Oh, what could've been...
Well, here we are; the unthinkable has happened. One of the saddest chapters of Naruto I've ever read. Well, actually, it's probably the saddest ever.
Thanks to Winterlion, Yoshitsune, and byakuya2 for getting the early translations out for the chapter, and Yume and NarutoBuzz for providing us quick scanlations. I'll be using NarutoBuzz's cleanings for this chapter.
* * * Gold Knight's Ten Comments on Naruto Chapter 328: Team 10. * * *
Despicable, isn't he?
1. Drop Dead, Will Ya, Hidan? Okay, I'll tell ya what. I don't like Hidan so much anymore. But no, not because he dealt the final blow to Asuma. Ninjas die in battle all the time. Well, yeah, usually they're the bad guys in Naruto, but as we all found out, occasionally a good guy does go down, as was the unfortunate case here.
But Hidan's total cocky disrespect to them all afterwards was just extremely disgusting to see. Especially to a group of shinobi that very nearly had the best of him if not for Kakuzu.
I do regret that I ever wished that he'd probably survive this battle. He has now become the first Naruto character I've ever disliked, and I now sincerely wish that he HAD been defeated for good in this battle, so that Asuma's sacrifice wouldn't have felt so quite like it had been for nothing. But at the same time, never before have the Narutoverse suddenly felt so real to me as in this chapter. Most bad guys don't really care a bit about showing respect for their opponents, and Hidan ungracefully falls into that category. He's really more like a street punk than any other character who's appeared in the Narutoverse since Mizuki.
So if Kishimoto intended for Hidan to appear as an obvious representative of the evil of the Akatsuki organization in order to show precisely the reason why they all need to be stopped and defeated, he certainly succeeded in my case.
Sidenote: Note that Hidan mentioned the Leader, which confirmed that it was indeed the AL that called to them last chapter. Kakuzu was also picking up Hidan's belongings (at least his forehead protector) at the start of the first page. Wonder if they remembered Hidan's pendant. I still think there's something about it, although maybe not.
Another thing, Hidan seemed to want to come back right away, but I think he probably meant that they'd be invading Konohagakure soon enough and he'd be looking for them. Either way, that'll definitely put Konoha on guard for sure.
Not the best prognosis ever.
2. Futile effort. First of all, I really don't want to hear anybody complaining about Ino's healing ability. Four vital points? Asuma was done for, and not even Tsunade would have been able to heal him. Tsunade's lost patients in probably similiar circumstances (Dan). And since Ino didn't receive any instructions from the Godaime, I doubt she's anywhere as good as Sakura in terms of medical ninjutsu.
Now, what I'm wondering is exactly how Hidan struck four vital points with one strike to his chest with a spear? Is even such a thing possible? I'm not much of a medical expert, so if anybody wants to add more to this, post away.
Edit: kiddo7 and Robotic Red reminded me that Asuma was also affected by the scythe hitting Hidan in the stomach. Thus, he was probably hit in the kidneys, lungs, heart.. and who knows what else. Thanks, guys.
Hey, you DID save Shikamaru's butt once.
3. Father Knew Best...? Here we have full circle back to when Asuma was gazing at his father's tombstone and thinking about what the Third had done for Konohagakure, and coming to a better understanding of why he had sacrificed so much. Once again as Asuma was nearing his own death here, he's possibly thinking about how he had fallen short of the expectations and heroics of his father.
I'm not sure that we'll ever be supposed to know exactly the specifics of Asuma's seemingly strained relationship with his father, but even though he had said back then that he had no regrets, I don't think he was ready to die this soon, either. Poor guy. Never seen Asuma so vulnerable as he seemed to be in this panel.
( But it's okay if you keep tying her, btw. ^^; )
4. Asuma's Final Words to Ino. Final words are always important. It's the last thing they'll ever hear from their sensei, so... I'm dedicating three comments to them. They may all also result in further character development for the rest of Team 10, as well.
"Ino... You're very confident, but you know how to take care of yourself. Chouji and Shikamaru, these guys are kind of clumsy, so take care of them. And... don't you lose to Sakura... in ninjutsu or in love."
I think Asuma knew that Ino's deepest desire was obviously to surpass Sakura and he was trying to encourage her to never fall into despair and keep pushing herself.
And although I still feel that Shikamaru is by far the de facto leader of the group, I don't blame Asuma for singling Ino out as the one who knows best how to take care of herself. Ino may in fact have to take up the slack in order to keep both guys improving themselves. I remember when Ino was so earnestly cheering Shikamaru on in the Chuunin Exams, and she was also just as strict as Asuma about Chouji's need to stay in shape.
So I think more than anybody in the team, Asuma may have seen himself the most in Ino. Doesn't mean they were the closest, of course.
Well, it was worth a try.
5. Asuma's Final Words to Chouji. And now, Chouji.
"Chouji... you're a gentle guy who thinks of his friend's feelings... that's why... you'll become a stronger ninja than anyone... always believe in yourself. That and... you could go on a small diet..."
That one got a tear-eyed chuckle out of me. Even dying, Asuma still teased Chouji a bit about losing some weight. I think that was actually the most affectionate moment in the whole chapter.
Wasn't surprised by Asuma's confidence in Chouji, though. I'm really glad that Asuma reminded Chouji that the path to true strength wasn't really by attempting to become even more physically powerful, but by being a strong and gentle spirit. That's something Chouji has always been. And more than everybody else in the group, I think Chouji needed the most to hear these words from Asuma: "Always believe in yourself."
Considering that Chouji was hurt so often by Asuma's harsh words, I felt at least happy for him here.
Whew, must've been a persistent guy to keep trying.
6. Asuma's Final Words to Shikamaru. And Asuma saved Shikamaru for last, to no one's surprise.
"And you, Shikamaru... you have a sharp mind, and your sense as a ninja, is good... these abilities might even make you... into Hokage... well... to a complainer like you... cough... it might be too much of a pain. You know... I never once managed to beat you in shougi..."
Pretty much confirmed what all Shikamaru fans feel too, that the kid could be Hokage if only he had the passion for it. But perhaps Asuma's words here will spur him on and make him want to be more, but I doubt it. At the very least, though, Shikamaru could possibly try harder just to make his sensei proud of himself now. I guarantee he'll definitely feel much more protective of the village now, especially against guys like Hidan.
And ouch, NEVER ONCE has Asuma beaten Shikamaru in shougi. Well, I'm not too surprised by that, but boy, Asuma must have found that a real challenge, just trying to win a game, if he was still betting on the outcome even recently. Heh...
Although Asuma and Shikamaru may have been polar opposites in their attitudes, it's pretty cool that they ended up being the closest.
...that's why you brought all these flowers...!
7. Who's the King? I'm beginning to think it's not the village, after all. As readers of my previous Comments might remember, I had figured that Asuma was trying to follow in his father's footsteps to protect Konohagakure at all costs. But that went out the window here. Why would that be any kind of big secret that Asuma would wait until the last moment to tell Shikamaru, and why would it surprise him so much?
And it may have not been Kurenai either. As revealed in the flashbacks later on, the kids probably pretty much knew that Asuma and Kurenai were secretly going out together. Wouldn't have made Shikamaru blink at all, either. (Unless, of course, he's even more dense than I thought about romance.) Unless Asuma happened to mention something about Kurenai that surprised him... but I don't think so.
The popular thinking among the fans is that the king was Naruto, and I'm beginning to agree with them now. That may indeed be true after all. Shikamaru would certainly be surprised by that revelation, especially if as some have suspected, he never knew of the Kyuubi being inside his friend. And certainly, Naruto is indeed going to be the primary target of the Akatsuki at some point; he's the piece that Konohagakure wants at all costs to keep from being checkmated.
Only problem I have is that when Asuma was playing the shougi game with Shikamaru, he couldn't have been in the least concerned about the Akatsuki. They hadn't heard from them in over two and a half years until when Tsunade summoned the twenty brigades and informed them of the fall of the Fire Temple.
And I can't believe that Asuma would just think automatically of Naruto at that point unless he's been told by Jiraiya or Tsunade that he had to keep him from being captured.
But if it's Naruto, then Shikamaru's surprise may have been because he finally realized why Asuma was so willing to help Naruto out with wind manipulation. Yeah, despite Naruto's agreement to foot the next dinner bill. (Wonder if that'll be coming up, still...)
Crackhead Theory of the Week: But if NOT Naruto, then let me mention the only other possibility that I thought about. If Asuma still had been thinking on a more personal level, could it have been somebody related to Konohamaru? (Remember him?)
As we know now, Asuma was Sandaime's son, and Konohamaru was his grandson. I don't believe that Konohamaru's father is Asuma at all (probably uncle), but perhaps the Sarutobi clan view one of their relatives as being the next in line to take up the mantle as leader of the family, and perhaps of the village as well. Perhaps Konohamaru's real father, or mother. Either way.
Even Konohamaru may be a possibility, though. I still feel that Kishimoto has plenty in mind to write especially considering Konohamaru, sort of like how DBZ creator Akira Toriyama went from Goku to Gohan. Especially since Konohamaru declared himself as Naruto's rival early on in the story, and that may play a part sometimes later on.
Of course, these theories are just if the King ISN'T Naruto. And if it isn't Kurenai, either, with some kind of startling revelation.
We certainly have an intriguing mystery on our hands here...!
8. One Last Smoke. This weird thought came to me after seeing the scene of Asuma wanting one last cigarette. I've never been an advocate of smoking at all.
But I was just thinking of how badass characters usually act when they're staring adversity or death in the face. They usually smile or laugh, right?
In Asuma's case, he's smoking in spite of it all. He's not afraid of dying, and he showed it here. But he did want to go out with a smoke.
Can't fool her, Asuma.
9. Memories of Team Ten. These type of flashbacks are always what gets me the most choked up about the death of a character. It's kind of when you die, your whole life passes in front of your eyes, except we're seeing it from all the memories of the poor kids sitting around their dying, gruff but loveable sensei instead.
How's this for sadness mixed with fondness? First we had the introduction of Team 10, which abruptly introduced to the kids the hazards of secondhand smoke. Heh! And then the first time they ever dined out together, and Asuma quickly finding out just how big an appetite Chouji had. And Shikamaru quickly covering Asuma's hand just as he nearly said the "F" word. Haha. And Asuma begging for forgiveness from the chef afterwards!
Then of course, the scene that finally confirmed what every Asuma x Kurenai fan has always wanted to see - his romantic relationship with Kurenai, made canon.
Even though Asuma denied it, there's no doubt now that he certainly had an interest in somebody. And we all know who *that* was. But a bittersweet revelation, though, considering the timing...
Then we saw the very first shogi match between Asuma and Shikamaru. Even in their first game, Asuma lost! Then the scene that I think really showed just what a good guy Asuma was. Even though Shikamaru was the first one to be a Chuunin, Asuma didn't speak badly of Ino or Chouji at all, but rather encouraged them.
And then when they all did finally become Chuunins in their own right, Asuma made them all feel important and special to him.
I certainly had Asuma pegged all wrong. At one time I thought he was a bad guy, when he didn't jump in to help the other jounins with saving Hinata's life in her match with Neji. Maybe Asuma was just lighting another cigarette before he had realized what had happened.
Ah, well. These flashbacks certainly set a great mood for what would be Asuma's last moments. We got great glimpses at just "who" Asuma was, and he's led a relatively good life, even as young as he was at the time of his death.
Yeah, that damn smoke.
10. Coping With Grief. I had initially thought that Shikamaru was puffing a cigarette in honor of Asuma when I saw the spoiler pictures, but now I think he's just trying to cover his tears here. Guess he has a macho side to him. But at the same time, a very powerful scene as it clearly reflected the flashback memory when the kids had first met Asuma - and when Shikamaru denied that he was crying at the prospect of Asuma being tough on them, blaming it on the smoke from his cigarette. This time, though, the smoke clearly wasn't the culprit. Nice writing there.
Just gotta say here, I certainly hope Shikamaru doesn't START smoking. He's too smart for that, heh.
Well, I just want to say something. People may be torn up over Asuma's death, but this was unfortunately one of these things that the series NEEDED as a catalyst for even more drama in the story. Supporting characters are supporting characters for a reason. They're just there to keep the story going in some dramatic fashion. With Asuma's death, the Akatsuki will now definitely be taken seriously by the fans, and I really can't wait to see how Konohagakure takes this bit of news. I can't wait to see how Shikamaru, Ino, and Chouji will grow as a result of this development. And how Naruto will react, as well as Kakashi and Kurenai. Even more than ever, I'm excited about where the story of Naruto will lead us.
There's only ONE thing that I think Kishimoto could have done better - and that was to give Asuma a little bit more of an impressive final showdown. We didn't really get to see much from him aside from a new searing ash cloud jutsu and longer chakra blades. I know that Hidan probably cut Asuma short before he could have done any more, and I think that's definitely realistic - kind of like when Sasori was kept from revealing what the last two scrolls on his back were, which will probably always stay a mystery now. Any Asuma detractors need to remember here that Asuma simply wasn't given a chance to give it his all. He could have been much stronger than he showed in his battle with Hidan, but he just didn't get to show it.
And perhaps that's what Kishimoto had in mind, actually. It's not that Asuma didn't go down easy. It's that Hidan used an obviously blatant cheap attack on him. Sort of like Baku's "unstoppable" wind sword and Hayate. That's the way things go sometimes, but Asuma's fans can always still speculate on just how strong Asuma really was.
And that being said, I've drawn something in memory of Asuma. Enjoy -
RATING: 5 out of 5 stars. Saddest chapter of Naruto ever. I loved it. And I loved that Kishimoto did this. This made Naruto so much more credible as a dramatic story.
Predictions: Probably will see what the Akatsuki are up to, perhaps even get to see the last two unrevealed Akatsuki in the flesh, although I think they'll still save that for a conflict down the line. But since it can't be too long before Kishimoto and his assistants will work on a third Databook, I'm betting it won't be too long before we see them. I'm sure they'll want to get all nine Akatsuki profiled in the next Databook.
Credits: All the translators, of course, and NarutoBuzz for their MQ scanlation.
Well, looking forward to seeing what you think.
Pipe down and let 'em comment first Asuma.