Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fourth Great Shinobi War (BEDA 13)

Warning for those of you who don't read the Naruto manga, spoilers ahead. And for those of you who don't read the manga or watch the anime, you're probably not going to understand a word of this.

The Naruto anime has just recently started on the same arc currently in progress in the manga, that being the Fourth Great Shinobi War arc. So I figured with that, plus the fact that I've been meaning to make some kind of Naruto related post, now's as good a time as any to discuss it. Basically, the five great nations have put their differences aside to form a shinobi alliance in order to finally take down the Akatsuki once and for all. Meanwhile, in order to take on the joint shinobi army, Madara has joined forces with Kabuto, combining their powers consisting of Madara's Zetsu clone army and Kabuto's collection of legendary shinobi resurrected from the dead.

First I'd like to talk about the anime. Even though the arc has only just started in the past few weeks, I'm already worried about the anime catching up to the manga. The fact that the anime has had a tendency to move along at a much faster pace than the manga only intensifies those worries. But not only that, I'm also concerned about the overall quality. Lately, the anime has been majorly inconsistent. They completely butchered the Pain arc, save for a handful of episodes, and they also recently ruined several key moments in the Kage Summit arc.

So the anime hasn't exactly been dependable these days, so I'm really skeptical as to how they'll handle this upcoming arc. And with the author, Kishimoto, seemingly leaving glaring holes solely for the purpose of having the anime fill them in, I can't help but feel that certain people involved have a little too much faith in the anime team. If they even do fill in those holes, the big question will then be will they be able to do so without screwing something up?

But it remains to be seen how the anime will treat this arc, so with that, I'll shift over to the manga. And so far, this arc has been a bit hit and miss. There's been moments that I've loved, but there's also been several missed opportunities throughout, which I'm going to get out of the way first. The biggest issue I have with this arc is the pacing, which is just all over the place. This arc has managed to feel like it's moving at a snail's pace, while simultaneously feeling like the author is just rushing through things. It's been a jarring experience, to say the least. We'll spend weeks and weeks on flashback chapters or boring, uninteresting fights, but once we finally get to something good, he'll either finish it up real quick, or he'll tease us and move on, leaving things to (maybe) be resolved later.

To give a couple of examples, take the battle between Kakashi's division and the Seven Shinobi Swordsmen. This is one of the first major fights in the war, and we get to see the opening moments, as Kakashi and Zabuza essentially redo their classic encounter from the Land of Waves arc. But once Zabuza's out of the picture and it's down to the Swordsmen, we cut away from that battle. And that was back in January in our time. In the manga's time, an entire day has passed, yet we've still yet to revisit this scenario. He just leaves us hanging, wondering whether this fight is really still going on, or was it possibly resolved off panel?

On the contrary, once the focus shifts to Darui's division, we see that several different encounters are occurring at once. However, of all of the fights going on, we focus solely on probably the blandest one, that involving Kinkaku and Ginkaku. These two characters feel like something straight out of an anime filler. Their fighting style feels out of place in the Naruto world, and their fight with Darui just dragged on and on for weeks. Meanwhile, also occurring in this same area were interesting fights involving the likes of Dan and Kakuzu, both of which happened off panel.

But one of the biggest missed opportunities happened near the beginning of the arc. Before the war officially gets underway, Naruto's about to undergo training in order to tame the Kyuubi. And before he can undergo this training, he has to step under a waterfall which allows him to confront his inner evil. This would have been a perfect opportunity to explore several of the issues that had been haunting Naruto recently. For instance, his ongoing obsession with Sasuke, or Sakura's fake confession, and the strain that may have caused on their relationship. But instead, they use this as an opportunity to revisit an issue which had long since already been addressed, and hasn't really been a concern since the very beginning of the manga, that being the way the villagers used to treat him like crap. This was just a waste, and a rare example of really shoddy writing on the author's part.

Though those complaints aside, this arc has also had several really awesome moments as well. Going back to the fights, before the war gets started, we're treated to three fairly brief yet completely satisfying encounters, back to back to back. First, in a flashback sequence taking us back to the start of the series, we witness Minato's fight with Madara, which lead to his death as he sealed the Kyuubi into his newly born son, Naruto. Next, Guy and Kisame both go all out in the final epic clash in their rivalry. Then, Madara gets pushed to his limits at the hands of Konan in her last ditch effort to try and kill him off. And this is all just the lead-in to the Fourth Great Shinobi War.

And once the war actually starts, it's a lot of the more minor characters who have really impressed. For instance, the battle between the samurai Mifune and the legendary Hanzo was a classic clash of swords and ideals, and a fight that I never imagined would become one of my favorites. Then cut to the emotional encounter between Asuma and Team 10, and it's Ino of all people who steals the show. The same Ino who has been pretty much useless throughout the entire series shows us that she's been holding back this whole time. But she's not the only one to improve, as Naruto himself is already shining in new ways since his entry onto the battlefield. I'm not a fan of how Naruto's new Kyuubi chakra mode looks, but the abilities he's capable of in this form are ridiculously insane.

Even though this current arc has been going on for well over a year now in the manga, it's still far from over. Naruto has only just recently entered the fray, and he and Killer Bee are currently dealing with the dangerous combo of Itachi and Nagato. Plus, we've still yet to see what Madara has in store with his brand new Six Paths of Pain, and Sasuke has still yet to make a move either. So there's still a ways to go, and as it stands right now, this arc could honestly go either way.


  1. I haven't been reading Naruto for a while and I intend to let back chapters accumulate a little bit more before I tackle them :)

    Since I don't watch the anime, I don't know how it is. Definitely love the Pain arch and I guess after coming out of it, the author is probably exhausted. I think authors tend to repeat things so new readers can catch up if the join the story somewhere in the middle. But anyways, these are just my speculations. We shall wait and see.

  2. That's probably not a bad idea to let the manga accumulate some and read a big chunk all at once. I know I wouldn't be able to do that initially, however, I do always re-read it all whenever they're released in volume form. Usually the pacing improves when read in chunks, though there's been times where it was still a chore to slog through (the Hunt for Itachi arc and Jiraiya vs. Pain were especially bad in this regard).

    As for the anime, it's really only recently gotten bad. They did a superb job adapting (and even improving) the Immortals arc and the Hunt for Itachi arc. But once we got to the Pain arc, it was riddled with poor animation, poor music choices, sloppy editing, and they chose to give the spotlight to Hinata of all people in favor of Naruto and Kakashi. So it was pretty infuriating to watch, even though the best episode in the entire series also happened in that arc (if you must watch one episode of Naruto, watch Naruto Shippuden 167. Your head will asplode).