Volume 28 marks the start of Part Two of the Naruto saga. Two years have passed since the end of volume 27. Naruto returns to the Hidden Leaf Village after training with Jiraiya. No soon does he get back that he, Sakura and Kakashi are sent off on a mission. The Akatsuki have attacked the Sand Village and kidnapped Gaara, now Kazekage. Distracted from Sasuke, Naruto is determined to save him. He understands Gaara’s pain, and will do whatever it takes. On the way, Kakashi’s team, now including Granny Chiyo from the Sand Village confront Itachi while Guy’s team, sent by Tsunade to help Kakashi’s team face another Akatsuki, Kisame. They are diversions, sent to keep Kakashi’s team from reaching the Akatsuki base before they finish extracting the One-tailed demon from Gaara.
Part Two of Naruto starts off with a much bigger bang than the first. It starts by showing how much Naruto and Sakura have grown and changed. Naruto’s taller, and he’s gotten better at his ninjitsu, but not much else has changed. Sakura is a completely different story. She has been studying under Tsunade for the last two years, and has come out not just as an accomplished medic, but as a stronger and more confident person. She’s not timid and unsure like she was in the last part. She still has Inner-Sakura, but Inner-Sakura is fun. Now, Sakura has the power as well as the will to stand next to Naruto in a fight.
In my review of the first Naruto wave, I spoke about the story’s theme being about friendship. These two volumes continue that, but in a
different way. In the last review, it was about Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto. This time, it’s just as personal for Naruto, in a way that no one else can really understand. Naruto and Gaara are are the same in that they are Jinchuriki, carriers of the tailed beasts. Naruto can understand the pain and loneliness Gaara has been through. While Naruto was able to make friends and gain an extended family, Gaara was always alone. Through this, a bond has been forged between them, and Naruto now will never let Gaara be alone again. Some of the best scenes in these two volumes are the comparisons between Naruto and Gaara, as Naruto sees it. Naruto and Gaara, crying alone. Naruto standing with Master Iruka, Gaara alone. Naruto with Iruka, Kakashi, Sakura, and Sasuke, Gaara alone. These scenes are very moving, with simple pictures saying more than any words could. This is the power of a great manga.
And let me just say how cool Gaara looks now as Kazekage. The long black coat, black rimmed eyes and huge jug on his back just shouts awesome when he first shows up to defend the Sand Village from the Akatsuki attack. We see how much Gaara has grown and changed from the angry boy who only thought to kill in the first part. Naruto’s friendship has affected him, and it has made him into a leader his people care about and are proud of, because he now cares about them too.
The battle scenes are still pretty awesome, as Kakashi’s team and Might Guy’s, which is made up of Rock Lee, Tenten and Neji take on the Akatsuki. We finally get to see Guy do more than just smile with a glint off white teeth. He’s got some seriously strong moves, proving he’s not all talk. Kakashi shows off his Sharigan eye more too, pitting him against Itachi. Although defeated, they aren’t truly stopped. I liked all the scenes in their base, with the members we haven’t met yet still shrouded, while the members we have met are in detail. Those details will be filled in soon enough though.
Volume 29 ends with Team Kakashi meeting Team Guy in front of the Akatsuki’s base, trying to find a way in. Once again, Kishimoto has shown what a strong story he can make with Naruto and gang. Their determination and strength kept them moving and their bonds of friendship are rock solid. Seeing such positive messages, both obvious and subtle are such a relief to read. With the world continuing to be filled with dark themes and anti-heroes, it’s nice to have one that is a hero not because of his power but his stength of belief in friendship. I still highly recommend Naruto as a great series to read, and with Voluem 28, there’s enough of a break that new readers can jump in here and not be too lost.
Review copies provided by publisher