Saturday, July 12, 2008

Naruto Manga vol. 28 and 29 Impression

Unlike the anime the Naruto manga keeps the action flowing with Naruto volume 28 and volume 29 picking up two years after the battle with Sasuke. The anime chose to create ‘filler’ episodes, well over 100+, to outline the story between volume 27 and 28 of the manga. In the manga we don’t know right away what happens during Naruto’s two years of training but there is no doubt we will see side stories, movies, flash-backs and more covering his adventures and training. This is one of the joys of the manga, getting these gaps filled in while the main story continues. Seeing each character in new roles, new outfits and a bit older is sweet, and much better than filler material. A handful of episodes, ok, but the sheer volume of anime … mind blowing. Ok, enough about that already, let’s take a look at the manga and where our nine-tailed hero stands …

Naruto Volume 28
He’s back! After two years away, training with Jiraiya, Naruto is back in the Village Hidden in the Leaves and ready to resume his search for Sasuke. Eyes pop when Naruto sees a more mature Sakura, now in full training as Lady Tsunade’s apprentice. Old friends reunite and we learn about old enemies turned allies in Gaara, who is now the Kazekage of his village. Gaara, like many others, learned a lot from Naruto and risk his life for the village that once treated him as a disposable weapon. The battle is with the Akatsuki who are after the one-tailed Shukaku inside Gaara. As he falls in battle it’s up to the Hidden Leaf village to do some rescuing that is after Kankuro pursues Deidara (clay wielding Akatsuki chic) and gets his butt handed to him by Sasori, a puppet master formerly of the Sand Village.

Volume 28 continues the excellent we’ve come to expect from Masashi Kishimoto. He ‘grows-up’ characters in an outstanding way where they are easily recognizable all the while looking, well older. New characters are also introduced in the sands Granny Chiyo and Ebizo as well as Akatsuki Sasori and Deidara. Great art as always and the story loses zero ground as we pick up with the Akatsuki on the move. There is a fun treat of Naruto and Sakura trying to take bells from Kakashi in a repeat of their very first training exercise. There is also a shift as the story becomes more about the story and not just Naruto. Yes, it’s his manga, but other players are figured very up front and in the reader face, very nice. A great start to a new chapter, a new era for Uzumaki.

Naruto Volume 29
Time to face the Akatsuki. Kakashi squares off with Itachi, or more a copy, but the battle is still top notch. Naruto is itching to fight, but held by Kakashi at Jiraiya’s warning. Naruto does get trapped by Itachi’s ocular jutsu, but is pulled out by Sakura and Granny. Sakura reveals her medical abilities by curing Kankuro of a deadly poison, impressing Granny Chiyo (who has some kind of history with Tsunade). In addition to Kakashi’s team we see a revamped Guy’s team on the move and ready to fight, which they do with puppets of themselves as well as Guy facing Kisame again. Naruto also learns the true nature of the Biju, the number of tails and how he and Gaara are looking to be harvested.

Whew, lots to cover. The battles for Kakashi and Guy are kinda a bummer since they are just with puppets, but still shows some of their new powers, ditto for Sakura as she is really coming into her own. The revelations about the Biju are not really surprising, the death of a host is. What really leaves heads scratching is just what does Jiraiya warn Kakashi about regarding Naruto’s power? That will keep me coming back for more along with the excellent story, great characters and fast paced action that does not feel drawn out, it’s just right. Naruto rocks, good stuff.

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