- Hatake Kakashi (and every reader of the manga)
Wow. This is bound to be a very divisive chapter for the majority of the readership. After years of red herrings, misdirections, and hotly debated theories, we know for a certainty who Tobi is. I for one feel very torn by the chapter. I'll try to keep the recap brief so that we can get straight to the analysis, but first, let's go over last week's poll. I asked you what type of chapter we were in store for this week and the most of you (including myself) predicted we'd get dollops of explanation and a bit of flashback. But we were wrong as Kishimoto delivered, as the 2nd most of you predicted, a chapter almost completely filled with flashbacks.
Naruto 599 Obito Uchiha
The images in this review are credited to Mangastream
We begin in the Konoha of yesteryear. Obito Uchiha is late in getting to the Ninja Academy entrance ceremony and is greeted his future teammates and fellow inductees: a condescending Kakashi and a helpful Rin. His new class includes other familiar Konoha staples like Guy, Kurenai, Asuma, Hayate, and Ebisu. The 2nd stage of the Chunin Exams follow filled with more familiar faces like Anko. Having stopped to help an old lady, Obito is late once again. He gives Rin a lonesome look and jumps ahead in their bout, but rather than unleashing an impressive fire style jutsu, he chokes on the lollipop he received as a reward from the old lady. Rin tends to his wounds and Obito shares a dream of becoming the first Uchiha Hokage.
Obito trains for the 3rd Stage and faces Guy who had earlier defeated him. He's beaten badly. Obito watches glumly from the sidelines as Rin cheers on Kakashi who goes on to win and graduates to chunin. More training. Time passes and Obito becomes a chunin. He and Rin share a celebratory moment though Kakashi remains aloof. Later he waits for Rin with flowers, ready to make his affections known. Instead, she comes bearing news of Kakashi's promotion to jonin and a request for everyone to bring him congratulatory gifts.
A last scene that rushes through the tragedy of Kannabi bridge. We find ourselves back in the present with our erstwhile heroes. And they, as a good few of us, are shocked to discover that Tobi is non other than Obito Uchiha whose face is half scarred from being crushed by boulders.
The chapter's art carried a very large burden this week given that the vast majority of the chapter was without text or dialogue. For the most part, Kishimoto was effectively able to convey a narrative thread entirely through images. However, there were definitely scenes that were hard to parse without dialogue or narration explaining the context. But for however much effort was required to understand the chapter, it was a blast getting a glimpse at the ancillary adult characters of the series back when they were young. We saw glimpses of Anko, Lee, Kurenai, Asuma and more as adorable youths and the subtle interactions that would grow to characterize them as they move into maturity: whether it's Asuma's confidence and charm, Genma's laid back personality, or Guy's competition against the genin who bested him during the Chunin exams. Whatever the chapter's faults, the art at least was wonderful.
I have two hopes regarding this silent passage. For the anime, I hope this scene remains unnarrated. No dialogue. Just muci. For the manga, I hope this scene isn't revisited ala the Uchiha massacre. A revision would rob it of some of it's effect. Nor does it really need one. The Uchiha massacre was a puzzle, a series of double crosses and deceits painted over with a layer of double-meanings. Let this stand as a whirlwind romance playing out the most significant moments of Obito's life from his perspective.
I'm not entirely sure who I wanted Tobi to be, but Obito was one of two* theories I'd read that I would have had a hard time accepting because of how that revelation fits within the narrative. So I read the title on the first page with trepidation and, though I feared the worst, hoped what we were seeing was some sort of context for Kakashi's anguish being manipulated by Tobi or maybe a recap of how Tobi stole Obito's eye.
I've got to give a hand to everyone who's ardently defended the Tobi=Obito theory from a sea of very vocal skeptics. You were right. It seems that Tobi is definitely Obito. I'll save a write-up of how this changes our perceptions of what's left to come until next week and focus only on my initial reactions and how I think the reveal fits (or doesn't) into what we've been shown so far. To that end, I've compiled a list of claims and associations he's made as well as other incongruities within the series and give my thoughts on how willing I am to go along with it with 1 representing 'not at all willing' to 10 representing 'completely willing'.
Let's start with the obvious. We were able to get a partial glimpse of Tobi's face way back when he appeared to Sasuke after Sasuke had just fought Itachi and it doesn't match up with what we get here. Then he looked like an old man from what we'd seen. If not as old as Madara should be, he appeared at least very advanced in age since those 2-3 wrinkles looked like baggy eye effects and the surrounding area was drawn normally.
Now those wrinkle have been redesigned as scarring, as those his face was crushed or skin stretched abnormally. They wrap fully around, are more numerous and closely spaced. Close enough to what we were shown initially but odd enough in design and execution to feel less like misdirection and more like a cheat to keep us guessing for a few years. Look at the lengths taken in the Konan fight to maintain this illusion: head-wrap over top scars, mask broken only up until the first couple of line marks, shadows over the younger looking half of his face.
Willingness to go along with: 1
Obito's claims to have given Nagato the Rinnegan & be behind Akatsuki's creation**
Taken both literally and non-literally, this is a falsehood. The timing just wouldn't add up what with Nagato being equivalently Minato's age (if not older) and Minato being older than Obito. So Obito can't be responsible for giving Nagato the Rinnegan either genetically or through transplant. Nor can he be responsible for it's awakening or Yahiko's desires through manipulation of various tragedies surrounding their lives.
Possible explanations: He could have been talking figuratively since he warped Akatsuki into something to suit his own goals, or the real Madara could indeed have injected Uchiha blood into Nagato's family line and Obito took credit for it. So this only really works as (a weak) attempt to demoralize Konan.
Willingness to go along with: 7 (so long as it isn't true)
Obito claims to be Madara
Obviously a lie. He used the power of a name to manipulate the shinobi world. It's actually a very intelligent deception (as I noted when the real Madara appeared) that enables him easier access to certain resources and individuals.
Willingness to go along with: 10
Obito's tenure as the actual Fourth Mizukage**
There's not much to say here. The timeline roughly adds up if he took control in early adulthood. Somewhere around the time of Kurama's attack on Konoha or maybe around the Uchiha massacre.
Willingness to go along with: 8
Tobi's relation to Kisame
Kisame was shown to be highly skeptical about Tobi's identity when he revealed himself as the one controlling Yagura and seemed convinced only after seeing Tobi's face. Was Obito renowned enough for Kisame to recognize? He disappeared when he was young and though the battle of Kannabi was famous, he was just another among the dead. Certainly not as recognizable as kakashi. And would Kisame have been so easily relieved upon meeting some random (to him at least) Uchiha?
Possible explanation: There's more to that scene we've yet to see and upon revealing himself, Obito laid out his credentials and ambitions to Kisame. The scarring would have helped to convince Kisame of his heartbreak story even if he himself wasn't well known.
Willingness to go along with: 6
Tobi's relation with Madara
Madara obviously had a close relationship with someone knowledgeable about himself and Nagato and all signs point to Tobi. The hard to believe part isn't that Madara knows Tobi or would seek out a protege in his advanced years. The hard to believe bit is that Obito would for some reason ally himself with Madara and take up Madara's goals as his own.
Willingness to go along with: 5
Tobi's relation with Kakashi
This one's very strange. For someone who had such an antagonistic relationship with Kakashi in childhood and blames him for Rin's death, there's not much evidence for it outside of these most recent chapters. Tobi's fixated on a great many people. Naruto, Sasuke, the Uchiha as a whole, the Senju. But Kakashi was someone directly involved in his greatests sufferings and the ward to his plan's lynchpin. Why hasn't he needled him before or at the very least killed him when it was most convenient during one of their past encounters? Kishi's usually pretty good about laying groundwork but here it feels incomplete.
Possible explanation: He didn't want to give away the game. But otherwise he really should have killed Kakashi, or at least attempted to.
Willingness to go along with: 3
Tobi's relation with Itachi
They knew of each other obviously and neither fully trusted the other. Madara doesn't seem like the kind of person who needs to mask himself, so I'm inclined to believe that it was really Obito who helped attack the Uchiha. But could the two have realistically known each other without Itachi figuring out the truth? That one's very hard to swallow. He's skilled, smart, and knows an Akatuki member who's witnessed both Kakashi and Tobi's space-time ninjutsu.
Possible explanation: Itachi only bought it because he believed Madara was so advanced in age that he was a pale imitation of himself.
Willingness to go along with: 4
Tobi's skill compared to Minato's
Obito must have grown quite a bit to master the Mangekyo to the degree where he could take on his mentor (a top notch shinobi) and almost win.
Willingness to go along with: 3
Finally, and most importantly, Obito's motive for the Leaf's destruction and later for an infinite genjutsu.
Given what we know, I'd say it's thinner than thin at this point. He's shown no hostility towards Konoha in the Kakashi Gaiden arc. Rin's death is the only thing approaching motivation that he has. That would be enough for me to buy he wants to put an end to dreams with his Moon's Eye plan. But not enough to justify his hatred for the Senju. I mean, he took part in the Uchiha massacre himself and the Nine-Tails attack that ignited it, so that rules out the obvious motivation. No, there would need to be some very dark, Danzo-style conspiracy related to Rin to justify his hatred, which we've seen no evidence for yet.
Willingness to go along with: 2
*For the curious, Tobi = Madara's clone was another. He had too much agency and sense of purpose to seem like a Madara knockoff, and if he was, he would never have had much use for the mask or have been worried about Kabuto summoning his original back from the dead.
** A possible workaround to some of these could include time travel since Tobi's jutsu was referred to as space-time ninjutsu, but much as I love time-travel stories, I'd have to call bullshit if Kishimoto used that at all as a way to validate some of Tobi's more outlandish claims. If he had laid the groundwork before hand in the series, not for the events but the actual ability, that would be one thing. But actual time-travel, to my knowledge, has only appeared in a Naruto movie. So that isn't exactly canon.
Much as I'd like to give Naruto 599 a ? out of 5 and reserve judgement until we learn more about Obito, given what we currently know, what was revealed here about him, and how well the reveal fits with what's come before, I'm giving the chapter a...
2 out of 5.
Well, shit. I've got nothing for this. Well, I kind of think Rin might be the person who knows everything. But otherwise, next chapter is a landmark issue for the series (#600) and so we should expect Kishimoto to bring his 'A' game. Until next week, allied shinobi...
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- I had meant for this to be a quick and dirty review that I could throw up early, since I need to prep for my upcoming trip to Las Vegas, but damn if this chapter's reveal didn't throw a wrench into things. Of all I said on the topic above, I could probably have compiled an essay twice as long about the inconsistencies and misdirections that Kishimoto is going to have to address for all of this to work. I'll be MIA for a few days, but when I get back (or maybe next review) I'll throw up a comparison between Tobi and Kabuto that's I've been thinking about recently.