Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Naruto - Chapter 622: To the Other Side

Synopsis: A young Madara demands to know the name of the other boy, who says he is Hashirama, but cannot give his surname. Madara is unsure about him, but says he'll skip the rock perfectly this time. The way he throws the rock makes Hashirama sure that Madara is used to handling shuriken. Madara manages to make the rock skip a few times, but it still falls in halfway in. Madara freaks and blames it on Hashirama who stood behind him. Hashirama is immediately dejected and apologetic, and Madara apologizes saying he didn't have to take it that far. Hashirama says that he didn't know Madara had such annoying overreaction tendencies, and Madara retorts that he can't tell if Hashirama is a good guy or a jerk. Hashirama laughs and says that at least they know for sure which of them is better at skipping rocks. The two trade remarks again, ending in Madara telling Hashirama to go away, but stops him from doing so in the end.

Suddenly, a dead ninja floats down the stream towards the two boys, and Hashirama walks on the water to go to the body. Madara asks if he's a shinobi, and Hashirama warns him taht the war will soon reach this area, and he should go home. He also notices that the shoulderpad on the ninja bears the mark of the Hagoromo clan, and says he must go. As Hashirama leaves, Madara reveals his name to him, but only his first name - both boys are shinobi, and only revealing your given name is a shinobi rule. Hashirama notes that though the two had different personalities, he felt that they were somehow close, and that he knew why Madara came to the river.

The scene switches, and Hashirama watches as a large number of shinobi are laid to rest. As he and his brother stand by a third crying boy, an adult says that they shouldn't whine, because ninja are born to die fighting. He says they should be thankful that even a part of the corpse was retrieved, because the enemies this time weren't just the Hagoromo, but the Uchiha as well. Hashirama demands to know how long the war will go on, and the adult man says until there are no more enemies. Hashirama asks if he will sacrifice children to this war as well, and is punched in the face for his insolence. The man says he won't stand for an insult to Kawarama, who was a worthy shinobi who died for the cause, not a child. As the man leaves, the two other boys tend to Hashirama, whose brother says he should know better than to oppose their father.

Hashirama thinks to himself that he doesn't want either Itama or Tobirama (his brother) to die in vain, and he later demands his father explain how he can call the Senju clan full of love, and exactly what a worthy shinobi is. His father explains that it's respectful to your opponent to treat them the same regardless of their age, so long as they have a weapon, and that making your child into a fine shinobi means you love them. Hashirama still doesn't understand, and demands to know where this all started from, saying that the world of shinobi is wrong. Hashirama's father almost hits him again, but Tobirama stops him, and their father tells Hashirama to cool down.

Later, Tobirama says that the adults are stupid, and that if they want the fights to stop, they should make agreements with the enemy. Itama asks where that leaves the relatives who were already killed, and Tobirama says he'll die too if he keeps thinking like that. Tobirama says that shinobi should repress their feelings from now on, create rules, and abide by them to avoid useless fighting. Hashirama wonders if it's possible to make a real agreement and form an alliance.

The average lifespan of both shinobi and citizens in the warring states period is then explained to be about 30 years, and what lowered it was... The scene shifts once more, as Itama is killed by an Uchiha, and the answer is revealed to be the death of so many children.

Later, Madara meets up with Hashirama on the riverside, but Hashirama is quiet and won't tell Madara what's wrong, no matter how much he prods him. He finally cracks however, and explains that his younger brother died. Hashirama says that he comes to the river to watch it, because it makes him feel like his feelings are carried away in it's stream. He asks Madara if he has any siblings too, and he says that he has four brothers, or rather 'had' them. Madara says that, as shinobi, they may die at any time, and the only way not to die, is to show what you really think to your enemy without hiding anything, and become their allies. He says that's impossible however, because nobody can see what someone really thinks and feels inside themselves. Hashirama asks if it's really impossible, and Madara says he comes to the river in hope that a way exists.

Madara skips another rock and, at last, manages to get one to the other side, just like Hashirama did before.

Thoughts: This latest arc of Naruto has been kind of an up-and-down cycle for me as well, but overall things have always been more on the 'upper' part of the cycle since the disappointment of the Pain arc and it's insanity. Sure, this arc had a lot of asinine revival crap too, but at least some of it was used more wisely than it's predecessor. It was actually used this time to give us one last hoorah with some characters, as well as to reveal something, rather than just bringing people back for shits and giggles.

Now however, we're in presumably the big final battle of the manga, and we're suddenly jerked away from it to watch more Sasuke drama. Okay, that's to be expected - but now with these latest chapters, we're jerked away yet again, this time to the distant past to read all about how things ended up this way for Madara.

I might sound a little overly bitter about this, and I don't mean to, but it is a little un-even story-telling wise. But, I suspect this is going to be one of those storylines that makes a lot more sense being where it is once we have it all done with, and we can look back over it as a part of the collective whole.

My main complaint with this chapter itself though, is that it has even more pondering about what a 'ninja' is. This has been a question ever since the early days in Naruto, but recently it keeps getting brought up by every single character, every chance they get. It's getting a little old frankly, but I also think that this is because it's leading somewhere - like a true, 'final' answer that will be a chapter title somewhere.

Not really much to say just yet on this one though, other than I was kind of surprised that the First and Second Hokages had a third younger sibling that had been killed, simply because it was never brought up before now. I guess it wasn't important, but I still hadn't seen it coming.

I'll be interested to see what the two boys' reactions are once they find out each other's surnames.

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