Woo hoo! Let's have some fun!
To borrow a popular expression by a character in another manga: YA-HA! It's always fun to have a chapter come out where it's so easy to find things to talk about. Makes reviewing so much easier, and more fun to boot. Not that it's ever really been work for me in the case of Naruto chapters, but ya know. This was a nice chapter.
We have a new Naruto reviewer here, it seems, so everybody be sure to check out Raine Joybringer's editorial as well! It's always nice to have more than one perspective, so if anybody would like to do their own reviews too, like I said last week, you're more than welcome to do so.
I'd also like to recognize the translators' effort here at the MH community for their hard work on coming around early and trying to turn in quick and accurate scripts. We have some translators here who've been with us for an awfully long time, so I really hope you guys don't take them for granted. The Naruto community is one of the luckiest in all of the manga fangroups for having such a large group of dedicated translators, and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. If you would like to show your gratitude to these guys, be sure to drop in their respective translation threads and post.
Thursday, Moridin found the RAW for us, so thanks to him as well. And some gratitude also to Cez's very nicely-done MQ scanlation, which I'll be using for this review, and to Fuzzy for helping me with the header. That was taken from the SJ volume cover, in case any of you were wondering. And finally, Fnuckale for cleaning some of the images after I posted the review.
Well, it's time for the Comments to get started! As always, if any of you want to put in your own thoughts as well, post away.
* * * Gold Knight's Ten Comments on Naruto Chapter 332: Shikamaru's Battle!! * * *
See ya later!
1. Farewell to a Tyke. First things first! As I do every week when there's a cover present, I start by commenting on that. This week we actually get a colored double spread, and it's a height comparison between the two Narutos of the series - the 12-year old kid we came to know so well at the beginning of the story, and the more mature fifteen-year old version whose adventures we're currently following now in Part 2. They're both about to slap hands, as though one is passing the baton to the other.
You know what, they're basically doing that here.
Yeah, at first, the double spread didn't seem all that impressive. But when one takes in account that this chapter also had an important announcement and confirmation that all fans of the anime had been waiting for months to hear - that Part 2 of the manga would soon be animated in the spring! - this cover was more than understandable.
This news means that we're almost at the point where we're pretty much done with 12-year old Naruto in everything - the manga, the anime, and the games! Basically, the 12-year old kid's about to - finally - become a memory.
So yeah, it's a farewell of sorts that I think Kishimoto's doing here, so all things considered, I actually liked the double spread in the end. We did get a very nice colored Akatsuki double spread last volume, so we probably shouldn't complain too much about the gentle simplicity of this scene.
Time to make 'em pay!
2. Ready and Rarin' to Go. Not much to say here. A really odd scene to see Team 10 alongside Kakashi! Seems like he's a bit excited to be working with this group, though.
That is, if it's him. There's some evidence here that seems to imply that it really is our silver-haired jounin, though - he talked, thought, and behaved much like Kakashi always did. So if Kishimoto is purposely trying to mislead us all in thinking he's really Kakashi when he's not, he's doing a good job so far.
Of course, the bandaged hand still isn't explained here... so feel free to remain suspicious for now if you want.
Shikamaru's action of taking the cigarette and mashing it with his hand, gave him another cool point for me. Something tells me that little phase of his is already over, although I wouldn't be surprised if he smoked one more time in Asuma's memory after it's all said and done.
3. So Much for That. Okay, so Kishimoto goes ahead and killed off yet another character - Yugito - after all. I had predicted for weeks that the Nibi jinchuuriki would eventually be saved, but that pretty much just went down the drain when the Akatsuki successfully extracted the Nibi out of her. Well, damn.
Somehow I can't help but feel like we've been cheated of a character who I think would have been interesting to have gotten to know, but at the same time I have to applaud Kishimoto for just getting on with the plot - especially in keeping the Akatsuki as dangerous as ever - and also in surprising us all here. I know I wasn't the only fan who believed Yugito would be rescued at some point.
And to think that I had just recently complained as of last week that Part 2 had not been as unpredictable as the first 240 chapters of the series. Once again, it's almost as if Kishimoto's reading our comments and responded in kind. I guess sometimes we should be careful of what we wish for!
Boy, they need to audition for the Three Stooges...!
4. Akatsuki as Comedy Relief... Who Knew? Alright, alright, I know I said a few chapters ago that I despised Hidan. But I can't deny that he's been one of the most entertaining villains in the series - especially when exchanging snappy patter with his partner in crime, Kakuzu!
Man, that page was funny - especially when an unimpressed Itachi went "..." on the whole bunch of 'em. He's definitely a good straight man for that group!
Anyway, we learned something here about Deidara. His arms have, apparently, been sewed back on by Kakuzu in much the same matter as Hidan's head was, so that's no longer a question. But what I AM wondering is how Deidara regained his other arm that he lost against Gaara in their first battle. Was it both arms that he's gotten back, or just one? Or perhaps, did Deidara actually make for himself a cybernetic left arm?
And I wonder if Deidara's actually as immortal as Hidan, because Dei certainly didn't show much concern about losing his limbs. Maybe a different sort of immortality, though. They all seem to have a common interest in achieving everlasting life. Perhaps Orochimaru experimented on all of them? Well, he couldn't have experimented on Hidan, since he's new to the gang and was after Orochimaru's time with them, but perhaps others continued his research. And if they ever lose Kakuzu, will they all start to worry? Seems like our money-grubber's actually also the healer of the group, in a sense. Who would have thunk it?
Also, Deidara has begrudgingly decided to respect Naruto, no doubt for being the main cause of the close call he had with being nearly captured or killed a while ago by the Leafs. Another convert to the Church of Naruto - but this time, it's still an enemy. Interesting that the Akatsuki may not underestimate Naruto anymore, though Hidan obviously doesn't buy it. Heh.
Overall I do like that the Akatsuki, for an organization of elite backstabbers (I say that since they all betrayed their countries, I'm assuming), turned out to be so human and flawed. Most writers forget that about their major antagonists and try to depict them all as being seemingly invincible, cold, and calculating (we did get that in Itachi, though) but in the end they can't all be like that - would be boring!
Made too much sense to argue, huh, Hidan? XD
5. Taking Precautionary Measures...! I don't blame Kakuzu AT ALL for wanting to go a different route to Konoha and not listening to Hidan! I wouldn't want 100 angry Leaf shinobis jumping out of the trees and throwing kunai's at my ass while I'm merrily whistling and walking down the road, either!
Another very amusing exchange between these two... I never really expected so much dialogue between two Akatsuki members at any point in the series, but I'm glad Kishimoto introduced these two. I have a feeling that he's only doing these scenes just because at least one of them will probably be killed soon enough, though, and the partnership will be at an end. So, have a good laugh and enjoy, this will probably be the last such scene we'll see for a while.
I think it'll be Hidan, but who knows, it could be Kakuzu.
And in some ways, I almost feel like Hidan's kind of the Naruto of the Akatsuki group. He's certainly not all that bright, either, and as aggressive as they can possibly get about going into battle, especially with people who he feels like disrespected him. And Kakuzu's almost like Sasuke, always serious and focused on the task at hand, but not shy about making comments that he knows would make Hidan irate. Heh.
Ino's been practicing her peeping ability! Watch out Sasuke!
6. Whoa, Bird's-Eye View! Okay, why didn't I ever think of that being a nice side advantage of Ino's 'Mind-Body Switch' jutsu? Nice! Now Ino can actually be a birdbrain! (That was a joke, don't get angry. >.>)
Looks like Ino's turned into the Neji of Team 10 with that trick. So we can add scouting to her growing list of abilities - remember, we found out a while ago she could heal, as well. I do like that Kishimoto's given all these kids several more facets to their abilities. Shows that they did improve over the last two years with their training. And I've got to think that Ino must have worked very hard if she's able to control the body of a bird. She would have had to learn how to fly with wings! How long did THAT take her?
And every team does need a very good reconnaissance agent. Hell, if you think about it - Kurenai's team actually has three scouts! Kiba, with his sense of smell, Hinata with her Byakugan, and Shino with his information-gathering bugs. It's about time Team 10 got one of their own!
Hope we see more from Ino in the upcoming battle. I'm curious to see if there's a way for her to use her ability without being dependent on other people at all. Would also be interesting, too, if she's able to use Hidan's immortality to their advantage and take control of his body in order to take out Kakuzu.
(At the same time, she can still feel the pain, though, so that might not be a good idea, either... if Hidan lost a limb while Ino was in control, would her own body's arm become useless, for example? So maybe she should just go with Kakuzu instead to take out Hidan.)
Creepy scene, huh?
7. And the Setting Is... Cool, a big ol' primordial forest for the upcoming battle.
Guess it's as good a time as any to mention that while I do have a few issues with Kishimoto's writing at the moment, I'm loving his art as much as ever. I've heard some readers say that the art seems to have significantly improved over the past few chapters, but I never thought it went on a decline. One of the main attractions of the series to me has always been the art, and that hasn't changed. I did think that Kishimoto had a bit of a struggle at the beginning of Part 2 where drawing Naruto was concerned, but I think he got past that quite a while ago. I don't blame him for taking a while to get used to illustrating and perfecting a grown-up version of Naruto.
But I must admit that I love it whenever Kishimoto throws in backgrounds such as the eerie old trees we're seeing here. Sets just the right mood for the grudge match coming up!
Though I'm not surprised that Hidan and Kakuzu had their guard up against Shikamaru's sneaking shadow. If I had been moseying through an environment like that where nearly all the trees seemed like they would turn hostile at any moment, my neck hair would have been standing on end, too!
Aww, Hidan's concerned about Kakuzu.
8. A Hardy Fellow...? We're starting to get an idea of what Kakuzu's abilities entail now, aren't we?
After having to deflect a thrown kunai with an attached exploding tag with his palm, we find out that Kakuzu had to alter the density of his arm to avoid being injured. Specifically, turning it much harder, perhaps like steel? That'd be my guess. That would explain how he was able to effortlessly punch through the impervious gates of the Fire Temple a while ago. Not exactly the same thing as Tsunade's and Sakura's strength-increasing chakra control, as I'm assuming Kakuzu had to experiment on his own body a bit to have acquired that hardening ability, so it's different enough to suit me just fine.
Good move on Shikamaru's part to cut Hidan's rope to his scythe, too. That also effectively takes out the possibility that he'd be able to activate his voodoo jutsu for the moment, which I didn't really want to see again right now, anyway.
Kagemane no Jutsu... and you didn't even know it!
9. Rooted to the Shadows...! Oh, man, I should have seen that one coming. Well, looks like Shikamaru didn't learn wind manipulation after all - I guess that would have been awfully too soon for him to do something like that.
Very clever of Kishimoto to have used Asuma's lesson about the chakra blades as foreshadowing (no pun intended) for this battle.
Looks like Shikamaru injected these nice weapons with his shadow-manipulating chakra in order to be able to freeze people by throwing the blades at their shadows. He really did luck up in inheriting these! These are SOOO useful! Best of all, he has the smarts to be able to catch his enemies off-guard with these ALL the time, as he just demonstrated here.
Now he can attack independently of his Kagemane jutsu when it's in effect. That just tripled his formidability in my opinion! A knight with flexible moves, indeed! Wonder how long the time limit is going to be on this jutsu, though.
If looks could kill...!
10. Hidan and Kakuzu are in Deep... Deep, Deep Trouble. Something tells me Shikamaru's not done here by a long shot. At this point I'd be shocked if either one got out of the battle alive!
I definitely never want to get on Shikamaru's bad side.
RATING: 5 out of 5 stars. This was one of these Naruto chapters where it was a no-brainer for me to give it a perfect five-star rating, for having the full dish of revelations, characterization, comedy, drama, action, strategy, and Kishimoto's usual outstanding art. I didn't expect Shikamaru's team to engage Hidan and Kakuzu in battle so soon, which is pretty unusual. There's usually so much more build-up to a fight in this series. I'm thinking it's more because Kishimoto doesn't want to spend a lot of time on this fight and wants to get back to Naruto ASAP, which is just fine with me. Let's just have fun watching how Shikamaru's plan unfolds and enjoy the show!
Predictions: Ino will probably take control of at least one of the Akatsuki members, and Chouji might deal the finishing move on Hidan. Also, this can count as my Crackhead Theory of the Week (which I haven't done in a while) but I think Chouji has the ability to also enlarge any weapons that he might be carrying. Since Tsunade did make plans to send back-ups, I'm sure the fight will start to turn in the Akatsuki's favor at some point, especially since we haven't seen Kakuzu in action quite yet. But I also wouldn't be surprised if the back-ups arrive just in time to see Team 10 winning the fight, or close to it.
Credits: Thanks to Cez for the MQ scan, Moridin for the RAW, Fuzzy for the header, Fnuckale for some of the cleans, and our translators here again. And your support, as always.
Yeah, these guys are morons, eh...!