I have to admit, I'm basically limping along with Naruto. While it's reassuring that there really is an end in sight, this series has gone on way longer than any other I've ever read, and I'm a little tired of it. I keep going because I've gotten this far, so I might as well see it through to the end. However, I'm to the point where I don't expect most of the volumes to be more than average at best.
I actually had more volumes available during my vacation than just these four, but nearly everything else I had on hand looked more interesting. Which should tell you something.
Okay, now for my reviews. A warning: my volume descriptions include spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
Naruto (manga, vol. 51) by Masashi Kishimoto, translated by Mari Morimoto – Gaara, Kakashi, and others ask Naruto to face the facts and realize that killing Sasuke is now the best thing to do. Sakura is determined to do it alone, and Kakashi wants to stop her and take on that burden himself. Meanwhile, Sasuke fights Danzo to the death, almost killing Karin in the process. Madara takes Danzo's sharingan and leaves, while Sasuke faces Sakura. She tries to trick him into thinking she's joining him, but then he almost kills her. Kakashi intervenes and tells Sakura to take Karin away while he finishes things with Sasuke.
It has clearly been too long since the last time I read this series, because I was so confused. I couldn't remember what Karin's power was, so I wasn't sure why she had Sasuke bite her (I think biting her healed him some?). I couldn't recall why/how Sai could be in two places at once. And the weirdness of just about everything surrounding Danzo was a bit much for me. The man had the First Hokage's cells implanted in his right arm, sharingan eyes all over his arms, and a collateral damage sealing jutsu set to activate upon his death and drag anything in range into his corpse (um, what would have happened if he'd died of a heart attack?).
People spoke of Kakashi becoming the next Hokage as if this was a given, but the news left me in shock. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's a strong fighter, but most Kage practically qualify as weapons of mass destruction. I think he'd have the kind of cool head that would make sure things got done and the village was rebuilt, but I can't see him fighting, say, some of the baddies Naruto has fought in the past few volumes and actually surviving.
Now on to Sasuke. OMG, that guy seriously needs to die already. He's so dead inside that he'll mortally wound an ally in order to accomplish his goals. While Sakura's attempt to trick him was incredibly weak, at least she tried. Naruto's insistence that Sasuke is still saveable makes me tired.
Naruto (manga, vol. 52) by Masashi Kishimoto, translated by Mari Morimoto – Kakashi and Sasuke fight until Sasuke's eyes give out and he goes blind. Naruto arrives and attacks Sasuke with Rasengan but fails to kill him. He states that they'll kill each other later. Then readers get to see the Akatsuki infiltrating Killer Bee's village. Everyone has decided that Naruto and Killer Bee need to be hidden away on an island filled with powerful beasts. Naruto has been given the key to freeing Nine Tails and is told to find an octopus, which turns out to be Killer Bee (Eight Tails' form is that of an octopus). Bee can show him how to tame Nine Tails, but refuses to do so, so Naruto begins the preliminary training on his own.
The Sasuke portion of this volume left me speechless. Naruto had the perfect opportunity to finally put a stop to him, and instead we got some stuff about how Naruto and Sasuke will die fighting each other (at a later date, of course) and how the two of them can only understand each other by trading blows. My eyes, they rolled so hard. I was also left wondering: what about Naruto's dream of becoming the Hokage? Naruto's devotion to Sasuke (who is practically a sociopath anymore), to the exclusion of everything else, disappoints me. Naruto may have power, but I feel like Sakura has matured more than he has.
I'm kind of interested in seeing Naruto learn to control Nine Tails, but I'm also a little tired of the usual training setup. I hope this doesn't take forever.
The Akatsuki stuff confused me, because, again, it's been way too long since I last read this series – I can't remember who most of them are or what they can do. The jinchuriki stuff was interesting – I hadn't recalled (or maybe it hadn't been revealed until now) that Killer Bee didn't become jinchuriki until after the age of 5. How many others besides Naruto were jinchuriki since birth? It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that jinchuriki like Killer Bee had several years to be a normal child, while Naruto had Nine Tails inside him almost since birth, and that there would of course be differences in how the interact with others and see themselves.
One last thing: OMG, Sasuke gets Itachi's eyes. That's the creepiest thing ever. I can't help but think that Itachi would be horrified and disappointed if he could see his little brother now.
Naruto (manga, vol. 53) by Masashi Kishimoto, translated by Mari Morimoto – Naruto passes the preliminary training, in which he learns to overcome his negative feelings. Then Killer Bee has him start a ritual to free Nine Tails and take its chakra inside himself. Kushina, Naruto's mom, appears in order to help him and tells him about meeting Minato (the Fifth Hokage), and about how Madara tried to steal Nine Tails when she gave birth to Naruto. Minato died to seal half of Nine Tails away forever, and the other half into Naruto.
Okay, so this volume is blatantly emotionally manipulative, what with Minato and Kushina tearfully fighting over which one of them will have to die, and Minato leaving a mortally wounded Kushina with newborn Naruto so she could have a little more time with him. And it totally worked on me. I cried.
I think this was Kushina's first appearance in the series, and I had been looking forward to it for a long time. Naruto's excitement over hearing his mom say “You know” just like him was adorable, and I kind of wish I could have gotten to see more happy Kushina, Minato, and Naruto, even though that would have meant delaying the story. While this volume was technically about Naruto training to fully control Nine Tails (which happened way faster than I expected – I guess even Kishimoto was feeling impatient), it was really about Naruto and his family, and I very much enjoyed that.
Which isn't to say that this volume was perfect. I didn't like that young Kushina went from wanting to be the next Hokage to wanting to be the wife of the Fourth Hokage. Her “we fell in love because he rescued me” story was lame. And I found the whole story about pregnancy and childbirth weakening the seal binding Nine Tails to be frustrating. If that were the case, then why would any girls ever be made into jinchuriki?
Naruto (manga, vol. 54) by Masashi Kishimoto, translated by Mari Morimoto – Naruto achieves control over Nine Tails and senses that Kisame (the shark guy) is there, spying. Guy and Kisame fight, which eventually ends with Kisame committing suicide by shark in order to avoid capture. Then Madara and Konan fight, for...reasons (I have no clue why they were fighting). I guess because she sides with Naruto. Anyway, Konan pulls out all the stops but is killed in the end. Then Snake Kabuto goes out for...reasons, and the island/giant turtle where Naruto and Bee are unwittingly hiding suddenly begins moving. Kabuto brings a clay Deidara doppelganger with him.
This volume was incredibly hard for me to follow. It felt like a mishmash of battles and happenings.
Here's what I can say: Guy's taijutsu moves in the volume were ridiculous. “Those who open the Seventh Gate of Shock perspire blue sweat” (49), which looks like chakra aura. See what I mean? So ridiculous. I have to wonder what was going on in Kishimoto's head, because, in addition to that, there was a flashback of Jiraiya and the Pain kids dressed in full-body frog suits.
And, unrelated to any of that: The island that's actually a giant turtle that Kumogakure has been rearing for generations made me think of Terry Pratchett's Discworld.