For weeks we've been dealing with a mixed bag for this surprise finale. That's been a series of spectacular battles book ended by pointless and repetitive attempts at overdramtizing the events. Let's just sweep all the disappointment of the past few weeks under the rug for a moment and forget about that. Strip these two of their powers, and what we get is an incredible brawl. This is a chapter filled with a back and forth of beating the living hell out of one another. It's as if you're watching a wrestling match of exhausted combatants trying to gain the upper hand, but neither are willing to give up the title.
I normally hate it when a fight turns into the equivalent of a tennis match, but the back and forth completely works here. Just as it seems one gains the upper hand. The other tuns the the tide. You'll see that through most of the issue. Some of the hits look vicious enough that even an MMA ref would call foul.
The only moment that I felt was just a bit too silly was Naruto tripping over a small rock and wasting the Ransengan. That was just too comical for the mood at hand. It took me out of things for a moment, but it won me right back when Naruto scored a stunning headbutt.
I've been noticing a pattern to the complaints regarding the criticism that NARUTO has been getting these past few months. The whole argument that only the "real fans" get what's going on. That's some self-congratulatory, elitist nonsense right there. I've been reading this series since chapter one and throughout, and even I'm calling the creator on some of this nonsense. I get that Kishimoto would want to end this series on a Naruto v. Sasuke fight. I don't think he could end without one. Not after all the build up. The least he could have created some rational justification why they need to have this fight immediately after defeating Kaguya. Even if you set aside Sasuke's contradictory motivations. They are both literally putting the fate of the world at risk over a personal, childhood grudge.
It also doesn't help that in a little over a month they'll be releasing a movie that shows both Naruto and Sasuke grow up to be adults. So, you can just forget all that drama about one of them dying that's been building since their last confrontation in the Land of Iron. I never believed the whole "one shall die" idea. I never thought the creator had it in him to off a title character, but there must have been someone who was willing to suspend disbelief somewhere. Those trailers even came out before the finale to the series was officially announced. This must be the first time in history that a manga's end has been spoiled by a movie it's based upon. Just imagine the last HARRY POTTER movie coming out before the book.
If the battle these last couple of weeks had been closer to this brutal beat down, this could have been far more entertaining. Kishimoto does a really great job in conveying just how devastating these hits must feel. In that sense, it's probably some of his best work in a long time. We leave on a really great turn that caught me by surprise. A ton of these SHONEN JUMP titles end on cliffhangers that feel completely artificial. This one legitimately earns the suspense it's trying to build. I look forward to seeing what happens next week.
Follow along with the latest NARUTO chapters yourself, tune in for the SJ Podcast, and check out the free starter pack sampler at ShonenJump.com here. You can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices.