"Once you set foot on the field of battle, regardless of age, you will be treated accordingly."
Hashirama Senju's Father
This week’s chapter review runs a little long so I’ll keep the intro short. Last review I asked you whether the Valley of the End bout lived up to expectations and the majority of you were satisfied. I agree. It was appropriately larger in scale than almost any battle we’d seen yet and lived up to my expectations. Now for the chapter review...
Naruto 622 The Other Side
The images in this review are credited to Mangastream
In the flashback within Hashirama's tale, he reveals his first name, but not his last, to an indignant Madara and deduces that Madara is a shinobi from the way Madara throws his skipping stone. They banter back and forth revealing themselves to be a pair of odd characters. Hashirama is alternately super sensitive or perceptive and teasing. Madara is either arrogantly overreacting or aware of his own character flaws. Their time together is cut short, though, when a Hagaromo clan corpse washes up in the river. Hashirama runs too it, revealing himself to be a shinobi, and advises Madara that they should both return home.
What awaits when Hashirama returns is his father overlooking the burial of a handful of their clan. The latest death, a 7 year old, ignites some self-righteous indignation from Hashirama who challenges his father's ideals in front of his two brothers Itama and Tobirama. Hashirama calls his dad on attempting to pave a road to peace through the complete annihilation of the enemy that will be built upon the back of innocent children, which earns him a no holds bar punch. His father counters that there are no innocents on the battlefield, but Hashirama points out that the distinction between clans, between hero and enemy is tenuous since all sides seem to subscribe to the same hardline doctrine. A doctrine that essentially justifies itself on a false pretense.
Shinobi raise their children to survive on the battlefield but it is only because they're on the battlefield at all that such skills become necessary. While death comes to commoner and soldier alike in the war, the never ending cycle of violence is only perpetuated because those in control (the adults) use propaganda to convince the future generations to carry on old enmities and ignore more peaceful and civilized solutions to conflict.
The chapter draws close to an answer to Sasuke's first question:
What is the purpose of a shinobi?
But Hashirama rejects the provided answer as twisted and wrong as he reasons himself towards something more ideal. Only Tobirama's intervention spares him another beating. Alone, the three brothers debate amongst themselves. Tobirama agrees with Hashirama that the adults current ways of thinking are wrong and that truce and reconciliation will be the only way to build a sustainable future. Itama, though, can't agree with letting his lost relatives and friends go unavenged, which causes Tobirama to prophetically warn that such thinking (the kind that's perpetuated these conflicts) will lead him to an early grave also if he lets it. Yet even with an answer seemingly in front of them, Hashirama is unsure if a truce is possible to achieve.
The narration continues and we learn shinobi on average live 30 years at this point in time, and that life expectancy is shrinking as countless children are slaughtered. Itama is one such casualty. At the end of the chapter, Hashirama finds himself at that river once more. There he reveals to Madara that his brother's been killed and that he comes to the river so that the current can wash away those bubbling emotions. Madara too feels the same way, having had four brothers at one point and having less now. He argues that the only way to break the cycle of death is to form an alliance bent on honesty, but that it isn't likely to happen because shinobi are too prideful to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Yet that's exactly what we're watching two children who will grow up into the world's most legendary shinobi do. As the chapter ends, Madara hopes that someday someone will find a way to bridge the warring factions.
Kishimoto threw in some noticeable artistic flourish this chapter. Madara and Hashirama's early scene alternately quickly and frequently in mood as each character's personality shifted. Hashirama returns home as evidenced by the crest we spot, but the (virtual) camera pulls back to slowly reveal the crest is on a coffin (part of a series) that is slowly being buried. The interplay between Hashirama and his father is appropriately tense with a beating and steely glances exchanged back and forth.
If anything stands out about the art in Naruto 622, it's how filled with emotion it is, and it has to be to properly convey the heightened emotions that accompany war. When discussing the short life expectancy of shinobi, Kishimoto chooses a field littered with corpses where n man is standing. When discussing why that expectancy grows shortened, he shows a group of angry Uchiha cornering a frightened boy, the gap between the ages of victim and assailant and the numerous and the sole warrior exaggerating the power dynamic at play in that panel.
Well we finally got an in depth glimpse at pre-Five Nations living and it is brutal. The chapter explored an issue I've long found fascinating, which is the young age at which children train and become shinobi in the series. Partially, this is at least somewhat due to the genre of the work. Shonen is frequently filled with young protagonists that grow older with the readership. Think Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, Dragonball, and One Piece.
But Kishimoto is exploring in depth just what it means to enter war at such a formative period of development and the moral justifications for doing so. Initially, I was most interested in the idea when we were shown Kakashi and Itachi's pasts in which both found themselves in dangerous situations at a young age. Kakashi was one of the younger jonin and became responsible for his squadmates lives despite being arguable emotionally immature and deeply affected by early childhood truama. For all his wisdom, Itachi was still a kid when he was pressured into killing the Uchiha in order to prevent a civil war. Both were relied on because of their exceptional abilities, but for each Itachi and Kakashi, there were unprepared children being sent into conflict. The sound ninja from the Chunin exams. Konan, Nagato, and Yahiko. Team 7 was thrust into a dangerous situation where they faced Zabuza and Haku, barely making it through that situation.
Admittedly, the present situation was not nearly as brutal as the past shown this chapter, but the use of children in adult conflicts and the way in which those grievances were passed on warranted further exploration. For giving us that when I wasn't expecting it and waiting for some requisite mythology instead, I'm giving The Other Side a...
6 out of 5
Given how the flashback carried on here, I'm predicting that the pre Valley of the End flashbacks will concern Sasuke's question about a shinobi's purpose and will include the formation of Hashirama's idealogy, his spreading influence, and his initial confrontations with Madara. Perhaps will even see the aftermath of Izuna's death here.
But I'm hopeful will see the aftermath of the Valley of the End and the initial flourishing of the village to explain Konoha's purpose, ending with Hashirama's death to explain where that ambition faltered.
One Line Reviews
- Bleach 528 features mopey Ichigo (always a bit repetitive) but ends with some long sought revelation about his past.
- It's chapter 700 for One Piece and it's a busy one. Lots of plates are set to spinning. The new Shichibukai are revealed. And plans are made and called into question.
- Koon wakes in Tower of God S02 Ch53 and begins to piece together the mystery that is FUG. He doesn't reach any conclusions that we didn't already know, but he does run into a surprise character.
- But the Best of the Week was definitely Naruto. It was almost a given I'd pick it since the series finally delved into an issue I'd long held interest in.