Naruto Volume 31
By Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $7.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Naruto and his fellow ninja engage in deadly conflict with the enemy.  If any of them makes the wrong decision, it could be one of Naruto’s closest friends who pays the ultimate price.

This volume finishes up the rescue of Gaara arc started back in volume 28.  Granny Chiyo and Sakura are fighting Sasori of the Red Sand, and Granny Chiyo’s grandson.  Meanwhile Naruto and Kakashi are chasing Deidara to get Gaara back.  Kakashi uses his Sharigan eye to get Deidara to drop Gaara, and then his new technique when Deidara tries to blow everyone up.  But is there any chance of saving Gaara?

The volume starts with the fight between Granny Chiyo and Sakura against Sasori.  He’s finally defeated by Granny Chiyo, trapped by the puppets of his parents and by a speel to seal his chakra, but not before wounding Sakura.  Granny Chiyo heals Sakura with a jutsu she created to transfer life into puppets.  As a reward for defeating him, Sasori gives Sakura some information about a meeting he was to have with an Akatsuki spy in Orochimaru’s organization.  This is a set up for the next story arc.

There seem to be a lot of setting up going on in this volume as well as loose ends tied.  Naruto’s determination to save Gaara and the sheer emotion at finding him dead really seem to impress Granny Chiyo, an old woman well set in the old ways.  But Naruto has shown the old ways and wars between Ninja clans can be surpassed.  She sacrifices herself to save Gaara, transferring her life to his, with Naruto’s help.  Before she’s done, she tells both Sakura and Naruto to keep going down the paths they’ve started, in a sort of passing of the torch to the new generation.  And at the same time, she is taking with her the old ways, just so the new generation can keep to their path.  It’s actually touching.

In volumes 28 and 29, we see several scenes of Gaara alone, and Naruto with his growing surrogate family.  In this volume we see that scene one more time, but in it, the child Naruto breaks away from his family to find Gaara and reach out to him.  It’s another wonderful scene as it transitions from Gaara and Naruto as children to them now.  Gaara’s wide eyed expression opposite Naruto’s gentle one is great.  It’s more great storytelling.  I just can’t say it enough.  Action’s nice, but when it’s set against moments like this, it makes it less frivolous and more meaningful.

The Rescue Gaara arc (as I’m calling it) is a great bit of storytelling.  If you ever need a reason to show why Naruto is a great series, volumes 28-31 is a great example.  The strong story punched with lots of action and fighting sequences show off all that’s great in Naruto and Kishimoto’s abilities.

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