So Naruto’s having its swan song moment and boy is that bird singing up a (Ninja)storm. Since the start of the ninja war, thanks to the pressing threat of total global euthanasia via genjutsu forcing all the nations to come together and the ever-convenient plot device jutsu known as Edo-Tensei. This arc of the manga has been rife with flashbacks, resolutions, explanations and all other manner of red flags that signal the oncoming end of a series and despite a glaring lack of a certain Ero Sennin, I can certainly say that Masashi Kishimoto is doing a decent job of tying things up. This chapter is no exception, starting with Naruto and Sasuke’s initiation of their final assault on Nina-cum-Yggdrasil final boss Obito juxtaposed with First Hokage Hashirama’s memories of the very first Kage summit where we learn a couple key facts:
1) Hashirama’s a big dumb baby who cannot be disciplined because his ideals are remarkably powerful (also he can kick your ass six ways to Sunday).
2) Kishimoto loves sticking to established themes (because you did NOT need to see the symbols on the hats to know EXACTLY which Kage was from which village *looking at YOU scary sharp-toothed ninja and conspicuously tanned ninja*)
3) Kishimoto realizes the inherent complexities of major political negotiations and even though it was still overly simplified the reader can see in the fiscally minded requests of Tobirama and the particularly curmudgeonly demands of the Kazekage that handing out Tailed beasts like Halloween candy is not enough to bring an end to decades of bloodshed.
4) Sasuke’s dick just CANNOT get sucked enough. The skin needs to come clean off and that shit needs to become so white it makes Orochimaru look like the Raikage -_-. “Sasuke’s power still isn’t at it’s maximum” JEEZ-US!
5) Orochimaru is perhaps one of the most astoundingly brilliant ninjas in the entire series, curse seal is Senjutsu? Really? How the hell did he study, synthesize, package and distribute Sage Powers like it was crystal meth and just hand it out to a bunch of teenagers to toy with? Sure some of that seems like last-minute bullshit designed to allow Sasuke to fight on par with Naruto’s meteoric power increase but still it makes one wonder just how much that guy knew about EVERYTHING in the ninja world.
So for what this chapter lacked in action it made up for in light but meaningful exposition, which I suppose is good to get out of the way so that the ensuing battle isn’t bogged down by punch-by-punch explanation. The real feeling though, the real substance in this chapter, well for me at least, comes at the very end with the culmination of the First Hokage’s memories and his plea to all of the shinobi gathered at the battlefield to give all that they have to see his noble dream come to fruition; to fight for a dream they can all share in, that made me realize just far I had come on this not always glamorous journey with this manga; this “dream” called Naruto.
I think Naruto gets a lot of flak in the pop-culture scene because it represents a lot of the good and even more of the bad of what it means to be a popular series in this day and age of mindless nimrods who latch on to something decent and carry it to the depths of horrid, nerdy depravity with gross over saturation. I cannot count how many times I have withheld knowledge of my status as a Naruto aficionado to strangers for fear of meeting a detractor or even worse, a fellow fan *cringe*. Yeah, it’s weird, talking about Naruto in the positive when as a fan of manga like Berserk, Vagabond, Genshiken, GTO and a host of others I can honestly say that it doesn’t hold a candle to a single one of those; but It holds a special place in my heart all the same. It is one of the first mangas I ever started following seriously and it is a major part of my early youth and developmental otaku years. Now that it is in its penultimate arc I can feel for it a sort of longing, a strange kind of odd nostalgia lurking just beneath the surface of my skin; like hanging out with an old friend that you used to spend time with but have spent less and less time with as the years went on. Then, that fried calls you up to say that he’s joined the army and he’ll be going away for a long time, so for one last time you join him for drinks or a flick or just plain shooting the shit and as you spend time with him you begin to get a semblance of that old feeling; the reason you became friends in the first place. It doesn’t make you sad, but it does make you contemplative, tranquil even. Your old friend is gonna be gone, for good probably, but even though things were never as good at the end as they were in the beginning, it’s the beginnings that you treasure the most and it’s the times that shined the brightest that kinda clears away the muck of everything that came after.
I know a post like this is a little premature since it’ll probably be more than a few weeks before the manga actually comes to a close but i’d like to get my heavy goodbyes out of the way now so I can give it a simple nod and a Nice Guy Smile at the very end.
So whether the manga goes out with a bang or a whimper, know that this particular Hermit had a fun ride-ttebayo.
Aspire towards Nirvana, fellow readers.