Story/Art: Masashi Kishimoto
Translation/Adaptation: Mari Morimoto
What They Say
Naruto and his team engage in an intense battle with the Akatsuki organization as both sides seek the power to determine the future of their land. Internecine fighting weakens the Akatsuki, but will their dark forces sideline Naruto?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The phrase “conquering one’s demons” takes on a whole new meaning for the titular young shinobi as he now has freer access to Nine Tails chakra and a whole new appearance when using it. This new power also increases his ability to sense other’s presences better- which is displayed when he notices the Akatsuki spy that had managed to infiltrate the small group of ninjas on the island. Naruto would like to stop the spy but having new abilities doesn’t come with instant complete command and so he becomes sidelined in his exuberance.
Luckily for the group Guy is just outside the cave and in perfect position to intercept the spy before he can abscond with his stolen information, though due to some typical Guy misunderstanding he isn’t clear at first on just who (or what) it is he is fighting. Guy finds himself in a fight where he should be seriously at a disadvantage, but Guy is one ninja with no small number of surprises up his sleeve. Even if he can’t use Ninjutsu, he is willing to push his life to the very edge to fulfill his duty. Unfortunately the opponent he faces is not just skilled but also shrewd and loyal to the point of death which may wind up negating all Guy’s work.
As the ninja guarding Naruto and Killer Bee suddenly panic and have to come up with a plan B, Madara Uchiha is making preparations to strengthen his power- preparations that will place him in conflict with Konan as she only she has the information he needs. This will lead to a brutal fight which only one will walk away from, but which one is in doubt. Still, even when taken by surprise by an enemy’s resourcefulness, the Akatsuki plan moves forward and they are now armed with Naruto’s location and they will move forward with a new assault may spell the end for the orange clad shinobi.
With the previous volume being such a high point of emotions I figured the transition back into the storyline events could be a bit rough. The cover for the volume reinforced that fear with its four characters displayed in a way that didn’t seem to interact and look a bit at odds at creating a gestalt feel. The volume got started off strong enough as it picked up where events left off-though a little more clarity with a new concept would have been nice- and the lead up to Guy’s fight worked well. Unfortunately from there the story shifted over to covering Madara and Konan and then moved to a rouges gallery like meeting about taking out Naruto.
The lack of flow from one part to another really didn’t help the volume feel like it fit together in a seamless fashion. The multiple uses of flashbacks didn’t help either as they took the story out of the present day the manga was set in and in the case of the Konan it was undercut by events as it interrupted her battle. While the scene itself was enjoyable detailing her and her friend’s past with Jiraiya the tale’s inclusion felt more like something thrown in for space rather than an organic part of the story’s progression. The flashback probably would have been more at home in a collection of side stories than where it appears here.
Overall the volume looked more like an attempt to get some pieces out of the way before really getting into the next big arc which is a shame given the momentum the previous sub story arc had built. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the constant shifting disrupts any sense of pace which hurts the volume more than a little bit in the long run.
Following up on such an emotional volume as the previous one was never going to be easy, but this volume feels like it is packed with interludes and side stories that don’t even try to match the emotional buildup from the previous volume. While not lacking in action there are so many changes in location, characters and even timelines that it feels like a bunch of transitional points sewn together. In its original magazine format this may have worked better, but in its collected form it just feels the author is randomly flipping through events to get to the next sub arc which the flashbacks, though possibly the most emotional part of the volume, don’t help.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B
Readers Rating: [ratings]