A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
I couldn’t possibly mention Hibari without his avian minion. Hibari first tamed Hibird during the Kokuyo Arc, when Mukuro had him imprisoned. At the time Hibird belonged to one of Mukuro’s allies—a man imaginatively named Birds. Somehow Hibari managed to not only tame Hibird but also taught Hibird to sing Namimori High’s school song. As with Kusakabe, Hibird remained Hibari’s stalwart companion, often seen napping alongside its master on the school roof. Ten years into the future, Hibird is still alive and going strong. Perhaps as a sign of Hibari’s strengthened ties to the Vongola, he actually permits his bird to be used as an emergency SOS system for the Guardians, and also allows Hibird to carry cameras and spy for the Vongola. His idiosyncratic bond to this little fluffball is one of the stranger aspects of his character. As with Kusakabe, he seems to have grown to regard Hibird as a companion rather than backdrop to his strength. Perhaps taming Hibird in the first place was the first sign in his younger self of learning to tolerate the presence of other.

The End.

As of now, Hibari has joined his Vongola brethren in being switched with his younger self, so it remains to be seen how that prickly teenager will cope with his now-adult subordinate Kusakabe, the opposing and imposing Millefiore family, and working with his fellow Guardians to find a way home.

It’s a little ironic that one of the more frightening and incomprehensible characters of Reborn! has a relatively normal trajectory of development: from brash, impulsive, teenager into cool, collected adult. Still, no matter his age Hibari remains a formidable foe, proud and powerful, refusing to be bound by anything other than what he chooses to be bound by. Truly this Guardian was aptly chosen—a solitary wanderer, he indeed embodies the Cloud to the core.


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