NOTE: While I wrote the majority of this post Monday, I couldn’t finish it up and post it until today. Ooops. My bad!
The Naruto manga, created by Masashi Kishimoto, recently ended with the 700th chapter, and I thought I’d write down my thoughts and feelings on the subject. Specifically, I think I’ll unleash my streams of consciousness on the last two chapters, as they came out today in today’s Shonen Jump (the American version.) Since the anime continues, I’m going to keep this blog post exclusively on the manga.
The Naruto manga came into my life around the same time Shonen Jump came to American shores around 2003. Its’ history can be recounted here, so there’s no need for me to recap that, other than I remember it being somewhat weird. I got a letter in the mail basically offering a subscription to Shonen Jump. I’m guessing my name / address was somehow obtained by virtue of me liking comic books, video games, anime; typical nerd stuff. Anywho, I decided to subscribe, being a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dragonball Z, which were featured in Shonen Jump. Naruto started being featured a couple of months later, and to be perfectly honest…I ignored it.
Than one day, due to curiosity or boredom (or some combination of the two), I gave it a chance, stacking up past issues, and started to read…and I was more or less hooked from that point on. The art style was…actually, in all honesty, I initially didn’t enjoy the art style all that much. But over time, Kishimoto’s art changed a bit over time to a point where it became enjoyable for me. It’s hard to describe, because I’m not an artist (meaning I don’t draw, paint, sculpt, etc.) but if I were to describe it, his lines became more hard and defined and it added a more mature look that I appreciated. Early on, the lines were softer and the look was very…kid-friendly? I’m probably doing a poor job describing this, so I’ll quit while I’m…behind? D’OH!
Anywho, another thing Naruto has going for it is the double-edged sword of a wide-ranging cast of characters, which more or less means there’s at least one person you like and / or could relate to on some level. The flip-side is that not everyone gets an appropriate amount of screentime, and you’re not going to remember everyone. Kinda like Game of Thrones.
Eventually, the anime reached American shores as well…but I’ll save my musings on the anime when that show comes to an end. Considering there’s zero risk of catching up with the manga at this point since it ended, they should be staying away from filler episodes from this point on. Though if they continue to do filler episodes, let alone an entire season of filler episodes, which they’ve totally done before, it’ll probably end sometime after my death.
So here we go, with Chapter 699: Unison Sign
- Since this is completely and utterly without context, I’m going to actually transcribe the translated first page right…now!
- “Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He’s got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world’s greatest ninja!”
- “Previously in Naruto: Thanks to Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi, Cell 7 is able to defeat Kaguya and seemingly put an end to the great ninja war. All that’s left is to release the world’s shinobi trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi. However, Sasuke rebels against the plan and claims he will start a revolution in the ninja world. His first planned actions are to kill the previous leadership and wipe out the biju. Naruto stands up to Sasuke and the two of them battle it out until both are battered to within an inch of their lives. And at that moment, Sasuke finally gives in and admits his defeat!”
- Further context:
- Naruto and Sasuke are rivals / former friends, formerly on the same Ninja team, Cell 7. Sasuke forsook his friendship to seek power and vengeance, but Naruto never gave up on his friendship with Sasuke. This is tested to extreme levels considering Sasuke keeps trying to kill him and destroy the village Naruto wants to protect.
- Sakura is madly in love with Sasuke. Considering the latter tried to kill her once, it’s…a rather unhealthy relationship. I guess it’s the equivalent of “I wish I could quit you!”
- Biju = monsters with incredible levels of energy / power. Nine of them were bonded with people in various villages to “keep the peace.” The ones that were bonded (called ‘jinchuriki’) were often ostracized. Naruto happens to have been one of these people, but he became friends with his Biju, the nine-tailed fox.
- The nine-tailed fox is now ‘sleeping’ inside Naruto, having given up most of his power so that he could fight Sasuke.
- Infinite Tsukuyomi = everyone is asleep sharing the exact same illusionary dream. Rather nifty, to be honest. A virtual paradise, I suppose.
- Context is over! You can find out more details on your own, if you wish, thanks to the mighty interwebs!
- Japanese (and Asians by extension) are a very symbolic people, sometimes heavy-handed at times. Both Sasuke and Naruto are lying next to each other, both missing an arm. There’s a trail of blood linking the two together, and they happen to be lying on the remains of a giant statue. Specifically, the remains they lie on are two giant hands linked together in respect and friendship. Considering the title of the chapter…
- Kakashi and Sakura show up; Sakura specializes in medical ninjitsu (think healing superpowers) and starts healing them both. The remain armless, but the bleeding is stopped. Sasuke apologizes to Sakura.
- Kakashi (possible the best character, and my favorite of the manga / anime) is happy to see that things have returned to the way they were, with Cell 7 as friends / teammates / comrades.
- Sasuke and Naruto dispel the Infinite Tsukuyomi, freeing everyone that was trapped along with the Biju. You see this over several pages, as Naruto has a MASSIVE cast of characters. MASSIVE!
- So back in the Village Hidden in the Trees, Kakashi becomes the new leader of the village (known at the Hokage, which is what Naruto wants to become one day.) Thanks to himself, Naruto, and the fact that he helped undo the Infinite Tsukuyomi, he’s able to convince the remaining the leadership, Sasuke is pardoned for his past crimes.
- Sasuke decides to go on a road trip; saying he wants to see the world for himself, saying he can now see the things he’s overlooked since he’s no longer weighed down by vengeance / being obsessively emo.
- Sakura asks to go, but Sasuke states it’s also a journey of atonement and that his crimes have nothing to do with her.
- But he says ‘Maybe next time.’ Hope for a Sasuke / Sakura romance. Yay?
- Not sure if people care; Sakura is kinda like the Lori Grimes of Naruto…maybe not that useless or bad, but there’s some rather hopeless traits about her. But maybe the author wanted to have a character with those types of flaws.
- As Sasuke leaves the village, Naruto is also waiting for him. Sasuke thinks to himself that he was saved thanks to Naruto. I guess it’s too hard to actually say this to him, but I also guess the point is that the two know each other’s feelings so well, words don’t need to be spoken.
- Naruto gives back Sasuke’s headband, which he lost when they fought for the first time when Sasuke initially defected from the village. More symbolism!
- Sasuke’s internal monologues finally get to the point; the idea that we can claim each other’s pain and truly understand one another, and to keep enduring until it comes to be with everyone around you.
And here’s Chapter 700, in full color! Awesomesauce!
- Fast-forward to the future, and…I’m not going to go in any order for this. We see the next generation of kids in class. Yes, these kids go to Ninja school. Seriously.
- Naruto married Hinata (YAY!) and have a boy named Bolt.
- Sasuke married Sakura (Yay?) and have a girl named Sarada.
- Shikamaru married Temari and have a boy named Shikadai
- Lee married…I have no idea who, and has a kid named…okay, they don’t reveal that one either.
- Okay, there are a bunch of pairings that I’m sure one could find on the interwebs if he / she wanted. Moving on…
- Kakashi retired from being Hokage, and meets up with Might Guy, who appears to be confined in a wheelchair.
- Kakashi naturally named Naruto to be his successor. So Naruto has achieved his dream of becoming Hokage, specifically the seventh Hokage. Think of it like the 7th President, though I suppose without elections.
- So in this village, the leadership’s faces are etched into the mountainside. Think Mount Rushmore.
- In a callback to the first chapter, Bolt paints on the faces on the mountainside for attention.
- In a nice nod to his peer, Bolt painted the One Piece symbol on Statue Naruto face’s giant headband.
- Bolt is being mischievous because his dad can’t give him the attention he got previously now that he has so many more responsibilities being Hokage. Naruto tries to get Bolt to understand where he’s coming from.
- Naruto meets with the other kage (leaders) from the other main villages to end the manga.
- We see the nine-tailed fox (named Kurama) is still sleeping inside Naruto. It’s unclear if between this time and this time skip if Kurama ever woke up at all. He could just be taking a nap.
All good things come to an end, as the saying goes. Naruto was an enjoyable manga for me that I believe started in 1999, so that’s a decade-and-a-half for Kishimoto on this project. Manga creators can spend an enormous amount of time on their creations, and it’s nice to see that Kishimoto had the opportunity to end it the way he wanted. Oftentimes in entertainment, whether it be movies, television, that opportunity isn’t always there. Sometimes television shows end abruptly. Other times they jump the shark and overstay their welcome. Sometimes a movie franchise ends on a horrible note, but there’s no sequel that gives a satisfying conclusion.
For me personally, the Naruto manga ended at a good time, with a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, due to all the filler episodes, the Naruto anime at times feels like it’s currently overstaying its welcome, even though I still stick with it, unless it’s a filler episode / arc, in which case I ignore it completely. But I digress; like all serialized entertainment, the manga had its bumps in the road on the way to the end, but that’s okay. That’s the way it should be, in my opinion.
I’m not sure where Kishimoto goes next but like everyone on the planet, I hope he’s happy and healthy doing what he loves and is inspired in whatever art he produces.