Monday, September 29, 2014

Examining Naruto's Ending: Did Kishimoto Get It Right?

This is probably my 3rd or 4th article in regards to Naruto’s forever ongoing “ending” but at last it seems like we’ve finally reached the end of the road for this long journey. We’ve arrived at the inevitable conclusion of Sasuke flipping the script and deciding he will do things “his way” and that Naruto stands in the way of his goals, as of course he always has. While several fans of the series are sharing in a collective orgasm over the thought of finally settling the score once and for all, I want to take the time to reflect on how we got to where we are now and whether or not it was the correct way to end the series. When I say correct, I am merely speaking from a subjective standpoint in analyzing the content in which Kishimoto has laid out for us.

As we have seen in recent chapters, as all looked to be wrapping up in a nice fashion Sasuke, as stubborn as ever, turns on his Team 7 comrades that he just risked his life with in order to save the world, in order to start a revolution. He has captured all the Tailed Beasts and trapped them each within their own Chibaku Tensei. Naruto swears that he will stop Sasuke and become Hokage first in typical Naruto fashion. Thus, the two leave for the Valley of the End to settle the score once and for all because apparently the two can’t have a fight anywhere else for some reason. In all seriousness, the reason for this is to call back to how Part 1 of the series ended with the two having an inconclusive end to their battle. So what better way to have them settle the score once and for all and end the series.

Naruto has been pushing towards this climax since the end of Part 1, but does that make it logical or even good for that matter? Well, as far as the logistic side of things, it both makes sense yet at the same time doesn’t. Anyone who is familiar with this series knew of the apparent inevitability of this clashing occurring. It has been foreshadowed throughout the entire series. Part 1 left us with an inconclusive finish to the battle between the two as neither one could finish off the other. Later in the series as the two clashed again, it was a draw between the two and Sasuke swore that next time they fought; he would kill him to which Naruto responded that if they fought, then they would both die. Itachi also added some foreshadowing into the mix as he asked Naruto what he would do if Sasuke turned against the leaf which Naruto replied he would stop him and told Itachi to leave Sasuke to him. Further signs were shown during the war itself when Sasuke claimed he wanted to “burn everything down” and that he’d be the one to “sever the ties from the past” indicating his desire for revolution.

All of the signs were there for Sasuke’s eventual turn and for an ending in which the two would once again be forced to clash with a decisive winner.  However, with that said, I still feel as though this ending was incredibly rushed and forced. One could argue that this has been a slow build and we are finally receiving the payoff, but in the context of the story that isn’t quite the case. We strayed so far off this path that at this point, this not only seems forced but contradicts everything that Kishimoto has established to this point in the convoluted events that have taken place since the beginning of this war.

All throughout the final saga of the story, Kishimoto had worked on building this idea of an ultimate peace. The entire purpose of the war was the clashing of ideals on how to create peace. Obito (and by extension Madara) waged the war in order to achieve their goals of casting the Infinite Tsukoyomi on the world.  The Allied Shinobi forces were founded on the premise of protecting the world and preserving peace. We are shown all throughout this war how untied the shinobi world has come. Even traditionalists such as Ohniki have changed as a result to this war. All the shinobi in the world dawned the moniker of “Allied Shinobi” as opposed to representing their individual nations, showing their union in order to obtain peace. Kishimoto founded his entire ending on breaking the “cycle of hatred” and had made strides to do so in earnest. However, Kishimoto has lost sight of that goal caving to the fan demand in order to see Naruto and Sasuke clash. Kishimoto has stated he had this all planned from the beginning, but the events we have seen unfold in the past year of the series are so convoluted and disorganized that if this was all actually planned out as he has said, then he didn’t put much effort into his planning.

This isn’t to question Kishimoto’s abilities as a mangaka as much of the story he has produced has been phenomenal, but it is hard to stand by an ending with so many holes in it. The ending of a story is paramount. Without a good ending to the series, the fan base does not feel a catharsis in the way they should. Instead, we are left with an ending that not only makes all of the events that have happened in the series thus far seem meaningless, but the only consistent thing about this ending is how much it contradicts previous events in the series.  One could even go as far as to argue that the entire purpose of Obito, Madara and Kaguya was just to segue into a scenario in which Sasuke and Naruto could become as over powered as possible and fight without interruption. We have seen too many “plot twists” in who the main antagonist of the series is. Obito was a pawn of Madara, who was a pawn of Black Zetsu, who uses Madara’s body to revive Kaguya, who essentially is a pawn herself for Black Zetsu as he directs her in what to do throughout a majority of her time as the main villain. The entire purpose of all of these plot twists was to get Naruto and Sasuke to literal God-tier power levels.

There is no catharsis in an ending with a revolving door of villains in a very short span who accomplish nothing and in return essentially waste our time in order to segue to Naruto vs Sasuke. Fans of the series need to take off the nostalgia goggles and lay off the nerdgasms over the epicness of Naruto vs Sasuke to realize that the events that have led to this fight make absolutely no sense and overall do nothing to build towards this ending. Let’s assume Naruto does defeat Sasuke. Then what? If Sasuke doesn’t die after being defeated, how do you justify letting him to continue to roam around freely knowing he is a much bigger threat than Madara was? You can’t necessarily put him prison either as it is clear no prison at this point can keep Sasuke incarcerated unless he is sealed away somehow. Even if the world is saved, the cycle of hatred has not been broken. Peace cannot be established based on an ending in which, once again, the incarnations of Asura and Indra waged war. Naruto has not overcome hatred; nothing has been gained from such an ending.

The only real way to break that cycle while still executing this fight is for Naruto to talk no jutsu Sasuke, which much like their impeding battle, appears to be the all but inevitable end for this series as Naruto seems to win all of his battles like this. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I know I have said it before in previous articles, but I still firmly believe despite much detest from fans who thought that the series could not end without a Naruto-Sasuke battle, I felt as though the series was better off ending with them not fighting. In fact, I believe Kishimoto should’ve ended awhile back with Sasuke and Naruto defeating Madara to save the world. That would have been an ending that would bring catharsis as it is the greatest representation of this generation learning from the mistakes of their predecessors and finally putting an end to the cycle of hatred, and what a better representation for this than Madara, the embodiment of what has become of the cycle of hatred.  Even when the spotlight was turned over to Kaguya, it still would’ve been a sufficient ending, albeit a lackluster one. At least that same message could be conveyed as the reincarnations of Asura and Indra were able to seal the embodiment of all chakra in the world. Kaguya, despite being a very underwhelming antagonist and failing to live up to the hype, would have served for a more fitting final opponent than what we are currently receiving.

I am not arguing against a Naruto-Sasuke clash happening, but the set up for it was deplorable. After finally defeating Kaguya and saving the day, Sasuke, as stubborn as ever, decides to selfishly act on his own desires for revolution. What exactly does this gain? Not only does it show that Sasuke hasn’t learned a damn thing from any of this, but it also feels unnecessary at this point. In the past year, we have recycled the spot of main antagonist FOUR TIMES. This not only discredits every single predecessor who carried the moniker prior to Sasuke, but also is a testament to Kishimoto’s indecisiveness to figure out how he wants to execute the ending of this series. Even though I feel that the story was better off without doing this fight, it still could have been salvaged due to the massive amounts of buildup and foreshadowing.

Instead, we are left with a discombobulated jumble of confusion and convoluted plot twists to forcibly shoehorn this fight into the story. Even the Sage of Six Path’s role in this story has been greatly diminished. The once thought of legend and God of shinobi has been resorted to a means to not only massively power up Naruto and Sasuke, but also serve as the one who sets up their battle.  While I am just as excited as everyone else to see how the events of this battle will play out, I simply can’t ignore the fact that the set up that has got us there has been downright awful.  Hopefully we can see some signs of salvation in the upcoming weeks, but I remain doubtful that Kishimoto will be able to save this train wreck he has presented us with. As much as fans might not want to hear it, even Naruto vs Sasuke is not enough to salvage where we have gone with this ending. Instead, Kishimoto has been forced to pander to fan demand in what has been nothing short of a disaster of an ending.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Naruto Chapter 679 Rant - Everything Wrong With This Chapter

Guys, let me start off by saying that I have really been on board with a majority of the things Kishimoto has done with the ending of Naruto thus far. You guys have witnessed me speak praise about the ending, talking about the ending with Madara "bringing things full circle". But these last two chapters have made it impossible for me to continue to stay on board with what Kishimoto is doing any longer. The worst part about it is, he had such a good ending in place that made perfect sense within the boundaries of the story, and just took it and threw it all right out the window. All of the progression we have had built up towards the end of the series has been destroyed by these past two chapters in specific.

Unlike some people, I have really been a fan of the way Kishimoto was handling the ending to Naruto. Everything that was being done had purpose. I know some people specifically whom were not fans of the introduction to all of the stuff dealing with the Sage of Six Paths, but as I stated in some earlier articles I felt that it was a necessary plot thread that needed to be tied together in the ending of the story. It made perfect sense too, especially in regards to the fact that towards the very beginning of the Fourth Great Shinobi War, we began to head towards a mythical ending dealing with the Sage by involving the legendary Juubi into the mix. These were necessary pieces of the story that couldn't be ignored. So Madara, being the only person to awaken the Rinnegan through natural means (kinda) and the only person to read the full contents of the tablet in the Uchiha hideout, was the perfect choice to be the main antagonist of the series. Not only was he a myth in and of himself to the shinobi world similar to that of Hashirama, but he was the only person to come in contact with the Sage's power. So ever since Madara gained the power of the Sage of Six Paths, it was a point in the story that still made sense towards a logical ending. However, all of that, like much of the rest of the series thus far, has been thrown right out the window.

It only took me about 10 pages into this chapter before I had to stop to take a break due to the sheer amount of backtracking and just straight up bullshit. That's all there is to it. Usually I am more eloquent in my choice of words when writing, but this chapter was so bad that I'm just going to call it how it is. First off, this chapter continues to expand on the shock of last chapter when Black Zetsu turns on Madara. That was just the beginning and it only got worse from there. We learn that Black Zetsu was not Madara's will as we had initially thought but was instead that of Kaguya's and has been manipulating Madara this entire time. If I remember correctly, Black Zetsu wasn't even manifested until Madara had recruited Obito to do his bidding. So in what context could Black Zetsu possibly have been manipulating Madara if he didn't even exist until right before Madara's death? It is entirely possible that Black Zetsu was present the whole time inside of Madara before being given a physical presence, but we just can't confirm that fact at this point in time because we simply don't know if this is true or not. Now don't get me wrong, I love unpredictability and plot twists of this magnitude, when they are executed correctly. Black Zetsu back stabbing Madara (literally, right through the heart) was one of those things that seemed to be done to more or less drag out the ending of the story.

We have been foreshadowed throughout the entirety of Naruto that Madara was going to be the main villain. As much as I favor Tobi/Obito as the main antagonist, the second he was hiding under the alias of Madara Uchiha it was clear who the true villain of this series was. Everything about Madara being the final villain made sense and was executed nicely up until now. What was the point of not only deliberately making Madara the main villain to reach the very end and not only dispose of him in favor of another villain, but to literally one shot kill him and reduce him to nothing more than a pawn? Nothing about it makes sense. There was a point in those first 10 pages of the chapter when Black Zetsu started referring to the things Kaguya had done where I thought that Kishimoto was literally about to make Black Zetsu the main villain as opposed to reviving Kaguya. The manner in which he was speaking made it appear as though Black Zetsu wasn't just the vessel for Kaguya but just the remnants of her spirit left behind. That would've been a whole different rant entirely had that been the case.

After this, we are revealed another shocking revelation that I'm calling bullshit on and that deals with the other form of Zetsu which is the White Zetsus. You're really going to tell me, that after 600 odd something chapters of telling us that White Zetsus were created from Hashirama's cells that all of a sudden in actuality White Zetsus are the result of people being cast under the Infinite Tsukoyomi? Really Kishimoto? I've come to expect those types of mediocre, convoluted plot twists from Tite Kubo, but I thought you were better than that. This doesn't account for the fact that Madara had been pumping out White Zetsus using Hashirama's DNA or that Obito and Kabuto were able to use Yamato to mass produce White Zetsus for the war. Either you forgot that fact or you think that we're just too stupid to put two and two together. It just doesn't work that way. I heard the argument that it is possible that Madara found a means to produce the White Zetsu's using Hashirama's DNA and the Gedo Mazo but you can't have it both ways. We're basically starting from scratch here in saying that the White Zetsu are actually what becomes of those cast under the Infinite Tsukoyomi because there was nothing in those first 678 chapters to support that claim and there is no way to spin how Obito and Madara were able to mass produce them if this were the case. Keep in mind people, I've written a full page worth of complaints and I haven't even started yet on Kaguya's revival.

After taking a break after those first 10 chapters to type out my complaints in a message to a friend, I figured it was time to continue the chapter with no further expectations for this chapter to be salvaged. The more I read from this chapter the worse it got. After those first 10 pages I proceeded to continuously message my friend as I gutted out the rest of the chapter. Shortly after the point I stopped to take a break, Madara and Black Zetsu both disappear and we are left with none other than the Rabbit (Demon) Goddess herself, Kaguya Ootsutsuki. I had no problem with the introduction of her character because it expanded on the origins of the Juubi, the Sage of Six Paths and chakra but in no way shape or form does it make any sense for her to be the main antagonist of the series. Unlike Madara, she had no ties or connections to anything that was occurring in the present world. It would have made more sense for Madara to be the inheritor of her will and power and to battle the reincarnations of Asura and Indra in Naruto and Sasuke who possessed Hagoromo's power. The torch needs to be passed and let the current characters resolve their own issues in order for the world to progress forward towards true peace. Madara represented all the things wrong with the current shinobi world and also represented that obstacle that Sasuke and Naruto were going to have to overcome to break the cycle of hatred. Kaguya's presence as the main villain attributes nothing to the overall ending of the story. I was fully on board with Kishimoto's decision to introduce the Sage's history and the history of how everything we've come to know in this series has come to be, but Kaguya coming back offers nothing towards providing closure at the end of this series.

The worst part of Kaguya being the main villain, is we literally know nothing about her. The only thing we know is that she was the first human to use chakra and cast Infinite Tsukoyomi before in order to stop the fighting. It's obvious that her character is designed to want true peace as opposed to having an inherent evil agenda which is another thing that doesn't make sense. From what we were told, her intentions are pure to bring about peace, yet her methods were very forceful and brought about an era where humans weaponized chakra, which is the problem we are dealing with today. Everything from her power, to her motives in reviving herself, to why she is the main antagonist are all unknowns. At this stage of the story, we need clarity on all of these facts which is what we had with Madara to a good extent. Now all of that has been tossed aside and we are again starting from scratch.

Speaking about Kaguya's abilities, we may not know a whole lot about what she is capable of, but one thing is for sure, there is no way in hell Sasuke and Naruto are touching this bitch in combat. Kishimoto once said that he had no idea how he was going to kill off Madara because he was too powerful, so not only did he make Madara overpowered to the extreme, but he then has him killed off in favor of a villain who not only one shot killed him but also dwarfs him in comparison to their power level. To put things into perspective about how overpowered Kaguya is in comparison to Sasuke and Naruto, it would be like sending Naruto and Sasuke from part 1 in to fight Pain. This is with Hagoromo's power mind you. She even calls them out on their bullshit that they currently are only even at the level they are because they possess Hagoromo's power. These guys weren't even on Madara's level once he obtained both of his Rinnegan, and this bitch one shot him before she was even revived. There is no way they are disposing of her through Sasuke and Naruto playing the heroes here. This brings me to my final point.

Does anyone remember a few chapters back when Tenten realized she was in possession of the Sage's magical tools and that they could be helpful in this fight? Yeah well that happened and that's clear as day foreshadowing for how they're going to dispose of Kaguya. As much bullshit as Kishimoto has pulled out of his ass recently, this is the only for sure thing I can say about the ending of Naruto anymore. Those tools are going to be critical in the end of it all. They are going to have to use them to dispose of Kaguya because their power alone won't do it. This leads me to believe that the ending will go one of two ways. They are either going to A) be forced to use the Sage's tools and work together as a team to distract Kaguya and seal her away for good or the more likely scenario because it is almost to cliche to not happen B) they work together to seal up Kaguya, which they will accomplish. Our heroes will think everything is over, the world is saved and then bam! Kaguya is still alive, their attempt to seal her fails and it looks like all hope is lost when Naruto goes Super Saiyan 5 in order to stop Kaguya. Either way, it's complete bullshit. I can't help but feel betrayed at this point because I feel like everything that has been built up for over 600 chapters was all bullshit and is completely irrelevant to the story. It feels as though if someone wanted the gist of Naruto, all they would have to do is read these last 40 chapters and even half of the information in those is bullshit and lies.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Examining Naruto Chapter 674 - Is Madara Too Powerful?

Well it's been a week since I wrote my article in regards to chapter 673 of Naruto and what the future holds for us. A few of these questions have been answered, especially in regards to my speculation about Naruto and Sasuke's abilities using their new found power of the Sage of Six Paths. Other questions such as Madara still hiding a few tricks up his sleeves in terms of his power as well. With that said, there were even more questions raised this week and now it's time to discuss what has happened this week and what it means for the future of Naruto.

For me, this chapter got off to an amazing start. Last week, we left off with the battle between Madara and Naruto and Sasuke was about to kick off and we sure jumped right into things here. The chapter was titled Sasuke's Rinnegan and for good reason. A lot of the early going in this battle gave Sasuke the chance to shine and show off the true power gap between someone who has awakened the Rinnegan naturally as opposed to having them implanted such as Obito and Nagato. His visual prowess was increased exponentially as well as his speed. Sasuke was not only able to keep up with Madara, but at points was even able to exceed Madara's speed. There was a huge sense of nostalgia here for me in watching Sasuke and Naruto battle as a team. I'm not even referring to the fact that they've walked two completely different paths and are finally on the same page again. No, here I am referencing the fact that their first true main fight in the series was together when they battled Haku. In that fight, Sasuke was the one coming up with the strategies and the same thing could be said here. This fight is a true reflection of where we started, and where we are going to end. In that battle with Haku, Sasuke was able to (truly) awaken his Sharingan and Naruto was able to unleash the Kyuubi's chakra for the first time as well. In the fight with Madara, both have maxed their potentials as Sasuke not only has his Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan but the Rinnegan as well and Naruto has maxed out the full capabilities of senjutsu as well as having the capability to use the chakra of all nine tailed beasts. We really are at the end and it's so uncanny how similar the first main fight for our protagonists and our last main fight (as far as we know) for them parallel each other so much. As stated, we got to finally see the capabilities of the duo. While Sasuke truly shined this chapter, Naruto still had his moments of greatness but not as much as the previous two. I believe this was done intentionally by Kishimoto due to the lack of Sasuke the past two chapters, but it still felt a little disheartening to see Naruto differing to Sasuke. I understand why with Madara's limbo ability (which I will discuss here in a minute). Naruto could sense it, but he couldn't actually see Madara's movements with it so he needed Sasuke's visual prowess to know what to do. However, Naruto should still be giving input in how they should be approaching Madara instead of completely deferring to Sasuke, but it is still early on so I'm sure there will be more collaborating as the fight continues onward. I really have no complaints about the beginning of the fight. For about 11-13 chapters, I was hooked, completely on the edge of my seat for every single thing to ensue in this battle. After that point though, the chapter plunged downwards.

For the first time since his revival, it felt like Madara was finally in real danger. In all respect to Gai, he did his best and did some major damage as he was almost able to kill Madara, but that was the point. Madara wanted the thrill of being able to fight a true master of the eight gates ability. While obviously it was not Madara's goal to die, he was enjoying being taken to the brink by Gai. Here, there were no fun and games for Madara. You could tell from the very get go, he was in some serious danger and he was not too thrilled with the threat that was posed to him. For the first time since his battle at the valley of the end with Hashirama, Madara was in serious danger of being defeated. I have to comment here on the limbo ability which Madara has been utilizing. Using the abilities of the Rinnegan, Madara is able to cast an undetectable shadow of himself into the other dimension known as limbo. This was a very unique ability as it gives quite the spin on the shadow clone as well as the dimensional attacks which were utilized by Obito and Kakashi's Kamui. It was quite the intriguing ability and it was cool to see how Sasuke could see through it as to this point, we only knew small hints of what the ability was from Naruto's ability to sense it.

After these points, this is where the problem starts for me. Madara, for the first time feeling danger, almost wilts to the competition that is presented before him. For a power hungry, battle loving maniac, he didn't seemed to be too thrilled with the challenge. I've never been the biggest supporter of Madara, but I don't outright dislike him as a villain. I just think a lot of what he does is predictable, such as his actions in this chapter. Madara, sensing that he is in danger, swoops behind Kakashi and steals his Sharingan in order to leap over to the other dimension. His intentions in stealing Kakashi's eye were obvious, he is going to the other dimension to take back his Rinnegan from Obito before he has the chance to crush it. This is the point where my problems with the chapter really begin. We've been made to believe throughout this series that implanting eyes is a complex process, not just something you do on the fly in mid battle. Every instance where we have been shown eyes being implanted in this series, it was a process and not just something you did. Madara on the other hand, throws that idea out the window when he implants Kakashi's Sharingan mid battle. Although, I suppose he did kind of do this earlier on with the Rinnegan. Either way, it's been Madara bending the rules every time with no clear explanation given to why he is able to do so. Sasuke had the same chakra from Indra as Madara and had to take time to recover from having Itachi's eyes implanted. So that excuse is thrown out the window. I assume some would make the argument about him being the Junchuriki of the Juubi and having the power of the Sage of Six Paths, but he implanted his original Rinnegan before accomplishing that feat. I don't like the idea that these eyes can just be taken in and out with no repercussions. It'd be like getting a Bijuu extracted and being able to live because fuck it why not. At least we got explanations for why Naruto is still alive, Madara on the other hand can just pick and choose what eyes work and which don't like they're freaking Mr. Potatohead pieces. I feel as though people just brush aside all these inconsistencies with what Madara is doing just because it makes him even more badass. It also bothers me that Kakashi was so vulnerable and helpless at this point, considering all the things he has done throughout this war.

This brings me back to the title of the article. Is Madara too powerful? I know a lot of people will just be mesmerized with the stunning accomplishments Madara is achieving, but this creates a real problem for the story. There is nothing wrong with creating an insanely powerful villain, but what if it damages the plot? What if Kishimoto is writing himself into a hole here where the only foreseeable outcome is to resort to some form of deus ex machina? Would fans of the series still be so captivated by Madara if there becomes no way for him to be defeated in a fitting matter? Clearly, there is no chance in hell that Madara just wipes out the face of humanity and successfully utilizes the Infinite Tsukoyomi. So there has to be a way for the heroes to match him and overcome him. However, Kishimoto is setting himself up to create a situation where there is literally, no believable way for Madara to be defeated. Yes, Sasuke and Naruto have achieved the power of the Sage of Six Paths, but they were barely on par with Madara when he only had one of his Rinnegan, what happens if he gets both? I remember reading that Kishimoto stated that he couldn't figure out a way to write off Madara. Whether or not this was a joke is irrelevant, he keeps pushing towards that point. Even worse, if he was serious and doesn't know a believable way to write off Madara, making him stronger and stronger isn't going to remedy the situation.

Obviously, we don't know whether or not Madara will actually obtain the Rinnegan as there are a number of options that can come from the current predicament facing Obito and Sakura. Obito could potentially sacrifice himself and use his Kamui to teleport Sakura back. Then this would raise the question of whether or not he'd be able to do so with or without the Rinnegan. If they are able to send the Rinnegan over, what do they do with it? Do they give it to Kakashi in order to fill the void left by his Sharingan being stolen? I find this to be highly unlikely, but then again, crazier things have happened in this series. Obito and Sakura could also still crush the Rinnegan before Madara could get it, but would they even have the time to do so at this point? Madara would clearly have the speed advantage on them. Even if they do so, wouldn't it be a death sentence for the both of them? The only way Sakura survives that scenario is if Obito either, somehow, finds a way to use the Kamui and send her back over after the crush the Rinnegan before Madara kills them both, which is unlikely. The other scenario to arise there is that Obito uses the Kamui to send both Sakura and the Rinnegan over and she crushes it asap. Otherwise, if none of those scenarios come to fruition, it would appear as though both Sakura and Obito are on the verge of death. I don't believe Sakura is going to die, so I believe the most likely outcome would be for Obito to sacrifice himself in order to save Sakura with him losing his life and his Rinnegan to Madara in the process. At this point, there would be no telling how powerful Madara would be. I will go on record as to say that I believe Madara, at this point in time if he gains his other Rinnegan, has virtually become the definition of hax or overpowered or whatever you want to call it. There is no other way around it, while others may argue that this adds to his greatness, I am of the opinion it has made him virtually one dimensional. At the same time though, even if I don't find him to be the most intriguing villain, he definitely earns the title of being a formidable final villain and a good choice as the final obstacle for our heroes.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Current State of Naruto - Examining Up to Chapter 673 and Onwards

Credit goes to: DesignerRenan and gaston18 form DeviantArt

Following the completion of Naruto chapter 673, I was left in such a euphoric state of excitement for what was to come in the climax of this series. This was, in my opinion, the best chapter Naruto has produced in a long time (despite some minor problems I will discuss here in a moment). So I figured, after such an amazing chapter, what a better time than now to discuss my thoughts on the recent events of the series and what is still to come. Let me say now before I get into any further detail about the current events of the series, IF YOU HAVE NOT READ UP TO CHAPTER 673 OF NARUTO, NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO LEAVE UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE HEAVILY SPOILED OR DON'T CARE TO BE SPOILED!

Credit goes to: MitchB3 from DeviantArt

With that said, onto the details. Now, as I hinted in the introductory paragraph, this chapter got off to a very disappointing start for me. The past few weeks, we have finally been introduced to the true power of opening the eighth gate. We've been teased with the legendary power of the eighth gate for a long time now, so seeing what a person is truly capable of after opening the eighth gate was a remarkable moment. Gai reached a point that if it were not for the power of the legendary Sage of Six Paths possessed by, now, a multitude of characters, he would be the strongest shinobi in the entire manga, and that's saying something with the incredible feats we've seen accomplished throughout the series. Eight Gates Gai was able to nearly defeat Madara in his Sage of Six Paths mode. The hype surrounding the eight gates was real and well warranted. However, as we saw in chapter 672, Gai had reached his limit and tanked Madara with his final attack. This however, was not enough to kill Madara and Gai was left completely devoid of life and quickly approaching his death. At the end of the chapter, right before Gai died, Naruto came in and re-lit his chakra flow in a sense. Now, it still was not yet confirmed that Gai was going to live until this chapter. Naruto reassured us that he is in fact Ninja Jesus and is able to bring people back to life (half joking sadly). Naruto was able to use his newly acquired So6P power to save Gai's life. Now, it's not that I wanted to see Gai die, but imagine how much more of an impact his opening of the eight gates would've had if he would've been forced to exchange his life like we were led to believe one must do? It would've given his efforts great merit and given a meaning to what he was doing. Now, not only do I feel cheated by the hax power that eight gates is since the consequences aren't as meaningful with Gai keeping his life, but I also feel that his efforts were a giant waste of time. Not only did Gai use his ultimate attack against Madara to, virtually, have no affect since Madara was able to absorb the Chakra Tree to regain full strength and even get stronger, but his entire fight was more or less just used with the intent to buy Sasuke and Naruto time to gain the power of Asura and Indra from the Sage of Six Paths himself. This is more of a gripe for me from a plot standpoint than what Gai actually attempted to do since, obviously, he wouldn't have known what was to come with Naruto and Sasuke's massive power increase. From his perspective, both were on the verge of death and someone needed to attempt something drastic to stop Madara otherwise they would've been completely wiped out. But from our perspective, knowing what we know now, it feels as though this legendary power we were foreshadowed was used as a stalling tactic to give Madara something to do while he awaited Naruto and Sasuke's power up more so than anything. I feel as though Madara's regeneration after absorbing the Chakra Tree wouldn't have felt like such a slap in the face had Gai died in his last ditch effort to tank Madara, since Madara obviously wasn't gonna be defeated by Gai but it was nice seeing that Gai's power was almost capable of completely tanking Madara.

Credit goes to: EspadaZero from DeviantArt

With that rant out of the way, I can focus on the second point that I wanted to talk about and that is Madara. If any of you keep up with my blog consistently, you would've read my character analysis of Obito and his impact as an antagonist for the series. While Obito grew on me and was such a compelling villain, Madara is the opposite for me. I know a lot of people would disagree with me on this point, but I believe that Madara is one of the weaker antagonists of the series. For me, a great antagonist has a lot of psychological elements involved in their characterization. Not only this, but they have several layers to there character and can become more than just a one dimensional character. For me, a lot of what Madara does that doesn't involve fighting is very dull and uninteresting. A lot of what he states in his dialogue is just regurgitated lines we've already heard from Obito. Now, one might argue that these were Madara's viewpoints to begin with since he was the one who warped Obito into doing his bidding. However, Obito had the benefit of being present throughout a good majority of the series so we got to grow with his idealism and experience it first hand. At this point, even if these were all Madara's views being spoken through Obito, it greatly hurts Madara that it's all stuff we've already seen and heard. Originality is a villain's best friend, so the fact that a lot of what he has said in his dialogue is all crap we've been hearing for years from someone else greatly hurts his characterization. I do like Madara's cocky, brash arrogance that he has consistently displayed since his introduction, but other than the "cool" or "badass" factor, Madara is pretty bland. I do enjoy watching Madara's battles as he is clearly a two-timing, evil mother fucker who will sacrifice anyone and everyone to get what he wants, but other than those aspects of his character he is pretty much your standard generic idea of what a villain is. He seeks power, and nothing but power to rewrite the world that has wronged him (or at least that appears to be his motivation). Madara, as stated before, is power hungry and all of his methods seem to involve violence and the only thing that interests him is battle and warfare. This doesn't mean Madara is a bad villain, he is doing his job just fine as what I would expect as your standard "final" hurdle for our heroes. But for me, a villain is more memorable based on their depth and characterization more so than anything. For me, Madara is just the Kenpachi of the Naruto-verse. His methods aren't very complex and from what we have seen thus far neither is his motivation or characterization. Obviously, he still has a lot to offer us in which he can redeem himself for these perceived insufficient traits, but as of now it appears as though everything he does is one dimensional and what you see is what you get.

Credit goes to: DEOHVI from DeviantArt

With those points out of the way, time to focus on our two main characters. Naruto and Sasuke have both finally resurfaced and are ready for the final fight. It is clear now that our final fight is upon us and after much speculation as to how Madara will be defeated, it is clear at this point that it will almost certainly be Naruto and Sasuke who are the ones to do it. In the past few chapters, we were finally introduced to the Sage of Six Paths and got all of the loose ends tied up as far as connections between characters and the story. In a way, it finally makes sense now why Obito's Sage of Six Paths transformation felt so wrong. Obito, thus far, was the only person with the Sage of Six Paths power up to be almost completely transformed in terms of appearance. Now it is clear that this was almost certainly because he did not possess the chakra of Asura or Indra and was not one of the Otutsuki reincarnations. More so because he wasn't an Otutsuki reincarnation since he did possess Uchiha blood and Hashirama DNA, yet the fact that he wasn't a reincarnation explains why Obito wasn't able to awaken the Rinnegan himself. As far as Madara, he was the initial reincarnation of Indra and possessed his chakra while Hashirama was the reincarnation of Asura and possessed his chakra. These two, like Asura and Indra, carried on the war of hatred that seemingly has been passed down throughout the Otutsuki family. After which, Naruto and Sasuke became the next ones in line for the transmigration of being Asura and Indra reincarnations and inheritors of their chakra. Madara, due to his infusing of Hashirama cells into his body and awakening the Rinnegan, which were the eyes possessed by Hagoromo, broke the cycle of transmigration by basically not dying. Thus, Madara now was able to reach the power and as of 673, seemingly the will of Hagoromo's mother, Kaguya. Almost as if a slap in the face of his mother's idealism, Hagoromo taps into Naruto and Sasuke's hidden potential as the inheritors of his children's chakra and awakens their Sage of Six Path powers. This has created an ugly family war to end the series through a series of transmigrated vessels. I, personally, am incredibly excited for this final fight. I know there were complaints earlier at the beginning of the 4th Great Shinobi war that the powers were becoming too overpowered, and this obviously takes the cake as far as being overpowered, but at the end of the day it feels right in a way. We've been foreshadowed to the power of the Sage of Six Paths dating way back to the early stages of the series. There had to be an explanation for all the craziness of the power that was the Sharingan, the Rinnegan, the Byakugan, the Tailed Beasts, etc. It wouldn't be a fitting ending if we weren't presented with characters capable of bringing about the true essence of these legendary powers. There just was no other way to go about it without everything being left unexplained. This final clash will not only decide the war once and for all, but will also give us the chance to see virtually gods in battle. At this point, the power scales go Madara, Naruto and Sasuke, followed by Gai right below this trio when using the power of the eighth gate, followed by pretty much everyone else way below them. As much as people might complain about how overpowered the characters have become, there was really no other way to do it when we're talking about the power of gods. The power of the Sage of Six Path basically puts you on God tier, minus Obito who was an incomplete incarnation of the Sage of Six Paths, so there really was no other way.

Credit goes to: Idaisan from DeviantArt

As stated above, the climax to the war is upon us. We have reached the final battle that will decide it all. Sage of Six Paths Madara vs Sage of Six Paths Naruto and Sasuke. While Madara has the full spectrum of the So6P power, Naruto and Sasuke have split the power between the two of them with one reaching the full potential of Asura and the other of Indra. With that said, one has to wonder, how much power do Naruto and Sasuke really posses? We pretty much know the full scale of Madara's power, albeit maybe a few tricks here and there up his sleeve, but we really don't know what level Sasuke and Naruto will be on. In 673, we were shown that Sasuke awakened the power of the Rinnegan and Naruto got the full Senjutsu power of the Sage of Six Paths. Now the reason I ask the question about what kind of power they possess is based on these two points. With Sasuke, we know he is able to touch Madara's staff the same way Naruto is able to. So I assume they can both touch the black orbs no problem (we know Naruto can since he kicked one at Madara like it was kickball in gym class plus he possess that ability himself). These makes me wonder, do those mysterious black orbs have something to do with the ultimate power of Senjutsu since it appears that Sasuke won't be using them? Naruto also appears to be once again dawning his chakra cloak, the same way he did when it was his Bijuu chakra cloak, only this time obviously being the Sage of Six Paths chakra cloak. I find it interesting that the color pattern is still yellow (representing the sun element of Asura obviously) as opposed to white as all other incarnations of So6P modes have included white in some form or fashion. We still haven't seen the full brunt of what Naruto is capable of, but I think based on his appearance in his So6P mode it is a lot more clear what kind of power he is going to possess than Sasuke. Another interesting thing to point out from this chapter is that Naruto was able to use Son Goku's chakra to form a lava Rasen-Shuriken. Does this mean Naruto can borrow power of all 9 Tailed Beasts? Speaking of the Tailed Beasts, I know there are more important things going on.... but does anyone know what happened to Bee? He obviously got the Eight Tails sucked out of him, so is he dead? It's almost as if Kishimoto kinda expects us to just forget that he was an important player in this fight. Anyways, back on track. So we got at least somewhat of an idea of what kind of power Naruto now possess with his So6P mode, however to say we are completely in the dark with what Sasuke is capable of is beyond an understatement at this point. The only things we know for certain in what Sasuke is able to accomplish in his So6P mode is that he is capable of touching Madara's staff without taking damage (a clear sign he has reached So6P power) and that he has awaken the Rinnegan. Now, this is where we tail off. We know Sasuke has awakened the Rinnegan in one eye while keeping his Sharingan in the other. Was this done as a preference by Sasuke or was it actually a strategic move in order to fully maximize both the power of the Rinnegan and Sharingan? I'm going to guess the latter as that would also explain why Obito chose only to swipe one of Nagato's eyes as opposed to both since his Kamui ability was almost like a survival mechanism for him. So Sasuke would be able to access Amaterasu, his Susanoo and all other abilities of the Sharingan as well as all of the abilities displayed for the Rinnegan thus far in the series. Now, this does make for an amazing combination of power, but would it truly justify being a full transformation for Sasuke into So6P mode? Especially considering Obito, albeit strong, was nowhere near So6P power when he possessed both eyes. Another thing to note is that Sasuke's Rinnegan does not appear to be the traditional Rinnegan, as it appears to be similar in appearnce to the Juubi's eye, so maybe he possesses an even greater ocular power that would put him on the level of So6P? I believe that there is still a lot more to be revealed about both of their Sage of Six Paths powers (more so for Sasuke) in the near future, most likely even next chapter.

Credit goes to: Gintara from DeviantArt

The final thought on my mind about the current state of Naruto is the unanswered question on everyone's mind: will Naruto and Sasuke still fight each other at the end of the series? As most people may know, Kishimoto has said that we are rapidly approaching the end of the Naruto series, with him actually planning to end the series before the 2014 calendar year is over. With that in mind, is it even possible to fit a Naruto and Sasuke battle in? While it is certainly possible, I have come to terms with the fact that for the sake of the story, it would be better to end the fighting with Madara. From a story point of view, it just makes way too much sense. As much as people would love to see a fight between So6P Naruto and So6P Sasuke to find out once and for all who is superior, it would actually make more sense for them to not fight. I know a lot of people are under the belief that a final fight between the two is inevitable all things considered. They had their initial brawl at the Valley of the End when they were children to end Part 1 of the series with no real winner as neither one really came out on top (even though Sasuke was able to walk away from the battle while Naruto was not). Not only this, but it had been foreshadowed all throughout Part 2 as well. Itachi hinted to Naruto before his own battle with Sasuke that Naruto may have to use force in order to bring his brother back to the village. Not only this, but after Sasuke's fight with Danzo when the two clashed again, it was hinted that they would fight again one day. So I can understand why people would almost feel cheated if the fight didn't happen but consider it this way: with all of the events in the story thus far, including all the stuff with Jiraya, Pain, Itachi and even Madara and Hashirama themselves, wouldn't it make more sense for the series to end not with another war, but with peace finally being achieved? A major theme throughout Part 2 has been about finding peace and overcoming the cycle of hatred, hell Madara is the embodiment of what the cycle of hatred has created. This has diverted the plot onto a different path than what we had been foreshadowed to before. Now, I'm not saying the fight won't happen since it is still uncertain how Kishimoto will handle the rest of his story, but in my opinion I would rather they don't fight. It brings the larger themes at play to full circle with the two reincarnations of Asura and Indra finally being able to overcome the bitterness and hatred that has been causing war for centuries and finally reach the peace their father, Hagoromo was seeking. While it would be cool to see these two fight, especially now having both obtained the power of the Sage of Six Paths, it would be better to bring the overall plot to a conclusion by having them conquer the embodiment of the cycle of hatred in Madara and the Juubi and finally restore peace to the world. I think that plot point is much bigger and more important at this point than Naruto and Sasuke being destined to fight. Obviously they were destined to fight due to the cycle of hatred, but for them to overcome the hatred to find peace would be a fitting ending. Not too mention this has been foreshadowed by other characters all throughout the war with Onoki even discussing his own desires to tear apart the current system of villages and keep the allied shinobi forces united in order to stop the hatred. I feel as though we've almost been building more towards that point than we have another impeding battle between Naruto and Sasuke. In fact, if that is the path Kishimoto chooses to take and does not have the two fight in the end, it would make even more sense as to why he decided to build it up as though they would. If he chooses that route, their previous confrontations would have created a foreshadowing to the fact that they were destined to fight due to the continuing nature of the cycle of hatred created by the Otutsuki family but were able to break free from that hatred due to Madara's road blocking of the transmigration by refusing to die. In the end, even though Madara and Obito came close to practically destroying the world, it could actually have been the best thing to happen to the world of Naruto... but first Naruto and Sasuke have to defeat Madara and that won't be an easy task.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Do We Fight?

Why do we fight? A question that is asked so often in media that it has practically become cliche. An element that is juxtaposed throughout the whole shounen demographic. In one form or another, fights are a staple in the battle genre especially from series serialized in Jump. The question I am offering up today is a simple one: Why? Why do we embellish the idea of people brawling it out in life or death battles? Why are we enthralled with the idea of who is the stronger competitor in battle? Why are we captivated by the magical moment of watching how the fights unfold and what twists and turns lie ahead? These are all questions that popped in my head as I finished watching this most recent episode of Hunter x Hunter. So today, I will be analyzing the art of the fight and strive to answer the question posed in the title of the article.

In analyzing the art of the fight, I think it is most important to look at the question of why. So why do these fights occur and why are we so fascinated by these competitions? Well, it's simple really. What it boils down to is it is human nature to be captivated with the sport of competition. This is why sports are popular, boxing and mma are popular as well as super heroes. People resort to these forms of entertainment to escape from their real world problems. Humans are competitive by nature, so this provides them an outlet to enjoy competition. These fights in anime also parallel the real world problems such as all the wars we experience daily. A lot of these battles are the perceived good guys defending the world from the bad guys. This concept is an escape from the real life fights and allows us to enjoy the good guys being able to overcome the bad guys since this doesn't always happen in the real world. Instead of more physical weapons (such as the guns and knives we use in real fights) they are substituted with more supernatural powers in this genre of anime. This isn't to say that guns and knives aren't present in shounen battle anime, but the primary weapon of war in anime is supernaturally based centering on weapon's made from human life energy. We want to be able to believe that embellishing war this way through magical powers is real because it makes it enjoyable and cool. This is why fights have become a staple for the shounen battle genre. We as humans are fascinated with the competitive nature of an all out battle.

Now that we've looked at why fights occur, the next step is to dissect the actual elements to what makes a fight so compelling. The first is the great conveying of emotions through battle. In my opinion, the emotional means to a fight is a critical element that is greatly overlooked in why certain fights are so memorable. There is no better example of this than a fight that occurred in Yu Yu Hakusho when Hiei battled one of three demon world kings in Mokuro. This was not the best physical brawl in history as much of the contest was heavily dominated by Mokuro, however it is still a very meaningful fights for fans because of the great emotional story that this fight centered around. Mokuro was attempting to get Hiei to accept wanting to live and they were in a sense professing their feelings for each other. It was magical to witness and is still one of my favorite fights from that series. But this isn't the only emotionally driven fight. Most of the best fight do have an emotional back story to go along with it. Just to name a few memorable ones off the top of my head: Gon vs Pitou (Hunter x Hunter), Naruto vs Pain (Naruto Shippuden), Luffy vs Arlong (One Piece), etc. The emotions that are poured into a fight really create a euphoric sense of "big fight feel" and keep them invested in every turn that comes to fruition in the fight. Emotions run high in situations that turn to combat, so often the combatant's judgement can be clouded creating for some intense and powerful moments.

Also going along with the emotional element of fights, story is just as pivotal in creating a special atmosphere for battle. People can debate this point as much as they want, but the best fights also have incredible build up and story telling throughout. Very rarely is a fight as memorable without a whole lot of story to go with it. To put it into perspective, Ichigo's fight with Aizen is viewed as a confrontation of epic proportions, but when examining the fight itself without the back story and build up to go with it, there really isn't a whole lot there to praise. In fact, that's probably one of the most one sided curb stomping's I've seen in any anime. So why is it so highly regarded? Well, the story telling and build up of Aizen's character really helped build fans' anticipation for the confrontation and gave them a sense of euphoria when Ichigo was able to put an end to Aizen's tyrannical dominance over the shinigami. It's just a simple, undeniable fact that often a fight can be derailed without a good story being centered around it. I honestly feel it is a critical element to what makes a fight more memorable. There is no better way to convey a story than through characters with opposing ideals having to clash in order to overcome their differences.

Another important aspect to what makes these fights is setting. Setting, in my opinion, is a crucial aspect for helping create the atmosphere of a fight. One of the first things our brains are able to recognize a fight by is the setting. The setting can be used as part of the fight as well. It has just such an enigmatic effect on fights that it becomes a key factor in what people will remember the fight for. One of the best examples of this for me is Natsu's fight with Jellal in the Tower of Heaven. That fight wasn't so great in terms of the actual combat, but it stands out for me because the Etharion background is so captivating and add such a cool element to the fight. Another fight that stands out for me primarily because of setting is Ichigo vs Ulquiorra from Bleach. Yes, this one was a very good physical fight but what I remember it for is the unique setting. The night time of Hueco Mundo was just so visually appealing with the soft white sand mixed in with the pitch black background of the sky. It was something that I'd never seen before having characters fight in a black and white space like that. So yes, in my opinion setting is a critical element of why we love fights.

The final element I think that is key to making these fights so compelling is the actual fluidity and innovative nature of these battles. We love fights because they provide a sense of entertainment like no other. The action and strategy presented keeps us on the edge of our seats and emotionally invested in what the outcome will be at every turn in the battle. Fights are more compelling when they are creative in their approach to it. We want to see the characters engaged in battle have to improvise and find new applications of their skills and abilities to overcome their opponents. We also are going to be more captivated by a back and forth confrontation where neither character readily has the upper hand. These are the types of aspects that make a fight memorable. We want to be thrilled by what we see. Fights need to be exciting while keeping your full attention with what is happening on screen. We, by nature, are excited by the unexpected and by competition. So the more these fights are smart, entertaining, competitive and creating, we are always going to be captivated by their magic.

So there we have it. Fights are always going to capture a lot of people's attention for the sheer entertainment purposes of wanting to be blown away by the sheer power of competition and unpredictability. It's only natural in a society that promotes violent competitive sports such as football, boxing and mixed martial arts that we'd also love the the supernatural battles that occur in shounen battle series. I for one, will always be a fan of fights in anime and manga series because of the reasons mentioned above. There is just so much that can be added to a series by having stories end through battles. It is a euphoric feeling of enjoyment that can't be created by anything else. I will always be a supporter of the series that attempt to carry on this tradition and I am glad to have gotten to watch a vast variety of all different styles of battle in anime and manga to write about my love for them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top 10 Anime Feature Films

Let me start off by saying this list is heavily opinionated. Everything I write in this article is my own opinion based on the anime films that I have seen. I haven't seen every anime film but I have seen a good amount. Also, like most of my lists, I have conditions for what I qualify as an anime "feature film" as I stated in the title. That means it is a standalone film and not apart of a series of movies (Ghost in the Shell Arise, Evangelion, etc.) or movies that are from a popular anime series (DBZ movies, Fullmetal Alchemist Sacred Star if Milos, Trigun Badlands Rumble, Cowboy Bebop The Movie, etc.). So the movies that I am writing about are the ones that tell a story in their given time frame and end it within that time frame. With all that said, let us begin!


Coming in at number ten is Madhouse's visual masterpiece, Redline. Directed by Takeshi Koike, The film is set in the distant future, where a man known as JP takes on great risks for the chance of winning the titular underground race.The film is famous for being in production for 7 years and ultimately producing one of the best looking animated films I've ever seen. The visuals of this movie are absolutely stunning. The film consisted of 100,000 hand made drawings and it shows in how insanely stunning these visuals are. Redline tells a simple story that is entertaining and action packed, but other than that there isn't really a whole lot to the plot. This is the main reason I can't put Redline further on this list is that it had such minimal plot. Obviously, this was done because the main selling point to Redline was for it's artistic visual masterpiece but it doesn't help the film. It is an exciting story and enough to keep you interested, but if it weren't for the art this movie would not have been as memorable or successful as it was. The minimal plot does fit in nicely though as it does not draw the attention away from the visuals and at the same time doesn't create too much to digest from what's happening on screen. This film will always be remembered by fans as a cult classic because of how brilliant the animation is. Redline will be remembered as the most visually pleasing film of all time.


Coming in at number 9 is Madhouse's psychological masterpiece Perfect Blue. Directed by Satoshi Kon, this psychological thriller tells the tale of a member of a Japanese pop-idol group called "CHAM!", who decides to pursue her career as an actress. Some of her fans are displeased with her sudden career change, particularly a stalker named Me-Mania. As her new career proceeds, Mima's world becomes increasingly reminiscent of the works of Alfred Hitchcock: reality and fantasy spiral out of control, and Mima discovers that Me-Mania is the least of her troubles. I credit this film as being the best horror story to ever be animated. This film has the feel of a real horror movie. This film does an amazing job of building suspense and keeping you on your toes the full way through. The story builds a very well told mystery that has you trying to figure out who the killer is throughout the film. The film's climax reveals the shocking plot twist that makes this film memorable. As a good horror movie should do, it keeps the killer a mystery until the very end when you finally figure out the whole story, This film is a shocking and twisted psychological masterpiece that will have you caught in the suspense throughout and is an incredibly good watch for adult viewers.


Coming in at number eight is the sci-fi cult classic by Production I.G., Ghost in the Shell. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, host in the Shell follows the hunt of the public security agency Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Motoko Kusanagi tracks and finds their suspect, only to be drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master. This film is a philosophical master piece exploring self identity in a technology advanced world. I recognize that Ghost in the Shell is an absolute masterpiece and one of the landmark anime films in history, however my relationship with Ghost in the Shell is very complicated. I love the film but for some reason, in the 3 or so times I've seen it, it just seemed to fly by up until the ending. It just seemed like nothing happened for like an hour and then we reached the climax where you are just hit with everything at once. Maybe the philosophical undertones just went straight over my head, but I never really got much out of the dialogue between the Major and the Puppet Master. With that said, the self identity elements of the movie are clear and are enough to make the story of this film memorable. I also credit Ghost in the Shell to be the second best looking animated film of all time that was done completely by cel style animation. If Redline was a testament to how amazing modern animation is and what can be done with CGI animation and hand drawn scenes, then Ghost in the Shell is one of the films that is a testament to what can never be replicated by today's animation standards and the amazing backgrounds that you can create with cel animation. As being one of the most iconic and original animated films of all time, as well as being the inspiration for the Matrix, Ghost in the Shell earns a spot on any and all top 10 anime films lists.


Coming in at number seven is Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke. Directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, the film follows the story of the young warrior Ashitaka's involvement in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who consume its resources. Mononoke was one of Miyazaki's most successful films, which is saying a lot considering the man's resume. Miyazaki tells the wonderful story of a young prince who is caught in a struggle between nature and progressive imperialism. Ashitaka is stuck trying to make peace between the struggle of the people of Irontown and the creatures of the forest who are led by a young woman named San. It's the old story of environmentalism and the damages of imperialistic expansion into the wilderness. Miyazaki, being an avid environmentalist brilliantly portrays this struggle well in this film. Not only is this struggle given  in this film, but he also adds in the supernatural element in the forest spirits. The scene at the end where the Forest Spirit goes on a rampage after being decapitated was absolutely brilliant and made this movie memorable. This is still one of Miyazaki's best and with good reason.


Coming in at number six is another Studio Ghibli materpiece in Howl's Moving Castle. Once again, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the film is based on the novel of the same name by English writer Diana Wynne Jones. ynne Jones's novel allows Miyazaki to combine a plucky young woman and a mother figure into a single character in the heroine, Sophie. She starts out as an 18-year-old hat maker, but then a witch's curse transforms her into a 90-year-old grey-haired woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless, she learns to embrace it as a liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. The change might be a blessed chance for adventure. Putting this as number six was tough for me because I've always stood by the fact that I liked this film better than another Miyazaki film that will appear later on this list, but throwing my bias aside, I believe I was able to fairly place this film. The adventure elements of this film were outstanding and as all Miyazaki films do well, was chalk full of good moral themes for us to follow. The underlying love story between Howl and Sophie goes along exceptionally well with the background war elements going on at the same time in the film. The film was extremely unique and creative and handled the fantasy elements well along with the everything else going on in the film. This was one of Miyazaki's best films and one of my all time favorites.


Comin in at number five is another film coming to us from Studio Ghibli in Grave of the Fireflies. Being one of Ghibli's first official films after the studio's founding, it also stands as one of their best. Directed by Isao Takahata,  tells the story of Seita, a young boy who has to take care of his younger sister Setsuko when their mother dies. Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most gutwrenching realistic films you will ever watch. Not only is it one of the best animated films of all times, but I would go as far as to say it is one of the best war films of all time. This film offers us a different perspective than most war films. Instead of focusing on the war itself, what Grave of the Fireflies chooses to do instead is focus on the effects of war on the innocent civilians. Seita and Setsuko are orphaned at the beginning of the film after their mother is killed due to the air raids by US troops. Seita is left to take care of his sister and attempt to survive. It is hard to watch as these two struggle to stay alive and is probably one of the most depressing films you will ever watch. It is so grueling to see these children die slowly right before our eyes. Grave of the Fireflies will ultimately go down as one of the most beautiful and haunting works to ever be produced from Japan.


Coming in at number four is Madhouse's Summer Wars. Directed by up and comer Momoru Hosoda, this film tells the story of Kenji Koiso, a timid eleventh-grade math genius who is taken to Ueda by twelfth-grade student Natsuki Shinohara to celebrate her great-grandmother's 90th birthday. However, he is falsely implicated in the hacking of a virtual world by a sadistic artificial intelligence named Love Machine. Kenji must repair the damage done to it and find a way to stop the rogue computer program from causing any further damage. Sporting a very large cast of characters, Summer Wars is an excellent feel good film with a lot to teach us. For such a short time to work with, Summer Wars is able to introduce us to such a larch cast and give them all screen time and development. You leave this film feeling like you knew each and every single one of those characters and that is a testament to what a great director Hosoda is. A beautifully touching film, Summer Wars makes you take a step back and appreciate your family. The film is very family oriented and displays the strong unbreakable bonds that exist within family. As stated by Granny, "never turn your back on family. Especially when times are tough". Couldn't have summed up why this film is so remarkable any other way. It is simple and entertaining but does a good job of telling a mixed tail about how close Japan is to falling into chaos due to the virus Love Machine. Not only are their undertones of family, but there is also a strong message about relying too heavily on technologically advances. Summer Wars makes us appreciate the simplicity of life, love and family.


Coming in at number three is Studio Ghibli's highest grossing film, Spirited Away. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this film tells the story of Chihiro, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. This coming of age film is ultimately Miyazaki's best and his all time greatest achievement as a director. This was the film that cemented his legacy as the greatest animation director of all time. Spirited Away was the first Japanese animated film to win an Academy Award. Spirited Away is full of memorable scenes that cement it's place in history, but none more memorable than when Chihiro is swept up into the spirit world. That scene is unforgettable and so memorable that it even garnered a parody scene in a recent Simpsons episode. This film is an iconic coming of age tale that so wonderfully captured the fantasy elements we are accustomed to seeing in a Miyazaki film. The imagination of this man is astonishing. How Miyazaki is able to come up with this awe inspiring, dazzling fantasy worlds is beyond me. This is one of the best animated films you will ever see, everything in it is close to flawless from the outstanding soundtrack to the exceptional tale we spend with Chihiro. Definitely, one of the greatest animated films of all time without question.


Coming in at number two is Madhouse and Studio Chizu's Wolf Children. Directed by Momoru Hosoda, the film tells the story of  Hana, who falls in love with a Wolf Man. After the Wolf Man's death, Hana decides to move to a rural town to continue raising her two wolf children Ame and Yuki. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies of all time, Despite being relatively new, this is without a doubt, one of the greatest films I've ever seen, period. It is an instant classic that should be seen by all. This film is probably the closest thing to flawless I've ever seen when it comes to animated films. From the story, to the music, to the animation, just everything is on top of it's game here. The story is very simple but told in such an exceptional way that it is just nothing short of remarkable. We follow Hana's struggle to raise her two children, Ame and Yuki, as a single mother after their father is killed. This alone is a great setup, let alone throw in the same identity issues as  a film like Ghost in the Shell and you have yourself one hell of an amazing movie.The film focuses a lot on the chose between the two children whether they want to live as humans or wolves. This portion of the story is excellently foreshadowed throughout and comes to a head at the very end of the film where the paths of the two children become clear. The scenes when Ame and Yuki have to go to school and they are leaving from their house where we are introduced to a right and left path are absolutely chilling. The left represents the way they take to school and the human life where as the right is the wilderness and represents the life of a human. Each time the paths are shown it sends chills down the spine because of how brilliantly this is executed. It is a very good watch that gets better each and every time you see it. Wolf Children is a special movie and nothing short of brilliant. With time, it may be the greatest anime film of there is. However, it is because of number one's iconic legacy that Wolf Children falls to number two.


If it wasn't obvious by now then you need to go see this film. Coming in at number one is Tokyo Movie Shinsha's cyberpunk classic Akira. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, the film depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Kaneda tries to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira. This film packs in a lot of material stretching out to be a 2 hour long cinema masterpiece. This however, still doesn't feel like it was truly enough to fully dissect the entire plot that Akira had to offer. However, the story told within the movie, albeit differentiating from the source material, is still a very captivating story as it is altered well by Otomo. It is a very complex story and kind of a cautionary apocalyptic tale. With Tokyo being destroyed by the uncontrollable psychic power Akira. Now, in the year 2019, the military is once again trying to harness the "power of a god". Akira's power is both feared and praised throughout the film. Unfortunately for Tetsuo, he is the second coming of this uncontrollable psychic power and is doomed to his fate to ultimately loose control. This was the first feature anime film to really break out over in the United States and start a wave of anime popularity over in the states. It is held in high regard as the landmark anime film. Even though the film is 25 years old, it has aged exceptionally well. It's visuals still stand atop of the anime kingdom as the greatest feat ever accomplished by cel animation. the scenery and backgrounds are the greatest to ever be produced in anime. The amount of detail is unreal. This film is not only one of the most iconic animated films ever made, but it is one of the greatest films made in general. This film is considered a cult classic and is a landmark in what can be accomplished with animation. It is indeed, a truly unforgettable masterpiece in every sense of the word.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shinobu Sensui - An Unconventional Idea of Brilliance

Following up my post analyzing the complicated situation of Naruto's main antagonist Obito Uchiha, I thought it would be a fun idea to continue on with the topic but change directions in the character. This time, I will be analyzing Shinobu Sensui, the main antagonist of Yoshiro Togashi's series Yu Yu Hakusho.

Sensui, much like Obito, is known to be a very diverse character with conflicting opinions from the anime/manga community. It seems as though a vast majority of the people who have seen/read Yu Yu Hakusho tend to under appreciate Sensui's character. Whether this is intentional or not, I think it is clear that Sensui is at least the most interesting antagonist of the series. I think Sensui's role in the series is heavily overshadowed by the villain and arc that succeeded his own. I believe a vast majority of people think of the Dark Tournament and Toguro to be the high points of the story. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg for Togashi's series. He followed up this arc with one of a much grander scale. Here, we are introduced to Shinobu Sensui, Yusuke's predecessor to the title of humanity's Spirit Detective. Sesnui's plan is to open a tunnel to Demon World which will in turn, bring destruction to the Human Realm. Simple enough right? Well, this is just the start to what Togashi had planned for Sensui.

Sensui provides one of the most bone chilling on screen introductions I have ever seen and has yet to be topped as far as making a statement with an introduction. While Yusuke's group is on a scouting mission trying to discover the source of the vastly growing epidemic of humans gaining psychic powers as well as a correlation with the growing number of demon entities being present in the human world, they happen to discover a human whom has the ability to read people's minds. Yusuke easily defeats the inferior human and forces him to help in their search to find who it is that is digging a tunnel to demon world. It is at this time he takes an eraser through the skull that Yusuke is able to lock eyes on Sensui who has one of the most twisted looks on his face before he disappears through the crowd of bystanders.

After this, Yusuke duels Sensui and his subordinates several times before they are finally able to come face to face in a one on one confrontation. During this fight, everything we have seen and learned throughout this arc about Sensui and his plans is completely tossed right out the window. Yoshihiro Togashi, being the masterful author that he is, completely hits the readers/viewers from left field with curve ball after curve ball after curve ball. Sensui, being scarred from his final case as a Spirit Detective before going rouge, has been left emotionally unstable and unable to cope with the harsh reality he has come to know. This has driven him to split off his personality across seven different beings, thus being revealed to have multiple personalities disorder. Yusuke only faces three of the seven personalities but ultimately ends up fighting the main personality.

Sensui's plan of trying to destroy human world is also flipped as the arc goes on. We come to find out that Sensui's ultimate goal with, in truth, to travel to Demon World to attempt to find the meaning to his life. Sensui wanted to see the world through the Demon's eyes to find peace within himself for all the Demons he had slain throughout his life. Sensui is ultimately defeated by Yusuke, who was being possessed by Raizen, and is able to come to terms with the life he had live. Sensui, after already having his character completely unraveled and twisted throughout the arc, is revealed by Itsuki to have been terminally ill and would've died in a few months had he not been killed by Yusuke. Sensui ultimately dies and his body is taken away by his lover, Itsuki, where they will spend eternity together in the dimensions between worlds.

I believe that people don't appreciate Sensui's complex character enough. Whether it be a dislike for his ideals, his changing character, his personality or because he was one of the only antagonists to be written as a homosexual, people just haven't seemed to be able to connect to Sensui the way they were able to Toguro. Maybe the fact that Sensui's motives and character changed so drastically as the arc went on made it difficult for people to identify with him. For me, Sensui is, and most likely always will be, my favorite villain of all time (yes Hisoka is an antagonist and my favorite all time character, but Sensui is a better villain in the truest context of the term). Sensui had it all, he was: interesting, charismatic, charming, eloquent, well spoken, badass, powerful, original, an idealist and overall, brilliant.