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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Manga Review: Naruto GN 52

Naruto volume 52
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
192 pages

Cell Seven Reunion: Sasuke, Sakura and Naruto finally meet, as the former classmates' complicated past gives way to a violent and unsure future. Naruto realizes he must eventually battle Sasuke one-on-one… to the death! But with Sasuke and his dark allies bent on complete destruction, and political intrigue in the villages, will the powerful Allied Shinobi Forces allow the two “ friends” to meet in battle?!

Spoiler warning: Spoilers abound for the series so far in the following review. Read on with caution!

For me, this is a rather momentous volume; this is when I stopped reading scanlations of Naruto and started reading the series through Viz Media's official English language releases. So for the first time, I'm reading material in a graphic novel for this manga that is actually new to me and it is rather thrilling. So bear with me, dear readers, and be kind about not spoiling your humble blog meister for anything past this point. Following the cliffhanger of an ending in the previous volume, #52 is a momentous twist in the post-time skip storyline, pitting friends against friends in a world on the verge of war. It's filled to the brim with the kind of heart pounding action, human drama, well-balanced humor, and colorful characters that has made Naruto such a smashing success in the first place. It's got me excited for the rest of the series, and I haven't been this excited for a while.

Read the rest of my review after the jump!

In this latest volume of chapters, we see the conclusion so far to the Team Seven reunion (yes, 'team', because I'm loathe to call it a cell despite what recent volumes would have me say) and it actually ends not so badly? Well, we do have Naruto and Sasuke basically vowing to kill each other on the battlefield in the end. But it was, err, nice to see them all together again? I also agree with Sakura; there is still some glimmer of hope that this team of friends can come together again. It'll just be a very difficult journey for the three of them. Let's not even touch the epic bromance scenes between Sasuke and Naruto, because we'll be here all day and that post is more suited for next Wednesday alongside Fujoshi O'Clock (and yes, that is a promise, fellow N/S shippers who I know are out there).

And then we change gears to the bitter bloody politics of this whole thing along with some hope for Konoha as Tsunade returns to consciousness – and in a very Naruto Uzumaki fashion, spends the first hour or so of her return doing nothing but stuffing her face with food so she can renew her depleted chakra. Ayup. She can certainly pack it in. And her return is heralded by many, especially Kakashi (who nearly gets stuck with the Hokage role himself!) but not as much as Naruto is when he returns to the village. He doesn't get much time to reflect on this new turnabout respect before being shipped off literally to a faraway island to do some hardcore training with everyone's favorite rapping ninja, Killer Bee.

That is where we shift to probably the second most important part of this volume, the first being the Team Seven reunion and the Naruto/Sasuke scenes about fighting and their fists of love: Naruto confronting his dark self, who appears in physical form where the waterfalls are as a manifestation of all the terrible festering feelings and shame boiling away in Naruto’s psyche. Because let’s be honest: you don’t go from being the most hated being in all of Konoha to the village’s favorite home grown hero all on one smooth journey. And you certainly don’t forget all the horrific things that were done to you in the name of good, or how people treated you for factors completely beyond your control (an aspect of Naruto’s story that has been mirrored before in others who harbored multi-tailed spirits, from Gaara to most recently Killer Bee).

Honestly, I could write a whole post about the Naruto/Dark!Naruto confrontation, or the Naruto/Sasuke near-fight scenes, or how Killer Bee and Naruto’s stories parallel in some fascinating ways. And that’s why I love these kinds of Naruto volumes, the one less concerning with fighting and more concerning with characters and their stories. It’s the kind of shonen I live to love and love to read. Can we please have more of this, Kishimoto? I’d just really hate to see the series lose this lovely momentum, although from the looks of the preview, the only way for it right now in terms of story quality is up. Dattebayo, indeed.