Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review: NARUTO: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring


CARTOONIST: Masashi Kishimoto
TRANSLATION: Mari Morimoto
LETTERS: John Hunt
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8493-5; paperback (January 2016); Rated “T” for “Teen”
216pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 U.K.

A young shinobi (ninja), Uzumaki Naruto had an incorrigible knack for mischief, and he was the biggest troublemaker at the Ninja Academy in the shinobi Village of Konohagakure.  Naruto was an outcast.  There was, however, something special about Naruto.  When he was a baby, Naruto's parents (father Minato and mother Kushina) imprisoned a nine-tailed fox spirit (Kurama) inside his infant body.  In time, he became a ninja with his classmates Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke.

Then, the story of young Naruto ended...

Naruto, the long-running ninja manga from creator, Masashi Kishimoto, ended with Chapter 700, published in Japan's Weekly Shonen Jump on November 10, 2014.  However, a few months later came a miniseries that focused on the children of the main characters in Naruto.  It was published in Weekly Shonen Jump from April 2015 to July 2015, and it was entitled  Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring.

The setup is basically this:  Naruto the teen learned special ninja techniques, and he helped save the world.  He achieved his dream of becoming the greatest ninja in his village, and now, he is the Seventh Hokage.   Time has passed, and Naruto is a father, but he also faces new troubles bubbling up in the shinobi world.

As Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring (Chapters 700+1 to 700+10) opens, some time has passed since the Fourth Great Ninja War.  Naruto does the mundane work of leading Konohagakure, but his son, Boruto, and his pranks demand attention – like father, like son.

Meanwhile, Sarada, the daughter of Sasuke and Sakura, is troubled by her parents' relationship.  Sasuke is always away on missions, so she wonders if he really cares about his wife and daughter.  When new trouble arises, Naruto leaves the village to find Sasuke, so Sarada and her friend, Akimichi Cho-Cho, follow the Seventh Hokage.  What Sarada discovers will fill her with doubt.

The last volume of the Naruto graphic novel series, Vol. 72., was published in North America this past October.  That was a little less than a year after the final chapter of the Naruto manga (Chapter 700) was published in Japan (November 2014).

Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring is a stand-alone volume that finds our favorite ninja teenagers now adults and parents.  In this 10-chapter tale, Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto focuses not on Naruto or his son, Boruto, but on Sarada.  Sure, this would not be a Naruto manga without Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura battling some ninja enemy.

Instead, Kishimoto shows off his skill at creating engaging characters.  Sarada is a wonderful and complex and wonderfully complex character with her own desires and questions and with the magical inscrutable teenage nature that makes for attractive teen characters.  I had a blast reading this.  It gives me hope that when Kishimoto revisits Naruto, he will be able to make it worth the wait for his readers.  And he'll have a superb character in Sarada if he chooses to use her again.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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