Gold Knight's Ten Comments Special (Naruto Volume 40)

Did you like the Deidara-Sasuke battle?

  • All the way.

    Votes: 32 33.3%
  • Everything except Deidara's death.

    Votes: 19 19.8%
  • It started good, but ended badly.

    Votes: 27 28.1%
  • It seemed weak at first, but finished strong.

    Votes: 8 8.3%
  • Not at all.

    Votes: 10 10.4%

  • Total voters
    96

Gold Knight

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Akatsuki leaders Pain and Konan, as depicted by the amazing colorist [user]Amaretti[/user].

We're at Volume 40. Can you believe it?

I'm probably staying with volume reviews from here on, by the way. I did make an attempt to resume weekly reviews, but trust me when I say that I haven't been able to find the time in my life lately. Hope nobody minds the wait. You never know, I might try to make it more bearable by doing surprise reviews of older volumes. We'll see. ;) (No promises, though... I haven't even had the time to visit MH routinely lately!)

I'd like to thank the Japflap team for all their wonderful cleans again. They're doing their usual amazing work on a weekly basis, and they've been doing it for over a year now, even though their releases are only available temporarily. Despite that, their quality has never been anything less than great. What dedication, ya know? Week after week, they just keep on delivering the goods. I tell you guys, Eagle sure knew what he was doing when he started up this group!

But that's not all! Of course, we've gotta give Kylara the usual major props for helping with the RAWs each week. Just so everybody knows, this very generous scanner of ours was the first to actually provide higher resolution versions of the chapters to the public - which is a lot more convenient than when we used to have cam-raws or LQ RAWs every Thursday! Kylara, thanks once again, and may the Uchihas shower you with Mangekyou love forever.

And then there's all our very, very cool translators here who, for whatever reason, like to translate a little manga about an orange-clad ninja. Without them, we wouldn't have a clue what was going on! (Hey, in Chapter 367, did Jiraiya just say something dirty to Tsunade!? She sure seemed shocked...!) Some of them even routinely translate the vague spoiler summaries and blurry spoiler images that come out in advance of the chapter as well - now that's just impressive! Thanks to Hisshou, Iwanin, NJT, Nihongaeri, and everybody else who's contributed.

Gotta mention the amazing colorists we have here helping to further enhance our Naruto reading experience by turning covers, pages and panels into colored masterpieces. To which I can only shake my head and say that we're definitely fortunate fans to have such great artists with us. Keep it up, guys! ...Pretty please? (And, oh yeah... Zarosaki, Zarosaki, wherefore art thou? ;_; )

Last but not least, thanks to all my loyal and patient readers. You guys are the reason I even keep doing this at all - not that I don't have fun doing it - but it's nice to have people actually reading my stuff and encouraging me to do more. You guys are the best. ^^

Anyway, without further ado - let's see what this volume gave us. Boy, there was sure a lot to talk about this time around! Feel free to make your own comments, as always. I'll try to come around weekly to answer any questions. Doesn't actually have to be about this volume specifically, either - later chapters are okay, too.

* * * Gold Knight's Ten Comments on Naruto Volume 40 * * *

360: C4カルラ!!
1. C4 Garuda!!


In this one, we get an immediate continution of the Deidara-Sasuke battle to start the volume. And we found out what exactly our flamboyant Akatsuki had been doing at the end of the last chapter - which was, of course, initating his "ultimate jutsu." In this case, something called "C4 Garuda," a gargantuan copy of himself that blew up, scattering itself into little pesky self-detonating cellular invaders. (You didn't think Deidara was just trying to break a Guinness World Record for uncontrollable projectile vomiting, did you?)

Sheesh! As if an ominious recent flashback wasn't enough to seal Deidara's doom already. We also had to have the high-flying assassin reveal his biggest jutsu - a sure signal that he was going to meet his end. I mean, after he's already shown all his stuff, what else is there left for him in the story? Okay, so it was already apparent that Kishimoto was looking to finish Deidara off by pitting him against the only other character in the entire series where his defeat would have been acceptable. Namely, Japan's most beloved character in Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke. It was only a matter of time.

This was fine with me, even if it was all a bit too predictable. But Kishimoto made a big mistake. He rushed this battle, which was supposed to be Deidara's final moment of glory. Starting with the fact that in this fight had become a perfect example of a standard shonen battle. You know, where the combatants raise their levels periodically throughout their battle, even though the best way to win would to have attacked at full power from the very outset. But instead, we get this sort of thing...

Akatsuki dude: I'm powerful.
Opponent: AHA I HAVE WON.
Akatsuki dude: Nope, still have this.
Opponent: Ok, now I've won.
Akatsuki dude: Forgot about this.
Opponent: What the hell, okay, I've managed to beat that too, win?
Akatsuki dude: Nope, you forgot about this.

Of course, I suppose what did you expect... Kishimoto did grow up being a huge fan of Akira Toriyama's mangas.

Goku: EAT THIS.
Frieza: Hah, only .1% of my power level.
Goku: Okay, enhanced kamehameha!
Frieza: Up to maybe a percent now.
Goku: This is kind of pissing me off.
Frieza: Hey, we're at 10% now!

To make things worse, it was a badly written shonen battle on top of everything else. And almost completely devoid of any significant drama - it was a fight between two shinobi that didn't even know each other. But I'll get into all that in the next couple of chapters.

So, was there anything good that I took out of this chapter? Okay, so Deidara's jutsu was impressive in theory - practically as dangerous as modern real-life chemical warfare. But if he was that powerful, it's a good thing Konohagakure doesn't have to worry about him anymore - he could have been an one-man army all by himself. But then, that's to be expected of any Akatsuki. They're all supposed to be the cream of the crop, right?

As usual, the art was terrific. And, don't kill me, but I DID take a perverse pleasure of seeing Sasuke with an expression of stark fear on his face - and seemingly meet his own end (even though I knew it wasn't happening ) - and I think Kishimoto must have, too. I can easily see our mangaka imagining how sweet it would be to never have to bother drawing Sasuke's hair anymore...

Well, it was just nice to see Sasuke finally acting human again, even if it had been a mere bunshin in the end that had been destroyed. The avenger was still obviously shaken up by his narrow escape from death, though... and that wouldn't be the last one, either, as we would soon see.

Rating: 3.5/5

361: 弱点... !!
2. The Weak Point... !!


How bad was this chapter? Let us count the ways...

Aside from what I've already mentioned above, this was supposed to be a battle between two geniuses from separate countries, right? Deidara, the vaunted artistic genius of Iwagakure, going up against the prodigy of one of the mightiest clans of all Konohagakure.

We all expected an entertaining battle and you know what? It did start out with a whole lot of potential, surprisingly enough - which I think only made it all the more disappointing in the end. This battle was a joke.

I mean, Deidara actually came out of this fight looking more of a buffoon than a genius! And it wasn't the first time an Akatsuki has suffered such an one-sided defeat. Kakuzu and Hidan, anybody? Okay, Kishimoto probably didn't want Sasuke to be outdone by Naruto and Shikamaru, but by doing so, he effectively turned the Akatsuki into the laughing-stock of the shinobi world. Seriously, who needs to fear THIS bunch? They're doing a good enough job shooting themselves in their collective foot!

If Deidara had this hidden weapon all along, he should have used it right away, especially against a Sharingan user. And, considering Deidara had experience against one, as the flashback already informed us, he was even dumber for not doing it. He knew that Sasuke had the means to analyze, dissect, and understand his jutsu - even as Itachi had before in exploiting it for his own victory. And his "C4 Garuda" was certainly powerful enough that he had a serious advantage in surprising his opponent - and he blew it.

And to top it all off, Deidara also witnessed that Sasuke could harness lightning, as well, earlier in the battle - which just happened to be his Achilles' heel. After seeing that, Deidara should have become concerned enough to use "Garuda" before Sasuke had the time to realize what was happening to him, instead of playing a cat-and-mouse game with him. What good is it to wait until using your "trump card" if it only serves to give your opponent a chance? Genius... what?

If I had written this battle, I would have written it so that Deidara was completely unaware of both the full capabilities of the Sharingan AND Sasuke's habit of using lightning-based jutsus until the end. That way, at least he would have had an excuse for losing so badly. Here, though, Sasuke actually had to remind Deidara - as he did indeed forget just what made his opponent so dangerous. How could you forget something like that!?

I also would have used less of the curse seal and the Sharingan and more of Sasuke's other natural talents, as well - Chidori, alone, was enough to defeat this guy. Kishimoto is still, even after this time, hammering us all over the head about how seemingly invincible Sasuke's little doujutsu is - which, in my opinion, makes Sasuke seem even less of a genius, as it happens to be an inherited ability. I'll admit that I never minded Sharingan scenes before - as I'm a Kakashi fan - but it's now starting to annoy me, too. Wow. Enough, Kishimoto... enough.

As usual, the art was good, though, which is the only reason I'm giving the chapter any rating at all. This one almost convinced me that the series was going nowhere fast, and that I had better things to do with my time. Especially if the writing continued being this lousy... (Luckily, though, it did get better. ;) )

Rating: 1.5/5

362: 究極芸術... !!
3. Ultimate Art!!


Could it have gotten any worse? You betcha.

Deidara, completely embarrassed and humiliated, suddenly ranted and raved about his defeat and the fact that the Uchihas didn't seemingly appreciate his art. (When did that ever stop him before? I'm sure the hundreds of people that he's blown up in the past didn't appreciate it either.)

As if this blatant display of being a sore loser wasn't enough, he also took a completely predictable approach towards an obviously stronger opponent that he wanted to take out no matter what. Can you say, KA-BOOM!

Hmm. Seems familiar. When have we seen this before? No, not the Mid-East suicide bombings, and let's not go into all that, please. (Though it probably did inspire Kishimoto.) The last time, it was only a clay bunshin designed to annihilate everybody within a 10-mile radius (I'm guessing here), while he made good on his escape. (Which was poor writing in itself, because wasn't he supposed to keep the Kyuubi container alive? He's lucky that Naruto did survive, but it was only thanks to Kakashi.)

Full circle here. This time, apparently not a bunshin, Deidara in a fit of rage literally explodes himself up... and takes out an even larger area than he did the last time. Whoa? Wasn't that a bit too rash, even for Deidara? Tobi's relative inactivity in this battle may have been explained later on (we'll get to that soon) but Deidara should have at the very least expected his partner to step in upon seeing what had transpired - and attempt to take out Sasuke himself. He didn't even bother to wait for that possibility. Well, he was in a rage, so I suppose that explains that, but... I ask you, what the heck good was having a partner, if you aren't even going to let them help you out? (Sure, Tobi wasn't going to help, but Deidara couldn't have known that.) At least Hidan and Kakuzu had an excuse - Shikamaru split them up. Deidara had no reason here to completely throw away his life. He didn't do it for religion nor for his country... but just for the sake of a petty victory over a young pup that he wouldn't even get to relish. Made him look even more of an idiot. Now if Tobi wasn't around, or Deidara irrevocably knew he was going to die either way, I could understand...

This whole battle just left a terrible, terrible taste in my mouth. Sasuke actually might have done the Akatsuki a favor, since he took out the one member that could have easily destroyed all their plans, just because he was that crazy. I must admit Deidara's suicide was nicely drawn, though, and it was fun again to see Sasuke suddenly realizing that he wasn't as invincible as he thought - for the second time now, in the same battle! Must have really been a shot to his ego.

But again, probably not.

I think I probably could speak for nearly everybody who wasn't a Sasuke fan when I say that I was just glad that this terrible battle was over. Though it really should have been an unresolved skirmish, without this kind of dramatic ending. Sasuke would have accomplished just as much as Naruto and Shikamaru if he just had defeated Deidara enough that he had to retreat. And Deidara could have gone down later on, perhaps even to another Akatsuki member (Itachi, likely), for trying too often to act on his own. So, for that reason... one more low rating coming up.

Rating: 2.5/5

363: サスケの死...!!
4. The Death of Sasuke...!!


Death of Sasuke? Well, something died this chapter, and it sure wasn't Sasuke. What did poor, poor little Manda ever do to hurt anyone...

Ha, just kidding. Actually, Manda probably got what he deserved - considering he demanded human sacrifices in return for his help. This time, he was the sacrifice! You've gotta appreciate the irony there, guys. Wonder if their contract ever said anything about that...! (And don't worry, Sasukeophiles - your boy will likely pick up a different and more amiable serpent pal down the road, probably around the same time Sakura will be able to summon slugs. I mean, they've all gotta summon something, since they're supposed to be the next coming of the Sannin! It's almost certain to happen. And you've gotta admit, Manda probably wasn't ideal for Sasuke, anyway.)

Anyway, the best thing about the giant serpent's death was that it helped show that Sasuke still walked in darkness - despite his liberation from Orochimaru. If he would just take advantage of Manda's summoning like that - he basically murdered Manda, even if it was to save his own life - it showed that he didn't care about anything but survival until he killed his brother. Even at the expense of everything else. (Just like Itachi told him to do, huh? Sasuke's still got some growing to do.) So... it helped clarify that Sasuke was not yet out of the woods. Good. There's still some story yet to be told, folks...!

(I won't get into how exactly Sasuke was able to summon Manda in time to save his own skin, as he had to do it just as Deidara was self-destructing. That was definitely a bad artistic oversight on Kishimoto's part, but as the whole battle was horribly written, it figures.)

Things actually got much better in this chapter and the rest of the way. It helped that from this point on, each chapter kept delivering one startling revelation after another...!

Who could have predicted that the Akatsuki Leader himself - named Pein, or Pain, depending on your personal preference (I like Pein, because it sounds more like a name, even though Kishimoto probably intended for his name to be Pain; same reason I prefer Maito Gai over Mighty Guy, just sounds less corny!)... and his hitherto unrevealed blue-haired female friend would both show their faces at this point?

[gk]EDIT: It's now painfully obvious, from the *most* recent chapters, that Pein's name is indeed meant to be "Pain" as it is actually a nickname that he came up with for himself, to, I guess, indicate the pain that he's probably suffering in life in order to accomplish his objectives. So that being the case, I'm now calling him Pain, and I'm editing every reference to him here to reflect that. Sorry about that.[/gk]

Without any warning at all... no cliffhangers or anything! They just plain right popped out of the shadows! After all the suspense of the last two years of waiting to see what the heck either one looked like... it was a much needed adrenaline boost after all the nonsense of the last few chapters.

Pain's character design came under criticism almost immediately because he seemed too Naruto-like, but that all quieted down after a few more revelations in later chapters, which I will get into later on. Let's just say that I liked him from the start for the simple reason that I felt he would soon pose a challenge to Naruto similar to what Itachi and Sasuke had going on. You know, a "dark twin" if you want to think about it in comic book terms. Woot! Okay, so I like evil twins, don't mind me... anyway, Gaara used to have that role for Naruto, but since he's since turned into a do-gooder, somebody else had to take his place, huh?

As for Konan, whose name wasn't revealed until about a few chapters later, I had no real reaction either way. We all knew that Kishimoto said that he would include a female Akatsuki at some point from an interview. So this was hardly a surprise. And she seemed like your average beautiful Japanese girl wearing an Akatsuki cloak - a flower in her hair, a piercing there, and that was it. It wasn't until a few chapters later that I would begin to appreciate her character a bit more, but I still definitely liked this chapter. It felt like a good turning point for the series, and it had great timing.

So, just a minor deduction here for the little artistic oversight I mentioned (it wouldn't have hurt to NOT show Sasuke staring at Deidara exploding... motionlessly, I might add. I know Sasuke's fast, but that was pushing it...!) I admit that I did initially have huge misgivings about the fact that the mysterious Akatsuki ringleader (who would be revealed next chapter) seemed more interested in Sasuke than Naruto, but that was explained later on. Good chapter overall that finally had some excitement to it.

Rating: 4.5/5

364: 狙いは... !!
5. The Target is...!!


Maybe it would have been interesting if Itachi had actually believed that his little brother was dead, and was mourning - either for his passing, or for the fact that his plans for him, nefarious or not, had apparently been ruined - but I actually didn't think it would have been good for story purposes.

For one thing, if Itachi had been fooled in the least, then Sasuke would have had the advantage of surprise on his side - which might have meant less suspense overall for that eagerly anticipated battle. Perhaps more importantly, Itachi might have changed to the point where he would abandon all whatever agenda he's got going on. I've always wanted to know what Itachi intended to do in the first place, so yikes! So I'm rather glad that Itachi knew, somehow, that Sasuke was still alive out there. Though I wonder how he did. He almost seemed to be searching for Sasuke's chakra, the same way that Karin had last chapter. Which would mean, you know, no matter how hard he tried, Sasuke would never be able to surprise him...!

As for Sasuke and his band of merry men, not much had changed on that front. Sasuke's still acting like their mighty leader, despite nearly being blown up in the previous chapter, and love-sick Karin always seems to both be offended and impressed by him at the same time. Suigetsu's still as insulting as ever and Juugo still turns into a psycho half the time. Which I guess was the point here - Kishimoto's showing that nothing has really changed for the team. Yet.

Kiba finally proves his usefulness by demonstrating the ability to track down Sasuke - even when Akamaru and all of Kakashi's pups couldn't. That's some nose that kid's got - it's a wonder how he didn't just drop dead after Naruto pulled a fast one on him in the Exams!

Okay. You've waited long enough. Yeah, at the end of the chapter, we get quite a whooper of a revelation...! Everybody's favorite good boy, Tobi, shows up as the real Akatsuki leader. Not only that... he's got the Sharingan under that innocuous orange shell mask (reviving, I might add, all the Obito theories), and... Uchiha Madara, I presume? Wait a minute... Uchiha Madara!?

Yep. All the translators swear that Tobi was indeed referring to himself as the granddaddy of all Uchihas. They were proved right by the latest chapter (which I unfortunately won't be able to cover in this review). Holy Toledo...!

Even fans not sure about the legitimacy of his claims, though - such as myself - was still shocked by how casually he was ordering missions to who we had all thought to have been the leader - Pain. Now this was unprecedented! And very tricky. Nice one, Kishimoto.

I'm actually still not sure whether Tobi is really Uchiha Madara. He may be masquerading as Madara. Who knows what's going on in his head right now? But one thing we all know for sure now - he's got the Sharingan.

Which actually is the only thing I didn't exactly like about this chapter. More Sharingan? Whoopee-dee-doo. But I won't hold it against this chapter - because it also helped explained why Tobi - being an Uchiha - had such an interest in Sasuke last chapter. Luckily, only as a secondary goal, and if he's really Madara, he likely wants Sasuke as a potential container, just like Orochimaru once did - which makes sense, considering he's probably ancient by now. Thankfully, Tobi's orders to Pain did affirm that the Akatsuki were still after Naruto and that he still was their primary goal for the time being. Imagine that - Naruto's not forgotten, after all!

Back to Tobi; also, keep in mind, we were already warned, from the mouth of Itachi himself long ago, that there was actually still a third potential Mangekyou Sharingan user out there besides Sasuke and Itachi (and not counting Kakashi). Well, looks like we got our man, fellas...! In addition, that Itachi even knew about Tobi back then, whether he's Madara or not, seems to highly imply that the latter may have had something to do with his betrayal of the clan as well... but since I could write a book on all my thoughts on that, we better move on! ;)

Though I almost wish we didn't - because the next item up, is whether Tobi, whether he's Madara or not, may be wearing Obito's skin. Oh no, could he actually be Obito? Could that crackpot theory actually be true? (Sorry, I've dealt with this discussion ever since my early days as a moderator at NF, so I'm a bit tired on the subject. :p )

You may ask, if he does indulge in body-swapping, then why not Obito? Well, for one thing, Obito was shown as partially crushed by a falling rock... so badly that he knew he didn't have long to live. For that reason, he gave Kakashi - via Rin's amazing surgical skills - his one remaining Sharingan eye before the rest of the cave fell on all their heads. Obito's body would have never matured, unless he had, somehow, miraculously survived that death trap, which I doubt very much. Even if Tobi/Madara had somehow come across his body, forget it. What made Obito's body any better than any other deceased Uchiha?

If anything, I believe Tobi is Danzou. Remember Sai's mentor? Yep, the same one who had been a warhawk and hated the Third Hokage, and by association, Tsunade as well. The head of the "Root" organization, who also just conveniently happens to have the same build as Tobi - as well as having his left eye covered by bandages, the one that probably has the Sharingan which we just saw here. I could easily imagine Danzou either having a schizophrenia issue as a result of all his arguments with the Hokages, and believing himself to be the reincarnation of Madara, the most prominent rival of the First Hokage. Either that, or having been killed and replaced by Tobi/Madara at some point. (Just as Orochimaru once had done to Gaara's father) But I do believe it's Danzou.

[gk]EDIT: Okay, I've changed my mind on the Danzou-Tobi-Madara theory. To find out more about why, read further in the thread ^^;[/gk]

(And if I'm wrong and Tobi is Obito, I'll eat my hat. With ketchup. No guarantees on whether I'll continue reading the series or not...)

Yep, things were definitely heating up in this series.

Adding a little interesting drama at the end, Konan apparently addressed Pain as one would a beloved person, at least as how the Japanese would. Not that I'm a real stickler for romance dramas, but... it does make their relationship more interesting, so I liked it. It would be incredibly different from any of the other Akatsuki pairings we've seen so far - if they actually loved each other, instead of beating up on each other all the time!

Fun chapter overall. A lot of talk over the water cooler after this one!

Rating: 5/5

365: イタチを追え...
6. Chasing Itachi!!


Ah, one of these transitory chapters... well, I guess we were due for a rather dull one.

Don't get me wrong. Sure, Naruto running into Itachi was an event, but that happened at the end of the chapter. Not to mention that Itachi had already known that Naruto was in the area even before he revealed himself, and could have easily taken Naruto by surprise if he had wanted to - so it was pretty obvious he wasn't exhibiting a belligerent attitude and that there wouldn't be much of fight coming up. Though, of course, everybody was interested in what Itachi had to say, but that's next chapter...

What about the rest of this chapter? Okay, so we got a better glimpse at how exactly Karin's powers of chakra sensing worked - not that much different from Neji's Byakugan, is it? Well, except she probably can only "see" chakra. But, just a lot of standing around and closed eyes, and presto! Strong people a-comin'!

I reckon that was a good enough reason for them to get out of town. Naturally, Karin alarms the rest of the group that they're probably being followed, they conclude rightly that they're from Konohagakure, and just like that, they're packin'. Not even a good-bye party.

We did get one particularly major revelation this chapter, though it wasn't really so world-shattering as the Tobi/Madara one - but that didn't make it any less important.

What was it, you ask? The confirmation that Sasuke did absorb Orochimaru within himself. Had to, since the healing powers of the white snake are now his, so he says - and that had aided in his quick recovery from Deidara's little accident. Surprising. I think everybody had all assumed by now that Orochimaru would be "resurrected" through Kabuto eventually. Now... I'm not so sure anymore.

Perhaps Kabuto has to be near Sasuke in order for the final transformation to take place. Maybe Sasuke has the essence of Orochimaru's spirit within himself, and that it will someday jump from his body to Kabuto's?

However it happens, and you don't have to believe me, but I'm saying it - Orochimaru will be back. Definitely.

I did enjoy the amusing episode Karin had with Juugo - one of the few scenes involving her that I've liked so far. I don't know whether I'm just getting used to her character or if it's just that Kishimoto is getting a better handle on drawing her, but her blushing, grinning face while she was holding up the remnants of Sasuke's old tattered clothes was just hilarious. No wonder Juugo had to ask about why she had them - I would have, if just to see her reaction! Rather good idea though - to confuse their tracker by scattering Sasuke's clothes across the forest, via Juugo's fine feathered friends.

Anyway, nothing much really happened, but at least this chapter kept the story moving. Everybody was certainly dying to find out what would happen between Itachi and Naruto in the next chapter - I know I was.

Rating: 4/5

366: 兄弟
7. Brothers


And, as expected, Itachi did just want to talk. (Though, predictably enough, Naruto attacked and was quickly stopped.)

Brother, what a corny conversation. Itachi asks why Naruto is trying so hard to get Sasuke back. Naruto responds that it's because he's a better brother to Sasuke than Itachi will ever be. I knew Itachi would have a small smile at that. And whaddaya know... he did.

Maybe it's just that I've always wanted Itachi to be the big, bad wolf all along, but I'm disappointed at his almost cordial attitude. That Itachi didn't seem to want to fight Naruto at all... despite the Akatsuki's orders. That he almost seems to be showing some concern for Sasuke lately. That he smiled when Naruto said that bit. All tends to lead one to think that maybe Itachi's not all that bad, doesn't it? That he's not the... (gasp) boogeyman, after all.

Maybe he didn't murder his own clan, after all. Maybe it was Tobi/Madara all along. Maybe he was forced into the Akatsuki. Maybe he's actually looking out for Sasuke all along.

Well, I hope not, dammit. I want Itachi to be the murderous little bastard I've always imagined him to be, and I hope Kishimoto doesn't ruin that.

OK, thanks for listening to my mini-rant. I'll move on here. ;) At least Naruto represented himself well in that little talk - of course he wouldn't flee Itachi just 'cause he was alone! "HAH! I can be one man, or a thousand!" Believe it, pal! Naruto might be dumb, but at least he's not a coward.

Clever of Itachi to use his crow as a way to activate his genjutsu on somebody. I wasn't expecting that. First the finger, now this. Makes me afraid to imagine what would happen if Itachi ever takes his pants off...!

Next up! Oh wow, it's Jiraiya? Yeah, Jiraiya's scouting pays off again, and he finds out that Amegakure has been in a civil war, and that the Akatsuki leader resides there - nice going. I actually thought the conversation would have ended at that point, and I wish it had. Because, as if all the dire foreshadowing of Asuma's death hadn't been enough, now we get some with Jiraiya, too. Ugh.

Hopefully it's just a red herring. Or more foreshadowing a major battle for Jiraiya than anything else (which I wouldn't mind seeing.) Sure, the old people have to die sometimes to make way for the new generation. We *already* got that message with Asuma. It would be OVERKILL to do it again, so soon, and especially to a more fun character like Jiraiya! DON'T DO IT, KISHIMOTO!

Oh wow, two mini-rants for the same chapter. That's a record for me, isn't it?

So we get a surprise cliffhanger at the end - guess what, guess what - Sasuke, who is actually caught unprepared, is facing none other than Uchiha Itachi! Damn, so soon? I don't think *anybody* expected that. We all expected, I think, this to be a long journey for Sasuke as well as Naruto - and to have Itachi appear so soon...? Again, just another crazy cliffhanger in this very unpredictable volume.

This one was still a bit of an average chapter that somewhat disturbed me at several points, so... Kishimoto, if you're reading this, DON'T DO IT KISHIMOTO!!! DON'T!!! (And can I have your autograph, too?)

Rating: 3.5/5

367: イタチとサスケ
8. Itachi and Sasuke


Kishimoto really needs to work on his chapter titles. This chapter really didn't have much to do with Itachi and Sasuke - only a tease, after all. Though the dialogue was fun, especially as translated by Hisshou. Almost exactly as I would have imagined their exchange to be - almost casually mocking each other.

Anyway, what the chapter DID tell us - are you kidding me? Wowee!

Even now, I'm still reeling from THIS chapter. I thought nothing else in this volume would top the Tobi revelations, but brother! This one FINALLY gave us some of the answers I think most of us have been wanting to know ever since, well, the very first chapter! And it only took over three hundred and fifty chapters...! Nearly eight years...! Okay, so if you weren't Japanese, you've probably only waited five years at the most, like me, but still!

This was the chapter that essentially saved the volume for me. The one that made me feel like the story was *finally* getting somewhere for sure.

What was so special about it? Well... of course, y'all probably already know by now. But in case one of you might have been living in a cave lately and decided to read my review to get a sense of what's going on in Naruto lately... I'll oblige ya! We finally got confirmation that Naruto's father was none other than Yondaime... or Namikaze Minato... as we discovered his name was in this one.

Okay, to find out that Naruto's father was Yondy wasn't a surprise, but to get his name at the same time definitely was - nice one, too. Also the knowledge that he wasn't an Uzumaki helped a bit in understanding why Naruto was never really directly connected to him, at least by his peers. And we also found out that Naruto also incidentally had a mother and that she may be equally as important in understanding his background. (Imagine that!) Not even a Konoha-born gal, either - apparently, Uzumaki Kushina was from somewhere called the "Land of the Whirlpool" and that her hair is red, and she was probably about as energetic as Naruto himself.

Hmm, though these revelations did raise more questions. What happened to Naruto's mother? Was she there when the Kyuubi was sealed into Naruto? What happened to the Land of Whirlpool? Was Kushina a war refugee that had to reside in Konohagakure and become a citizen there?

Something else, too... who else in the series has red (ok, admittedly auburn) hair? Hey, how about Pain? Yep - *that*, for me, explained the resemblance... I may get my "dark twin" wish more literally than I imagined! After this chapter, though, I think it's a no-brainer that Pain is indeed related to Naruto in some way - perhaps an uncle, or even a brother. (Of course, later on, we would find out that Pain may not have been born in that body, so that's another intriguing question... could Naruto possibly have a brother, or uncle, that had been enslaved all this time?)

We also learned Jiraiya, unfortunately, didn't have a relation to either Minato or Naruto. No kids of his own, either. Well, I guess you can't have everything. Though, I could imagine Jiraiya having children that he wasn't made aware of yet - he is a rascal, after all - so who knows. Well, I just had to toss that out for all you fan-fiction writers, that the idea isn't quite dead yet. ;)

We also got a hint from Jiraiya here that Tsunade should watch out for the Root organization as well - foreshadowing that I did like. It supported my Tobi/Danzou theory, for one thing. Even if Danzou doesn't turn out to be Tobi, it means that Naruto will have new villains to contend with at some point, at least. And it means that Sai isn't completely an forgotten character - he may actually have some significance to the plot again at some point. Okay, I'm not a big fan of Sai per se, but I did want to see exactly what Kishimoto had in mind for him besides making him a temporary replacement for Sasuke in Team 7. And last but not least, the whole "conspiracy within Konoha" subplot that had appeared to be so interesting, back when Sai and Danzou were first introduced, is apparently making an unexpected comeback. I'm definitely excited about that.

We also found out just exactly how Jiraiya gets around so much to do his scouting - by travelling through the mouths of his toads! Weeeird, but cool. Guess these summons really come in handy. And of course, where else would Jiraiya go but to the very heart of Amegakure, where Pain's waiting for him, having already sensed his presence with his "rain"? Oy.

But, all in all, this chapter was awesome.

Rating: 5/5

368: 情報収集
9. Reconnaissance


So that's how Jiraiya catches his prey, huh? Just like flies around a toad. Except in his case, he disguises a huge toad as a tavern... and promises beer. He probably promises women sometimes, too. Guess it's all dependent on the situation, since Jiraiya wasn't exactly familiar with his surroundings. But hey, everybody likes beer. Can't go wrong there!

There's actually not really that much to talk about in this chapter. Of course we did get our first idea of what kind of ninja Konan is - an origami one. Who would have thunk it?

Actually, it's a rather nice idea - but did you ever get the sense that the Akatsuki are nothing more than glorified puppeteers?

Basically what Sasori, Hidan, Kakuzu, and Deidara all could do involves puppetry to some point - whether it's through wood, other people, masks, or clay. Konan's puppets are obviously going to be made of paper. And as we would see later on, Pain can move from body to body. Zetsu's is probably plant-life. Itachi can control people through his genjutsu. Hmm... that leaves Kisame. Sharks? Ah well.

Oh well, moving on. Like I said, really not that much to talk about - very few words. The art did most of the talking, as an anime would. Luckily, it's more of Kishimoto's spectacular artistic talent on show. And Konan's jutsu was pretty cool.

Rating: 4/5

369: ペインについて
10. Concerning Pain


Well, I guess we're finding out everything about Jiraiya's scouting techniques that we wanted to know. Dunno how I expected it to be anything more than silly interrogations... especially since it's, well, Jiraiya himself doing it! Figures! (He should really take Ibiki along with him sometimes if he doesn't really like doing it, though! Now there's a face that wouldn't brook any resilience...!)

So, here, we got a glimpse into Jiraiya's past... uh-oh, a flashback, just what we need... and learned a bit more about Amegakure's history - especially its leaders. I wasn't expecting the Rain to be the next country that we'd learn more about following the Sand, but hey, one land is as good as another, I guess!

So, Hanzou the Salamander, a legend himself, was the one who bestowed the title of "Sannin of the Leaf" on Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru, eh? You would have thought it'd have been one of the Hokages who did that to honor them for their victories - not an enemy who had defeated them! But oh well.

Or maybe Hanzou actually didn't want to fight them - especially as he realized his own battle was futile against Konoha, anyway, and didn't want to risk losing his life in a final showdown with them? So recognizing that, he also realized how powerful the three were, and decided that if he had to pass on fighting them, at the very least he would acknowledge them? Though, Jiraiya did seem to be shocked here - guess he really respected the old codger.

I have to say that the whole story about Pain defeating Hanzou didn't really impress me, though. It was just too obvious that the story was trying to demonize Pain, and I expected it all along, I guess. I think it would have worked better if we had seen more from Pain personality-wise or talent-wise to that point. Think Zabuza. He was already fighting Team 7 when Kakashi revealed the sordid history of the Mist's graduation exams. To see Zabuza relish in the memories as the story was being told, and looking evilly at the children, too - was particularly effective.

This story about Pain killing Hanzou's whole family - and conquering Amegakure as a result - was not. It's all hearsay, about a character we've just come to barely know. Not to mention... DAMN, Hanzou the Salamander had a terrific character design. I think I was actually more impressed by Hanzou - that he was able to stand up to the Sannin - than Pain here! Shame he's apparently dead.

At the end of the volume, we get a glimpse into just how Pain's able to be so mysterious. He actually can transfer his subconsciousness from body to body - I'm assuming they're all different bodies here - and I'm guessing each one has powerful, but different, powers. I suppose that could make it easier on a guy when he's trying to be inconspicuous!

Rating: 4/5

What a volume. It started out on a terrible note, but had some great chapters later on to really bolster its rating. A great writing come-back on Kishimoto's part. Now if Jiraiya just doesn't die... DON'T DO IT KISHIMOTO!!!

OVERALL VOLUME RATING: 3.7

(P.S. Hope you enjoyed this review! Unfortunately, Chapter 370 wasn't part of this volume, so that one will have to wait... sorry! Gotta apologize for the week-long delay of the posting of this review too... I just had difficulties finding time to just sit at the computer and actually type out the whole darn thing! 'Til next time! ;) )

Credits:

All Edited Mangas used in this review were by Japflap.

Fan Colorings used in Images:
Chapter 360 Page 5 Sasuke by Yondaime
Chapter 363 Page 16 Pain & Konan by Amaretti
Chapter 363 Page 17 Konan by Dynamic Dragon (Great work!)
Chapter 366 Itachi Cover by Patrik_h88
Chapter 369 Pain Cover by Amaretti (wow!)
 
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