Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Naruto, Volume 45 by Masashi Kishimoto

Sasuke and his team continue to fight the Biju, or host, of the Eight-Tailed Beast, whose true form is that of a massive Ox. Though Sasuke goes down early in the fight, his companion, Jugo, merges his Chakra with Sasuke's and uses his "massage" of Sasuke's Chakra to wake him up. Unfortunately, one of the side effects is that Jugo turns into a child.

Another of Sasuke's team, Suigetsu, tries to hold off the eight-tailed beast, but even though his water-jutsu powers are strong against the Eight-tailed beast's earth Powers, the Eight tailed beast is too strong for him, and he is defeated. However, the break allows Sasuke to call upon the inexhaustible black flames and he defeats the Eight tailed beast spirit without killing it. However, its Biju is barely alive, and the black flames also affect another of his team, Karin.

Elsewhere, Naruto continues training his sage power, assisted by a concoction known as toad oil. Amazingly, he learns even quicker than his former mentor Jiraiya, and with the power of the Nine-tailed beast inside him, as well as the sage power of continuously taking in energy from the outside to power his chakra and Jutsu, he has the kind of recuperative power that literally no one else has.

The Toad sage gives Naruto a copy of the first book that Jiraiya wrote, called "Memoirs of a Gutsy Shinobi". Naruto reads it and remembers his mentor, who he called "The Pervy Sage", and his quest to see that all people lived in Peace. He told Naruto that even if he died with his wish unfulfilled, he wanted Naruto to carry on his quest, and Naruto agreed.

Madara, leader of the Akatsuki, asks Sasuke if he intends to take over protecting the village of Konoha in the place of his brother, but Sasuke feels nothing but rage and hatred towards not only the leaders of the Konoha, who forced Itachi to kill his own family, but all the people of Konoha who benefitted from what Itachi did. He hates them all, and won't rest until they all are dead. This expression of hate and rage so shocks and surprises Madara that he is driven speechless. But something is happening to Sasuke since he called on the Black Flames of Amatseru to defeat the Eight tailed beast spirit, something that causes the world to blur and vibrate around him. Sasuke insists that nothing is wrong.

Lord Raikage is upset by the defeat of the Biju of the Eight-Tailed Beast, his own brother, Killer Bee, and he declares war on the Akatsuki, but his spy watching them is defeated and caught. But when their spy is caught and the messages stop coming, they still don't know where the Akatsuki are hiding. And when the Pains attack the village of Konoha, they use a "divide and conquer" strategy. Tsunade sends for Naruto against the advice of her advisors, and Naruto has mastered sage-level ability. But with traitors in the village wanting to keep Naruto out of the fight, and Naruto secretly practicing to add his sage abilities to attacks he can already use, will he be able to find out about the attack and respond in time to save the village, his friends and fellow Shinobi?

I feel we are definitely coming in on some sort of ending here, though with the amount of fighting in this manga, we still may be 5 or 10 volumes away. I honestly hope not much more than that, because this series has to be the longest I have ever seen or read. So much happens that it's actually getting a bit exhausting to read. Trying to keep track of characters and remembering how they fit into the saga sometimes takes a while, and now we're dealing with not only the Akatsuki, but the Pains and the rest of the Biju as well, and the story doesn't even seem nearly over, as the series is still ongoing in Japan.

What lies ahead for Naruto? I am assuming it will be defeating the Akatsuki and the Pains, and trying to redeem Sasuke from what he has done. That brings up the question of if Sasuke wants to be redeemed, and if he can be, considering his seemingly endless hatred for Konoha and its people. And even if Naruto can forgive Sasuke, can the many others that he has harmed? I don't think so. Not so easily, anyway.

This is an excellent Shonen manga series, and even though it's long and full of battles, the early books were fairly shallow. Now, however, deeper stories are being told, and they are much more enjoyable, even if they are a lot longer and more involved. These stories have a lot more to say and continue to hold my interest. It's still interesting to see where Naruto is going and what will happen. Recommended.

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