Tokyo Shinobi Squad Review

Time to check out the next cancelled title. Tokyo Shinobi Squad did make it over 19 chapters so I suppose that it deserves some kudos for that. Still, it is easy to see why this one did not continue. It’s a shame because there was a lot of potential here but I guess it just didn’t get good enough, quick enough. If you like ninjas and/or sci-fi then you will have a good time here. Since it didn’t get many chapters before ending, it makes for a quick read.

The story starts off by introducing us to the current world. In the future, ninjas are back in business since the entire world has devolved into a chaotic region. The world is unified, however it is unified by the darkness thanks to Globalization. Basically the Japanese Prime Minister thought that uniting the world would be a good thing but instead terrorists and other villains used this as their chance to make a move. As a result, there are no real governments or police officers anymore. What remains are really just there for show. No, every big company and group hires ninja to actually do the dirty work. This has created an entire movement of ninja within a master association and a lot of freelancers as well.

There is no safe spot in all of Tokyo or the rest of the world now. That takes us to the intro where a kid named Ed is being chased by a bunch of thugs. He’s saved by a ninja named Jin. Jin’s ninja squad is different from most as he is very selective about his targets and only accepts missions that he perceives as just. Ed can’t pay him for being rescued but Jin decides to look after the kid anyway. Ed has a legendary scroll of memory manipulation and now he is being chased by villains all over the place. Can Jin protect him?

The other part of the world building is that scrolls are effectively guides on how to learn special techniques like elemental blasts. If you study one for a long time you can eventually use the power. Some takes years and some take months depending on both the rarity of the scroll and the talent of the user. Fortunately the main character Jin is a prodigy so he’s master lightning spells like crazy. Although there are some power level issues here but we’ll get into that here.

The intro is really just about beating up some gangsters. The first real arc has the heroes go on a mission to grab some data. Taiga is one of the members on Jin’s crew and he doesn’t approve of En joining up. He thinks that the kid will hold them back (Valid point) and that this is too dangerous. (Fair) Jin uses this as a way to show Taiga how En can contribute. See, the villains are attacking so there’s no way to download the files. Fortunately En has a complete photographic memory so he is able to memorize 1TB of data within a few minutes. That is impressive and it’s also impressive that the computer could show that much info at once. That’s the most impressive part tbh.

Jin deserves some praise for putting En in a position to succeed here. It was a fun enough story but the first chinks in the power level armor are discovered here as Jin gets nervous about having to deal with fodder. After all lets think about this for a second. En had to memorize this quickly because the heroes had to run. This implies that Jin and the crew were possibly going to lose to random minions?? Now that’s wild.

In the next arc, the heroes have to guard a model since a lot of models have been attacked lately. This time the main characters are Jin, En, and Papillon who is the strategic member of the group. We get some decent action scenes here as Papillon fights her opponent while Jin and En dash out of there. Why did they have to dash? Because the villains are too strong! Notice a pattern here? It all ends well and Jin gets a good fight in the intro as well but you just feel like he should be doing better considering how impressive his reputation is supposed to be.

We then enter the climax of the series as a training arc begins. I’m starting to think it’s true that doing a training arc nowadays is ill advised as series seem to keep getting cancelled after doing that. So each squad has to go back to the association once a year to validate their ranking and potentially move up. This is apparently Jin’s squad’s first full year so this is a big moment for them. They end up partnering with another group of fighters who know Jin from way back in the day. Their leader is like Rock Lee, he has physical powers but no ninja abilities.

The test has several steps including beating up minions and heading to a gladiator arena to fight off a bunch of opponents. Honestly the tests were fairly entertaining. Perhaps a little generic but I had a good time with them. The battles were solid and Jin was finally winning his fights without being in a lot of trouble so that was good. In a way this ended up being the final arc even though we had some stories after that so at least we ended with some action.

After that we got two one shot stories and then the final event. The first oneshot story doesn’t have much of a plot except as a very convoluted excuse to have Papillon and Jin share a kiss accidentally. It involves a cleaning lady bumping them together which is as contrived as it sounds. The next story was Taiga’s origin on how he joined the group. He was certainly more of a delinquent back in the day. It’s nice to know his origin but with the series winding down it felt like this was something that could have been skipped.

The final two stories have the head of the ninja association show up to demand that Jin hands over the legendary scroll that he’s holding onto. Apparently it’s actually one of the 5 McGuffins and they feel Jin’s squad isn’t ready for this responsibility. He might be right to be honest and Jin does get wrecked here so they have the right idea. We then get a big time skip and a huge cliffhanger to end things off with so it’s time for that sequel to be announced someday. I think it is better to end things off on a cliffhanger instead of abruptly ending things because it at least does open the door to a sequel someday. Perhaps your next series will be a huge hit and then you can use your clout to continue this one. At least I like to think that’s what the author was thinking.

So the story was good here and the artwork is also pretty solid. It’s certainly better than a lot of the other titles that I had been reading through and it’s very easy to follow the action scenes along. The fanservice is mainly kept to a minimum, Papillon is the only character who has to go through this. I do think the way her powers are set up (She fights by using her clothing which disintegrates the more she fights) was really only created for fanservice which is disappointing but she only gets 1 real fight in the series so it doesn’t end up becoming a big issue.

Now, like I said, the power levels are a bit iffy here. It really all revolves around Jin. So when the series starts we are introduced to Jin as a super prodigy. They haven’t seen his level of talent in a long time and he’s going to shake up the entire ninja world. If this is the case then why does Jin get nervous when random chumps show up? Either the average fighter is so weak that even as a prodigy Jin should be having trouble here or the author just didn’t execute well.

I have to assume the latter here. They really should have just cut all mentions to Jin being a prodigy and treat him like a normal main character who gets the job done. I think that would have gone a long way towards helping his character make more sense. After all, I do like his personality and he does well as the lead. He has a lot of confidence and is always trying to help everyone. I can certainly appreciate that and while it may all sound generic, it really works. The guy is clearly a good leader and would only get better. It just feels like he doesn’t live up to his tough talk nearly as much as he should and it seems like this is because the bar was raised way too high right from the jump.

En was okay but not great. As with many kids in action titles like this, he just can’t fight much so I feel like he holds the characters back a bit. In that sense I thought Taiga had a point, the kid’s just too young. After the timeskip En seems like he’s really ready for this and would make for a good addition to the team. Before then he can be a support member but shouldn’t be out on the field. Naturally he gets captured at least once during the series and it makes things tough on the heroes.

Then we have Papillon who is a solid heroine here. Her whole romance towards Jin feels completely out of nowhere though especially considering how the two were making it clear that this wasn’t the case early on. She does well in the fights and helps Jin accept the right missions when even he has doubts. Without her the group may not have lasted too long since he needs someone to reign them in. Then we have Taiga who is the power hitter of the group. Potentially he may be even stronger than Jin based on the opponents he takes out. Again, this should make absolutely no sense so I like to think Jin would still win with his speed but you’d think that this shouldn’t even be debatable. I like how loyal he is to Jin and he beats up anyone who badmouths him.

There’s Kenryu who is the guy who knew Jin from back in the day. It’s always good to have a human in a world filled with magic just to show that they can keep up. Ultimately the power creep would ensure that this guy is doomed but at least early on it’s a good idea. I like the guy well enough and he has a solid honor code which is always important. The guy has a good rivalry with Jin although long term I think Jin’s going to need a rival that poses more of a serious threat.

Finally for the heroes we have Shimon who was Jin’s mentor and he’s one of the highest ranking members of the ninja alliance. The guy is strong and proved it by absolutely wrecking Jin. He seems like a nice guy who is ultimately shackled by the rules but does his best to give Jin a chance. It’s a shame that he only got to appear in the last 2 episodes of the series but he still makes his presence felt the whole time. That’s how you know that he’s for real.

Then there are a few big villains. We’ve got Kanan who knows how to go in disguise to mess with the heroes. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say that he was all that memorable. In fact, that’s an issue with most of the villains. There weren’t any who really made me think “Wow this guy’s amazing!” I think part of the issue is that they all feel like similar characters. They’re evil Shinobi who are evil because…they’re evil. There isn’t a whole lot of character outside of that even if their powers are different. The guy with ice abilities gave Jin a good run for his money for example but beyond his abilities what could I really tell you about the guy? He talks tough and all….but that’s about it.

So the villain cast was on the weak side even though I enjoyed the heroes. Now, I think it’s safe to say that this was cancelled in part because of the training arc and in part because the series did not do everything it could with the lore. There was a ton of lore and world building at the beginning but ultimately it just didn’t amount to much. So what could the series have done to avoid being cancelled? There are 2 changes I would suggest. The first is to remove any reference to Jin being a prodigy or he needs to win his fights a lot easier and not be scared of random minions. You have to do one or the other and that would fix the main character’s inconsistencies. I get the feeling that the series was trying to make him like Gintama who is a top tier fighter in his verse but constantly sandbags. The issue here is that we have no indication that Jin is messing around, he’s always talking really tough after all while Gintama has more gags.

The other thing is we need some kind of mystery or intrigue. This may seem random but here’s why. Globalization destroyed the world here but how? Perhaps there is some conspiracy in here so what I would do is make that the real reason for why everyone wants En’s memory scroll. This could also give En a reason to wonder if Jin is really helping him or just wants the scroll. As the series goes on and En starts to learn his abilities, he would find out more about the events and that could last for the first few arcs. It gives you something to think about in addition to the immediate issue. That’s my 2 cents on what could have helped this series at least.

Overall, I did enjoy this series. I thought that the action and heroes were good. It definitely worked as more of a unique title for me and I do think it had a lot of potential. It already had a very different feel from Naruto so I don’t think it would have felt like a clone even though it is ninja based. Jin’s Lightning Blade technique does feel like it’s straight out of Naruto but that’s where the similarities really end. I would recommend giving this one a read. Even though it’s cancelled it still makes for a good story and it’s never a bad idea to meet more characters right?

Overall 7/10

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Review

GI Joe is a film series that has really had a tough time making a name for itself. People know the franchise yet the movies all tend to get fairly weak reviews and Snake Eyes is now bombing at the box office. I thought the first two movies were great and while Snake Eyes doesn’t quite match their level, I thought it was very good. There’s just something about the franchise that doesn’t click on a national level but hopefully we still get some more films.

The movie starts with Snake’s (They call him Snake as a nickname during the film and it sounds more natural than saying “Snake Eyes” each time) father getting murdered by a group of villains. Snake is able to escape and vows revenge on these guys. We fast forward to the present where Snake works for the Yakuza. One day they turn on his friend Tommy so Snake is forced to defend him and they are both kicked out of the Yakuza. Tommy offers Snake a chance to join his clan by completing the 3 trials. The toughest part of this is going to be that the trials can be quite deadly and most people fail them. Additionally, the only way to win the trials is to have a clear heart and mind but of course Snake Eyes is still distracted by his origin as well as some secrets he is still hiding close to his heart. Will he be able to bluff through these trials or will his busy heart ultimately be his undoing?

Snake Eyes’ origin may be a little old at this point in how often the main character’s parent is murdered by some thugs at first but it is an easy way to steel Snake’s resolve for the rest of the film. The opening battle scene against the boxer in the underground fighting arena was a bit concerning. We get a ton of camera jumps and the guy holding the camera seemed to be getting dizzy as well so there’s a lot of spinning.

If all the fights were like that then it would not have boded well for the movie. Fortunately, the film really tightens up after that and the rest of the battles are on point. While the GI Joe and Cobra influences aren’t massive here, any fight scene with their factions is a lot of fun. Naturally the Snake Eyes sword battles are cool as well. I don’t anticipate this film’s battles winning against Moral Kombat or Shang Chi’s but they still hold up really well.

The best action scene might be early on when Snake and Tommy are fighting the Yakuza. It’s really early on but it was a good exhibition of their strengths. There are a good amount of fights so you’ll be covered on that front. It even makes things a bit funny when Scarlett and the Baroness show up since they just take out their guns and mow people down instead of bothering with the whole hand to hand business. They can fight that way too but guns are more efficient.

I enjoyed how stylistic the film was too. The title of the film shows up on a building, you have the time stamps appearing in random places, etc. It’s going for a very creative look over doing the normal kind of signage. It works well and while it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t really earn or lose any points, it was fun enough to note. The special effects are on point to be sure and while we don’t see Snake Eyes’ costume for more than a minute, it already looks really sharp. Then again, I’ve always enjoyed his costume in any iteration.

As a main character Snake is good but actually not as good as I thought he would be. The main annoying thing for me is that he really doesn’t make the right decisions. He gets manipulated quite easily and ultimately picks his own vendettas over his conscience. Lets just say that he’ll do anything to find the guy who murdered his father no matter who he has to work for. This is actually a character arc you mainly just see for villains. They ignore the fact that they’re working for terrorists in order to get their vengeance. Snake is no different and so because of that you really feel like he’s a villain for most of the story.

We’re seeing the film through his eyes so he doesn’t appear as bad as the average villain but when you put things into perspective…it’s not a good look for him. If not for a plot twist at the end of the film, he really may not have even made the reluctantly correct choice at the end. I expect things will be better for him going forward but I was just surprised with him here since I’m used to him being known as a really honorable character. In terms of other personality differences, he is a lot more talkative here.

It doesn’t look like they’re going to go the route of having Snake mute in this one and I’m cool with this. If you’re taking the franchise in a new direction anyway then you might as well go all in. He was able to have more of a personality beyond being the silent tough guy this time. I could see this version of Snake having a lot of good banter with the rest of the characters. I may have had my reservations on his hero status but Snake’s personality itself was on point. He’s always ready for a fight and has a super quick temper. Maybe none of that sounds like Snake but those are qualities I like in my heroes so long as they’re directing this at the villains. So lets see him keep that intensity up as a Joe.

As for Tommy, anyone familiar with the GI Joe mythos will know where he is going but it’s still nice to see the journey. He is portrayed as being stronger than Snake but considerably weaker than Kenta. Tommy always seems a bit unhinged especially with how he blows up at Akiko from time to time. He believes he is destined to rule and often times those kinds of characters are pretty dangerous. Tommy makes for a good character but from the start you are pretty sure he won’t be a big hero.

Akiko does a good job of protecting the clan. From the start she is wary of Snake and for good reason. The guy is constantly vanishing from the facility and doing his own thing. If anything I feel like she should have told the clan about this. Even if she couldn’t pick Tommy since he was too emotionally invested, tell the clan leader or one of the other fighters. With a few more people it would have been easier to figure out what he was up to. She may ultimately be a bit softer on Snake than she should have been as one of the clan guardians though. Not all of the blame should be on her as the clan defenses are just awful though. Feels like you can infiltrate the area and get to the gem with incredible ease. There’s no cameras to see people leaving or coming in at night either so the place desperately needs new equipment.

As for Kenta, he’s the main villain and the guy is tougher than I would have expected. He is consistently shown to be the best fighter in the movie. Even without his super weapon the guy would probably be too much for the other characters one on one. There’s not much to him beyond just being the big villain though. The film’s really more about Snake’s journey than the antagonist so you won’t remember him much.

Then you have the crossover characters who are here to get you hyped up for the next GI Joe film. Scarlett’s intro appearance is definitely like something out of Black Widow. She beats up a bunch of goons while talking to the heroes and explaining what’s up. In a lot of ways her character has always been similar to Widow’s just she is infinitely cooler. Scarlett’s role here isn’t huge but her fights are always a lot of fun.

Likewise for Baroness who shows up to remind the ninja that Cobra calls the shots. Kenta isn’t quite afraid of them but we know Cobra’s a good thread. Baroness does well in the fights too and makes the most of her limited screen time. It would have been nice if she could have gotten her revenge on Kenta to get Cobra some hype but I suppose it just couldn’t work out that way. If Kenta could have ran a bit further, an excellent after credits scene would have been Team Cobra rolling up and taking that guy out for striking the Baroness.

Now, I do think that the Infinity Stone here should have been a little nerfed. Basically the ninja have a stone that can blow people up just by focusing on doing so. You can also make barriers and such. The problem is that the gem has no weak point and it activates almost instantly. Near the end of the film there is a scene where the 8 heroes all grin and strike poses as they mock Kenta. Kenta is holding the gem though so he should have grinned right back at them and then we see them all blow up. There’s no reason he couldn’t have done that and that’s the problem with writing in objects of power that are too useful.

Granted, there are many ways you could have written the characters being able to dodge the gem or disarm him but posing just isn’t it. The film enjoys its posing though as we get quite a few scenes of the characters just posing. Tommy and Snake get a lot of them with their swords. Scarlett and Baroness get quite a few and then you have the team shots. It’s fun for theatrics and getting you hyped but you just want to be careful doing that when the opponent has any kind of long range weapon.

It’s also pretty cool that effectively the first big Cobra and Joe team up is in a Snake Eyes film. I won’t say anything more about that but usually that’s something you would leave for the third film in a trilogy like Transformers or something like that. In that sense it definitely continues to help amp up Snake Eyes but you also just can’t wait for more Joe films. If anything, watching the Snake Eyes film just got me extra hyped to go back and rewatch the first two.

Now, where do we go from here? The film has an after credits scene which is also setting up GI Joe. I think the next step is that you need to have a full GI Joe film. Since Snake Eyes led this new part of the franchise off, maybe you can do it like X-Men. So Snake Eyes will be the main character for the rest of the film. He’s still a drifter but he ends up helping the Joes when he finds out that Tommy’s going to be at their destination. It’ll be a very different take on the series but it could work if they need to try something fresh. This should be a whole new rebooted part of the franchise after all and that would be a good way to do it.

As a final side note, the film has a Peter Parker moment where Snake decides to let a villain go because the whole thing is no longer his problem. In some ways it’s worse than Peter as he knows this guy is a global terrorist working for a powerful organization. Sure, the organization cut him loose but this guy is incredibly dangerous. Any future deaths will now be on his head. It feels like the film didn’t mean for this to be a big scene but I would hope it will come up in the future. This scene just didn’t make any sense though, I don’t see why you would ever let a villain like this go. Deciding not to murder a villain isn’t the same as cutting them free….but yeah that scene definitely popped out at me.

Overall, Snake Eyes is a pretty solid film. It has a lot of great fight scenes and special effects. The pacing of the movie is good and it’s really over before you know it. It might not have the nonstop intensity of a mainline GI Joe film but when the fights do come they tend to look good. Having most of the film take place around Shibuya was also fun since it makes for a lot of fun landmarks. Some of the backgrounds even reminded me of TMNT. It may take a lot of liberties from what you’re used to as a classic Joe story but it’s executed well so I’m looking forward to seeing this vision through to the end.

Overall 7/10

Shuriken and Pleats Review

It’s time to look at a recent manga from the creator of Vampire Knight. One glance at the cover and you’ll likely recognize her style. I definitely was not a fan of Vampire Knight and the sequel also hasn’t been too good so I can’t say that my hopes for this title were too high. Still, I figured it would be better since there were no vampires and I was right. After all, no vampires is always a win in my book and this title was no exception. It’s not great and the main romance is pretty dicey, but for 2 volumes it did a reasonable amount to make the characters decent.

The manga introduces us to Mikage who is a ninja protecting Mr. Rod from the various assasins who wish to have him taken out of the picture. The reason for this is that he has a grain of sorts that will end world hunger or something. The specifics aren’t all that important as Rod would much rather talk to Mikage about how she should be living a normal life. She does not want to do this though as it would be against the ninja code and additionally she would rather be by his side. Well, one day he is murdered and in his final will he had put for Mikage to live a normal life as his last wish. She heads to a school, but gets mixed up in the same case from another angle with a guy named Mahito who wants to continue Rod’s work. Can Mikage now get some closure on this whole thing?

Mikage may not have wanted to leave the ninja biz, but it’s probably good that she did. The organization definitely seemed dangerous in how seriously it took itself. Her father basically said that the ninja are expendable and has a very old time look on things. Mikage’s mother is a lot more reasonable but also very oblivious as she somehow doesn’t notice the whole ninja business. I don’t get how she wouldn’t realize what is going on, but her role is extremely small so I suppose by living in another state/country she is just kept out of the loop the whole time.

Mikage’s a solid heroine who means well and does her best to fulfill her role as a bodyguard. Her skills are quite sharp as she seems to be among the top 3 ninja across the organization. She is always ready for action and while she may be oblivious to day to day activities like being a school girl, she has definitely mastered her craft. I’d say there are some similarities with Yuki from Vampire Knight, but Mikage’s a more pro-active lead. She’s always doing something and is pretty heroic as she does jump in to help others even when she is off the clock.

There isn’t much of a supporting cast to bounce off of her though. Again, it’s only 2 volumes so I guess there isn’t much you can do about that, but the cast still feels really small. First you’ve got Mr. Rod who is shown to be a nice father type figure in Mikage’s life. He wants her to be happy and just seems like a noble spirit. He gets bumped off right away, but they were building him up to be pretty good. He’s decent for a while, but I have to give him a firm thumbs down by the end. It’s because of the romance plot but more about that later on. Then you have Mahito and he has the same issues as Rod. He seems nice enough but the romance part, while less dicey doesn’t really help his case much. I do prefer him to Rod though as he at least tries to fight and support Mikage. He takes a lot of Ls, but better to try and fail than not to try at all right?

Then you’ve got Suzuki who is a kid from school. Had this been a longer series I would have expected him to actually be one of the villains or something, but he turns out to literally just be a classmate who is bullied all the time. He likes Mikage, but surprisingly the manga doesn’t really bother with this romance. Suzuki is literally too bright for Mikage to look at so they don’t hang around much. I think he’s mainly around as a good segway to introducing the school and so Mikage will at least have someone to talk to. Finally we have Ichinosuke who is a skilled ninja who works for the side branch of the main family. He’s pretty skilled in his own right although he definitely can’t beat Mikage in a fight. The guy’s a decent villain, but he’s not the one calling the shots so for the most part he is just being manipulated. You won’t rise up to the top that way.

The manga isn’t really about the action, but we do get some good scenes during its run. The final fight against the main villain is pretty good and the manga did establish this guy as a solid threat. In general the art is pretty good. I think the artist did a better job of making sure that all of the characters don’t look too similar unlike good ole Vampire Knight where a bunch of people seemed to be identical half the time. I don’t think there were any characters here that I would mix up which is definitely solid.

Now for the romance. Well, this was definitely not going to end well from the start. Mikage likes Rod who has got to be at least double her age if not older. There’s no way to turn that into a solid romance. At least making it one sided isn’t the end of the world, but Rod’s answer isn’t as definitive as a no as I would have liked. I wanted a closed and shut “never” response from him. Then you’ve got Mahito and Suzuki who are vying for Mikage’s affections with no results. It’s a Shojo manga so at least the romance is handled more traditionally than a Shonen and nothing actually happens, but it’s definitely a plot that I would have cut out personally.

Overall, Shuriken and Pleats is a manga with one of those titles that I don’t totally get. Maybe Pleats is the kind of uniform that Mikage uses. Yeah, I could have googled the term, but I didn’t so I’ll leave it to guesswork for now. It’s a fun enough title to check out and 2 volumes isn’t going to cost you a whole lot of time anyway. There’s not a whole lot here to offer you beyond a good time though. It’s definitely not a game changing Shojo manga, but I do like the premise and it definitely doesn’t drag on. The ending may have fallen completely flat for me, but up til then it was a solid experience and I’d lightly recommend checking it out. At the end of the day it didn’t make any of the big mistakes like fanservice or animal violence so there’s no reason to give it a thumbs down. I don’t read a whole lot of one shots/mini series so it’s always good to add another one to the roster. Maybe the author can make a sequel to this one someday. There’s a lot of fun themes that could be expanded on here like Mikage just hanging out at school or rival ninja groups coming in for fights.

Overall 6/10

Ninja Gaiden Review

It’s time to look at another classic NES game thanks to the MyNintendo Rewards. This one is a clear step up from City Connection and actually feels like a real game. Right away I can tell you that this is a good thing. The game has a plot, solid gameplay, and could be mistaken for a more modern game. It wouldn’t be out of place on the Super Nintendo. I won’t say that the game was amazing, but I would call it one of the better games on the console. The game’s difficulty also lives up to its reputation as you will have a very difficult time trying to beat it without a good save option.

The game starts with Ryu getting knocked out by a mysterious lady. She explains that he has to fight and survive while dodging the enemies. He is understandably confused, but has no time to ponder this as the CIA arrives and they also knock him out. They task him with finding two statues and saving the world or they will destroy him. Ryu will do that, but along the way he also has to find his father as well as rescue the agent who knocked him out in the beginning. It’s going to be a long day, but that’s nothing new for the warrior known as Ryu.

The gameplay is that of your typical 2D platformer. It’s almost like a beat em up as well, but the game technically doesn’t force you to fight the enemies. I would recommend it though as otherwise they will get sneak attacks on you. A single fall means doom and there are a bunch of places where you can fall. Some enemies will respawn infinitely though and keep in mind that if you turn back for whatever reason any enemies in front of you will reappear as well. That’s why you must never backtrack. You can run, jump, and swing your sword. Additionally by holding up and pressing the slash button you can use whatever super attack you have at the ready. The fire balls are really good as well as the boomerang ninja star.

There are 20 levels but you only get 3 lives. If you don’t use the super save feature then I imagine that you will die around world 2. The game is super challenging, but rarely does it feel unfair. At most some of the enemies could seem a little like they are luck based in regard to hitting them before they hit you, but I think with perfect timing you can probably get around that. I can’t really say one way or the other there, but it seems possible. There isn’t any replay value after beating the game, but that along should take you quite a while.

The graphics are pretty solid and have aged very well. The character designs are good and the game even has images and text like a more modern game. The illustrations are quite good and we even get a number of solid plot twists. It really makes the whole game a lot more personal for Ryu. There is a soundtrack as well even if I can’t recall any of the themes. They all sound a little similar plus you will be far too busy trying to survive to actually listen to what the music sounds like.

Overall, This game was actually fun. Ninja Gaiden is a title that I would certainly recommend to others. It gets the fundamentals right so then everything after that is a nice bonus. This game is just the complete package and it might have the best plot for any NES game. That could be a stretch, but at the moment I can’t think of any that are better. If you’re looking for a good game on the E-shop then look no further. This is the kind of game that you want to check out and you will also be able to appreciate a part of gaming history!

Overall 7/10

Naruto Review

Naruto is one of the first manga titles that I ever read. Not quite the first as I started Dragon Drive, Legendz, Zodiac PI, and others first, but this was still an early read for me. The anime is really what got me into the manga and the movies is what helped get me into the show early on. I actually didn’t read most of part 1 Naruto until way after the first two-three arcs of the Shippuden arc. When I went back to the early days of the manga, it took a while to get used to the art. I certainly remember Naruto fondly and it was definitely an excellent series with a lot of memories attached to it.

Naruto takes place in a world where technology isn’t really present and ninjas still reign. The Village Hidden in the Leaves is Naruto’s home, but the villagers do not trust him because hidden within Naruto is a beast that murdered the Hokage (The leader of the village) and wrecked the whole place a long time ago. Naruto fights to win everyone’s trust and he ultimately wants to become Hokage! It will be a long journey, but Naruto never gives up. It’s simply not his way.

This series was around 70 volumes long, which is fairly huge. As you can expect, this review will be very long as well. I will essentially go through the series arc by arc and talk about the characters as they appear. In a sense, it will be a look back through the years for Naruto. If it proves to be too long to read, feel free to jump to the last paragraph as I wrap everything up.

The first arc of the series had Naruto and friends try to protect a bridge builder from assassins who were sent to end the guy. This was the first big mission for Naruto’s team so it was an intense way to kick things off. Zabuza was the big villain for this adventure and he certainly became popular with the fans. Zabuza was a cold hearted killer when the arc started, but he slowly began to see the error of his ways once Haku was lethally injured. His story was certainly emotional and I did like him by the end. I am still pretty unsure about him keeping up with Kakashi though. It was early on in the series so Kakashi had not yet earned his elite titles, but I would expect a Sharingan user to be much more skilled than this. Zabuza may have only been around for a little while, but he left a strong impression with the fans. Like Zabuza, Haku was an intense adversary. Haku is a good example of what could happen to any character who is raised by a villain. He respects Zabuza and does whatever his mentor wants because of their strong bond. If Haku had been raised by heroes, he would have undoubtedly thrived in such a situation. Haku was certainly ahead of his time as his abilities were also very impressive when he showed up. His skills were second to none.

This is a good time to mention Iruka since he never got much of a role past this part of the series. He was Naruto’s original mentor and much more timid than the ones who followed him. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the guy and his decision to try and stop Naruto in the final arc wasn’t a great one. Konohamaru and his cronies were also around, but there’s not much to say about them except that they were not good characters by any means.

Next up was the classic Chunin Exams. Certainly one of the best Naruto arcs and the hype was very real. An onslaught of new characters were introduced and most of them would be main supporting characters from here on out. Naruto and his pals were deemed worthy of entering this grand tournament and if they won, they could move up from the Genin ranks into Chunin level. The heroes were certainly not going to miss this opportunity! There were 3 main stages to the exams: The Written Exam, The Forest of Death, and The Fighting part. The arc didn’t really get to end because the invasion immediately followed it, but that saga was still a lot of fun.

Most of the characters who were introduced would end up becoming very important for the rest of the series. Kiba was one of the new characters and he was a hot headed genin like Naruto. He would later decide that he even wanted to become Hokage. From all of the Genin, Kiba would likely be in the middle of the pack. His only big role in the series was when he had his big fight with Sakon. After that, he became a permanent member of the supporting cast. He’s not a bad character by any means, but he never really made a name for himself and comes across as petty or too overconfident for his own good.

Shino was one of Kiba’s partners and he was always my least favorite of the new heroes. His insect gimmick gets old immediately and he never really had a big moment in the series. A lot of the characters were really only developed through the anime and that includes Shino. That being said, I just didn’t like his personality anyway. He essentially considers his insects to be expendable. Hinata was the third member of that group and she would actually grow to get a decent sized role in the series. She’s certainly more important than Kiba or Shino, but at the same time, her character is mostly developed through the anime and the sequel movie. Her fight against Neji was certainly very good and she stood up to Pain in one of the latter arcs, which showed off her bravery. I would consider her to be significantly more powerful than Shino and Kiba, but still not strong enough to handle most of the big villains. She’s a decently good character, although admittedly she was a little too timid and shy for me to like her all that much.

For the next group we’ll start off with Rock Lee. He certainly gets a big role in the series, particularly the first part. He is a ninja who cannot use Ninjutsu so he relies on hand to hand combat. It serves him well and he ends up being much faster and stronger than the other Genin at first. Somehow, we’re led to believe that Neji could still beat him in a fight, but I wonder about this. Without his weights and if he needed to use a gate or two, Rock Lee easily looked like the most impressive fighter in the Chunin Exams. I feel like he basically should have won the fight if he had fought anyone other than Gaara. I was fine with how he lost to Gaara as Gaara’s sand abilities were a perfect match for Rock Lee’s talents. Rock Lee’s infatuation with Sakura can be a little annoying at times, but aside from that he is a great character. He never gives up and his dedication certainly paid off.

Neji is another member of the group and between the two of them (Rock Lee, Neji) you can see why their group is known as the strongest. Neji doesn’t have Rock Lee’s speed or power, but his martial art skills are at a very high level and he has an absolute defense where he can generate a chakra bubble that protects him from attacks on all sides. (Almost all sides, there is a slight hole in the barrier, but it is hard to target) His attacks injure you on the inside so if he lands a blow or two, it becomes infinitely harder to defeat him since you will be unable to use chakra. He’s certainly another likable character and easily one of the best Genin members.

Finally, we have Tenten. Unfortunately for her fans, her role is much smaller than that of her teammates. She never really gets a big fight in the whole series as her match against Temari is off screen in the manga. She never really got to contribute to the story, which is unfortunate. I probably still like her more than Hinata and possibly Sakura, although the latter may win as she had more time to shine.

Next up is the weakest team when it comes to attack power as each of the members has his/her own gimmick. Ino is essentially Sakura’s rival and was on her level before part II. After that, she essentially stopped leveling up. I can’t say that she was a good character in the manga as she was essentially filler. Choji was the muscle of the group, but the fun part is that physically, I’d take Sakura, Naruto, or Rock Lee over him. Choji’s also very slow so he can’t hold his own against most of the real fighters. He had a big fight against Jirobo and he helped out when the going got tough, but I never became a fan of his either.

Luckily, Shikamaru is on the team so he saves it from not having any likable characters. He is the brains of the group and his Shadow Possession jutsu is his trademark attack, which can take control of an enemy’s body. The problem is that this won’t work on any really strong opponents and Shikamaru can’t really fight if an opponent is fast or strong. He goes far and gets a much bigger role than most of the other Genin fighters so there is plenty of time to grow to like the character. He may not be very powerful, but he’s likable and the heroes would be in a jam without him.

Now, let’s go on to one of the enemy teams. Kankuro was a puppet style user who worked for the Sand Village. While his hand to hand skills are certainly lacking (As even Shino seemed to have the edge in that form of combat) he is a threat from long range. His puppets are able to poison you and it can be fatal. I never really cared for Kankuro. He’s the gruff villain who eventually starts to act like a nice guy, but his banter was always more impressive than his fighting. Temari was an improvement over Kankuro and she actually got to fight against foes like Sasuke. Her competitive personality is certainly more enjoyable than Kankuro’s. She’s also a long range user who uses wind to fight. Her fight against Tayuya and Shikamaru are likely her big moments in the series. Temari was always more reasonable than Kankuro and while she definitely did start out antagonistic, she wasn’t as downright evil as Kankuro so it was more believable when she turned good.

Finally, we have the main fighter of the group, Gaara! Gaara would go on to become one of The most important fighters in the whole series as he even became the Kazekage. He can manipulate sand to protect him or to go on the offensive. It makes him a very tough fighter to deal with and Gaara doesn’t even need to move unless he feels like it since the sand is almost impossible to get through. He started out as one of the big villains in the series, but Naruto showed him that it was still possible to have friends and to get people to stop treating him like a monster. In the series, Gaara rarely started fights, but assassins were always trying to kill him so he would simply return the favor.

He had a very troubled origin and it was a tough road trying to get people to trust and befriend him again, but Gaara pulled it off. He went from being someone who was feared to being someone who was loved and it was a great character arc. Unfortunately, I do feel like he got a little too emotional at times once he turned good, but it was much more pronounced in the anime and not quite as bad in the manga. He’s still acknowledged as one of the tougher fighters and while he is no longer my favorite character in the series, he still ranks fairly high in the rankings.
After the Chunin Exams were interrupted, the stop Gaara arc showed up as Naruto was tasked with his first S (Maybe A) rank mission. His team set off to stop Gaara, but with Sasuke’s curse mark getting out of control, it would prove to be a very difficult challenge. Orochimaru, a mysterious ninja who defected from the Leaf long ago, also showed up to assassinate the Hokage and throw the Hidden Leaf Village into a frenzy. That certainly shook things up quite a lot! It was a short arc and you could almost just call it part of the Chunin Exams. I greatly enjoyed this arc although the final fight wasn’t nearly as good as the end arc fight in the first two story arcs. The Chunin Exams blew both the Zabuza and the Invasion Arcs out of the water.

Kabuto was around during this period and while he pretended to be just another Genin, it was obvious that he was certainly more than that. He traded blows with foes like Kakashi and we found out that he worked for Orochimaru. I actually liked him because his hand to hand skills were good and he felt like a good rival for Naruto. Little did I know that he would go on to become on of the biggest villains in the series! He actually became one of the masterminds for the final arc. Unfortunately, he became less of a hand to hand fighter for a while and I didn’t like his new design. He fixed that in time for his final fight though and it was definitely an impressive way to go out. He got a chance to look over his life and see what went wrong which was nice.

The Naruto series likes to try and redeem all of the characters. Some naturally stay as enemies, but most of them accept that what they were doing was wrong in the end. While it can be a little cheesy for some and just not make sense for others, it’s always good to see a villain turn over a new leaf and join the side of the heroes. The character should still pay for his/her crimes, but at least now the character can work to make the world a better place. Naruto typically helps to do achieve this personally in most of the villains.

Next up is Orochimaru, who would also become a major player in the series. You could say that he was one of the hype characters of the series and always knew something that the heroes didn’t. He just seemed to be in control for just about the whole series and even once he was gone he still had the answers. I can’t say that I ever liked the character though and my problem with his fight scenes was that they typically didn’t have a lot of hand to hand in them. I also didn’t find his actual power level to be very impressive either even though he did get a lot of hype whenever he fought and managed to take down some fairly tough opponents. He was definitely a major player here though so you can certainly expect to see a lot of him.

The Third Hokage didn’t get to appear for all that much and I don’t mind since I found him to be a bit of a bland character. He was around to uphold the piece and you could certainly not deny that he tried his best to stop the villains, but he was just so old and didn’t feel strong enough to be given the title of Hokage. If he could have fought more or had some cooler moments, then that could have certainly helped his case.

With the invasion over, Itachi and Kisame showed up and we found out about the existence of the Akatsuki. They won’t be back for a while, but it was still a very interesting plot point and both characters were certainly dead. This led into the next arc as Sasuke and Kakashi were severely injured so Naruto decided to travel with the legendary Jiraiya to find a lady named Tsunade who could heal them and also become the next Hokage. That being said, Orochimaru was also looking for her so it would be a race against time!

This arc was not quite as interesting as the others and I would say that it may have been the worst. It did have some good moments of course like the Naruto vs Kabuto fight and Tsunade’s strength made for some great feats. I loved the whole Itachi and Kisame part as well although I probably wouldn’t count it as actually being part of the arc since it felt more like the breather between arcs. Now, let’s talk about some of the new characters.

Itachi was definitely a very cool character and he was supremely impressive right from the start. He took out Sasuke and Kakashi without any effort and you could tell that he would end up being a big threat. That being said, it was hard to expect him to be quite as impressive as he turned out to be. Even by the end of the series, he could outclass just about any fighter and his Sharingan prowess cannot really be matched. He was a lot of fun and the series gave him a lot of development. Like Orochimaru, I’d call him a hype character.

Later on, the series tried to give a lot of reasons to explain why him murdering the Uchiha Clan was necessary and how he wasn’t actually a bad guy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the author originally intended for this to happen so a lot of it still doesn’t actually make any sense. For one thing, everyone in the Uchiha Clan was murdered including kids and innocent civilians. No matter how Itachi tries to justify that like saying that they were plotting a rebellion, it simply couldn’t be true of everyone. So, no matter how sympathetic the series tries to portray Itachi, he’s still a mass murderer in the end who’s no hero. At least he did help the heroes at multiple points though.
Kisame was a big player as well, but not quite as important as Itachi. He was a sword user and ended up being a rival for Might Guy. He used raw power a lot more than a technical fighter like Itachi and this ended up working out quite well for him. He was certainly not as likable and his origin story didn’t really do anything for me, but he made for a good opponent. While he wasn’t the best Akatsuki member, he was closer to the top than the bottom and appearing so early definitely allowed the hype to build up for his next fight.

Jiraiya was a terrible addition to the team and he certainly didn’t earn the manga any points. While his abilities were fairly advanced, he was the stereotypical master who was irresponsible and only cared about girls in his old age. It’s always sad to see and there was nothing he could do to make himself appear likable after that. Luckily, Tsunade was far superior to him and made for a good character. She would also get quite a big role as the series went on since she was the Hokage for a good portion of time and helped in the final battles against Madara. Her healing abilities make for a great combo with her high attack power since she can afford to take larger risks compared to most fighters.

Tsunade had an assistant by the name of Shizune who helped out a little. I can’t say that she ever really did anything though so it’s hard to have much of an opinion on her. She keeps Tsunade in line, which is good I suppose. The Nine Tailed Fox didn’t get a whole lot of development by this point, but I may as well quickly talk about him. He started out as a monster who seemed to just want to make Naruto’s life as difficult as possible. As the two survived battle after battle, he eventually became a nicer guy and started to learn the values of teamwork. By the end of the series, he became a good character. He’s much cooler than all of the other Tailed Beasts as I didn’t really like any of the other ones. The 8 Tails was all right I suppose and he was certainly far more reasonable than the others, but at the same time, he just wasn’t that cool. The Nine Tailed Fox always had that cool factor about him and he can fight quite well without a host.

Next up was the big arc to end the first part of Naruto. Sasuke decided to leave the Leaf Village in order to get stronger. Orochimaru promised him great power if he followed so Sasuke obliged him. His comrades naturally couldn’t accept this and the move could have also placed the village in danger so Tsunade sent out a team comprised of Shikamaru, Choji, Naruto, Kiba, and Neji to go after him along with some well placed back up. The heroes would have to get past the Sound 4, The Hidden Boss, and Sasuke himself to get through, but they weren’t about to go down without a fight!

To this day, this was probably the best arc in the series. That being said, the anime is mainly why I was such a huge fan of this arc as it was handled perfectly. The final arc is so long that it technically has a whole lot more action and hype moments than this one so I will still have to think about whether this arc deserves to be the best in the manga or not. It’s a tough call and it is over a lot quicker there. The final arc also has more moments where it drags or cuts away to other fights though, but that’s not as much of a problem when in volume format. For now, I guess I’ll say that the final arc was still the best, but this would be an easy second. There were a lot of characters introduced in this arc to let’s get to them!

From the Sound 4, let’s start off with Sakon/Ukon. They share one body and are always eager for a fight. Their Curse Mark form easily has the best design from the team and I also consider them to be deadlier than the other 3. They are certainly as evil as you get and have no problem dragging out a fight. Jirobo was not quite as cool and he got to fight Choji. His whole character is that he’s big and strong so he doesn’t have to use any real strategies. He did manage to trap all of the heroes at one point, which was impressive though, but I like to think that most of the Genin could have taken him down had he been matched with anyone other than Choji.

Tayuya was a technical fighter so she was a perfect match for Shikamaru. I wouldn’t say that she was likable either so she falls into the same rank as Jirobo. She talked tough of course, but there were so many ways to possibly win. Throwing her kunai would have been effective instead of walking over to Shikamaru and getting within range. Her flute techniques are good, but I always feel that fighters like her are doomed since they can’t handle close range pressure. Kidomaru is another long range specialist, but I feel like he’s the bigger threat thanks to his incredible accuracy. If he had been fighting in a different environment then he probably wouldn’t have lasted too long against Neji, but the fight was certainly intense. As you can tell, Sakon was my favorite member of the 4. Kidomaru wasn’t bad though, but he didn’t get a whole lot of character. He was fairly intelligent, which helped to distinguish him from the rest I suppose.

Then, Kimimaro showed up and he was much cooler than the first 4. This guy essentially lived to serve Orochimaru as he thought of the guy as his master. Kimimaro was already dying when he first showed up, but that didn’t stop him from taking on the heroes and nearly coming out on top. He faced off against Naruto, Rock Lee, and Gaara in back to back matches. That’s certainly impressive and another second or two and he would have been able to claim victory. He certainly never gave up and he was easily one of the most impressive villains in the series when you think about each intro. Berserk Naruto has never been so easily defeated and I can’t think of another fight which made him look so helpless.

Time to wrap up some other characters from Part I that I have not mentioned yet. We have Asuna, who was one of the Senseis for the Genin. He was a decent fighter, but didn’t get a whole lot of development. He’s smart and his chakra weapon is unique. Kurenai used illusions to fight. It was just her bad luck that her only fight in the series was against Itachi, someone who can see through any illusion.
There was also Might Guy, whose abilities wouldn’t even be fully shown until the final volumes of the series. He is essentially an adult version of Rock Lee so his raw power and speed are really impressive. He’s a fun character and feels like a Goku or Superman type of fighter since he doesn’t use ninjutsu either. He came to Kakashi’s rescue several times in the series and he never went down without a fight. Even by the end of the series, you could say that he’s probably in the top 10 power wise.

We can’t forget about Kakashi either. He would prove to be a major player throughout the series and many of his plots ended up affecting the whole series like his origin. He was always a good sensei for Naruto and his friends. He even managed to keep up with his training as he could finally use the Sharingan for very long periods of time in Part II and played a critical role in the climax, which was a good endurance feat. Kakashi was certainly a great character and one of the better Naruto leads. He may not have been the strongest character by the end of the series, but he could hold his own.

Sakura was a part of Team 7 and she underwent one of the most dramatic changes between Part I and Part II of the series. In the original story arcs, she couldn’t really fight, which was unfortunate for her fans since it meant that she would rarely get involved in the action scenes. Luckily, she trained under Tsunade for a few years and came back with incredible strength. She could now fight alongside Naruto and Sasuke as she even took down a member of the Akatsuki. It was certainly one of her best moments in the series. Her only real drawback was typically that she was too interested in Sasuke even when he decided to go to the dark side and essentially betray everyone. I think it was just a bit much and lying to Naruto during the snow adventure was also pretty iffy. Overall, I’d say that she was a good heroine and got quite a lot of development. She may have had her flaws, but Sakura was certainly a good character.

Time to talk about the part I versions of Naruto and Sasuke! Sasuke was the cool rival of the series who constantly one upped Naruto and wasn’t afraid to bring this up. He was one of the strongest Genin and his abilities continues to grow at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, this was not enough for him as he felt that he was not growing fast enough and decided that the powers of darkness held greater rewards. He left the village, which began his decent into the shadows. Still, he was easily my favorite character in the series. Despite his aloof and sometimes rude demeanor, he and Naruto definitely had a strong bond and their banter was always a lot of fun. While Naruto would just wander into traps, Sasuke was very smart and always one step ahead of the group. He made the series a whole lot more fun.

Naruto started out as your average Shonen lead. He can be loud and is always talking about something or other. Luckily, this comes along with the classic trait of fearlessness, which is why Naruto was a good character. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to entering a battle and he always believes that villains can be given a second chance. He was a lot more reckless compared to his Part II counterpart and that was a good thing. When Naruto entered his Berserk Mode, there wasn’t really anyone who could stop him. His rampage was essentially a force of nature and could not be stopped. His dream about being Hokage was a good one and it made it easy to see him develop over the years as he learned what it truly meant to be worthy of the title.

That’s essentially the end of Part I, which was 27 volumes. Time to get into Part II, which took up a large chunk of the series and ended things with a bang. While Part I was fairly down to Earth and lower in scale than the average SJ series (Although about on par with One Piece at the time) Part II upped the stakes and introduced some planetary level threats! Part I will always be classic, but Part II had more action and I have to say that I preferred it. It’s a different story in the anime version, but that’s for another time.

To break up the format a little, let’s quickly talk about the artwork. Naruto’s art started out a little rough for part I and I’d say that it started to get better as Part II started. That may sound like a long time for rough art, but it still looked good. It just wasn’t as polished as the anime and Part II essentially corrected that. You could barely tell that it was the same manga at times, which is always a great sign as it means that the artist is continuing to improve. By the end, Naruto was certainly one of the best looking manga titles out there!

All right, time to start Part II! The first arc saw Naruto return the village after being away for almost 3 years, but he didn’t have a whole lot of time to relax as news came that Gaara, the Kazekage, had been kidnapped by the Akatsuki. Along with Sakura and Kakashi, Naruto’s team headed out to stop the attackers, but would they make it in time? The Akatsuki had finally made their move and Naruto would have a tough time stopping them so Might Guy’s team was also dispatched just in case.

This arc was decently fun. Seeing Itachi and Kisame again was certainly interesting and since the Akatsuki had finally begun to make their move, it felt like the plot was finally starting. Everyone was eager to see where the plot would take us and we also got a glimpse of the other Akatsuki members although it would be almost impossible to identify them at the time.

Deidara, another Akatsuki member made his debut in this round and he would go on to get a rather large fanbase. He was obsessed with art and believed that explosions were the pinnacle of it as they appeared for an instant and then left. His forte is long range combat and he gave Gaara a fairly good fight using his techniques. I’d say that his powers are actually a bad match-up against the sand user, but he could give most of the other opponents a run for their money. He’s a decent Akatsuki member and a likable member.

His partner was Sasori, a puppet master who made Kankuro look like a rookie. He wasn’t quite as likable at all, but I was glad that his true form was more impressive than his Chimera body. It helped him out a little as he was finally able to fight in close quarters combat without relying on his long range puppets. He can control 100 of them at a time, which instantly made him the best puppet master on the block and his fight against Sakura was quite good. With his poisonous attacks, he is a threat to any fighter as one hit is all that he needs.

The next arc had Naruto decide to finally bring back Sasuke once more. An old informant of Sasori had turned up information so the team figured that they would impersonate him and find out as much as they could. Kakashi got injured on the last mission so two new recruits would be coming along to help Naruto and Sakura. One of them was an Anbu Black Op known as Yamato and another was from the Root faction led by Danzo known as Sai. It would be hard to trust either of them, but that didn’t matter to Naruto as long as he got to save Sasuke!

This was certainly one of the shorter arcs, but it was important since we finally got to see the new and supposedly improved Sasuke. His abilities had definitely jumped a lot as he currently outclassed Naruto at the point. More signs to pointing that his choice was the right one if power was all that he desired. Aside from Sasuke appearing, it was a relatively mild arc and certainly not one of my favorites. More action and less Sai/Yamato would have been good.

As you can expect, I didn’t like either character. Sai came way too late and the whole
“being devoid of emotion” gimmick was already taken by Sasuke. Sai doesn’t even have a lot of power to back it up as his skill is in drawing things that come to life. A useful ability if handled right I suppose, but I found him to be far weaker than just about any member of the original Genins. While he got character development as the series went on and learned how to use his emotions, I never liked the guy. He simply wasn’t my kind of character. Likewise, Yamato didn’t work for me either. He liked to use fear to control Naruto and his wood style can be useful for trapping him, but Yamato is far too by the books at times. He may have been an Anbu member once, but he’s a shinobi now so he’s got to keep the act up a little better. He rarely contributes at all as well and I just missed Kakashi whenever Yamato was on screen.
After this arc was one that had a lot more action and was simply more fun. Two new Akatsuki members who went by the names of Hidan and Kakuzu murdered the sensei of Shikamaru and his team. To avenge him they headed out for a rematch, but Kakashi caught them and decided to tag along. Meanwhile, Naruto was still training to achieve a whole new level of power. The question was…would he be able to make it in time to save his comrades from the Akatsuki? As these are Akatsuki members, you can typically expect that Naruto will be needed in the fight.

Hidan was fairly neat. I don’t care for his ritual gimmick, but the banter between him and Kakuzu was always good. I actually ended up liking him more than the partner. Hidan’s immortality was a useful ability even if it had a lot of limitations. Immortality is typically paired up with regeneration because it is essentially useless otherwise as you can hack off a limb and then just tie the opponent down. The heroes realized this at the very end and then utilized this effectively. Still, it was great to see a pure short range fighter who gave us a nice action scene with Kakashi.

Kakuzu was certainly more of a long range fighter although he was also quite adept at hand to hand combat. He was the calm and collected member of the group and it’s tough to destroy him because he has 5 hearts so you have to beat him 5 times. He was certainly giving the heroes a lot of trouble, but he didn’t count on the super powerful main character showing up! This pair beat the Sasori and Deidara combo, but weren’t as cool as the classic Itachi and Kisame.

The next arc focused on Sasuke for a change as he decided to locate Itachi and finish things once and for all. To do that, he would need to build a team so that they could distract Kisame. He found old experiments and comrades of Orochimaru to join his Team Hebi. Then, they finally arrived and had their climactic showdown with Itachi. Naruto would have tried tagging along, but his team was held up by the mysterious masked man who claimed to be the legendary Madara Uchiha. He must have gotten quite the haircut…

I never liked any of Sasuke’s new teammates so I can’t really say that I was thrilled to see them appear. Jugo is pretty similar to Choji, but he can get out of control at times. He’s tough, but a nice guy deep down who is always ready to help his friends. He has super strength and a slight amount of speed as well. He’s not much of a threat to most fighters, but he’s not weak either. Karin is the healer of the group who has an obsession with Sasuke. The Uchiha typically just ignores her, but the plot wasn’t very great and she never transitioned into being a good character. She was really just around to allow Sasuke to fight multiple battles with a plot reason that allowed him to keep on fighting well past his limits. Finally, we had Suigetsu. He was a decent fighter with a sword and easily the best member of the group, but I wouldn’t say that I was a huge fan of his either. He was just a bit generic and we already had a nice amount of hot head fighters who could put up a decent fight. In many ways, Suigetsu was similar to Kiba.

In essence, Sasuke’s team was basically just necessary filler to allow him to fight Itachi one on one. The thing is, Itachi would have permitted the battle even without the other fighters so I don’t think that it would have been a problem. Naturally, it was just awesome to see Sasuke get such a big role so the arc was still quite good and the big battle with Itachi was also very epic. This was the confrontation that we had waited years for and it finally got to occur!

Killer Bee also made his debut here as he fought Sasuke. He was a surprisingly difficult opponent to defeat and his bond with the Tailed Beast put him in a different league of power than when compared to Naruto. Unfortunately, I didn’t like his whole rapping gimmick. That was definitely not cool and his character certainly didn’t do wonders for me. He would have some cool moments once in a while, but mostly he was a miss for me. Either way, his role was decently large, but he mostly disappeared for the final fights.

Next up was the Pain arc, which grew to be quite popular. After Jiraiya was murdered by Pain, Naruto left to train some more so that he could defeat the leader of the Akatsuki. While he was gone, Pain used the opportunity to strike at the Hidden Leaf Village along with his assistant, Konan. Pain was 6 bodies to use in the invasion and the Leaf Village was essentially crushed. They put up a rather embarrassing effort against the villain, mainly due to the fact that Rock Lee, Neji, and Might Guy were away from the village. Rock Lee could have likely been strong enough to take down 1-2 bodies and along with Might Guy, they could have certainly defeated Pain. Alas, that would have been too easy right? When Naruto stepped in, it was certainly an epic moment!

This was certainly one of the best arcs in the series and there were quite a few casualties and fatalities. If not for the final part of the arc that essentially reset everything, I think more fans would look at it as the definitive Naruto arc. Either way, it was very good and you were on the edge of your seat in each chapter to see who would be able to live through this and who would fall before Pain!

Pain definitely got a lot of hype leading up to the arc. After all, he was the leader of the Akatsuki! He certainly met on the hype as he easily started to demolish all of his opponents. His main body was naturally my favorite as he had a cool personality and went up against Naruto in a fair 1 on 1 fight. His other bodies were also fairly neat. He had a plot twist as we learned more about his real body and his origin. It wasn’t bad and he was certainly a decently likable character. It was a tough road to be sure and Naruto showed him that there is still a chance for peace…at least for a little while before new fights inevitably continue to appear. From all of the Akatsuki members, Pain is certainly in the top three and few villains can match him in personality or power.

Konan was a loyal friend who stood by Pain’s side through thick and thin. Her paper abilities are quite good and while her physical abilities aren’t quite as impressive as many of the other fighters by this point, her long range paper abilities ensure that her opponents have to keep their distance. She was a nice character and while her role wasn’t too large by the end, she had some key moments.

After that, the 5 Kages decided to have a meeting and Sasuke realized that this was his chance to finally destroy Danzo, the new Hokage, and avenge Itachi. He quickly headed for the meeting and Naruto also began to head there to try and stop the leaders from officially deciding to destroy Sasuke. This was essentially a very short arc, but a lot happened here. We finally got to meet the 5 Kage and Naruto had his epic rematch with Sasuke. It was short as this was mostly to set up the true rematches that would be held soon. Sasuke vs the Raikage was also one of my favorite battles in the series so this arc definitely had a lot of good memories.

The Raikage was great and he was instantly one of my favorite characters in the series. He didn’t wait for things to play out, but launched himself into the action whenever it became necessary. His fight against Sasuke was great as I mentioned earlier and his lightning abilities were very impressive. Having such a good mix of speed and power is very rare to see and mixed in with his determined personality, he was certainly my kind of character!
I couldn’t really say the same about the Tsuchikage. His back pain joke started to get old after the first few times he used it and he was far too old to really be much of a threat at this point. He was still a decent character in the end as he made the right calls and trusted in Gaara’s ability to lead though. I also liked his particle techniques as they looked really cool and reminded me of Kekkaishi.

Danzo was the only Kage who was openly evil so he was certainly a big contrast from the others. He’s definitely pretty unlikable and the reason why the Uchiha Clan was ultimately destroyed. His fight against Sasuke was certainly neat, but as a character he was definitely not likable. He was a very old guy who could fight with his eye jutsu, but didn’t have a whole lot going for him when it came to close quarters combat. Definitely the opposite of what I look for in my kind of character.

As for the Mizukage, I can’t say that I was really a fan of hers eithr. Her gimmick of not hearing what the other person if saying can certainly get old fast. Why to the Kage need gimmicks? The Raikage didn’t need one and he turned out to be the very best! Her poison abilities are decently good, but she’s probably the weakest of the Kage and a good speed blitz would take her out of the runnings right away.

Next up was…The War! This would be the big arc that would last for the rest of the series. Trust me, it went on for quite some time and I believe that it was nearly 20 volumes in the manga. We got plot twist after plot twist and there was certainly a lot of action. Kabuto and the Masked Man’s alliance finally came into being as they revived an army of essentially every villain who ever died to fight the 5 Villages who had united with the Samurai. This was an excuse to basically bring every past villain back to fight the heroes at their current levels of power. That was fun as I’ve always thought that the final arc should have a plot similar to this. Naturally, this also means that a lot of the fights are off screen or extremely rushed, but it’s still nice to have the battles to think about.

Slowly, most of the weaker villains were dispatched so only the final ones remained like Kabuto, Masked Man, and Madara. Naruto and Sasuke really had to power up to their limits to defeat these foes and a secret boss also showed up at the last second to challenge them. It’s incredible that the characters could fight for so long as their Chakra Reserves were almost limitless by this point. Finally, we had reached the end of the Naruto series. There was a quick epilogue at the end, which will launch Part III, the Boruto saga. Hopefully it can last for quite a while, although I don’t totally care for how everyone looks like their past selves, but as kids again. It’s a little intriguing, but this problem doesn’t really plague the three main characters so that’s cool.

When Madara was finally summoned, everyone was thrilled. We had waited for this character for over a decade and he did not disappoint! He ended up being the best villain of the show and his large array of jutsu were really cool to look at. This was a guy who certainly lived up to the large amount of hype that had surrounded him and his “eager to fight” personality was a pleasant surprise! I was thrilled when he started getting power up after power up and it’s safe to say that Naruto and Sasuke didn’t have a chance against him one on one. In fact, I’d say that he’s probably the best character in the series. It’s no wonder why he made the cut for the recent Jump game for PS3/PS4.

Kaguya was the secret boss who showed up at the end of the series and she was pretty cool. Her dimensional warping ability was definitely something to be feared. It would have been neat if she could have had more lines, but ah well, at least she put up a good fight. It was good to end the series on a cosmic level like that so you could really see how far the series has come!

The Masked Man played a huge role in the Naruto series and fans had fun trying to guess who he was. There were some iffy moments and possible plot holes after it was revealed who he as, but nevertheless, it was as almost every fan predicted. The hair was always the big clue that he couldn’t be who he said he was and I was also hoping that he wasn’t since Madara Uchiha has always been serious and wouldn’t put up such a facade. The true identity of the Masked Man was a bit of a let down though because his character arc really took a shot there.

I liked him a lot as the goofy Tobi and I also enjoyed him as the really serious “Madara” but in his true form he just wasn’t as cool anymore. He did get some really cool fight scenes though and I liked him during the fights, but his sob story and conversation with Naruto did not do him any wonders. In a sense, he became a completely different character during that moment and one who wasn’t bad, but one who wasn’t very likable either. Madara ended up being the true villain of the final arc!

Minato was definitely a cool father for Naruto and he had a really cool fight against the Masked Man. That was one of the few flashback arcs that actually ended up being pretty cool and I definitely gained a lot of respect for him there. The Leaf Village looked really bad as expected, but that’s all right. They’re essentially bullies who need to be led by likable characters like Minato. Kushina was also neat and helped Naruto inheiret a lot of his likable qualities like being so determined. It’s too bad that we couldn’t see her fight more, but her role shall still be remembered.

The 1st Hokage also got a lot of development in the Madara part of the arc since they used to hang out as kids. Eventually, they were forced to fight and the 1st claimed victory. Honestly, I feel like the 1st Hokage was a little full of himself the whole time and despite the hype, I think I would probably say that Minato was the better fighter. The 1st’s statue technique was cool though and his battle against Madara was fun to watch although not as impressive as Madara’s fight against Might Guy.

Part II Sasuke was certainly very different from part I. He completely went over to the Dark Side to stop Itachi, but then found that nothing could satisfy him. He kept making new goals over and over as he learned the hard way that the dark side will never be able to leave you truly content. He definitely had one of the ultimate character arcs of redemption and getting a second chance. While it was a little on the cheesy side how he switched over in the end, it was definitely a good thing. It helped Sasuke to end out as a good character and to realize that no matter how his past was, he always has a chance to change his future. He’s still one of the strongest fighters of all time and I loved his tag team match with Naruto. Next time he fights, we can look forward to him being a hero who will protect the Leaf! That’s the Sasuke that I remember. He was cool as a hero and cool as a villain, but Sasuke is certainly at his best when he stays on the hero side.

Naruto in Part II is less reckless than he was in Part I and doesn’t charge into battle quite as often. Nevertheless, Naruto’s still a very good character who gets the job done. Aside from one or two little events, he never uses the sexy jutsu anymore and has become a figure that the rest of the heroes can respect. He went from being a kid that nobody could take seriously to finally becoming Hokage. Seeing him finally achieve his dream was great and it ended a legendary character arc. Unlike some of the other goals which may never happen (Ash Ketchum becoming a Pokemon Master or Luffy becoming the Pirate King) Naruto actually went ahead and completed his personal challenge. Things can only look up for Naruto now and him being Hokage gives the Leaf Village a pinnacle of hope and a figure to aspire too.

Naturally, there are dozens and dozens of other characters who could be mentioned as the series is chock full of them, but I essentially named all of the really important ones. There are numerous villains invented for the final arc and a lot of supporting characters like people at the various villages and their subordinates who I skipped as well. There are dozens of things that you could really write about for days and days, but for a series as long as this one, it’s probably time to read it yourself. Also, this review is now over 9000 words and while 10000 would be pretty epic, I’d say that it’s about time to wrap things up.

Naruto definitely deserves to be known as one of the greatest manga titles of all time. Megaman NT Warrior is my current favorite, but where does Naruto rank? It’s tough to say as other, shorter titles like DBZ, Kenshin, Yugioh Duelist, and others give it a really good fight. I’m tempted to say that along with the powerful nostalgia value behind it, I may put Naruto in 5th place for now behind Yugioh, Bleach, and DBZ. It’s tough to say for sure though as the series are so long that it’s really tough to think straight. I already reviewed the sequel series, Naruto Gaiden, so we’ll have to wait and see what the author has up his sleeve next. I’m hoping that he’ll personally write a new installment although another author doing it is fine I suppose.
Overall, Naruto will certainly be a title that I’ll always refer people too when asked. It certainly has a lot of nostalgic value for me and I’ll always remember my younger days as it was one of the first manga titles that I read. It was also fun because the anime got me into the manga so I basically continued from there, which meant that I started out with volume 28 and after being nearly caught up, I went back and fast blasted through Part I. That’s probably why this is one of the few cases where the anime completely holds more weight for me with character development and everything. It’s a similar case with Sailor Moon. If you somehow have not started this series yet, then I definitely recommend it! It is full of action, character development, interesting stories, solid writing, and essentially has every good feature that you could ask of a series! You won’t regret starting it and you’re sure to be in for quite a ride! One thing about starting late like this is that you won’t have to wait between volumes. You can just blast through the whole series at top speed! One day, I’ll likely re read the whole thing as almost all of the volumes are already at home in the manga collection excluding roughly 20-25 volumes. That’ll be a fun re read! I don’t see another review ever being quite as long as this one, but One Piece shall certainly have a huge one as well once it finishes so that could potentially pass this. That being said, we’re quite a whiles away from that happening!

Overall 9/10