Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Naruto: Chapter 624: Aiko

Synopsis: Hashirama and Madara look back at the river as they rush to leave it, only to see their fathers and brothers rushing onward into combat. It's clear from their previous fights that their fathers are equal, but the presence of their little brothers shake things up. Both fathers know that seeing the other's son die will demoralize them and give them a chance for victory. As Hashirama and Madara both yell for them to stop, Madara's father throws a short dagger at Tobirame, while Hashirama's father throws a kunai at Madara's little brother Izuna. Before either blade can hit their targets however, they are knocked out of the air by rocks, the very rocks with messages written on them that Hashirama and Madara had tossed to each other before as warnings. After saving their brothers, both boys drop down in front of them, with Madara yelling that he doesn't care who it is, he won't forgive anyone who tries to hurt his brother.

Both boys stare each other down, and Madara shocks Hashirama by saying that it seems they won't be able to reach their 'stupid' dream after all. Madara's father says that now it's three-on-three, and asks Madara if he can handle it. Madara confesses that he can't, because Hashirama is stronger than he is at the moment - if they fight now, they'll all lose. Izuna is shocked that there'd be someone is stronger than his big brother, as is Madara's father. Madara says that they're leaving, but Hashirama asks him if he's really giving up when they're so similar. Madara says he wishes things were different, but Hashirama's a Senju, the same clan that killed his other brothers. Because of that, the two will meet as equal opponents next time on the battlefield, rather than spilling their guts right then and there. As Madara announces himself formally as an Uchiha, his Sharingan finally awaken, and his father says that while they didn't get any info on the Senju, they got something good in the end anyway. Even at his young age, Hashirama already knows what awakening the Sharingan means.

The scene changes to a battlefield in the near future, where Hashirama and Madara clash swords, as Hashirama notes that Madara had already erased their friendship from his mind. They continued to fight day in and day out, until years had passed and they had both become the heads of their clans - a place that was the furthest from their dream.

Locked in combat, Tobirame manages to fatally wound Izuna with a sword strike. Madara rushes to his brother's side, and Hashirama tells Madara that he (Madara) knows he can't beat him, so pleads with him to end this fighting - even after all these years, Hashirama hasn't thrown away his dream. He insists that if their clans, the two greatest shinobi clans, Uchiha and Senju, can join together, then the other clans will stop coming after them and others, and one day the fighting will stop. Madara seems to at least be contemplating Hashirama's words, but the wounded Izuna speaks up and tells him not to fall for their lies. Madara uses a smoke bomb, and most of his clan left for whence they came. Some Uchiha however could see how inferior they were in combat, so they defected to the Senju.

Hashirama reflects that it was about that time that Madara began to change. Madara acquired an eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, saying that Izuna died from the wound and left his powers to his older brother, in order to protect the Uchiha. Hashirama says he sent Madara a cease-fire agreement so they should stop fighting to protect their clans, but Madara responds by firing up Susano'o, and yelling for Hashirama to stop spouting such childish dreams, as they can't come to terms.

The entire rest of the day is spent fighting, and in the end, Madara was beaten so badly that he lay down on the ground for the first time. The Senju clan surrounds Madara, and Tobirame raises his sword above him to finish him off, saying the time has come. Hashirama stops him however, and Tobirame is outraged, asking him why. Hashirama simply glares and tells him that he won't allow him to lay a hand on Madara. Madara says he should finish him off himself, and just asks that he make it quick. Hashirama says it's no good for him to act tough. If they kill Madara now, the younger Uchiha who idolize him will simply seek revenge. Madara says there's probably nobody in the Uchiha who feels that way about him anymore, but Hashirama believes there is. He asks if they can't settle this just between themselves like they used to, but Madara says they can't, he's not the same person he was then. Madara says that without any of his siblings remaining, he can't possibly trust Hashirama now. Hashirama asks how he can make Madara trust him, and Madara replies that he must either kill his brother Tobirame, or kill himself. Then and only then will they be even, and Madara will be able to trust Hashirama.

Thoughts: First off, a note on this chapter title, 'Aiko'. I'm pretty sure this is some kind of translation (or lack of translation perhaps) error or something, since as far in as I can tell, that title has absolutely nothing to do with this chapter. There's no character named Aiko, no item, no place - I'm just not seeing it.

Kishimoto is making an excellent case of showing how similar the two clans are, but he may be pressing it a little bit. Even their formations in this chapter seem to be exact mirrors of each other. He's playing it a little too heavily perhaps, but I do like how it ends up paralleling directly with Madara and Hashirama. Not even they can escape becoming opposites of each other in regards to this fight.

That said though, it's clear that the seeds of hatred are already inside of Madara, in a way that they're not inside of Hashirama. While Hashirama is willing to forgive what the Uchiha clan has done to his own family and not blame Madara for the sins of his other clan members, Madara can't see past the Senju bloodline in Hashirama's veins. He's willing to let a long blood-feud ruin the great friendship he had. This makes me pity Madara rather than particularly feel sorry for him.

Given what a prodigy Madara was said to be, it's actually kind of surprising to me that he hadn't already awakened his Sharingan. Maybe it explains how strong he becomes though, if he was already that tough before ever learning how to use it.

After that moment, the entire chapter is a little surprising for me actually. Not the content though, but how fast we breeze through it. We just spent two or three chapters prior to this showing a much slower pace through the story, and in this one we quite suddenly breeze through the years. Part of that is due to how quickly Madara gives up on their friendship I suppose, so the next important step is to show their fighting through the years, I understand that...but it's a little disconcerting to see how fast it fly by so fast.

I was expecting something different to happen to Tobirame alone the way to show why he's such a hardass, but I guess it's just who he is. I actually hate to imagine what the Leaf Village must have been like under his rule compared to his brother's.

Given what we know about how things continue to work out in the story prior to where it all actually began, it'll be interesting to see how Hashirama gets out of killing either himself or his brother here. I know he'd never kill his brother, even though Tobirame's a jerk, but I could actually see him killing himself if he thought it would bring peace between the clans.

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