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.