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by Amy McNulty,


GN 71

Naruto, Vol. 71
Kaguya, the ancient Rabbit Goddess who introduced chakra to the world, is revealed as the true mastermind behind Madara's actions. Her “child,” the Black Zetsu, has been plotting for a millennium to unseal his mother using the Uchiha clan. With nearly the entire world bewitched by the Infinite Tsukuyomi, Team 7, Obito and various reanimated warriors are the only ones left to stop her. If Sasuke and Naruto don't succeed in sealing Kaguya once more, the people of their world will never awaken.

The entirety of Naruto Volume 71 of is devoted to the showdown with Kaguya, who's been released from her sons' seal as a result of the Divine Tree's resurrection. The volume opens on a needlessly complex info dump courtesy of Black Zetsu, who reveals his true identity and explains how he's been manipulating the people of Naruto's world for a thousand years in order to bring back his “mother,” Kaguya. The finer points of his scheme are hazy and overcomplicated, but the main takeaway is that Black Zetsu has been misleading the Uchiha clan for generations, which explains the long-held animosity between the Uchiha and the rest of the Hidden Leaf.

Fortunately, the reasons everything is happening become less important as the action begins to ratchet up. Since he and Naruto are the only ones capable of re-sealing Kaguya, Sasuke believes that nothing matters beyond keeping the two of them alive. Despite seconding his friend's logic, Naruto continues to attempt to protect Sakura, Kakashi and Obito, claiming his body acted without thinking—parroting a famous line Sasuke delivered after saving Naruto in the Land of Waves arc. It's a meaningful moment between the two of them, one that may ultimately help soften the wayward Uchiha's famously hard heart.

As it turns out, Naruto was right to care about his allies' safety, as all three prove essential to taking Kaguya down. Once a major antagonist, Obito is eager to atone for what he's done, since Naruto made him remember the carefree, optimistic (Naruto-like) kid he used to be. His ability to travel between time-spaces plays an integral role in bringing Sasuke and Naruto back together after Kaguya sends the former to another dimension. Determined not to be a hindrance, Sakura provides Obito with the chakra he needs to get the job done, pushing through her own pain to find Sasuke no matter the cost. When they finally manage to locate Sasuke, he tenderly catches Sakura as she collapses from exhaustion. He's still an unfeeling cad, and I can't see him going out of his way to help her, but the fact that he showed any degree of concern for Sakura is significant.

Following Obito's all-too-predictable death, Kakashi inherits both of his former teammate's sharingan eyes. Despite having passed on, the newly-spectral Obito transports Kakashi to an otherworldly realm to carry out the eyeball swap, calling the eyes a gift to celebrate his friend's eventual appointment as Sixth Hokage. Now rocking dual sharingans, Kakashi is able to create a Susano'o and use the Kamui technique to transport his students all around the battlefield. After narrowly escaping Naruto and Sasuke's latest attempt to seal her, Kaguya is taken by surprise when Sakura appears from above and delivers one of her super-powered punches. This provides the boys with the distraction they need to latch onto the goddess and carry out the sealing, effectively ending her reign of terror. The thematic arc of everyone playing a role in Kaguya's defeat is compelling, and it's great to see Team 7 working as one again after all this time.

Even so, in addition to the abundance of info dumping, the explanations behind big events in this volume are sometimes weak and far too convenient. Sakura and Sasuke even comment on the impossibility of Kakashi coming into possession of the deceased Obito's sharingan eyes. However, the narrative demanded that Kakashi get a power-up in order to help his students, and so without any precedent, he receives an eyeball transplant from a ghost. Even in a world where corpse reanimation is commonplace, this development makes little sense. I realize that it gives Kakashi something to do other than sit on the sidelines and mope about how little he's helping his former students, but this last-minute power-up wasn't integral the story. His three students could have sealed Kaguya without his help, and the thematic arc would have still worked. Naruto is about underdogs pitching in to the best of their abilities and training to become even better. Although Kakashi is brimming with natural talent, Obito's magical gift runs counter to the series' central theme of hard work. Still, the same can also be said for the immense power upgrades Naruto and Sasuke received from the Sage of the Six Paths earlier in this arc.

It also feels wrong for the ultimate villain to be a celestial being whose existence wasn't revealed until very late in the series. Learning that many of the major antagonists we met throughout the years were merely pawns in Black Zetsu's convoluted plan doesn't elicit the shock Kishimoto likely intended. On the plus side, Kaguya's otherworldly origins and god-like powers help create a genuine sense of peril.

Kaguya's insanely destructive attacks, as well as the various time-spaces to which she transports Naruto and Sasuke, produce some of the series' most powerful imagery. In many respects, the visuals are this volume's—and this battle's—primary strength. Of course, this isn't to say that Kaguya steals the spotlight. The ultimate evolutions of Naruto and Sasuke's respective jutsu are also prominently displayed within these pages. Most striking is Naruto's Sage Art Super Biju Rasenshuriken, which entails producing a clone for each of the tailed beasts and each Rasengan taking on the elemental properties of the individual beasts. The Naruto Uzumaki Ultimate Barrage, in which countless shadow clones pummel Kaguya, is another sight to behold.

Despite the mood being largely somber, there's a hilarious comedic interlude towards the volume's midpoint. After years of developing the technique, Naruto unleashes the Pervy Jutsu's ultimate form: the Reverse Harem Justu, designed specifically for the lady foe. Being surrounded by a gaggle of half-naked men actually throws Kaguya off her game long enough for Naruto to focus his next attack. The sight of the bishonen harem and Sakura's subsequent anger and bloody nose are priceless. In what's almost a parody of a touching scene, seeing this technique in action leads Kakashi to consider how Jiraiya's perverse teachings have come full circle.

Naruto's penultimate volume is not to be missed by long-time fans. Battling an enemy with otherworldly origins and a seemingly endless supply of chakra, the members of the original Team 7 fight their hearts out like never before. Although the info dumping and nonsensical plot elements can be distracting, the action is frenetic, fast-paced and peppered with fun character moments.

Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : A-

+ A cohesive arc from start to finish, action art on a grand scale, good execution of Naruto's themes.
Too much exposition at times, convenient storytelling, no connection to the villain.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Masashi Kishimoto
Licensed by: Viz Media

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