Monday, June 21, 2010

Manga Reviews: Naruto Volume 6

Trying to stick to a schedule is hard. Especially since some of these reviews take much longer than I thought they would. But now that I don't have classes or homework to worry about I'm able to structure my days around my writing more. This includes getting blog posts written on time so I can get through all the different topics I want to blog about in a timely manner. I kinda over planned myself during finals week, so I wasn't able to get anything done there. I had to drop one review I was going to write, that I didn't decide was as crucial, and might still write later, but not at the current schedule I've set.

Volume six starts with Kiba, Shino and Hinatat taking down a rival ninja team, drawing the first blood of the fight.

Well, sucking the first blood at least.

Granted Hinata really hasn't done anything yet, but so far Kiba and Shino have demonstrated the most ability among the rookie nine. I know that at this point we're meant to root against them in favor of Naruto's group, but I'm really finding myself rooting for them. Switching back to Naruto's group, where they're squabbling about urinating of all things, makes me realize why.

For the record, this:

Isn't quite as satisfying as this:

But it'll do.

Turns out Naruto was captured by an enemy ninja, who then tried to sneak up to the other two and steal the scroll. Fortunately he's dumber than Naruto, and overlooks some fairly obvious details in his transformation. Kind of how in the Spider-Man cartoon the chameleon puts the eye patch over the wrong eye when transforming into Fury. Only the Chameleon had an excuse, this ninja does not.

After beating off this ninja they decide that they need a password. When they get separated again Sasuke asks Naruto for the password, and when the latter gives it perfectly, Sasuke attacks him, because there's no way that Naruto would be smart enough to remember the password. This amuses me.

This is also where they encounter the main villain, Orochimaru, who remains the main villain up until after the time skip. I'll get into what happens to him after the time skip later, that is still a long ways off. Orochimaru's snake theme is perfect for a villain, snakes are already nightmare fuel for me, giant snakes just make it worse, and when it's a human with snake like abilities, like fangs, an extend-able tongue and the ability to stretch his body and move like a snake, then you've got one freaky, terrifying villain.

Granted, when the bodies of those that he killed stole the faces of are later discovered, I can't help but wonder if he's a bit of an idiot. He may have power, and a freaky animal theme going on, but you'd think that any kind of threatening villain would have to be intelligent. Leaving your victims in plain sight does not suggest intelligence.

I'm also loving this volume as much as the last one, because while we don't get quite the epic pwnage of Sasuke...

We still get to see him wuss out completely and get shown up by Naruto, whose more guts than skill personality finally comes in handy. He puts up a pretty good fight before he is subdued by Orochimaru. Surprisingly enough, Sakura actually has something good to say about him.

Well, there is still a bit of an insult hidden in there, but at least she's getting better at not being a complete witch. So credit where credit is due.

Sasuke fights back against Orochimaru, effectively chastised for his pussy behavior, but is defeated, despite putting up a good fight. I may not like Sasuke as a character, but his early fighting techniques really make for exciting reads. Of course this is before his fighting style becomes the incredibly dull discovering a new power every fight. Aka/ Plot Hax no Jutsu.

With both Sasuke and Naruto out of commission Sakura finds herself alone, with two unconscious boys in the middle of a forest filled with enemies. And given what a pervert Sakura has proven herself to be she probably wouldn't mind this if not for the "Forest filled with enemies" part.

Anko confronts Orochimaru, and we get another exciting, yet brief, fight scene that really was the staple of this manga, and the reason that it did so well. Say what you want about his characters, Kishimoto really is good at action scenes. Whether this will hold true for the rest of the manga is yet to be determined.

Besides learning more about Orochimaru's plan, we also learn that Anko has a cursed seal mark, just like Sasuke just received. I don't know if Kishimoto remembers this, I can only assume that he must, but it hasn't come up again in quite a long time, so I don't know if it will ever make a comeback. It would be quite interesting to see Anko use the transformation that Sasuke later learns to abuse.

Poor Lee, missing that last leaf is almost like Kishimoto is saying he's too nice a guy to get what he wants. And given how he gets shafted for screen time later on, I have to admit that theory is sounding more and more plausible.

The biggest surprise of this entire volume however, is that Naruto's team isn't the biggest failures in their graduating year. Seeing Ino, Shikamaru and Choji's team absolutely fail is not only hilarious, but it also makes me appreciate Naruto's group all the more. Sakura may be exactly like Ino, but at least she has a team that actually puts effort into their fights.

I can't stand it anymore. I know this probably won't show up in the fan translations I've been using in this review, but it's all over the official English volumes. Someone, please tell me, what the heck is "Lub Dub" supposed to mean? I've seen some ridiculous sound effects, but this one just takes the cake. And it's been driving me crazy for the past few volumes!

When Sakura is confronted by the three Sound Ninja (am I the only one who thinks ninja with powers based on making sound are kind of ridiculous?) she actually sets a pretty decent trap. Too bad it does her little good. Oh well, stand aside Sakura, it's time for you to be saved.


It's Rock Lee to the rescue, and this volume keeps getting better and better. But will purely physical attacks be enough to counter the sound based pressure blasts of the...

Holy crap tree root!

Apparently pure physical strength will do just fine. I know I said that Rock Lee is one of my favorite characters, but he's also the least believable. All the others have the excuse of "magic" to explain their powers, but just pure physical strength being this high is quite unbelievable. It is also incredibly awesome.

Congratulations Shikamaru, you are my new favorite character. And congrats on not looking like a monkey.

Unfortunately Lee gets his butt kicked, while at the same time we discover one of the major weaknesses of the series, taking a break from the action to explain the individual powers and techniques. Granted, I don't mind it quite as much, and it is nice to finally really comprehend Lee's Lotus technique. When I first read this manga I didn't understand the concept of our bodies only using a fraction of our strength, to preserve our muscle structure and tendons. I'd already read this part when I discovered this little factoid, so I didn't remember that Kishimoto already used this idea when I decided to use it for my own story. Now I feel like a plagiarist, but I'm just going to claim great minds think alike.

With Lee down, and no more traps left, Sakura has to take the offensive, and I have to admit, compared to her previous effectiveness in battle, she does quite well. Her skill may not be nearly as high as Naruto or Sasuke's, but she definitely proves Naruto's guts before skill philosophy. Unfortunately she also gets beaten, that seems to be happening a lot this volume. But just in the nick of time, after Sakura has proven that she isn't worthless, Ino and her team come in to save the day, ending the volume on yet another cliffhanger.

Compared to volume five this volume moves at a much faster pace, with much more action. The fights that we get are interesting and fairly creative, exhibiting Kishimoto's strength for action. Anyone that has made it this far into the manga isn't likely to give up any time soon. Me being exhibit A, considering how much the manga frustrated me at times in the future.

Ironically enough, rereading these volumes from the beginning has gotten me interested in the series again. It may have its issues later on, and at one point I'd decided I wasn't going to spend the money on any more Naruto volumes than the ones I already had. But these early volumes, especially this one, are genuinely good and worth owning.

If you liked my review, buy the manga here: Naruto - Vol. 6


Raven the Foolish said...

I have no idea where you are getting the Lub Dub thing from at all. I really don't see it. To be honest, this part of the arc is fuzzy for me. Eh, sorry but when I started reading this manga, I actually started reading it for the same reasons you're doing this review thing: Why the heck is this thing so popular? So technically, I had half a mind to care about the characters until sometime after this... Also, Ninjas with Sound Powers? I made sure not to think about that much.

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