[Editor’s note: Hey gang! I’m waiting on an interview to wrap up (yaoi fans, stay tuned), and playing too much Mass Effect, so please welcome back Drew! Drew is taking on Naruto for me again today. Thanks Drew! Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure to take a look at Drew’s review of Viz Media’s new online magazine, Shonen Jump Alpha.]
The latest physical volumes of Kishimoto’s Naruto are out on shelves to buy, they’ve been available digitally for a few weeks as part of the digital catch-up for the new Shonen Jump Alpha, and unlike Bleach which was just announced would be ending soon, there doesn’t seem to be any end to Naruto in near sight. For those of you who haven’t visited Naruto in awhile, our favorite trouble making ninja has grown up and is a full fledged ninja now, and recently in the story line the evil Madara has declared war, and an Allied Shinobi Force has been formed to combat them, Naruto being one of the keys here.
I got into volume 54. The first good chunk is Madara’s Kisame trying to get away with intel on the Shinobi Forces. Our heroes confront him as Naruto perfects his chakra technique, and most of it is Guy taking the lead to fight Kisame. The Kisame versus Guy fight is pretty great, actually, between the action and the art. Kisame has a water-shark technique that allows him to constantly use both massive amounts of water and killer sharks at his disposal to fight, creating some of the best visuals Kishimoto has drawn in a few volumes. Kisame is subdued, and they begin to search him but to no luck (I won’t give away the twist here). In the mean time, Konan squares off against Madara himself, again creating some really great visuals on Kishimoto’s part as they battle in the rain, and Konan primarily uses hundreds of paper tags to battle her opponent. In the end, though, it doesn’t seem enough across the boards, as it looks like Konan loses, Kisame escapes, and Kabuto begins to aim his army at the island. Naruto and a bunch of ninjas know it’s coming and begin to get all the animals on the island to safety inside the island’s shell, since as it turns out the island itself is really a giant turtle. We get some hysterical scenes here, but before we know it, Kabuto is the first to strike and the 4th Great Ninja War is at hand.
Volume 55 really undoes my love that was growing in the previous volume. As the war finally strikes, it just gets confusing. Kishimoto’s huge cast that populates the pages of Naruto all start beating the crap out of each other as battles ensue everywhere. Similar to how I felt about the huge Paramount War that happened in One Piece recently, every few pages there’s someone different fighting someone else, or someone talking about battle strategies, and you really get to the point where you just wonder who you are supposed to care about. Oh yeah, Naruto. His name is the title and we do get a little Naruto spliced between the bat shit crazy fights going on, as he further develops his chakra technique to use in battle, now tapping into nine-tails to develop the Biju Rasengan (which seems will be the Naruto equivalent of Dragon Ball‘s Spirit Bomb). The fighting gets clarity later on, and can actually be summed up in words towards the end of the volume, when Madara dispatches the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist. The introduction of these baddies gives the characters (and the author) focus to fight, as Kabuto leads in with his soldiers, also providing some great concentrated forces for the heroes to fight.
Naruto fans will undoubtedly love these volumes and enjoy them to the core. For those who are just getting into Naruto, volume 55 would be a bad place to jump in, and I’d take it back a little bit to volume 51/52 to get a good starting point to lead you into this. The artwork by Kishimoto has much improved on these volumes during the one on one fight scenes. Story wise, though, I wish the editors at Shonen Jump in Japan didn’t use Great War scenarios to now be the new Fight-Tournament scenarios, that appear eventually in every Shonen Jump manga. I got sick of the Fight-Tournament scenarios eventually, too, but these Great War scenarios that are now being used in One Piece and Naruto just get confusing at times for readers.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.