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Monday, December 30, 2013

Manga Review: Naruto GN 63

Naruto volume 63
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Viz Media/Shonen Jump
189 pages
World of Dreams: With the help of Kakashi and Guy, Naruto seems to have found a way around Tobi's invincible abilities. But why do Tobi's techniques seem to mimic Kakashi's so closely? And when Tobi's mask is finally torn off, will the revelation shock the ninja world?! (Source: Viz Media)
Spoiler alert: Post contains spoilers for the various plot twists in Naruto's 63rd volume. Read onward with caution!
In this ongoing Great Ninja War, it's hard to remember that those involved are human beings, with lives and aspirations and personal histories. This is especially true when said people are the antagonists of the story. This volume explores the past of the man we know as Tobi and his true self, as well as why he's fighting the way he is. 
Even though the main battle doesn't progress very much in this book, the sheer amount of Tobi-based flashbacks and plot twists make it one of the most essential reads in the series.

To read volume 63 is to understand the back stories of both Tobi and Kakashi, who share an important and startling connection from their youth. It opens, however, in the current time frame, where Tobi is facing off against Naruto, Kakashi and Guy. Meanwhile, the Four Kages are struggling to survive after their own great battle with the enemy. Tsunade . . . is looking rough, to say the least.
But the fight isn't really the thing. It's looking at the person beyond Tobi's mask: Obito Uchiha, the source of Kakashi's Sharingan eye, a ninja thought to have died years ago. I remember quite clearly reading the Kakashi Gaiden and being very saddened by the passing of Obito. 
Obviously, that sorrow was for naught; while Kakashi was sure his best friend had died underneath the boulder that crushed his body, Obito was actually being revived and given a new form by yet another Uchiha - this time, Uchiha Madara, an old man living underground with the Gedo Statue and his creations.
For one book, Naruto once again became the story of three ninja - Obito, Kakashi, and Rin - and a series of tragedies that permanently shape their lives. Having seen it from Kakashi's limited point of view, Obito arrives to fill in the blanks and show that not everything Kakashi knows was the full truth. Even the death of Rin takes on new colors when Obito's own story is thrown into the mix. 
Naruto is a manga that deals with fate a lot, and it's clear that Kakashi and Obito were always destined to meet again, even if it means on the battlefield - and on opposing sides. Parallels can easily be drawn between this two former partners and the tumultuous relationship of Sasuke and Naruto. Let's just hope Sakura's fate isn't the same as Rin's - and that Sasuke and Naruto don't end up fighting each other to the death.
As usual, Kishimoto does a great job of telling back story without getting caught up in the details or being boring about it. Even when he rehashes past scenes from Obito's POV, it only adds another layer to an event gone by (e.g. Obito's "death", Rin's actual death). He was able to breath life into old scenes, which is not easy to do and not look like a 'clip show' chapter. Nothing seems contrived; Obito's journey from the young optimistic ninja of Kakashi's childhood to the emotionally battered mask-wearing enemy of all the villages reads as being an organic transition.
Also, it is definitely not a boring volume! There is plenty of action within Obito's flashbacks, lots of scuffles and outright fights between clashing ninja forces. We also see more of the Obito/Tobi vs Naruto/Kakashi/Guy battle, including clever uses of the shadow doppelganger technique. Hopefully, next volume will have some updates on the other fronts of this war. I'm starting to get worried about the other ninja, especially the Hyuugas and the rest of Konoha's warriors.

Both Naruto and Bleach are entering into their final acts and will probably both end in 2014. Now, I love them both, but based on this latest effort by Kishimoto, it seems like Naruto will have the best of both endings. Will it be a happy ending? That depends on Kishimoto. One thing is for sure: the world of Konoha and the surrounding villages have been permanently shifted due to this war. How characters like Kakashi and Obito, people already scarred by warfare, will emerge from this major arc remains to be seen – if they emerge alive at all.