Gold Knight's Ten Comments (Naruto 342)

Gold Knight

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Can't.... believe.... it...! Fillers over!??

Well, 'twas a week of much excitement, what with fillers finally ending on the Naruto anime and Shippuden starting with, as Deidara would say, a bang. If you're one of these (like me) who enjoyed the episode enough to want to discuss it, be sure to check out Bax's Shippuden Review.

I'll also be rating the episode at the end of this review, as a sort of bonus comment I guess you could say.

But Shippuden wasn't the only exciting Naruto-related installment this week, of course. We also saw another end to a Naruto storyarc in the manga... one that started last early June with Chapter 311. No kiddin'. June. Now it's the middle of February. GEEZ, where did the time fly by? Come to think of it, I'm nearing 50 reviews on Naruto at MH, as well! Woo! Anyway, I'll also be throwing in some quick comments about what I thought of the whole arc in general and where it ranked among all the other great tales we've been treated to in the series.

Time for credits! Thanks to Touch for getting us the RAW as usual, Hisshouburaiken for speedily translating the chapter, Rockstar1426 for making a MQ Edited Manga that I could use for my review, and Fnuckale for cleaning the header.

As always, enjoy reading, and looking forward to your posts.

* * * Gold Knight's Ten Comments on Naruto Chapter 342: King. * * *


Ah good... Now I can see Sakura bathing better!

1. King of the Toads! I was surprised that the cover this week had absolutely nothing to do with Shippuden, as many expected last week when we all heard that there'd be some colors again this week. (Three chapters in one volume with some color...? Hey - is that a record for Kishimoto?) Instead of some sort of Shippuden advertisement, though, we get Naruto proudly standing atop four toads stacked on top of each other and peering through the woods.

Well, as usual, I do think Kishimoto has a purpose for all his covers. What's the significance of this one, though? Heck, all you have to do is read the title. King, right? Of course it's a reference to what Shikamaru learned from Asuma about the "King" that he had to protect, but I think this cover hinted that Kishimoto also intended for the title to be a bit ambiguous with the cover. I mean, Naruto here has a commanding posture usually reserved for a pirate captain steering his ship through a vast ocean - he sure seems to be very much like a leader. He's already got the toads doing whatever he wants them to do (besides Gamabunta, I'm sure, who probably still views him as an underling). How soon before he becomes Hokage and takes charge of Konohagakure, as well?

On that note, I'd really like to see a return of the toads soon. I've been wondering why Naruto hasn't used them at all this whole time. You know, I'd think they would have been useful in getting to Gaara faster, chasing Deidara, bringing Kakashi back to Konohagakure when he was injured (instead of Gai carrying him), getting to the Bridge - of course, it'd ruin the element of surprise in some cases. Still, Naruto hasn't even called any of his amphibian allies to come to his side at all the whole time in Part 2. Well, now that he's refusing to work with the Kyuubi, he might have more use for them now. I'd be willing to bet that there are some toads with different abilities as well that could be useful in battle, just like Kakashi's pups. Hope to see more of them soon enough.

Anyway, I liked the cover. Sure it isn't all that exciting, but you know, we really don't get many colored covers or doublespreads where we actually get to see the forests of Konoha in the background, which I've always thought was strange. So I liked that Kishimoto's seemingly starting to do more with trees and foliage here, as well as the toads. It's like he's saying, "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten anything. These things will come with time."


Holdin' on for deer life... right?

2. Emerging Victorious. Guess Sakura and Sai would have been better advised to just stay behind to help the rest out against Kakuzu, huhn? (Not that anybody did much of anything except Naruto, Kakashi, and Yamato...) Sakura is more than likely going to have a whole lot of respect for Shikamaru now, having faced one of the Akatsuki before and needing help from Chiyo-baasma to actually beat him. Shikamaru, on the other hand, won almost single-handedly. I doubt that Sakura would have any problems following Shikamaru's lead from here on.

Sai also seemed amazed, even though he's never fought an Akatsuki before. Must have had a good briefing of how dangerous the organization was back home, or he's heard a few stories from Sakura and Naruto. Or he knew that Orochimaru used to be an Akatsuki and must have expected the rest to be equally as formidable.

Anyway, Sakura seemed to understand exactly why Shikamaru chose to take Hidan on himself, and why he "had to win at all costs." She's probably feeling the same way about trying to get Sasuke back to Konohagakure, and she sees the same kind of determination in Naruto's face daily, as well.

Note that Shikamaru hastily put away Asuma's box of cigarettes into his bag. I wonder if Kishimoto intends for him to keep it as a token now, so that he would only take it out whenever he achieves a great victory. Heh, wonder if Shikamaru's victory pose in the games will consist of taking out a cigarette and puffing on it, now...


Wonder if Naruto knew that was a compliment...

3. New Respect! Just like Shikamaru, Naruto's also earned some major points with his victory against Akatsuki. Remember when Ino and Chouji were both like "same old Naruto again?"

Now Ino's healing Naruto while mumbling about what he just did almost in total disbelief, and diiiiid ya notice just how quickly Chouji jumped on Naruto's bandwagon, even daring to compare him with Shikamaru? Even though he did fall short of calling them identical minds (which would have been laughable, really...), he finally recognized at least that Naruto wasn't somebody he should ever underestimate, too.

More additions to the Church of Naruto. But also, this could be a big turning point for Naruto, because he's progressed so much that no one in Konohagakure should any longer view him as a bumbling fool anymore. Kiba has already lost to Naruto once before, Hinata obviously always believed in him, Sai, Sakura and Sasuke have all first-hand witnessed his determination, Shikamaru, Rock Lee, Ten-Ten, and Neji recognized his power in the Chuunin Exams, Yamato, Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Tsunade have watched him mature before their very eyes... who's left now? Shino? Ha.

So after this, I think it'll be more of a matter of proving that he's capable to the rest of the world, now. Besides the Sand, of course, who are already convinced. Should be intriguing.


(...and for me to read more Icha Icha Paradise, woot!)

4. Surpassing Expectations. Not much to say here, but after seeing Naruto's growth, Kakashi almost seems to be sad that the "next generation" is about to take over completely. It's as though he did relish his role as a young, elite ninja but recognizes that eventually he's just going to have to deal with being "one of the best" instead of the very "best." So he's having mixed feelings here.

For some reason I thought he'd have been more happy, considering that he's always more interested in reading the latest romance novels and just relaxing out on a roof somewhere. At the same time, though, you could sense his anxiety to get out of the hospital every time he gets put there.

So you could call him a man of action, and he's recognizing that he's going to have to share it now. Well, all things must come to an end. But it's almost like he's experiencing a mid-life crisis right now. I mean, he's only thirty years old now, and he's definitely still got a lot left in him. Cheer up, Kakashi-sensei! (Says me, I'm probably going to be feeling the same way when I turn 30 too, and have to turn Mangahelpers over to a bunch of you young 'uns. Ha!)


Sealed Again?

Incidentally, concerning the "seal" on Sasuke's neck in this panel, you could say that was likely a blooper on Kishimoto's part. But you could also say that Kakashi is "seeing" Sasuke in his mind, and he still sees his old seal around Orochimaru's curse mark. Either way it's a minor detail that I'm not going to worry too much about - I just commented because it seems to be a point of interest for many people. Kishimoto also drew the seal the last time we saw a Sasuke panel before (see for yourself) so maybe he's saying that Orochimaru put another seal on it, perhaps to keep the beast from unleashing itself too often?


Don't I even get social security?

5. Out with the Old, in with the New. This was indeed a badass moment for Kakashi - one of his more memorable quotes - but I think I would have almost preferred to see Kakuzu already having been killed by Naruto.

I mean, that RasenShuriken hit Kakuzu point blank in the back, and should have destroyed the heart inside his chest. It did enough to vaporize the other two hearts (as evidenced by the crumbling masks the chapter before.) So why these two, and not the one inside Kakuzu's body?

Either Kakuzu managed to shield his own heart from the impact with the tendrils inside his own body, or he moved his heart to, say, his calf, just in the nick of time. (Hey, he's weird enough that he could have possibly done that.)

And no, I'm not being nit-picky because Naruto didn't get a kill. He's killed before (there was poor ol' Yuura masquerading as Itachi, after all), so that wasn't a big deal for me, really. It's more of a question of how did Kakuzu survive that one?

While we're at it, how about the fact that since Kakuzu was still alive, why wasn't Kakashi even interested in taking him back to Konohogakure to be interrogated by, say, this guy?

I think perhaps it's because Kakuzu might not have made it anyway, and Kakashi saw that he was dying, that he had taken too much damage. Or possibly he just saw Kakuzu as being too dangerous to just bring along back to the village. Who knows what other tricks he had up his sleeves... er, back? Not to mention, having experimented so much on himself, Kakuzu likely wouldn't have been affected too much by any kind of torture interrogation. So, I wasn't really too surprised that Kakashi decided to just finish him off right there and then.

After all, they have Jiraiya scouting and getting information, somehow, about the Akatsuki activities, so it wasn't THAT necessary. Shikamaru still probably should have thought to take Hidan's head back, though. He was obviously helpless.


Complacent? Shikamaru? Never...

6. Rest Up! Just a quick observation here - it seemed to me as if it won't be too long before we see both Team 7 and Team 10 in action again against the Akatsuki. Tsunade definitely seemed like she had more work for everybody as soon as they all healed up. Perhaps she's finally decided to try an initative strike?

Almost amusing though, Tsunade's speech here reminded me of what my football coach would usually say to the team after each game. "Okay, good game, rest up over the weekend, come back for practice on Monday. Don't get drunk or do anything stupid." Guess that's life in Konohagakure, as well.

I was somewhat surprised, and disappointed, though, that we didn't get to see Shikamaru being promoted to jounin here. He beat an Akatsuki almost single-handedly, after all. I'm still wondering if we'll ever find out just how exactly jounins are made - well, I'm sure that's a detail Kishimoto's been saving up for later in the story, but still, I'm ready to find out already, heh.


Papa Shikamaru's already cool!

7. Kurenai a Momma!? Well, now we know what Asuma wanted to talk to Kakashi about, now, before Kurenai entered the room and he had to shut up. And why Asuma looked so longingly at Kurenai's window before leaving the village. And why, so early on in the arc, Asuma seemed to have a change of heart about his role at the village and also about how he felt towards his father.

And why Kurenai never did accompany Team 10 on their mission to avenge Asuma.

Why? What else? Kurenai's pregnant, by golly! I happen to remember a few predictions back in the summer where this was the case. Congratulations to all these who saw this coming, you were right. I actually didn't see this coming, but it all fits and makes sense now.

And so, of course, you just know it has to be Asuma's baby. Who else it could be? (No, Shikamaru's not that MUCH of a pimp, people! Har.)

So, where does our ol' Shikamaru come in now? For starters, he's probably going to feel protective of the kid, as well. I think that he could be said to be completely awakened by this turn of events from his former carefree, lazy way of living, and he now realizes fully that he has to work hard in order to protect his village if he ever wanted to live up to that "cool adult image" that he admired so much in Asuma.

Pretty cool moment of character development. Also neat that Kishimoto didn't just concentrate on character deaths, but also character births (and you just know we'll find out what this kid looks like in the future.)


So prepare and get a lot of baby powder...

8. And The King Is...! Finally, we get the definite answer to a question that's been burning in all our minds ever since Asuma casually mentioned the subject over a game of shogi with Shikamaru in Chapter 316. Who is the "King" that they all have to protect?

The unborn children of Konohagakure. The next generation. Aw heck, of course. It's not for the sake of the Hokage that they're fighting to keep their village safe, it's for their OWN future, their families, everything that's yet to happen. Asuma didn't realize it until he found out that Kurenai was pregnant with his child, and of course he would naturally fall into that way of thinking.

We really should have known, heh. They may worship the generations that's come before them, sure, but they can't really protect them. They're already dead. What else can they protect but their future?


BRING IT ON, OLD MAN!

9. Better Luck Next Time, Son. This was the best part of the whole chapter to me. Shikamaru's always been one of my favorite characters in the series, but to see him finally lose a game of shogi to his father... hilarious, and now we know where Shikamaru got his super IQ from!

But in that clan, with their shadow-controlling abilities, it makes sense that they'd all naturally be strategists at heart. Shikaku obviously has had far more experience than Shikamaru, and I wonder if he's still better even now...! Well, for the time being, I think we can reasonably assume that Shikamaru still has a ways to go, after all, before he catches up to his father. It's actually nice to see Shikamaru lose for once - to see that he's still got challenges ahead of him.

And I'd love to see Shikaku in action again, so that we could possibly compare him to Shikamaru. Maybe someday, especially if a certain somebody we know is up to no good again...


All in a day's work.

10. Guess Who's Back? Well, Sasuke and Orochimaru have returned, and they're obviously on the move. It looks as though as Orochimaru is going to be the villain of the next arc, or we are going to have an arc seen from Sasuke's perspective for the time being. That would be a nice change from all the Naruto and Shikamaru we've been getting recently, and it would be a good time as any to find out what's exactly going on in Sasuke's world.

He's been a stranger to the story for quite a while, after all.

And as for his hesitation to kill the shinobi lying on the ground...? Maybe he doesn't think it's worth his time. And just maybe, he's still kind of avoiding killing as much as he can, especially since Itachi is really the only one he wants to kill. "Soft," huhn? Wouldn't it be worse if he was on a killing spree and he's going around the country on a rampage? Maybe he realizes he'd turn too much into a monster like Itachi if he did that. Either way, we'll have to wait and see what's exactly going on in Sasuke's head. Should be interesting.

RATING ON NARUTO CHAPTER 342: 5 of 5 - This chapter was an epilogue which did its job, which is wrapping up most of the important loose ends in an entertaining way. It was a much better finish than the last chapter of the Grass Arc (though Sai's acceptance of Team 7 as his friends was touching, it wasn't as much fun). All in all, it made me feel satisfied with the arc as a whole, despite all the minor annoyances that I had with it. For that, the chapter does deserve a 5 rating.

FINAL RATING ON IMMORTAL ARC: 3.5 of 5 - Definitely not the best arc in the whole series. But it's a step up from the Grass Arc (the last storyline), which I would've rated as a 3. My problems with the arc overall includes the obvious foreshadowing of Asuma's death, the timing of Team 7's appearance in the final battle which seemed contrary to Tsunade's deadline, and how some of the companions (ie. Izumo, Kotetsu, Ino, Chouji) never really seemed to have bigger parts in the battles with the Akatsuki. And of course, how in the world Shikamaru was successful in getting Kakuzu's blood on Hidan's blade without him even suspecting. We were also left without answers to Hidan's background. I'm really hoping that the next arc will be much better. I haven't really enjoyed Naruto the same way that I used to since the end of the Sasori Arc. But overall this arc was more exciting and interesting than the Grass Arc was, although it falls short of all the arcs from Part 1 (which I would have ranked all a 5, actually) as well as the Sasori Arc (probably a 4.5). There were a lot of positives such as Shikamaru's character development and Naruto's progress learning a new jutsu, and finally, of course, Hidan and Kakuzu were very entertaining as an Akatsuki duo. I'll miss them.

RATING ON SHIPPUDEN EPISODE 001: 5 of 5 - Amazing episode. I'm so glad the fillers are over, and they did an excellent job pumping me up with the beginning, which was an unexpected preview of the Grass Arc (which looks even better animated). But lots of humor and nostalgia throughout the episode when it returned to the beginning of Part 2, despite some minor changes being made. The animation quality was great, the dialogue was perfect, and I give it all a thumbs up and can't wait for the next episode.

Predictions: We get a big dose of Sasuke in the next chapter and find out what Orochimaru is up to. I don't know if it will actually involve Konoha at all, most likely a different country. Let's hope so.


Yup, we knights are awesome like that.
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