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Week Ender - Naruto Edition

Feb 28 // Red Veron
[embed]33587:4538:0[/embed] "Lost Words"Year: 2005A nice slow, sentimental rock song with Naruto and Sakura being all sad about Sasuke being away doing his thing. Well, you won't see him for  a few years so I suggest they do something else.   [embed]33587:4539:0[/embed] "Speed"Year: 2005I love the animation in this one with the crude line art. The minimal art design is still very expressive in this one. A fun watch seeing Naruto in his room playing PS1 and doing other stuff on a rainy day.   [embed]33587:4540:0[/embed] "Michi~ To you all"Year: 2007I've featured this one before and I love it because it has the Naruto cast in a highschool life setting. You get an entire story in the course of one ending and a glimpse of the cast in what they would be if they were just normal high schoolers and not ninjas in drawn out battles of escalation. I long for a spinoff manga featuring this ending. The song is great as well. Get on dat, Kishimoto! You want my money, right?   [embed]33587:4541:0[/embed] "My Answer"Year: 2009I chose one for one reason. Bikinis. Hey, at least I didn't pick the one from the pre-time skip anime ending when the girls were 12. Gross.   [embed]33587:4543:0[/embed] "Bacchikoi!!!"Year: 2009I like this one because it's funnier and lighter ending probably because it was the ending for a filler arc. Everyone loves fillers, right? Nope. Though his absurd ending featuring the Naruto cast can ease the pain of the fans who have to suffer through the inconsequential and pointless filler episodes. I like that.BONUS  Best Naruto Opening ever:  [embed]33587:4542:0[/embed]   What's your favorite Naruto ending? Share below in the comments.
Week Ender photo
The Last of the End
The Naruto manga is officially done and with the Naruto: The Last movie, the story of Naruto is officially over. It's been a long 15 years since Naruto began back in 1999 in Japan, when Bill Clinton was still in the White Hou...

Naruto Storm 4 photo
Naruto Storm 4

Is Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 the last of the series?

Clear skies at last?
Feb 04
// Josh Tolentino
I mean, sure, this new, lengthy video from Bandai Namco showing off in-development gameplay from the latest entry in the Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise has other things to gawp at, like hot particle effects and ridiculo...
Naruto: UNS4 photo
Naruto: UNS4

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4's first trailer gets straight to the end

More particles, more ninjas, more QTE madness
Dec 22
// Josh Tolentino
The Valley of the End, that is, which, if you're unfamiliar with Naruto history, is a big ol' waterfall created by the final battle between ninja historical figures Madara Uchiha and Hashirama Senju. The location f...
Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 photo
Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 takes it to the next-gen

Well, finally!
Dec 15
// Josh Tolentino
Japan isn't very well-known for the phenomenon of annualized franchises, at least not at the level of top-tier triple-A productions like Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed. There are exceptions to that rule, of course, and...
Naruto photo

Kishimoto gives us a peak behind Naruto's studio

Is it really ending?
Dec 04
// Hiroko Yamamura
Can you believe Naruto is really coming to a close? It seems like only yesterday the world was under a total Naruto invasion, with most people being unable to run into the spiky haired blonde ninja around every corner. Well,...
Naruto news photo
Naruto news

The Last: Naruto The Movie will be 'a love story'

Get your fanfiction ready
Nov 10
// Josh Tolentino
The main plot of Naruto may be over, but that won't be stopping this ninja train. No, sir. After all, there's still the upcoming film, The Last: Naruto The Movie to take into account. And if you're in the crowd that igno...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 699-700

Nov 06 // Josh Tolentino
Speaking of things being what they are, it looks like those leaks were right on the money. NaruHina is canon, as is SakuSasu, ShikaTema, and a number of other pairings that seemed to come pretty much out of nowhere, like Sai and Ino, Choji and Karui, Tenten and Lee, and Kiba and...someone I can't identify. If she wasn't a named character, that would make sense, though. Kiba always seemed to be an eternal bachelor-type. They've all got their own kids, too. All with names as ridiculous as "Naruto". You've Bolt, Himawari, Shikadai, Chouchou, Inojin. The kicker, though, is the Uchiha/Haruno daughter...Salad (or "Sarada", if you prefer). The names call to mind the children of the Harry Potter series. "Albus Severus Potter", anyone? Endings are hard to do, especially ones for series running as long as Naruto has. It just doesn't happen all that often on this scale. Heck, you could even argue that it isn't happening, since there's at least one more hurrah for this setting next spring. And of course, there's the anime, which will be with us well into 2015 even without filler, and the movie, which is looking more and more like a "post-manga" story that sets things on the way to this future point. And I can't wait to see what Cyberconnect2 have planned for the next Ultimate Ninja Storm game. The story may be done, but the Naruto brand is far from over. All the same, endings are tough to do. And in my book, this one does alright. In part, it does alright because it doesn't really do all that much new. Not that it really needed to. What we (or perhaps just I) want when it comes to these kinds of shows is a snapshot of the future. We see a peaceful world, clearly one with its own problems, but nothing that the heroes we spent so many years cheering on can't handle. We see the good guys get theirs, and the bad guys are most all in the ground. It's a little pat that after all Sasuke's done, he gets off with little more than a warning from Kakashi (who's taken up the Sixth Hokage's mantle), but his - and more importantly, his best friend's - efforts have changed the world enough that that kind of redemption is possible, when it wasn't possible for Indra, Madara, Obito, or Itachi. This end didn't come without its bumps. As I've said repeatedly, it's been long overdue, the levels of escalation growing ever more absurd as the story stretched and stretched to grant its villains a karmic out. That's not necessarily "terrible writing" as some critics assert. Some work I've been reading of late (and partially highlighted here) suggests that the "story grammar" used by traditional Japanese fiction lends itself well to seeking thematically resonant endings more than pursuing set goals and "resolution" as we like to define it. I know, that sounds like a cop-out this late in the game, but in retrospect, I'd say the notion fits quite well to the pattern of the last few months, as Naruto and Sasuke's personal fight spiraled further and further up into a stratosphere of cyclic history, epic manipulations, and the repeating refrain of brothers at war.  But that doesn't really matter now, because Naruto's the Seventh Hokage. He's meeting with Darui, Kurotsuchi, Gaara, and Chojuuro, who've all taken up the fancy Kage hat in the intervening years. The Hidden Leaf is a bustling, modern city, complete with fake MacBooks and what might be a ninja smartphone. The future is here, and that's a good enough place to see the present off. 
Naruto Finale photo
It's been a long road (to ninja)
....and that's that. 

Daily Dose photo
Daily Dose

A Daily Dose of Music: Nobodyknows

Welcome back, hero!
Nov 05
// Josh Tolentino
It's time again for a Daily Dose of Music! In honor of the increasing likelihood that Naruto might in fact not be over yet, let's take a trip down memory lane with the aid of Nobodyknows "Hero's Come Back!", the theme t...
Naruto Part 3? photo
Naruto Part 3?

Naruto may return in 2015

The next generation?
Nov 05
// Josh Tolentino
Let's take a big pinch of salt with this rumor, but it looks like early scans of the next issue of Shonen Jump have leaked, and with them the possibility that we've not yet seen the last of Naruto. A big splash page supp...
Music photo

A Daily Dose of Music: KANA-BOON

It's Shippuden time!
Nov 04
// Hiroko Yamamura
There's a few things your can always count on with Naruto Shippuden. Naruto will still not be Hokage, the fight scenes will take too long, and the music will always be fantastic. With the Shonen staple entering its final pha...
Naruto photo

The Last: Naruto the Movie trailer is here!

Exciting times
Oct 31
// Hiroko Yamamura
Naruto fans rejoice! There's finally a new trailer for the highly anticipated upcoming film, The Last: Naruto the Movie. I haven't followed the story in quite some time except for the tidbits that Josh drops me once in a whi...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 698

Oct 29 // Josh Tolentino
What else is there to say, really? Well, I guess it's really weird to imagine Sasuke laughing, which he does for the first time in about a decade.  I'm not entirely convinced that all it really took was yet another taste of Naruto's Ninja Way™ to turn Sasuke back to the side of the angels, but then again, Sasuke's Big Plan for World Peace™ was so patently ridiculous that I wasn't sure even Sasuke believed in it. Besides, beating your friend to death's door is the best proven method of getting them to see reason.[citation needed] So I guess we're OK. The finale's reportedly going to be two full chapters long, running a full 44 pages in November 10th's issue of Shonen Jump.  It's been a long road, folks, and I think we're almost there.
AM: Naruto 698 photo
Oof. That's gonna leave a mark. At least it's over, though! Almost.

Naruto photo

Does Naruto end up with Hinata in the last movie?

Can't he have them both... at once?
Oct 27
// Hiroko Yamamura
So, it looks like Naruto is coming to a close. I haven't followed the show or manga in quite some time, but all the hoopla around the end has got me a bit interested again. I also have just found out that it seems like Naruto...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 695-697

Oct 25 // Josh Tolentino
In a way, this whole huge, multi-stage war has done all the groundwork for us. The table has been cleared of everyone not critical to this last, final conflict between Naruto and Sasuke, and we've been with our two heroes long enough to know exactly why they're fighting and what they're fighting for. Kishimoto seems aware of this fact as well, given that the most substantial "content" of these last chapters has been all this fighting. Really, just FIGHTING, between two heroes at the strongest they've ever been. In fact, the fight itself amounts to a massively scaled-up continuation of Naruto and Sasuke's last major engagement, the knock-down-drag-out brawl at the Valley of the End. Sasuke won that fight, but couldn't bring himself to end his best friend. Now that they're both older, wiser (that's debatable in Sasuke's case), and fully committed to their respective courses of action, he's determined to finish the job. But, of course, saying is easier than doing, and a giant conflict of multi-cloned Ten Tail Foxes and the most "human"-looking Susano'o yet rendered quickly bogs down to a much more personal, chakra-depleted beatdown, the two fighters reduced to simple punches and kicks. It's almost thrilling to see this classic cliche play out, with these characters, in this style, though the fact that it's a hoary old cliche is more or less inescapable. And as per the plan, Sasuke once again gets the upper hand, the cliffhanger stuck on whether or not he's ready to deliver the final blow to his one and only "friend". Of course, it's telling that he's actually using that word without reservation, as Sasuke's always been a tsundere when it comes to that sort of sentiment. Still, from the looks of things, it'll be up to Sakura, who's just woken up, to break the deadlock. She's failed to do so every time she's tried before, but hey, we're close to the end, now, so this would be the time to really give it a go once more.
Naruto photo
At this point, we're not even three chapters from THE END OF NARUTO, and yet I'm left with little to comment on. That's not to say that these last few chapters have been bad, or the ending especially shallow, but simply that as far as "endings" go, there's simply not that much "happening" in a narrative sense.

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 693-694

Oct 07 // Josh Tolentino
But you knew that already, so let's get to the good stuff! Too bad there's not all that much of it here in these chapters, as they serve mostly as the talky preamble to Naruto and Sasuke's big final clash. You could imagine how it goes. It's where Sasuke explains why he still intends to murder the hell out of Naruto and pretty much everyone associated with the Ninja World's current status quo (starting with the Five Kages), and why he's different from Obito, Madara, and the recently-defeated Kaguya. And...the result isn't promising. Sure, he's not trying to replace the real world with an illusionary utopia, or trying to revert the world to its proto-form to appease his malevolent ur-Goddess mother, but Sasuke's definitely trying to blow it all up in his own special way. And it starts by him attempting to claim the title of "Hokage" and bend it to some weird new definition with the express intent of lionizing the legacy of Itachi. To Sasuke, the true "Hokage" is one who takes on all the burdens of the world, as his brother did, burning them away with their internal flame (hence the "ho") and sinking into the shadows ("kage"), forever hated by the witless masses. A noble, literal scapegoat.  I can see where he'd get that idea. I read Watchmen. I watched Code Geass. There's any number of stories where one guy volunteers to be the Bad Guy so that their defeat would unite the world in a new and better place. The thing is, though...didn't that literally just happen right now? Sasuke doesn't need to be the Bad Guy, because he, Naruto, Sakura, and the rest of the ninja world combined just KILLED THE BAD GUYS. Almost all of them, in fact! The good guys have beaten everyone from the unwitting pawns (Akatsuki) to the misguided youngster (Obito) to the bitter old dude (Madara) to about as close to the actual devil as you can get in a non-Christian story (Kaguya's secret shadow kid). We don't really need another super-threat to rally us right now. Of course, one could argue that Ninja World Wars aren't sufficient to make world peace permanent. Heck, we just got out of the fourth one of those, and in the real world it took humanity two and change to get over the idea. Sasuke means to flip the table on the whole order of the ninja world and "sever the past", including the flawed systems Hashirama built that victimized his brother and the cosmic manipulations of the karmic cycle. Of course, anyone with their faculties intact can tell that's not the right answer here. All throughout the story every attempt to break the bonds people share with each other and the world at large has met with tragedy and failure. Not to mention that after everything Itachi's said about what it takes to be Hokage and why he did what he did, the only think his idiot little brother got out of the postmortem sermon is that Itachi made the mistake of not killing everyone (including Sasuke himself). But here we are. A guy too stubborn to be anything except the hero of the story against a guy with perhaps the poorest sense of context ever to grace truth, fiction, or the worst comments thread. They're best friends.
AM: Naruto photo
The heart of the matter
Well, I'm sure you've heard the news by now, but The End is near, and it's coming in six-odd chapters. It's not completely over, of course. There's still a movie to go, the anime is some months behind even if they never touch...

The End of Naruto photo
The End of Naruto

The 700 Club: Naruto manga ending on November 5th, 2014

Good night, sweet (ninja) prince
Oct 06
// Josh Tolentino
I guess Masashi Kishimoto really wasn't kidding when he claimed that his baby and brainchild Naruto would be seeing its end sometime this year. That time is in six weeks or so, as the final chapter of the decade-and-a-ha...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 691-692

Sep 22 // Josh Tolentino
Despite a long, tearful, and strictly speaking, unnecessary goodbye sequence between Naruto and his recently resurrected father, the fact remains: Naruto, Kakashi, Sasuke, and Sakura really have saved the world. Barring some kind of plot twist that the very next chapter seems to head off hard, Kaguya is gone, as is Madara. The cycle of reincarnation, of Indra, Ashura, the Sage of Six Paths and his brother (and their third, shadowy sibling), is pretty much done. In a metatextual sense that would make her whole boss fight a big, fat, boondoggle, but for the sake of our blood pressure let's try not to think of that part too much. Instead, the other shoe finally drops, and the moment most longtime Naruto readers have been anticipating roughly since the time-skip* (almost ten years ago!) arrives: Yep, it's time for a final showdown between Naruto and Sasuke, opened by perhaps one of the best evil faces Kishimoto's ever drawn. And of course, it seems to be a real duel, with Sasuke employing his new Rinnegan to clear the field of pretty much everyone besides the old crew, including the Tailed Beasts (who'd just about called Naruto their new hangout). Of course, Naruto had likely seen this coming as well. You don't make a vow to die together with your best friend and not come upon a reason to consider following through on the promise, after all. And Naruto's quick to point out that his beef with Sasuke isn't another artifact of the karmic cycle, since he's spent pretty much this entire story arc asserting that ninja history belongs to the people that participate in it, rather than those who would play manipulator (The Third Sibling and the Sage of Six Paths) or those who would erase it  (Madara and Obito). So this fight is his and Sasuke's alone, though the actual evidence of it doesn't really reinforce the case that this fight between two powerful "brothers" isn't another incident of history repeating itself. But of course, the judgment of history always happens in retrospect, so it'll all depend on how this last conflict plays out before we can decide if it was something we've seen before. And I look forward to seeing that happen, finally. *To be fair, it's been about four years since Naruto and Sasuke last separated, and when the final vow was made.
AM: Naruto photo
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
If you were one of the many readers to think that this end to Naruto and Sasuke's struggle seemed a little bit too convenient, you were right to hold that view: This isn't the end. And really, how could it be?

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 690

Sep 01 // Josh Tolentino
I, uh...I think they won. A triple-threat strike from Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke manage to land the sun and moon marks on Kaguya, sealing here away inside a giant rock the size of the moon, all over again. The tailed beasts are freed, and Team 7 is whisked to safety right before Kaguya's dimension collapses, where the Sage of Six Paths congratulates them on saving the world. And that's it, I guess. It's not that the win feels hollow. On the contrary, it's long overdue. And it ties up a loose end, in the form of Naruto going back to toss Black Zetsu, the little gremlin that basically started all this grief, into the maelstrom, preventing him from coming back for a sequel.  But it doesn't feel done yet. Not even in the way Bleach seemed to end way back when Ichigo beat the big bad...only to continue on past a time skip. In fact, things feel so incomplete at the moment that I'm not even fully convinced we're seeing the whole picture. It kind of feels like this particular scene: If you get my drift. But hey, it's just one chapter so far. We'll have to wait a few days to see how the rest of this pans out. It'd be nice if the series could top things off by the big "700", if you ask me, though.
AM: Naruto photo
Welcome (again) to the second incarnation of this week's Annotated Manga for Naruto! It seems that some technical foulup wiped all the text from the recap while the watchers were looking the other way (or asleep). Never fear, though, for a good ninja always keeps a backup, and this is it. Apologies for the mixup!

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 689

Aug 23 // Josh Tolentino
Well, it seems a week's break was enough to lead this latest chapter to dedicate itself to dissuading us of the notion that this fight has gone "full DBZ", as people used to say, because it plays out just like one expects a proper ninja fight to go, except on a real WMD scale. After a brief demonstration of Kakashi's new Kamui-powered Susano'o and Lightning Cutter, we're given a small blessing in the form of Kaguya resuming her previous form. I'm quite happy with that, as I don't think I could've taken yet another "giant monster" phase of this fight. We also learn something about the nature of the Gudoudama, those big black balls all the cool kids use. It seems that the Gudoudama are essentially the Ur-Chakra, a melding of all the elements and such. And a really, really, really big one, powered by siphoning the life out of all the people trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi, is what's needed to remake the world in Kaguya's image. Which is what she's working on now. Of course, we can't have that, so Team 7, finally all together and at roughly comparable power levels (except Sakura, again), embarks on its last gambit, a plan so pleasingly "Naruto" that it's a joy to behold. I won't spoil it here, but double-fakes, transformation feinting and nick-of-time power combos carry the day, pushing Naruto and Sasuke into arm's reach - and giving Kaguya the biggest headache of her existence.
Naruto photo
You were nearly a Kaguya sandwich!
Just a couple of weeks ago - when the last chapter of Naruto hit the presses - I mentioned how it unusual it was that Kakashi got a straight-up power upgrade, thanks to dear, departed Obito. After all, the typical high-stakes Naruto fight almost never leaves the proceedings up to raw strength, and yet here's Kakashi with the only thing better than having one Sharingan - two Sharingan!

Annotated Manga: Naruto 688

Aug 11 // Josh Tolentino
The history of Naruto's fighting has been one of improvisation rather than pure power. Combats occur in groups more often than not. Victory came from the interplay of differing power sets and techniques, backed up by the occasional trump card (or deus ex machina if you want to get harsh about it).  Even when characters powered up, they were more often than not finding new ways to circumvent limitations rather than merely upgrading.  That in mind, one might've expected the now Sharingan-free Kakashi to make himself useful in some new way, to get around his newfound handicap, perhaps by digging deep and finding some new variation on the one original thing he came up with before he got his Sharingan - the Chidori.  Then again, he only got his chidori working properly once equipped with Obito's left eye, so perhaps that was too much to ask of him at the level this fight's happening. Either way, Obito isn't having any of that, and is willing to come back from the goddamn afterlife to leave his last living friend a goodbye gift: a second Sharingan. Indeed, Obito's rationale for the post-mortem blessing was that Kakashi had earned his suffix ("of the Sharingan"), and as such deserved to serve as (eye) ball-carrier. Heck, he might even get to be Hokage, the ghost says. It's not like Naruto could take over the village at the ripe old age of 16, anyway. With a new Sharingan comes a host of proper Uchiha powers, including Susano'o and presumably all the greatest hits, like Kamui and whatever Obito's phasing ability was called. Incidentally, none of this upgrade translates down to Sakura, who is once again downgraded to "least powerful team member" status. Girl can't catch a break! Of course, with elevated power levels come raised stakes in the fight, and a full multi-element Rasen Shuriken barrage from Naruto is greeted with...a giant rabbit monster?  Now that's just weird, right? I was thinking we'd be past the Godzilla stage of this boss fight by now.
AM: Naruto photo
Parting gifts
Though we did just bid goodbye to the fifth wheel in Team 7's Reunion of Destiny, we were still left with a lingering question: Without the former final boss, how would the leads stand up to a risen deity?  More particul...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 686

Jul 29 // Josh Tolentino
For a godlike being who may or may not be the creator of the world, Kaguya sure does seem out of sorts in her own final boss match. Why would she be affected so severely by her own heavy gravity dimension? And what the hell is a heavy gravity dimension, anyway? Ice world, Lava world, Desert world, I get, those are all vaguely linked to elemental chakra, but "heavy gravity"? Not on the chart, as far as I can tell. At least she's good at dissolving Naruto's clones...though still not good enough to see a bait-and-switch involving Naruto's telltale black sphere accessories. Not that I'm objecting. Naruto battles work best when one side isn't all-powerful, and Kishimoto has made a big point of making sure most fights turn into contests of maneuver and coordination rather than simple clashes of strength. I'm not opposed to a good ol' knock-down drag-out (I read Bleach, after all), but the Naruto insistence on slyness over slugfests ensures that any fight can turn and deliver a worthwhile killing off Obito once and for all. Yep! He's finally gone, intercepting a spear meant for Kakashi (which was in turn meant for Sasuke) and taking a hit for Naruto.  I was initially opposed to getting Obito a redemption. I still am, in principle, as the desire to give him an out drew this fight out for far longer than it needed to be. But redemption's a key theme in Naruto, so it's probably better that he got his out than for, say, Madara to get one. Still, he might really be gone now, leaving the task of ending this whole shebang down to Team 7 alone. Alone, at least, in the fight. Whatever the undead Hokages and the Sage of Six Paths' force ghost are up to may yet have an impact on what happens next. Wait a minute....weren't they trying to bring Madara back? Does that mean he'll be getting a redemptive exit as well? Dang.
AM: Naruto photo
Riding into the sunset
And now it's time for everyone's favorite cowboy manga recap! Mosey on down to this 'ere ranch and let's get caught up in the tales of rootin'-est, tootin'-est cowboy that ever fought in the Fourth Ninja World War!

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 685

Jul 17 // Josh Tolentino
Team 7 United came out of the gate really kicking hard, and despite some superstar all-is-one talent in the assembled one-mother club of Kaguya FG (Future Goddess), the would-be world-remaker was placed on the back foot.  Thanks to key strategies from pinch hitter Uzumaki's Shadow Clone jutsu, the dimensional pitch was filled to the brim with attackers, midfielders and defenders, all hiding the easily-recognized fact that the real player was the one being orbited by all those weird, black, non-regulation footballs.  Eventually even Kaguya noticed this, after forcing a Naruto clone to take an unintentional flop and cover for the arrival of backup sweepers Sakura Haruno and Obito Uchiha, who came to the desert pitch ready to scope and locate the isolated striker. Not even acid strikes and chakra fatigue could stop the determined Sakura, who was very long left on the sidelines as team medic and occasional goalpost. She was once again a key player, and she wouldn't let the opportunity pass. Soon the fated duo was together once again, though with so many twists and turns in his lengthy career, it may be that Sasuke is no longer the rookie player he was before leaving Team 7 United for a darkness-tinged stint with HebiTaka Revolución. How with this very long game turn out? We don't know either!  Tune in next week for an issue of the Naruto recap that promises not to butcher inept futbol analogies!
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Running for the goal
Welcome again to your weekly dose of Association Ninja Soccer coverage. In today's update from the Interdimensional Ninja Cup 2014, and top-tier striker, Sasuke Uchiha, is ninja-running at speed toward his goal! Will he make it? Or will humanity lose against the rabbit goddess in a crushing 7-1 final tally? Check out our detailed pitch analysis below!

AM: Naruto photo
AM: Naruto

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 683

Your face when redeemed
Jul 07
// Josh Tolentino
It's time now for a bit more Naruto, and to be honest, there's not all that much to say about the latest chapter despite the copious amounts of talking they do. And without a truly striking image to latch onto, the last week in Naruto ends up as yet more place-setting for the next set of steps in the fight, as well as another potentially infuriating hint-drop.

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 682

Jun 29 // Josh Tolentino
But enough anticipation of videogames, let's look into how the boss fight's going. After those freaky silent tears from last chapter, Naruto reveals his trump card, the Reverse Harem jutsu: I'll give him 2 points for clever timing and (somewhat) progressive attitudes, but dock 1 point for assuming that all ladies just want to stare at hot dude abs (and for illustrating Sakura as falling for the trick). Really, it's almost as bad as a few weeks ago, when it was revealed that the Mizukage's fondest dream was to get married to some random dude (and it wasn't even Chojuro!). Grousing aside, though, the gag illustrates an important point, one spelled out by Naruto himself: If even Kaguya can be taken by surprise thanks to silly bullcrap like that, it just goes to show that there's more to the world than the supposed grand plan Black Zetsu's been advancing. To mangle some Billy Shakespeare: "There are more things in Heaven, Earth, and Ninja History, Kaguya, than is dreamt of in your dumb, contrived master plan." Also, it shows that Naruto, the manga, still retains that sense of humor, even with the world at stake, and reminds us that as bitter as some of the last few twists have tasted, there's still much to enjoy about this comic. But still, let's continue on the road to wrapping things up, because if Naruto doesn't end (either the whole series or this part of the larger arc) in the next year or so, the Fourth Ninja World War will have officially gone on longer than both actual World Wars. Really, it will.  And that's not an achievement one wants to one's name.
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Momma goes both hot and cold
If there's been one advantage to having Kaguya be a truly "God"-type enemy for Naruto and Sasuke to throw down with, it's anticipating how effin' awesome everything is going to look when it all appears in an installment ...

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 681

Jun 21 // Josh Tolentino
I mean, really, I like Naruto too much to call it complete B.S., but this is really getting kind of ridiculous now. Who does it help to know that Black Zetsu is in fact some weird "child" of Kaguya's, an eternal third presence alongside the karmic reincarnations of the sage of Six Paths' sons? Does it make Naruto's recurring themes more relevant to know that this third child is dedicated to returning his "mother" to godhood by placing all chakra back in her possession? It doesn't really help that now Black Zetsu comes across as a rip of Fullmetal Alchemist's Dwarf Within The Flask, either. And really, about the only positive to come from this latest twist, this new reveal that Black zetsu was largely responsible for the Uchiha's karmic downfall, as well as the corruption of the Sage of Six Paths' religion, is that it papers over a couple of nagging plot points that I'd already forgotten, like Madara's survival.   But really, handing in explanations to cover those little loose ends isn't worth this. Thought it's Kaguya who sheds tears this chapter, I certainly feel like crying a bit.     
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A mother's tears
And here I thought we were done with unnecessary plot twists. We were at the lava level and everything. That had to mean something, right?

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapter 680

Jun 16 // Josh Tolentino
Now that Kaguya has gone and accomplished the contradicting feats of simultaneously raising the stakes and reducing the audience's investment in them, all by simple virtue of her presence, the fight's taken on all the properties of a videogame last boss fight. Seriously, she even forces a transition to the "lava level" for some unfathomable reason.  The switch of venue also does another boss-fight thing: Isolate situation. With everyone else in the world incapacitated by the Infinite Tsukuyomi and the now-freed undead Hokages stuck elsewhere (and trying to find a way to help out), it's all up to Team 7 to beat JENOVA Kaguya and save the world. More accurately, it's up to Naruto and Sasuke, and their new powers and their increasingly manifest destiny. Sasuke knows it, and takes the time to remind Naruto that he shouldn't get distracted saving Kakashi and Sakura from being boiled alive. That's cold, and all, but if there's been any benefit at all to take away from Naruto's constant repetition of its core themes, it's that it takes very little doing to make that subtext resonate. For example, all Naruto had to do to justify his saving Kakashi and Sakura to Sasuke was to spout that old anime canard about his body "moving on its own", followed by a 2-panel flashback to the pair's fight against Haku (published almost fourteen years ago today). From then on, all that history, all those fights, all those chapters, and that decade-plus of keeping up with this ninja story week after week carried the weight of saying what was left unsaid. Combined with Naruto's expression, which practically screamed "No, I will take time out to save my friends, because that's who I am, that's who you used to be, and I'll bet that deep down, that's who you still are. And we'll win because of that." It'd be poignant if the manga itself were as aware of that fact as we, the readers are, because if it were, this boss fight probably wouldn't have needed to happen. And yet, here we are. Hopefully, at the end.
Naruto photo
Now THIS is a final boss fight. And if we're all lucky? It really is the FINAL boss fight.

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 678-679

Jun 08 // Josh Tolentino
Oh, Masashi Kishimoto, how many twists is enough? We let you replace Obito with the real Madara because it made sense to redeem the villain. Heel-face turns are a big part of Naruto's message, after all. We accepted the thing with the Ten-Tails and the God Tree since it was world-building texture, and didn't make a huge difference either way (at the time). We tolerated it when you went into the whole thing about Naruto and Sasuke being reincarnated versions of the Sage of Six Paths' kids because...well, while it made the whole theme of cyclical violence and breaking a karmic loop a bit too much on-the-nose, it still worked. We even shrugged through the bits with Madara manipulating the whole of Obito's reason for fighting because we know you really wanted to redeem that proto-Naruto of yours, and it's not like we could do anything about it. But Kaguya? Really? C'mon, SON! I'm not about to say you've crossed a line or anything, but this getting ridiculous. Final boss fights are compelling when the heroes (and by extension, the readers) can make a personal connection with the battle and the things at stake. That connection can come from different places. It could come from an intimate bond between the two people fighting (like the Hero and Jowy at the very end of Suikoden II), from the desire for justice or retribution for some personal affront (Sephiroth and Cloud in Final Fantasy VII), or even a more nebulous, ideological dispute (Persona 3 and 4). But this new thing, with Kaguya ganking poor Madara (didn't think I'd ever say that about the guy) and revealing grand plan to turn everyone hooked into the Infinite Tsukuyomi into White Zetsu minions? That's some Ultimecia/Yu Yevon-level bullsh*t right there. Not cool. Then again, it's not like Madara's grand plan was all that interesting either, considering that the Infinite Tsukuyomi is yet another one of those "everyone lives out their fondest wishes" virtual worlds, rather than what Madara claimed to bring about, which was supposedly a collective consciousness where everyone could understand each other, and so on.  Heck, even the Bizarro World posited by the beta version of Infinite Tsukuyomi in Naruto: Road to Ninja was more compelling, since it effectively answered a bunch of "what-if" questions in a reasonably interesting fashion. Ah, well. This is hardly the first fight show to suffer from a lack of interesting antagonists. Let's just hope the fight to come can make up for it, yes?  
AM: Naruto photo
The B*tch is Back
And now we move into the endgame. Wait. Didn't I just say that? I did! Well, this is getting us off to a good start, isn't it?

Annotated Manga: Naruto chapters 675-677

May 26 // Josh Tolentino
For one thing, Naruto and Sasuke's new powers are dope as all hell. Just seeing him able to restore Kakashi's eye (his proper one, not Obito's Sharingan) is kind of crazy, as are his brand new set of mixed-element Rasenshuriken Tailed Beast Bombs, used in a ninja magic version of Missile Command against Madara's meteor shower. Sasuke's no slouch either, with a sweet, flying, winged Susano'o and that hot Rinnegan action, though I'm still not sure what the "moon" on his left palm does. I'm thinking it might play into the next phase of this final battle, which, if you've been following, has gone full darkest timeline. And I'm not kidding. Oh Madara, how evil are you? Let us count the ways! Revealing that Obito's entire character arc was a result of your manipulations is the ultimate dick move. Though his redemption was ultimately unexpected, the end goal was achieved: Both of Madara's Rinnegan are back, and the Moon Eye plan is well under way. Oh wait, forget that. Actually winning this fight might be the ultimate dick move, because...well, you did it. You hit the big red button, grew a third eye just like great great great great grandma used to have, and shined it all on the moon, dropping everyone who's not a main hero or already dead into an unending dream, to forever live in the Matrix while the God Tree feeds off their chakra. No, belay that. This thing right here? THAT was your most dickish move. No, I don't mean stabbing Sakura, though. She's a strong girl, she can take it. Your sin, Madara, was in being so goddamn overpowered that the one time, the ONE TIME she actually manages to get into the mix rather than stand around looking out of sorts, she ends up looking useless. Damn all you villains, making the main heroines look bad! What's with that?
Naruto Manga photo
Just as Keikaku
And here we are: At the endgame. In the words of an Xbox marketing campaign, it's time for Naruto to finish the fight. Of course, I've said that about seven times by now, but really, more than ever, it looks like the final battle against this most final of bosses has entered its final phase.

Manga photo

Here are the 20 most popular manga

Confirmed: Pirates beat assassins
May 02
// Pedro Cortes
Last week on a post about the Attack on Titan manga reaching 30 million volumes sold, I wondered what the numbers were for other popular series. Several days later, Mangazenken posts which are the top 20 manga series based on...

Shonen Showdown: April 26, 2014

Apr 26 // Josh Tolentino
Anime Chris Walden Hunter x Hunter Episode 126 It's kind of a shame that we don't get to see Netero using his bodhisattva ability against any opponents before the King, because it's really hard to gauge just how strong it is. I mean, I'm pretty sure it'd annihilate most opponents and that the King is an exception, but I think I'd like to have seen one of the chimera ant commanders try to fight him while he was meditating in the middle of nowhere before this fight. That way we'd get a true sense of just how tough the King is. The battle seems very one-sided, with Netero not allowing the King to land a blow, but all of those Gungi games with Komugi seem to be helping him form a strategy while this is happening. Several episodes ago when the King is just starting to learn Gungi, the narrator mentioned that it would be Komugi that great affects the upcoming battle. Obviously she hasn't directly influenced it, at least not yet, but the King has definitely changed because of her. It's hard to say what the battle would have been like without Komugi's involvement, because the King would still have been tough as nails to inflict damage upon, but I find it hard to believe that he'd formulate strategies in the same way, even with ample time to do so. The King calculates the exact moment he is able to strike, taking Netero's leg. This is pretty much the beginning of the end, as now the King is aware that there is a viable strategy, and considering that Netero isn't consciously making biased decisions, it's going to happen again. And it does. The King takes one of Netero's arms, perhaps on the assumption that it would put him out of the fight, what with Netero seemingly having to place his hands together in order to launch an attack. While this is not the case, it does force him to use his strongest attack, the so-called Zero Hand, using a Buddha to creep up behind the King that fires a giant laser out of his face. By the looks of it, this laser seems to be fuelled by some kind of life force, because in the aftermath we see Netero looking like he's aged a good fifty years. Even his wounds have reopened, presumably because he no longer has the strength to force them closed. Now, I think there have been mixed opinions on the conclusion of this fight. Is it cheap that Netero stops his own heart, triggering an explosion due to a bomb that was presumably concealed within his own body? In my opinion, no, it wasn't. In fact, I think it's the perfect way for this fight to have ended. The King calls out his own bloodline and evolutionary abilities at the end of this fight, saying that he was not alone in reaching his position of King, and the strength that comes with it. It's this statement that makes it perfect, as the King, now known by his name of Meruem, disregards the evolution of the human species. Netero was also the product of thousands of years of evolution, both in his appearance and ability, as well as scientific achievement. The fact that we can produce technology such as explosives is proof of how far we've come, and so it is the perfect way for this clash of species to come to an end. Judging by the preview, we're in for a fun episode on Tuesday. Something that still bothers me is Meruem's lack of using a nen ability, and for that reason I believe he's not dead, even if he's not in any shape to fight after this explosion. It's hard to tell how strong this bomb is in comparison to the Buddha beam, after all. [Hunt for this show on Crunchyroll!]   Josh Tolentino Naruto Shippuden episode 360 As Kakashi's story closes in on the actual events of Naruto we're seeing  a more granular examination of his character. Now that he's out of the ANBU, gone is the true "ninja-ness" of the affair, which is disappointing, but inevitable. He's a teacher now, after all. That's not the end of it, though, as we see how Kakashi earned his formidable reputation, feared by all as the kind of Jonin Leader that sends everyone back to the Academy. That's how Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke saw him, and today's episode highlights why. In a way, it also explains why you really don't want to get a teacher that's into self-loathing.  Y'see, if they hate themselves for, say, indirectly leading his two best friends to their deaths, they tend to project onto you in an attempt to keep you from making the same mistakes. Them working out their PTSD means tough times for your unfortunate butt. But Kakashi wasn't always a hard-ass, so the episode takes care to show how his tough love does produce some positive results, though at the same time a favorable contrast to Guy's method is also drawn, showing that everyone's got a style, and the dedication eventually shines through. It's a nice moment, though I'd have liked to see how characters like Asuma and Kurenai trained their squads of Genin to get the full spread. Next week, Kakashi begins preparing for the biggest task of his life: Training the protagonists.   Pedro Cortes One Piece Episode 640 &641   As is normal for the start of a One Piece arc, the Strawhats split up to have their own adventures. It makes for some difficulties in pace management, as trying to juggle all these stories can be a pain. The issues for the next ten episodes or so will be bouncing between the colosseum and the rest of the crew. With Luffy’s block about to start, I expect there’ll be most of an episode spent getting the action completed, followed by cutaways for a few weeks. Most of these episodes is spent introducing the Tontatta, or the “fairies” of Dressrosa, both on Green Bit and the main island proper. You know that they’ll feature heavily in the future, as their grudge with the Don Quixote is pretty hefty.   Sanji also gets some heavy lifting, as he deals with Violet’s betrayal. We’ve always known his soft spot with women, but actually having it pan out is a surprise. It also adds another possible wrinkle into the inner workings of the Don Quixote family. It’s also surprising to see just how deep the Strawhats have fallen into Doflamingo’s trap. With her help, Sanji should be able to start getting the rest of the crew out of trouble. Well, everybody but Law. I think he’s in for some trouble.  Also, I think the Tontatta just said that Robin doesn’t wear underwear. Oh my.   Manga Pedro Cortes One Piece Chapter 744 - 745   These chapters waste no time with the awesome stuff. First and foremost, Sabo grabs the Mera-Mera Fruit and eats it, inheriting Ace’s fire powers. Second, we actually see him out of the Lucy outfit and…well, he looks like you’d expect, just older. Oh, and Koala comes back, which pleases me greatly. I’m hoping we see more out of her. Second, the legend of Usopp continues. The more this guy gets worshiped, the harder I laugh. The freed pirates cheer their savior, as he’s being held up by a giant.  Usopp’s reaction? The wounded sniper just wants to be put down, only the words he barely gets out makes him look even more awesome to the assembled masses. Such is the legend of Usopp.   The real trouble starts when Pika appears and grabs Doflamingo’s body. The separated head starts talking about activating the ‘birdcage.’ No, he’s not talking about showing the citizens of Dressrosa the famous Robin Williams and Nathan Lane flick of the same name, he’s talking about activating a technique that forces the citizens of Dressrosa to kill Doflamingo, kill one of his enemies or face death themselves. To make it even more amusing, Pika pulls the island and factory up into the air, further away from the heroes. I think this firmly establishes the beginning of the third act.  I’m loving this arc so far. Everything since the timeskip has been leading to this confrontation with Doflamingo. He’s surpassed Crocodile in terms of sheer dickery, as his manipulation of the island and the removal of the royal family is beyond even what the sand guy did in Alabasta. On top of that, Doflamingo is a bloody genius, so this should make things even more difficult to settle.  It’s a good time to be One Piece fan, that’s for sure.   Josh Tolentino Naruto chapter 674 Finally. Both heroes are now on the field, and Madara's pressed. Oh sure, he was pressed when Guy was practically killing himself to get a hit in, but now we're actually tasting some desperation in the final boss' actions. Of course, if I was fighting two guys, one with black lightning and the other able to summon up any flavor of Rasengan he likes, I'd be pretty worried, too. Plus, Sasuke's got a Rinnegan, now, and can read Madara's big secret: That there's another Madara flitting around, invisibly blocking and absorbing the worst attacks. It's yet another pluck on the harp of "Duality", since Madara's "Limbo" attack splits himself and his shadow, ensuring practical invulnerability to anyone that doesn't have a Rinnegan. That's done with, now, and the Big Bad is sweating. Enough to actually cut and run in an attempt to complete his Rinnegan set. Of course, doing that involves poking the crap out of Kakashi's Sharingan and teleporting himself into Obito's space to, y'know, dig out that left eye and murder Sakura. If there were a good time for heroic intervention, now would be it.   Bleach chapter 578 Kenpachi is a badass. Is there really anything else left to say? His sword's even bigger, and his power level is so crazy that a dude whose imagination is theoretically unlimited can't even imagine how strong he is. Of course, said dude kind of fails at being imaginative, so that might count as a handicap of sorts, but suffice it to say that Kenpachi is a badass.  In fact, he's so much of a badass that young Glemy literally cannot handle imagining what it's like to be as strong as Kenpachi is. And that's how he dies. He imagines being as strong as Kenpachi, and basically collapses under his own power. It's a twist on how Touma beat Areolus Izzard from A Certain Magical Index, but they work on basically the same principle: To defeat someone whose thoughts can be made into reality, force them to think of themselves being beaten - or force them to think of something they can't beat. Y'know, like asking a robot what love is.  Heh, that would've been a cool way to beat Glemy: Force him to contemplate the nature of love. Or this: [embed]32410:3876:0[/embed]
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Pincer attack!
Welcome to Shonen Showdown, the battlin' anime and manga recap that's graduated from Ninja Academy, and is now cleared to use proper dates in its titles! Check out that fully spelled-out glory! In honor of our new author...

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