Welcome all to another Naruto review. Now I know that this is extremely delayed but RL, Thanksgiving, and (for the sake of full disclosure) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have interfered with my ability to put out timely reviews. To my horror a whole three chapters have come out since my last. In hindsight, I'm glad I waited a bit to review them because my initial impression of 563 was pretty harsh, though I've since come around on both that chapter, and though I wasn't as disappointed with 564 I wasn't over the moon about it either. Yet, before we get too deep into things here I want to reassure you all that these multi-chapter reviews aren't going to become a regular thing. This week's triple review is just for the sake of getting things squared away.
Many moons (well maybe just one moon) ago, in my review of Naruto 561 & 562 I put up a poll asking you which of the five Kages you expected to die by wars end. The voters ranked the Kage in increasing likelihood of dying as follows: Gaara, Mei, A, Tsunade, and Ōnoki (with a sizable lead). A number of voters (about the same that voted for Mei to die) believe that none of the Kage are going to die. As we'll see, if Naruto 563, 564, and 565 share some kind of connective thread, it's that our erstwhile heroes are putting their lives on the line in the (presumably) final round of high stakes battles in this war. The odds are stacked against the Kage, Naruto, and Killer B. And so, without further ado, the chapter review ...
Blackjack 612's Review of Naruto 563 Gathering of the Five Kages...!!
As always, images in this review are credited to mangastream/binktopia
Unfair fight? Two Monsters against Five Kage
Gathering of the Five Kages...!! wastes no time in getting to the titular fight between the Kage and Madara who wouldn't view anything less than five Kage as a challenge. Tsunade begins by healing Ōnoki and Gaara while the A and Mei buy the Kages some time with offensive attacks. Mei's Lava Release is such a high level destructive technique that Madara worries about getting caught up in it. As for A, he's able to surprise Madara with his incredible speed and Lightning Release Armor attacks. Neither does any damage though since Madara can fall back on Susanoo as a solid defense.
We'll do this with our own ten hands...
While the lesser skilled shinobi question whether they should be part of a battle between such high-level shinobi, Dodai and the Konoha ninja who used the Flying Thunder God technique run off to take care of Mū while the Kage are busy. Naruto feels like he should be helping out and worries about Tsunade, but she reassures him that she'll be okay. Last time she used Yin Release, she sustained much higher damage from Pain's attack and also used that jutsu to keep alive all the Konoha citizens she could. She also declines the help because this fight has become about more than just keeping the remaining Jinchūriki from Akatsuki. Madara interrupts that thought, though, with an offensive attack with his Susanoo that's similar to the one Itachi used against Nagato.
Sometimes the best defense is a good defense.
Gaara's sand combined with Ōnoki's Stone Golem proves more than capable against the attack though. While he's defending his allies, Ōnoki comes up with an idea and calls Mei over to help him. Hearing his idea, Mei uses the Hidden Mist technique to cloud the Rinnegan's field of vision. Kabuto/Mū, who's still be chased by Dodai and the others, runs to Madara's side to help. He witnesses Ōnoki making the Raikage lighter and thus faster with a jutsu but isn't particularly concerned about Ōnoki's strength. It's a surprising miscalculation because Ōnoki wasn't using the Raikage to increase his own speed for an attack. Ōnoki increased the Raikage's speed so that the Raikage could attack faster.
Unfair fights? Seven on Two and Two on Five
The Riakage, whose strength has been augmented by Ōnoki's techniques, is easily able to take out Kabuto and his punch even breaks some of Susanoo's bones. With Mū and Madara temporarily down, Naruto thinks Tsunade should use the chance to get to safety. But each of the five Kage is committed to standing together against their common foe, not simply out of necessity to survive but to forge a link of trust between all the villages. That way the Kage will be uniting what once was separated by self interest. They are determined to erase the hatred that the split between nations helped foster and while they take care of the real Madara they trust Naruto to take care of the imposter, leading to...
Blackjack 612's Review of Naruto 564 No One
As always, images in this review are credited to mangastream/binktopia
Naruto's surprisingly soon encounter with Tobi. It turns out that while Naruto's clones have been all over the battlefield, the real Naruto's been searching for Tobi. This chapter (and in the last chapter's cliffhanger) Naruto greets his adversary with a headbutt. Tobi interestingly mentions that he should have slipped through that attack which raises the question of why he didn't. Was he simply testing Naruto's strength? Was Naruto to fast for Madara to avoid by activating his signature space-time jutsu? Or does Naruto's Kyūbi-chakra mode somehow allow him to interact with Madara? We've seen how Hashirama's cells are easily excited by that chakra and that Tobi possess said cells and admitted that they could be hard to control. Regardless, Tobi gets straight to the point by sicking the Six Path jinchūriki on Naruto and Killer B. It's a battle that we've all been waiting for and they former jinchūriki do not disappoint. Rōshi's Magma Release and Utakata's Bubble Boom techniques prove to be strong offenses and Yagura, the former Mizukage, can create water clones of his opponents with a Water Mirror technique that can copy and cancel out the original user's techniques.
Tobi wields each of the revived jinchūriki effectively, using combination attacks meant to create openings for future attacks. Tobi uses Fū to blind Naruto and B by having her exhale a powder that casts a strong reflection, but Naruto's sensing and B's shades allow them the next attack that Fū was trying to hide. They're able to block Han, whose strength is augmented by his Steam Armour, and Yugito, who grows claws from her nails. Seeing his former comrade from the Hidden Lightening Village, Killer B laments that he could have ended up a zombie freak just like her, a puppet of Akatsuki implanted with a Sharingan and Rinnegan.
Misery loves company
Naruto comments on Tobi's mask and unwittingly reveals that he encountered the original Madara Uchiha revived by Kabuto. Naruto asserts that he will stop both Madaras, although Killer B only knew there was the one. Tobi, realizing the gig is up, admits that it doesn't matter who they think he is. By using Madara's name he accomplished what he set out to do. Tobi doesn't care who the Alliance believes he is. He only cares about completing his plan. He believes that Naruto and B should both understand how miserable this world can as jinchūriki themselves. Naruto, though, doesn't agree. Living with the Kyūbi was tough, but hosting the tailed beast inside him allowed him to protect those he cared about in trying situation. This surprises the Kyūbi, perhaps further bringing the tailed beast around to Naruto's way of thinking. And as Naruto points out, Tobi is only one man and lies will only help him so far. Can the combined might of Killer B and Naruto reveal what lies under that mask or will Tobi finally advance his plan?
Blackjack 612's Review of Naruto 565 Jinchūriki vs Jinchūriki
As always, images in this review are credited to mangastream/binktopia
Not without a fight...
Instead of returning to the Kage's fight with the real Madara, Kishimoto lets the battle between jinchūriki continue. It's a fight that is happening surprisingly early considering all the major players still left in the field. Sasuke is still wandering around who knows where, as is his brother Itachi. Kabuto remains safe and sound fighting by proxy. Given all this, it wouldn't surprise me if Tobi isn't the final villain. Each of the jinchūriki, implanted with their original tailed beast, unleash their tails as they are launched once more at our heroes. Killer B rushes out to greet them before learning from Naruto how to properly fight the Six Paths technique. He launches a quick succession of attacks against Fū, who can fly with the Seven-Tails ability, but none of them land, including the ones aimed at her blind spots.
Stronger, Better, Faster
After Killer B's failed attack, Naruto explains the mechanics behind the Six Paths to him. This takes a while though because the two have to simultaneously dodge unrelenting attacks from Rōshi and Yugito. Killer B is particularly surprised by Yugito's speed which is better than it ever was while she was alive. The Sharingan grants each of the jinchūriki the ability to pick up their opponents patterns in movement, boosting their overall fighting ability so that each is a more able fighter than they ever were to begin with.
A Battle Between Beasts
Naruto's plan is to remove the chakra receivers and render the jinchūriki useless ... for Tobi at least. They would remain Edo Tensei summons, so maybe Kabuto will gain the upper hand there. Killer B confirms with a lewd rap that he discovered where the chakra receivers were. On an interesting note, unlike Pain's paths which were corpses, Tobi's paths are reanimated and require fewer receivers to control. Naruto's plan works against Rōshi, so Madara sends in Han to prevent Roshi from losing his receivers. Naruto and B have a solid idea on how to proceed, but they lack the space required to fight. Thus, the chapter ends with Killer B fully unleashing the Eight-Tails to clear away some of the forest. Does this mean that we're about to witness a full on melee of transformed tailed beast, the first we've seen since the Kyūbi fought Shukaku?
The art in Naruto 563 was unfortunately spotty. Kishimoto's proved that he can choreograph busy, but easy to follow fights. Yet in this chapter, there were times when the action was obscured by bad choice of angle or having a panel be too much of a close up. Then at times the art had the opposite problem by being pulled back too far and having the characters lack an appropriate amount of detail for the scene. There were some wonderfully illustrated panels, though, and the jutsu were all wonderfully drawn with this chapter's standout being Susanoo
The Art of Naruto 564
Naruto 564's artwork was a step up from the previous chapter's but not without it's own problems. Tobi was fine in most of the chapter but in places he just looked weird with his angle tilted at unnatural angles or skewed too much. Still, the action was better coordinated and the jutsu was even more impressive here. If Utakata's jutsu as featured in the anime filler was as impressive as it was in the manga, then that arc would have been a tad more tolerable.
The Art of Naruto 565
I had practically no complaints about the art this chapter though, which implies that Kishimoto's team can put out higher quality artwork when they don't have to juggle as much plot/thematic content as they did in the previous two chapters. The action was just as expertly illustrated as in No One, and the already well designed jinchūriki looked even more stylish wielding their tailed beast abilities. And throughout they all maintained an appropriately creepy, dead-eyed zombie facial expressions.
... of Naruto 563
I was not impressed by this chapter after my first read through. The art was noticeably spotty in places which is a serious issue since manga is a visual medium. Moreover, I didn't like that Kabuto continues to underestimate his opponents as if he hasn't learned anything from his recent encounters. I understand that he is proud and thus overconfident in his abilities but in a fight with stakes as high as this one, someone as intelligent as Kabuto should be fighting more strategically. And of course, I wanted to see Tsunade do more than just heal the other Kage. That said, I thought the fight between the Kage and Madara was well staged and everyone (but Kabuto) fought strategically.
This chapter also provided a compelling picture of what Sasuke could become by using Madara as a cautionary tale. Madara's arrogance is fueled by his abilities. He has pride in his heritage because of the abilities his heritage affords him and that pride has calloused his soul. Though he grew up surrounded by family and gained the grudging respect of his peers early on in his life, he has allowed the misery of the non-stop war he grew up in to infest his soul. Having faith in nothing but himself and he lacks respect for anyone or anything else. Contrarily, Sasuke spent the majority of his life in mourning. He had family and it was taken away from him unlike Madara whose family deserted him. There is an obvious connection between the two in how they let their hatred dictate their actions, but Sasuke has pride in his abilities because of his lost heritage. He believes he and the thus the Uchiha are special because they must be. That was the picture that was painted of his clan before they were slaughtered and he clings to it to stave off the pain of loss. It's a subtle difference but one that means Sasuke still has a shot at salvation whereas Madara has little to no hope of being swayed by others. Madara empathizes with on one but I believe that Naruto, who has known his share of loss, will eventually break through Sasuke's darkness precisely because Sasuke and Naruto can empathize with one another.
Overall, it was a compelling, if not uneven and slightly frustrating, chapter which is why Naruto 563 Gathering of the Five Kage...!! gets a...
4 out of 5.
Impressions of Naruto 564
This was a better chapter than its predecessor featuring better art, moving the plot forward by catching the characters up with other events, and featuring some genuine surprises. Chiefly, will Naruto's speech at the end of the chapter positively affect his relationship with the Kyūbi? I think the tailed-beast will come around to seeing Naruto as a useful host. He can take care of himself and, in contrast to Madara, at least tries to empathize with him rather than outright dominating the beast. Naruto's never just taken the Kyūbi's power. He always asks permission.
There were also some interesting questions raised which I want to see answered. Was Tobi unable to phase through Naruto or did he purposely let himself get hit? Is 'Tobi' his original name or an alias he adopted when he made his existence public to Akatsuki? What misery could possibly drive Tobi's actions? As an Uchiha, if he threw in his lot with Madara, then he is just as likely to be the cause of his own suffering. But could there be more?
Naruto 564 No One was a very captivating chapter which is why it gets a...
5 out of 5.
Impressions of Naruto 565
Unlike what preceded it, this was a shorter chapter with less meat to it's bones. There was no real plot progression or character development, and Killer B's initial volley of attacks were useless which we as readers could see coming before it happened. But the action was executed well and the jinchūriki continue to differentiate themselves with their abilities. And who doesn't love a chapter that features what was a genuinely well put together (maybe due more so to the translators than the character) rap. Speaking of which, that rap was unusually lewd considering the target age range of the manga. While a lot of Naruto readers are young adults, children also make up a large audience of the title and that rap and Yugito's torn top made this a fairly risque chapter. But it was entertaining from beginning to end which is why Naruto 565 Jinchūriki vs Jinchūriki gets a...
5 out of 5.
In my last review I made some predictions that we haven't seen pan out as wrong or right yet. So it remains to be seen who Tobi truly is. Likewise, we won't know yet if Tsunade or Onoki die and whether Madara's death was by his own hands as part of the Moon's Eye Plan.
My predictions for the next chapter, Naruto and Killer B let loose their tailed beast and rampage and while they do alright against some of their foes the battle eventually goes against them. The combination of Sharingan, Rinnegan, and Edo Tensei should prove to difficult to beat because their enemies can regenerate. I think a Tailed Beast Ball may clear out some of the revived jinchuriki, but in this battle of Tailed Beasts I think that both our heroes will end up captured.
I've got other long term predictions located here, although Kishimoto's advanced the plot more speedily than I could have imagined so I imagine I'll have to update those soon. That's it for this week. I'll see you next chapter space shinobi...
- "As much as I like compliments from men … I'm gonna have to hold off in your case."
- "God damn you, Kabuto..."
- Killer B refers to Tobi as a "masked punk."
- "I'm no one. I don't want to be anyone."
- "If you want to see what's under my mask ..." turns page "you're gonna have to work for it." Gah!! Damn you, Kishimoto.
- Killer B has favorite scarf.
- "I noticed while I was checking out Yugito's chest, there were these weird black bars right on her breast. Just one, not double or triple. And that freak put 'em up above her nip- OW!" Seriously, some fan out there with rap skills should release a song featuring B's best lyrics.
- As for the rest of the Big 3, One Piece has wrapped up its arc competently but I was less than impressed by the ending. Perhaps I'm just expecting too much after the excellant Death of Portgaz D. Ace arc. The current arc presented some interesting ideas on the nature of hatred and how social injustice/intolerance is perpetuated and can be cured and unlike some of the commenters in the discussion thread I quite liked a lot of the side characters from the flashback like Otohime and Fisher Tiger. I also liked Hody and his crews determination, Van Der Decken as a villain and the complexity arising from the different parties involved (the Straw Hats, the King's men, Hody's camp, Van Der Decken, other pirates). Yet at the same time, I don't think Hody's crew put up enough of a fight to be seen as a credible threat (though I understand that the destruction arising from Noah's inevitable crash was the real threat and that the Straw Hats all gained some drastic power-ups in the time skip). I could have done with more of a fight and definitely more of Nico Robin. But in the grand tradition of One Piece arcs that start in one place and take unexpected turns halfway through, perhaps this isn't an ending but rather a transition into a more interesting story concerning Noah's purpose, whatever it was that Robin uncovered, and the pirates behind the kidnapped mermaids.
- BLEACH, on the other hand, has really been sticking the landing for an arc that many of its longtime and even die-hard supporters were really skeptical about. Some have dismissed the arc and even the characters as filler and while a good deal of the Fullbringers do feel disposable in how quickly they were dispatched, I think they served a larger purpose in helping Kubo explore the nature of power and how the desire for it and the possession of it affects those who wield it. Just as the Arrancar arc was extraneous plot movement designed to get the characters to a place where Kubo can explore the nature of death and the vices that lead there, the Fullbringers have each shown different responses to the responsibility of power just as Ichigo is coming to a point where he can freely admit how much he desires his own power. I'm liking Kugo more and more as both a counterpoint (perhaps more so than any of Ichigo's other foes) to the way Ichigo conducts himself. Tsukishima also has developed nicely, revealing shades of greater depth in his battle with Byakuya. And most promising of all is the return of Soul Society as villains. Well, not outright villains, but definitely colored with shades of unethical dealings in the name of protection.