Alright, I’ve waited long enough. I’ve gotten enough asks asking me about what I think about things, so let’s get this started. It’ll be under a read more, because this is going to get long.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not saying all of Naruto is bad, or that all of it has been invalidated, or that things that were good are no longer good. Nor am I saying that Kishimoto cannot write, that he should not have written the series, or anything of the sort. I have no personal hatred against him as a person, and such feelings are irrelevant in this discussion.
I personally feel, that when you produce something and ask money for it, that you are open to criticism. This is not a critique of him as a person; that’s irrelevant. I will focus only on the work that has been produced, and I will explain exactly why I do not like it, and what parts I do like.
Also, I will not go into ships, because they don’t mean anything to me personally, except when I talk about a specific topic, and that won’t be a bash or endorsement of any one ship.
Now, let’s get into this.
I’ll start with 699, because there is a lot to praise in this. Had this been it, I probably would have been happy. I think there are issues with it, but I will give credit where credit is due, and I want to start on a positive note.
The biggest success with 699 is the question of Sasuke; he’s been a major problem writing wise, because it often seemed like the writer had no idea what he was or what to do with him. Was he a hero? A villain? An antagonist? A protagonist? What was Sasuke?
Then the question of what to do with him after the war came up. It seemed really hard to try and find a way to do anything with him besides kill him or throw him in jail.
And in this, I am willing to praise Kishimoto for taking the third door; having Sasuke basically be exiled and told that if he does anything wrong that its back to being a villain is a good move. It basically puts him in the role of Batman at the end of the Dark Knight; he’s basically disappearing from view, while still remaining an enemy and he isn’t being given safe haven from those who still want him dead. And that is a good way to handle it. It neither redeems him nor damns him. It keeps him in limbo, ensuring he can keep being used later on for more sequels.
A lot of things were shown, such as Atsui and Samui being removed from the jar, showing Tenten’s prowess with weaponry, and keeping Darui’s promise. The little things liek that, made the chapter feel like everything was working out. This was the moment of triumph; and I felt satisfied with it.
But we have to get into the negative, and there was a bit. First, Sakura. Now, as I said I don’t care about who she’s shipped with. I don’t. Who bangs who is not something I’ve ever cared about. It’s more troubling to see that she is reduced to a crying, demure girl in front of Sasuke, when she’s a warrior and arguably the strongest kunoichi in existence. For all the work put into Sakura over the course of Shippuden to make her not seem like she was at the end of the original series, this seems to be a major backpedaling. Why portray the woman who has no qualms about being a tough warrior as suddenly being unable to be anything but the child she was when she was first introduced? This has nothing to do with whether or not you like or hate her; from a writing perspective its inconsistent with what she was written to be.
And really, that was perhaps the largest gripe with 699. There were other small things, like Yamato and Sai not being considered part of team 7, but I can understand the moment of the original three being back together again.
Now, lets get on to 700, which may as well be the elephant in the room.
But let’s start with the positives, which are few and far between. First, I like the tribute between the first and last pages. That’s a nice touch. I like that Gai and Kakashi had a moment. I liked seeing Lee being Lee, and that he hasn’t given up on his beliefs.
Now let’s get onto the bad stuff.
First, many people are upset with the fact that everything was neatly wrapped up, with little to no consideration to the fact that they just went through war and had a great deal of emotional trauma to deal with.
Second, they skipped twenty years ahead it seems, and paired everyone off, seemingly at random.
Third, all of the character development towards the pairings, approving of them or not, seems to have been thrown out the window entirely. consider for a moment that Hinata, whose entire arc throughout the series was to become more confident and sure of herself, is now put into the role of being a housewife. I will not comment on what kind of one she’d be, only that it seems odd that her arc was to be brave, only to then put her into a position of her not having to be.
The problem with the pairings is that it seems like we missed something. Which we did. Granted, I believe that any pairing can work out given the correct development. I believe that all ships are equally valid. But what has happened is that we went from before any of them were even considering dating because they were in a war to twenty years later when they’re suddenly paired off and had kids.
Consider that Ino’s development, being that her father just died and her also working in Torture and Interrogation, has completely been scrapped. Sakura’s training as the greatest medical shinobi to succeed Tsunade is entirely disregarded in order to make her a housewife. Tenten has given up her dream to be a legendary kunoichi to open a shop and do nothing. Temari has seemingly become bitter and emotionally cold, probably because she’s now also a housewife. Anko is now obese and jovial, despite the whole traumatic life that she’s lived as a science experiment, because fat people are funny right?
And it’s not just the women who have lost any and all character development. Choji has, from his appearance, given up being a shinobi, totally undoing all the lessons he learned from his father about what it means to be the head of his clan. Shino has, for some reason, taken over Iruka’s job despite the fact that everything we’ve seen of him would indicate he was poised to take up the mantle of his own father. Kakashi apparently just sort of did nothing and then retired. The former Kage have done nothing it seems, and the current Kage don’t have a point for meeting.
I’ll cover Naruto and Sasuke on their own in a moment, because right now I want to get into the idea of shinobi. At the beginning of the series, shinobi were portrayed as being those who did jobs for hire. Essentially, they were mercenaries. Every major country had a village that acted a the place to hire them, and these villages were also hubs of commerce and culture. Later, we found out that villages were founded when clans came together after the “warring states’ period. This in turn turned shinobi from mercenary families to political entities.
However, at the end of the war, no one is doing anything remotely shinobi-like. Which seems to indicate that after the war, shinobi no longer kill people or take jobs. Which raises the question of why you need a Kage, why you need shinobi, why you have an academy, and why any of this matters at all.
If we consider that the goal of our protagonist, Naruto, was to become Hokage, then we must ask what it means to be Hokage. We must ask what that means to him. In the beginning, it was to be recognized by the people who hated and shunned him. This changed later to be him wanting to protect his village.
But if there are no threats, if there is no need for any kage or shinobi, then becoming Hokage is pointless. It becomes an empty office devoid of meaning or payoff. Even if you wanted him to become Hokage, the entire thing feels empty. If we all agree that at the end of the war Naruto was not ready to become Kage, and he wasn’t in terms of emotional maturity or age, then him basically having the seat waiting for him reduces Kakashi to that of a placeholder; a lame duck kage for a now pointless position.
But lets get into the two big issues, which are Naruto and Sasuke. Consider that, the entire series continually pointed out how they both suffered and we alone, and came to two different conclusions. Naruto became the extrovert, causing problems to be acknowledged by people who ignored him. Sasuke became the introvert, taking that loneliness and turning it into hatred.
So we have two people, both who suffered from lack of parents, both who suffered from lack of affection and care, now both being neglectful parents themselves. Yes, there is the statistic that children who are abused by their parents are then more likely to do that to their own children, but this isn’t the case here. This is a situation where Sasuke is more focused on wandering around aimlessly, and Naruto is more interested in his job than to pay attention to his own child.
And really, the questions and issues are different for both of them. Most people, even if you like Sasuke, could see him being a bad father. He wasn’t a great person, so being a bad father is not exactly out of the question given that he has always been self interested as a character. The question for him is when did he have the time to have a child with Sakura as an outcast and wanderer?
Naruto is a bigger issue. He has essentially abandoned his child’s needs in favor of his own job and happiness; he tells his child not to do things because they’ll make him look bad. One would ask why his child is acting out, and this may be a case where the writer is attempting to say that the kid is like the father, but that would be forgetting that the kid was the way he was because he was abandoned and ostracized. Which means that if the kid is acting that way, then Naruto is seriously neglecting his parenting duties, and it also means that he essentially dumped the children on Hinata the way Sasuke dumped his spawn onto Sakura, because clearly all women are good for is raising kids in this world where women are known for being killer shinobi and all around badasses.
And that makes me question the point of the series. What is its message?
It seemed to be that Naruto, as a character, was the force of change. He was a break with the past. He was going to mark the end of the old era of past grievances and found a new era.
But it seems like the new era he’s a part of is one where children are dumped onto their mothers, where shinobi cease to mean anything, where Naruto is no better to his son than the village was to him, where Sasuke has not learned anything, where the new era feels worse than the old one.
And I think that’s really the problem here. This feels empty. It feels unsatisfactory. It feels like it was a cheap way out.
And the reason it feels this way, the reason it feels empty, is because this “happily ever after” ending feels like a dystopian nightmare rather than a fairy tale. This isn’t a happy ending. This is an ending where, even if your ships became canon, it feels wrong. All the reasons you might have shipped NaruHina or SasuSaku were tossed out, and what you were given was a universe where the reasons you were told it shouldn’t happen occurred. And if you don’t ship these things, it feels worse, because there is no joy in saying that you knew this was a bad idea.
There is no joy in this ending. There is no triumph. There are no good feelings. This entire ending is like meeting someone as an adult that you saw when they were in elementary school. They were a cute kid then, but now they’re a burnt out meth-head and all you can say is “what happened to you?”
And that’s this ending in a nutshell. It feels bereft of any enjoyment because it essentially shows that not a single character ended up happy. Not a single one of them ever managed to do anything that they wanted to as a kid. Not a single one of them grew up and achieved their dreams.
They all basically grew up, abandoned their dreams, moved to the suburbs, had kids, and were miserable for the rest of their lives.
That’s how Naruto ends. And that’s why its awful.
Anyways Thank you Kishi for everything you were the reason I got into anime