Last time around, we had a foray into Kakashi’s past. He’d lost his friends and ideals alike to the machinations of Madara and Danzo, with only Team 7’s formation as a dim light at the far end of a long slog. Y’know, your typical ninja childhood! But we’re back on the battlefield now, which means more epic battles!
The Ten-Tails emerges from its cocoon at last and it is one huge freaking Lovecraftian nightmare! And it wastes NO time laying into the Allied Ninja Forces with the strength of a tornado wrapped in atom bombs. We’ve witnessed the terror of Kabuto’s resurrected army, Obito and even Madara himself, yet this thing still ups the ante. The first few episodes contain some amazing battles as Naruto and others fight just to contain its rampage. And…well, let’s just say that they’re not entirely successful. For once, even Naruto’s superhuman drive to help and protect everyone isn't enough. Yikes!
Not all is lost, though, as something else stirs far from the battlefield. Remember how Sasuke reunited with Team Hebi and joined forces with Orochimaru? Well, they’re finally ready to break the Reaper Death Seal and release everyone and everything trapped inside its belly. And the first thing Orochimaru does with his newly-reclaimed Jutsu is to let the four dead Hokage get in on summa that sweet Reanimation Jutsu action!
While the Kage could possibly become Orochimaru's personal weapons of mass destruction, Sasuke still has some questions that need answering. And (seeing as the war had drained all potential threats from the immediate area), First Hokage Hashirama Senju is more than willing to explain why protecting the Hidden Leaf is worth all the horrific sacrifices that others have made.
Yeah, that means it’s time for another flashback!
Hashirama’s story starts with a pair of boys who dreamed doomed dreams and who eventually became enemies; this time, their names were Madara and Hashirama. Though they became friends by concealing their names, everything fell apart when they found out that each other’s clan was responsible for many deaths within their own. Their bromance grew even more tragic as each became a clan leader and watched the struggle continue into their adult lives, Madara always nursing his grudges and Hashirama always struggling to live up to his own ideals.
Eventually, they have their legendary final battle and it’s CRAZY epic. Like, Madara uses the Susano'o as power armor for Kurama the Nine Tails. Then Hashirama summons a massive wooden creature (called the Wood Golem Jutsu). And proceeds to fight both the Nine Tails with its crazy-powerful rider, to a stand-still. It’s UNBELIEVABLY EPIC.
CRAZY AWESOME GIANT FIGHTS aside (and I never thought I’d say that), Madara and Hashirama’s historic falling-out adds a new angle Naruto and Sasuke’s conflict in the present. There’s a running gag during Hashirama’s story where he has a breakdown every time that Madara yells at him; it’s cute, but it also shows a guy who has a hard time bouncing back. Yet bouncing back is Naruto’s entire way of life, and it’s a heck of a lot more useful for his quest for peace and unity than even the power to create, say, A GIANT WOODEN GOLEM! I never thought I’d say that either.
Likewise, Madara is no Sasuke. It’s true that he’d had more than his fair share of personal tragedies, and it’s also true that these tragedies, combined with some misinformed choices and other mistakes, did lead to his eventual villainy. Yet he also just never hit a true emotional nadir to match the tragedies that drove Sasuke and Obito on their vengeful rampages. I dunno, maybe he was pure evil all along, maybe he wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. Unlike nearly every other villain, the events of his life do not justify his transformation into a rage-monster who wants to break reality itself. And that’s without even getting into the sheer scope of his villainy; pain just stops being an excuse after a while!
That’s enough philosophizing for now, though. The final episodes of this volume bring everyone back to the battlefield. Sasuke, Orochimaru, Team Hebi and the four reanimated Hokage return…but for what purpose? Will they fight to stop the Ten-Tails from ending the Ninja World as we know it? Is Team 7 is reunited at last?! I hope so—that Ten-Tails is looking pretty darn angry!
You can watch one of the greatest battles in ninja by picking up the DVD available here.
English & Japanese 2.0 Audio / English Subtitles
Special Features: Storyboards, Art Gallery, Clean Opening/Ending, English Credits
by Chris Turner
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