Manga Review: Naruto Volume 21

The main character of the series is Naruto Uzumaki; he’s the number one hyperactive knuckleheaded ninja in the Hidden Leaf Village. Naruto’s dream is to become the leader of his village one day and to be acknowledged by others. When Naruto was a baby, a fox demon was sealed inside of him. Because of this, the adults in the village have shunned Naruto out of fear of the fox demon. He started proving himself a little during the Chunin Exam, and has started receiving training from Jiraiya, one of the three Legendary Sannin.

Naruto Volume 21
Written by: Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Shueisha
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: October 2, 2007

At the beginning of Volume 21, Sasuke decides to take Orochimaru up on his offer in order to become stronger so he can defeat his older brother, Itachi. Sakura finds Sasuke the night that he leaves and tries to stop him. She pleads and cries to him, even going so far to say that she loves him and would do anything for him. Sasuke thanks her, but then knocks her out and lays her on a nearby bench before he makes his escape.

When Sakura is found the next morning, Tsunade is informed of Sasuke’s leaving. Since the jonin are unavailable to lead a mission to retrieve Sasuke, Shikamaru is given his first command as a chunin. He has to assemble as many genin he deems necessary to carry out the mission. The only stipulation is that Naruto must be included in the mission.

The squad that Shikamaru assembles includes Naruto, Choji, Kiba, and Neji. Once the squad is assembled, Shikamaru demonstrates the tactical genius that he has that ultimately led to him being the only one of the Hidden Leaf genin in the Chunin Exam to be promoted. I especially enjoyed seeing in the images how Shikamaru visualizes his thinking by using a shogi board. I also liked the drawing that Shikamaru draws to illustrate the formation, because I thought the chibi drawings of the characters were so cute! But right before the squad heads out, Sakura comes up and asks Naruto to promise her that he’ll bring Sasuke back. Naruto readily agrees and promises that he’ll bring Sasuke back when they return.

There were a couple of things that hit me at this point. During the Chunin Exam, Sakura seemed like she was starting to become a stronger character than she had been earlier in the series. However, between her actions at the beginning of Volume 21 and the promise she asks Naruto to make, it shows that she’s regressed a little at this point. Also, since I’m a lot further along in the anime, I know what repercussions Naruto’s promise will have going forward. With this knowledge, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad when I read this part of the manga.

Meanwhile, the Sound Four tells Sasuke that Orochimaru gave them a task. Sasuke has to take a pellet and “die once” in order to awaken the curse mark’s power to second state. When Sasuke questions this, he’s told the Sound Four will use a barrier ninjutsu to rein in the side effects. After a brief hesitation, Sasuke agrees.

As Shikamaru and the others start into their mission, they discover some other Hidden Leaf ninja have already encountered the Sound Four. Armed with what they learn, Shikamaru starts watching their surroundings carefully. They eventually find the Sound Four, and it leads to Shikamaru’s squad facing off with one of the Sound Four as the others leave with Sasuke.

Shikamaru’s squad is fighting against a ninja that uses earth style, and he traps them inside a dome of earth. He also absorbs chakra, so any attack they use to escape seems to be absorbed. But thanks to some help from Neji and Choji, they’re able to escape. Choji decides he’ll take this guy on while the others in the squad go on ahead. As Choji battles this Sound Four ninja, we also get to see a touching flashback of when Choji and Shikamaru became friends when they were younger.

During Choji’s fight, he is just so freaking incredible! We get to see that he actually has a rather impressive ability. Unfortunately, it does require needing something that could have major side effects in order to activate it. But Choji was still amazing!

Even though I’ve already seen the story from watching the anime series, seeing it again in a manga form is just as good as when I saw it on television. By seeing the original manga source material, I could see that the anime was rather faithful to the story as it was presented in the manga.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous 20 volumes of the Naruto manga series, then I believe that you’ll enjoy reading Volume 21.

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