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.