Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $7.95 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
Quite possibly the best Naruto volumes released this year.
Personally, Volume 30 of Naruto will always be remembered as the volume where Sakura stepped up and showed her true colors and great strength. I like to believe that Sakura always had it in her and it wasn’t until the loss of Sasuke and her determination to get him back by learning everything she could from the Fifth Hokage that Inner Sakura’s true potential was unleashed as she battled alongside Granny Chiyo.
Whatever the reason behind Sakura’s brave front and powerful blows, the truth is that the cute, weak girl we knew is gone and in her place is a young girl who is willing to push herself to her very limits to get the job done. Of course, Sasori is a powerful foe and no matter how powerful Sakura has become it is a fight that will take a lot from her … including, possibly her life. A powerful puppet master, Sasori, manages to deflect all the tricks Granny Chiyo throws at him and in the last volume he revealed that he himself is a living puppet of sorts.
So how do you kill a living puppet? Sakura and Granny counter with tricks of their own, including Granny’s ability to summon multiple puppets. Unfortunately, Sasori can top that by summoning over a hundred puppets so the fight becomes far bigger than when it first started. We can see now why Kishimoto has put aside Naruto and Kakashi’s pursuit of the Akatsuki explosives master when a battle this fierce stands out like the shiniest coin in a fountain. Its surprising conclusion is also one of the more exciting moments to happen in this new chapter in the Naruto saga.
In the meantime, Naruto and Kakashi attempt to take down Gaara’s attacker who had taken flight. It’s Kakashi who foils the Akatsuki villain by means of a new Jutsu that surprises even Naruto. This attack allows Naruto to reclaim Gaara. Seeing Gaara in an unresponsive state angers him to the point that Naruto unleashes the power of the Nine-Tailed Fox … which is reminiscent of his transformation during the waterfall battle against Sasuke. It frightens Kakashi and makes him wonder what exactly went on during his lengthy absence with Master Jiraiya.
Team Guy, defeating the foes that were used to distract them, does manage to show up in time for the Akatsuki to literally self-destruct like a living bomb. With the attackers defeated, Sakura and Granny Chiyo encounter the group standing over Gaara. During the battle with Sasori, Granny Chiyo has pushed herself to the limit and, at one point, even used up a lot of Chakra to come to Sakura’s aid during the most intense part of the battle. Upon seeing Naruto break down in tears over Gaara’s fate, it is Granny Chiyo who makes an ultimate sacrifice.
I won’t say more seeing as it will spoil the ending but let me say that it emotionally connects in ways that past Naruto volumes merely skimmed through. Naruto’s true feelings come out for the first time, really spelling out for everyone how being an outcast really made him feel and what it means to carry around the burden that is the demon within him. It is Naruto who truly understands Gaara. It is Naruto who believed in Gaara and was genuinely happy that Gaara became a Kazekage. It was enough for Granny Chiyo to step up and perform a powerful Jutsu. In the end, it’s endearing to see that much like Naruto, the people of the Sand Village also felt the same way. Finally, somebody much like Naruto not only gets respect but is also loved enough that people wept for him.
Naruto, Volume 31, is easily one of the best volumes among a long list of favorites. It’s an exciting, hold-no-punches and finally emotionally-charged volume that is surprising to find in a single volume of the series. To my friends who think that Naruto has finally run out of steam I hand them this copy and they come to realize what I now know … Kishimoto has always known how to tell a story but he also has the power to surprise you every now and then with brilliant volumes just like this one.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Where do I start? Sakura will be remembered for bravely facing off against a wicked puppet master and really bringing all her new Tsunade-inspired training to the table. Naruto’s battle in this one isn’t as exciting but he makes an emotional impact in the end that will be felt into the next volume.
The art is simply stunning in this one and the action flows nicely from panel to panel. There’s a lot to look at and love in this volume.
Bar none, one of the best volumes of Naruto to come along in a long time. It’s a story of bravery, action, loyalty and sacrifices that will decide the fate of what was once a great villain and now an even greater ally. Believe me when I say that you won’t be able to put down this volume.