As the Fourth Great Ninja War continues, Naruto remains hidden as he trains to control Nine Tails chakra with Killer Bee. The past comes back to haunt the present as Kabuto uses his forbidden jutsu to summon warriors from the dead as part of his Immortal Corps to attack the allied forces, while Madara’s zetsu infiltrate the allied forces camps. Only Naruto can stop them, but will he be able to get to the battlefield on time? Will he even be allowed to?
Naruto Volume 56-59
By Masahi Kishimoto
Viz Media, May,July,Sept,Nov 2012. ISBN:978-1-4215-4207-2, 978-1-4215-4306-2, 978-1-4215-328-4, 978-1-4215-4942-2
189 pgs., $9.99ea
The war continues in these four volumes of Naruto as the five ninja lands come together to fight to keep the last two tailed spirit beasts sealed within Naruto and Killer Bee from being taken. Working against them are two forces, Kabuto, who uses a forbidden jutsu to summon the long as well as the recent dead, and Madara, who commands an army of zetsu, part-plant shape-shifters that can mimic anyone they touch. Both of these powers turn friend against friend in the allied ninja forces. Naruto has the ability to tell the mimics apart, but that means putting him at risk of capture, and the leader of the allied forces, Raikage, isn’t willing to let that happen, even if it means killing Naruto to stop him. As the stakes get higher, and Madara himself joins the fight, the five leaders of the ninja lands, the Gokage, stand together for the first time and join the battle on the front line.
There is a lot of good character development in these volumes. There are a lot of emotional scenes as the dead return to face family and friends and are forced to fight them. This is meant to demoralize the allied ninja as well as take advantage of the powers the deceased possess. But more often than not, they gain strength from the confrontations as issues left unresolved in life can be aired, giving peace to both the living and the dead. Some of the scenes are short, such as when the leaders of the main and cadet branches of the Hyuga clan meet and the dead cadet leader learns that the two branches fight together instead of the cadet fighting for the main branch, or several chapters long, such as Choji gaining full control of his powers as he fights against his deceased mentor, or Gaara learning the truth from his late father about his mother. Either way, they are all-powerful moments that not only give more depth to the living characters but also makes the reader feel more sympathy for the dead and the emotions they stir up.
There are some really good moments for Naruto as well. He is able to get through to the stubborn Raikage and convince him that he can fight and not lose Nine-Tails to Madara. He even starts to get through to Nine-Tails, making him realize that hate isn’t the inevitable path in times of war. He tells Nine-Tails that he will even overcome his hate someday and surprises the biju by saying it wasn’t so bad having him sealed in him. Naruto gets some surprises too, as he goes into the battle thinking he needs to bear the burden of stopping the cycle of hate, but because of his determination, the five Kage come together, for the first time ever, to fight on one battlefield so Naruto can move to another. They will end the cycle of hate together, the Kage dealing with the hate from the past while Naruto looks to stop it for the future.
I’ve had my ups and downs with Naruto. I loved the first arc, but the melodrama that developed in the first part of the second arc with a mopey Naruto made me lose interest in the series. These volumes harken back to the beginning of the series, where Naruto was full of determination and optimism that he would succeed when so many thought he would fail. Now though, his goals have become loftier, as he moves from just wanting to be Hokage, to breaking the cycle of hate that permeates the ninja world. He is still determined to save his friend and former team-mate Sasuke from his hate as well. It retains the theme that family and friendship is the foundation success in life is built on, and as long as we have them, we will never be alone.
There is a lot of fighting in these volumes and even some deaths, though they are relegated to one-off characters and kept off-screen, but overall this series does more to condemn war that glorify it. The battles are shown to be hard and gritty. It isn’t fun, and while Naruto does come to the rescue, he isn’t hailed as the hero. It’s everyone working for a cause to believe it, and get to a world where there will be no more fighting, that is important. Striving for peace is a goal that kids should be exposed to more often.
Don’t let the length of this series deter you. Naruto is a well written and illustrated series. It might get a little wobbly in the middle, but overall it continues to be fun, exciting, and heartfelt, and these volumes are a great example.