Naruto is back with volumes 56 and 57, placing the series right in the middle of the ninja war between the Allied Shinobi Forces and the minions of Kabuto!
These are heavy action volumes, so although there are a few reveals, it’s mostly different folks squaring off in combat during this war. Volume 56 doesn’t really concentrate on its title character Naruto at all, who is off training with Master Bee, locked away so he doesn’t know there is a war even going on. Instead the volume follows, for the first half, mostly Darui, as he fights Ginkaku and Kinkaku, two warriors brought in by Kabuto. These villains are pretty dangerous, because not only do they have crazy magic-ninja weapons, like a jug that can suck you into imprisonment if you say the word you’ve spoke most in your lifetime near it, but also they possess some of Nine Tails’ energy, and so are extra dangerous. As Darui’s comrades fall one by one, he escapes these goons by the skin of his teeth, finally turning the tables on them. In the second half of this volume, the ninja of Team Asuma become reunited as they take on a variety of Kabuto forces, including one who spews poison from his body. During this process, and along with a side of flashbacks, Choji gains confidence and sprouts his butterfly-like wings without having to take pepper pellets again, as elsewhere Naruto finally realizes something is going on out there, as he picks up on the energy of battle.
Volume 57 shifts the focus back on Naruto, who is getting a little suspicious and comes face to face with his old master, Master Iruka, who is leading a group to try and convince Naruto not to leave his training with Master Bee. It is revealed that this war is actually being fought over Naruto, to capture/kill him and steal the power of Nine Tails from his body, therefore the Allied forces have removed Naruto from the picture to keep him safe. Naruto, boiling with anger, rushes off, feeling that he has the power to stop this war since it’s being fought for him. Meanwhile, Choji is locked in battle with a giant Gedo Statue, until finally there is a break in the battle to prepare for a possibly re-strengthened night or dawn attack. Naruto continues to break through the barriers holding him back, and makes lots of progress as Master Bee joins in, agreeing that Naruto should control his own fate. Between all of this Naruto talks to Nine Tails internally in his mind, telling him to control his anger and not give into the demon, as Nine Tails reminds him of a flashback. Naruto and Master Bee finally get to Raikage who tries to stop them. Master Bee reminds Raikage of a flashback from their past, and then defeats him so Naruto has the right to be free. As this happens, dawn strikes and Kabuto moves in with newly powered warrirors.
56 and 57 are all action, action, and action. True, there are flashbacks in 57 to provide back story and create calm moments, however, they feel a little off-paced between the quick paced fights. Speaking of fights, there is starting to be so many characters kicking ass here, that as entertaining as it is to see the action, it’s becoming a little too much, and it’s getting to the point where the reader doesn’t care as much who lives or dies. Still, Kishimoto draws some great ninja battles in these volumes, the strongest being in 56 as Darui fights while trying to avoid that magic jug. On the writing side of things, not much to say, because it’s all ass kicking with these un-moving flashbacks cut in.
Without a doubt, Naruto fans will love these undoubtedly, if you haven’t bought them yet that is. Volume 57 was the no. 3 graphic novel in the U.S. upon its July release, only being beaten by Sailor Moon at no. 2 and Batman at no. 1. If you’re new and haven’t read Naruto, 56 would be a terrible place to jump on, but 57 is a pretty great place, because everything is explained and Naruto comes back as the focus of the book.
Out now in print and digital from Viz.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.