This week sees the release of the english-translation of volume fifty two (an achievement in itself to reach such a high number) and after all this time, Kishimoto and his art team have managed to keep up to their own quality and standards as the story becomes darker and perilous.
For those that have not read or caught up with the Naruto series, here’s a quick recap: Naruto is a sixteen year old ninja who has the power of the monstrous nine-tailed fox that once nearly destroyed his village when he was born and he joins up with several other characters to take down the Akatsuki, an organization of the most villainous ninjas to stop their plans from killing and capturing all the Jinchuriki (people with tailed monsters similar to the fox Naruto has inside him). Meanwhile, Naruto is also trying to stop his old comrade, Sasuke Uchia, from turning evil and joining the Akutsuki in order to take his revenge on their village after discovering a dark secret about his deceased family.
This volume sees Sasuke after he takes down one of the great elders from his village and fighting against his former teacher and teammate, Kakashi and Sakura, who are trying to bring him back to the village. Enraged, he refuses to go with them and is about to kill Sakura before Naruto jumps out of nowhere and manages to catch her from harm and tries to reason with him to come back to the village peacefully before Sasuke attacks him, forcing Naruto to fight back. Just then, Zetsu (one of the members of he Akatsuki) interferes and summons Madara (the current leader of the evil organization) to stop Sasuke attacking and bring him back to his base to rest.
Meanwhile, Killer B (the only other surviving Jinchuriki) and his brother return to their village to start working with the other nations to try and stop the Akatsuki once and for all, unaware that the organization’s spy, Kisame, is hidden within the sword that Killer B claimed after he thought he defeated him. Kabuto (who was a spy from one of the main antagonists) makes his dramatic return with a newly formed body and confronts Madara to join forces so that they can win the war that Madara declared to the nations.
The work that the team of artists have done results in a lovely looking manga that has fortunately been better by each volume since the beginning and it’s still great to see some comic books that still use the traditional pen and paper skills compared to the use of computers that some big comics are using to fill in their panels.
There are plenty of room in each panel to get a look at the characters in focus and to get the details on the background art that they managed to fit behind the characters, with some use of lighting and effects used to emphasize the character doing or about to do something very dramatic. For example, when we first see Kabuto’s face they use straight lines drawn closely together to make shadows and give the character a darker face to make them look intimidating and I like the way that they do this as it is the small details that they do differently that helps to make the manga stand out when looking at the panels.
Some chapters start out with what probably were colored one-paged introductions and unfortunately, they are only black and white in the volumes. However, they start off the story within the next chapter and you can always seem the original versions online with the other special introductions such as these.
Kishimoto’s emphasis on the facial expressions and eyes during his series when a dramatic or emotional scene is outstanding; from Naruto’s smiles in big close-ups to the way Madara’s eye is portrayed as key expressive quality, it’s great to see the love that the team has for each specific detail that the characters are portrayed differently and recognizably from one or the other.