Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Manga Reviews: Naruto - Volume 4

I think you'll be interested to know that I have all my reviews planned out through July and into August. Mostly because iCal is an interesting program that won't let me move my accumulated reviews past July. So I've got them all planned, three a week once I'm out of school. And over the summer, at least until the first week of August. I don't know if I'll have enough to review then, or if I'll want to take a break, but my summer activity will mostly be some intense blogging. Once school starts again I'll probably have to take it easy again. So check back every Monday, Wednesday, Friday starting next week for new reviews. Also, check back on Friday when I begin my emasculation process for the sake of reviews. Maybe I'll take Thursday to review Iron Man 2, just to butch up.

To start off I think I'll talk about the cover. Out of all the volumes I've reviewed so far this one is the nicest cover. It has a good symmetry to it, and the blade dividing the cover down the middle makes for a perfect dividing line. In chapter thirty Naruto tells Haku that if they'd met in different circumstances they could have been friends. The blade dividing the two on the cover symbolizes the conflict that divides them from ever being friends.

Well, we've come to the end of the Zabuza Arc. Compared to the first time I read it, it isn't as bad. I'm finding that happens a lot when I reread manga. Arcs that were previously unreadable for me are suddenly more enjoyable. I think that now that I've read the actual overarching story I'm able to enjoy the more disconnected Zabuza Arc more.

The final battle finishes up with Naruto overpowering Haku and...actually trying to kill him? I did not remember this part. It isn't like he stops at the last minute as is such a common trope in fiction aimed at younger audiences. If Haku hadn't changed his mind at the last minute Naruto really would have killed him. After Naruto realizes how dehumanizing the path of the Ninja is he decides to follow his own path, and not follow the path everyone else says he's meant to follow. I think this ties in nicely to his almost killing Haku. He gave in when Haku said that Naruto would have to bloody his hands, which makes Naruto's decision as they stand above Haku's and Zabuza's graves all the more poignant.

Speaking of fiction for younger audiences, an interesting fact about writing in the western market is that what determines the age of your target audience in Middlegrade and YA books is the age of the protagonist. Generally the protagonist is two years older than your audience. Which, judging by Naruto's age, means that the intended audience for this series is ten years old.


Something tells me the same isn't true in Japan. I really don't know how exactly propriety is judged in Japan, and while I don't think that a series as graphic as this should be restricted to teenagers or older, I still have to admit, this series is a lot more graphic and bloody than I remember. But, I think that's actually a good thing. Because while main characters recover from what should be death blows, it's nice to see that mortality is taken seriously and when someone is injured the chances of them dying are quite high. Exaggerating how much damage a character can take just desensitizes us to violence. I'm not against violence in media, but there is a danger in trivializing it. So far Naruto has not done that, and I am quite impressed.

Speaking of characters surviving death blows:


Gato as the final villain was a disappointment. All he did was be greedy and kill people for no good reason. Then he got killed by Zabuza, giving the actual villain of the arc a proper ending. It really was pretty touching seeing how Zabuza really did care for Haku (though it borderlines on the creepy), and how despite being the villain and an overall monster he still had some humanizing elements in the end.

And thus ends the first arc. I'd just like to finish it off with one last comment. Inari's mother is the worst mother ever.

"No. Stop. It's not like I, a grown woman, can physically restrain you, an eight year old child, from heading towards certain death."

Him being determined to save his village and, despite being barely potty trained, prove he is a man is all good and fine. But what kind of mother just lets their child waltz off without even trying to stop him from getting himself killed?

With that we move on to the next major arc. The Chuunin Exams. This is where the story really picks up, dominating the next several volumes and directly leading into or introducing the antagonists and conflict for the rest of the series.

The arc starts off with...did...did Naruto just flip Sasuke off?

He Did! He totally did!

That's...kinda awesome. Way to sneak that in there Kishimoto.

Anyway, the arc starts off with more tension between Naruto and Sasuke, antics, etc, and we get introduced to the Sand Siblings. Which if you don't know who they are, congratulations, you are not a fan girl.


As another note, the humor in the opening of this arc is really good. Makes me wish Kishimoto wrote it more often.

Since the Zabuza Arc was so strong, I can easily see how readers would want to continue into this new arc. The story sets up several points of conflict, even setting up and resolving (mostly) Sakura's self esteem issues after being outdone by both Naruto and Sasuke. The issue will come up again later, but for now it was kind of strange seeing Sasuke as the one to cheer her up. Especially when I compare him to his current self.

The volume ends with the Chuunin Exams having not even started yet, but with how the conflict has been set up Kishimoto managed to hook his readers into picking up the next volume to find out what happens next. The entire continuation of the manga is based on Kishimoto having established a trust with his readers. Not only will they get some pretty decent character development, but the read will be entertaining as well as the plot intriguing.

If you liked my review, but the volume here: Naruto, Vol. 4


Raven the Foolish said...

I do remember this arc but faintly. It wasn't overall my favorite but it was one of the best done of all. I agree, Gato was a crappy villain but he went out in a way that I applauded for Zabuza killing the guy. Plus that guy just got on my nerves. Also, I never noticed that Naruto flipped Sasuke off?

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