Parasites

February 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm (Animanga) (, , )

It occurred to me why it is very easy to make Uchiha Itachi (of Naruto fame), and indeed any Uchiha character, into a vampire. It’s because both the Sharingan and vampirism are inherently parasitic means of gaining power.

Think about it. The Sharingan depends on copying and storing the jutsus of other ninjas; it’s only originality is the fact that it isn’t. I mean, it kind of makes sense given Kishimoto’s given history of ninja historically having a bunch of squabbling clans instead of villages, each with their own special signature jutsus. Why come up with a niche technique that’s powerful against almost everyone when you can come up with a technique that’s less powerful against everyone? It was bound to show up sooner or later; the Uchiha just lucked out.* The Sharingan depends on the existence of other people in order to be effective and grant power. Even its level-ups work the same way. The Mangekyou Sharingan depends on the existence of the best friend (whose blood must be spilled in order to grant greater power. Sound familiar?). Preventing eye deterioration and the subsequent loss of power and blindness depends on having a brother to kill.

Whereas vampirism, well, do I really need to spell it out? Vampires depends on spilling the blood of others in order to achieve longevity, power, and plain survival. If there are no other people, vampires will die; in the same way, without other ninjas to oppose and live around, the Sharingan is kind of useless except as a nifty way to dodge blows–a tactic that will only work for so long.

So while normally these AU and crossover things hit snags when it comes to translating powers, Itachi–>vampire works eerily well. The black-and-red color scheme doesn’t hurt the transition either. ;)

* Incidentally, this is why I think the Uchiha rely on katon (fire) jutsu to show when their nin reach manhood, and why they consider themselves to be specialists in katon jutsu. Once they became legitimate (Konohagakure’s police force) they needed a way to prove they weren’t just filthy jutsu thieves, profiting off the hard work of the ninja around rather than creating their own.

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Quick Shots: KHR! 203, Naruto 410

July 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm (Animanga) (, , , , )

Mostly late and mostly spoiler-free!

KHR! 203: I want to say something meaningful about Hibari, Mukuro, Cloud vs. Mist, Hibari, vendettas, did I mention Hibari?

But it would have just been endless fangirl flailing, so. Just know that Hibari is in it, and he is kickass, and anyone who ships Hibari/Mukuro is going to be very, very happy.

Naruto 410: RAPPING JINCHUURIKI.

NO SERIOUSLY.

I CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

RAPPING JINCHUURIKI.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 409

July 19, 2008 at 12:38 am (Animanga) (, , )

Here there be spoilers.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 407

July 5, 2008 at 11:17 am (Animanga) (, , )

Spoilers!

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 405

June 20, 2008 at 4:09 pm (Animanga) (, , )

Same old, same old. Spoilers.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 404

June 13, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Animanga) (, , )

Well, this is kind of new. Normally I’ve read at least one person’s commentary before I attempt any of my own, but this time I’m all alone with my thoughts.

Neat.

Spoilers ahead.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 403

June 7, 2008 at 11:36 am (Animanga) (, , )

Spoilers beyond the cut!

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NARUTO: It’s Not Just His Show

June 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm (Animanga) (, , , )

Yes, the manga is named after Naruto. Many of the central themes of the manga are rooted in his life story; he is the motivation and opponent for many people and organizations (Eventual SPOILERS for chapter 402 ahead, be warned and be warned early!).

Some would say the recent arcs concentrating on Sasuke (and Itachi, and the Uchiha) are deviations from what the manga should be about, which is to say Naruto himself. But this isn’t true–a lot of Naruto the character is tied up in Sasuke. They are not so much similar as inversions of each other. Physically, Naruto has darker tanned skin and pale hair while Sasuke has pale skin and dark hair. In terms of abilities, Naruto is empowered by something outside of himself–the Kyuubi (to nip refutations in the bud: I know he has impressive chakra reserves on his own, but he frequently taps into the Kyuubi’s power, and whenever he’s shown the greatest amount of raw power–like when he blew apart Orochimaru’s Rashomon Gates–it’s been the Kyuubi’s power he was using.). Sasuke is empowered by what is inherent in his blood and body, the Sharingan and all its iterations. Naruto motivated by a broad base; he wants to become Hokage and serve the entire village. Sasuke is motivated by a narrow base; he wants to avenge his clan and kill his brother.

However, both have in common the fact that both are orphans, both are forcibly deprived of their families; Naruto in the Kyuubi attack, Sasuke by the massacre. They are both loners in their own way, Naruto unwillingly, Sasuke by choice. Both strive for recognition and validation from their peers, though while Naruto is all about being recognized for his merits by the village a whole, Sasuke’s more about being recognized as an equal by his brother (again the difference in broad vs. narrow motivations).

Through all of this, they are bound by ties of friendship and almost-kinship. Whether or not you believe that this is a romantic bond, you can’t deny that pre-time skip at least, they find a friend, rival, and brother in each other. For the first time, neither of them are alone, and both start to find a measure of peace–Naruto begins to slowly build up a kind of family unit like the one he never had. Sasuke starts to learn that yes, there can be more to life than avenging his clan’s death, that he can still live for more than that. And then Sasuke’s blows it all off in his quest for power, causing Naruto to vow to bring him back.

And this is why Sasuke’s story needs to be told. Because post-time skip, he is Naruto’s major motivation. It’s true Naruto still has his thing about wanting to be Hokage and earning Konohagakure’s respect, but he ties it into questing for Sasuke–if he can’t even save his best friend, how can he save a whole village? His own quest for power (inversion: Naruto looks to himself for power-ups, Sasuke goes to an external source, ie. Orochimaru) is motivated the thought of killing Orochimaru and/or Itachi, so Sasuke will come back. Sasuke is the end object of all of Naruto’s thought processes and quests. When he first encountered Sasuke in Otogakure, Sasuke was distant and seemingly uncaring, so emotionless he might as well be an object. It would be easy for Kishimoto to keep Sasuke that way, really–by keeping Sasuke distant, emotionless, something for Naruto to pursue while he pursued Itachi. Then the manga could focus on its titular character and his quest to find Sasuke.

But see. That makes Sasuke’s less of a character, it makes him a thing. He’s just a motivator for Naruto rather than a person in his own right. His story stops dead. Why should we care if Naruto brings him back to Konoha anymore if he’s just a figure off in the distance, being chased by Naruto while he chases his brother? How long can that endure anyway, before someone catches up to their goal and ends the chase right there? That’s why these chapters about Sasuke are important to Naruto: they lend Sasuke the pursued depth, and in doing so liven up the basic premise of post-time skip Naruto which is everyone chasing after what they want. By spending so much time on Sasuke, Kishimoto is fleshing out the character who is Naruto’s equal and opposite in many ways, creating a twisty, conflicted foil for Naruto’s straightforwardness and seeming simplicity.

Simultaneously, he makes Naruto’s quest harder by giving Sasuke’s fewer reasons to go back with him and also makes their respective chases more interesting. Sasuke has now turned against Konoha, pursuing the destruction of the people who (he feels) unjustly destroyed his clan and brother. How does Naruto reconcile that with his twin desires of becoming Hokage and safeguarding Konoha, and of rescuing his best friend and ‘brother’? His chase therefore becomes more complex, forcing him into morally grey situations and decisions as he struggles to fulfill both or must choose between the two. Naruto’s chase becomes more than running after an emotionless Sasuke cutout off in the distance; it becomes a struggle not just physically but emotionally, and this kind of thing can (hopefully) only lead to character growth and development. Which is what the manga is about, after all: Naruto and his transformation from loudmouth to Hokage.

As for Sasuke, it becomes harder–or should become harder–for the reader to fully support Naruto. The reader’s loyalties are torn, because we know why Sasuke is doing what he is and causing Naruto so much anguish; we know that he is acting out of a basically good impulse but was probably manipulated into his current path, we know he has a view of Konoha that’s probably more realistic than that of Naruto’s and we can’t deny that maybe he’s right in thinking the current leadership needs to change. We can’ t say to him, “Just go back with Naruto already”, because we now know that he has no real reason to. How will Naruto convince him to return? Can he convince him to return? Should he convince Sasuke to return? Will he do it anyway if he shouldn’t? How will this affect his dream of becoming Hokage and Naruto’s relations with Konoha? Suddenly the idea of “Naruto chasing Sasuke to bring him back” has a whole new spin on it. It becomes a question of personal conviction, of conflicting interests, of how far is too far to go for a friend, and the price of fulfilling dreams at the expense of other dreams.

As counterweight to Naruto, Sasuke needs to have his own depth and complexity. He needs to be a character worth all the chapters we’re going to inevitably spend reading about Naruto chasing him down, we need to be invested in him enough to want Naruto to succeed in his quest and to at least bring Sasuke some kind of peace and equilibrium, otherwise Naruto’s whole quest is going stagnate. There are only so many times you can read Sasuke just barely escaping Naruto’s grasp before you start Googling something else to read. By spending time developing Sasuke, Kishimoto simultaneously enhances Naruto’s own quest by complicating that simple concept of saving his best friend and opens up new avenues for Naruto’s growth and development. So yes, the last swath of chapters are indeed a deviation in focus from the title character. But in the end, all of this will feed back into and enrich Naruto’s own story: in the end, it’s still all about him.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 402

June 2, 2008 at 9:30 pm (Animanga) (, , )

I actually read meta for this chapter (as based on leaked translations), so I kind of know what happened, in a vague way. But now I’m reading the actual chapter for the first time, so let’s see what comes up.

Spoilers under the cut.

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Reaction Shots: Naruto 401

May 27, 2008 at 9:27 am (Animanga) (, , )

Spoiler warnings.

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