ONGOING MANGA: NARUTO CHAPTER 696
Only four chapters left to go before we reach the conclusion of a manga which has defined a generation of ninja loving readers. With Kaguya defeated, Madara cut in half and Obito resting in peace, all that’s left is for Kishimoto to follow up on his promise of one final battle between Naruto and Sasuke. But is this battle really necessary anymore?
In Naruto 696, Sasuke makes it clear to Naruto what his definition of the word “Hokage” means, which is someone that will take on all the gathered hatred of the entire world and give vastly different people a common enemy in order to create peace and balance. It’s almost like what Lelouch vi Brittannia did in Code Geass; the idea of unifying the people for a singular cause is logically an effective solution to keep them from fighting each other. However, Naruto is obviously not cool with this, as its a plan which he knows will destroy Sasuke and result in an endless eternity of loneliness and pain. Also, Sasuke plans to kill Naruto in order to sever all his emotional ties and ready himself for the task, so the fox-demon-boy has a few reasons to fight. Problem is, this entire fight just feels like a lovers quarrel at the moment.
Almost all of this latest chapter is just Naruto and Sasuke duking it out in visually badass fight scenes and moon-sized explosions. Sasuke even pulls out possibly the coolest version of Susanoo we’ve seen yet by absorbing all the chakra from the tailed beasts (which should have killed him considering they’re supposed to be pure chakra, and their power levels were built up so much earlier). Naruto also combines three Bijuu Mode Kuramas into one three-headed, six armed fox of chakra and creates two massive rasenshurikens out of beast bombs and Sage jutsu. To be honest, it’s all really cool shit that you would expect in an all-out battle between these two. But after all the close calls and god-level battles these two have fought together in, the timing of this battle just feels off. Why is this schism happening now? Didn’t Naruto and Sasuke set aside their differences to work together and bring the world to peace? If not, shouldn’t they have done so already? Sasuke’s determination to be “hokage” doesn’t really seem like enough reason to try and kill Naruto again, especially when we know the manga is so close to its end. If this fight were to happen earlier, at least before fighting Kaguya, then maybe we’d roll with it. But after fighting the literal god of chakra, squabbling over such ideals seems almost trivial compared to the scale of their previous battle. If you were either of these guys, you’d probably just want to throw the towel in and get some good night’s sleep and ramen in your stomach. Their sheer endurance to battle is pretty crazy.
Not much else was accomplished during this chapter besides crazy action sequences and Sasuke’s bullheadedness about “becoming the darkness,” which makes things worrisome considering there’s only four chapters left. At this rate, the epilogue is in danger of being incredibly short and possibly unsatisfying. After following a comic book for 15 years, we’d like to see all loose plot ends tied up and see that everyone turned out fine. Conflicts like this don’t just settle over night, they take time, and as characters we’d like to see how Naruto and company deal with the fallout of this war that most likely ravaged half the planet’s environment. The last chapter could also be a larger one, but taking an ending to a long-running story in large doses results in some reader emptiness afterwards. On the plus side, it’s hard to tell where this fight is going to go. Sasuke doesn’t seem to listen, and Naruto’s protagonist-jutsu can’t seem to get through to him, so exactly how Masashi Kishimoto intends to solve their conflict is hard to predict. Hopefully our spiky-haired hero will think of something in the next chapter!
-The A7 Team
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