Review: Naruto Gaiden

So I’ve been having writer’s block pretty much in everything lately. Every time I try to delve into the story I’m writing I get stuck and end up either staring at the same page for hours or giving up and going to rewatch Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD now that season 2 is on Netflix. I’ve also been trying to stack up posts on Black Girls Nerd Out before I went out of town for work (once this post comes out I’ll have just gotten back). I wrote two posts that I had already planned but then I got stuck. However, I remembered in the last minute that while the Naruto manga is technically finished, there was a short part 3 that came out called Naruto Gaiden. So I read it in a day and now I have feelings. Writer’s block averted! For now.

So as I wrote in an earlier post, the Naruto manga has been a story going on for 15 years now. It ended last fall once Naruto and Sasuke finally defeated evil and now there will be no more war in the ninja world (Yay!). While I had a lot of feeling about it ending after all this time, I felt like it was definitely time for it to be done. 15 years is a long time to tell a story, and I’m a strong proponent of the idea that once you are done with a story you should be done with it. Of course, you as the author can live in that world for as long as you want, but at a certain point dragging it out starts to dilute the quality of the story, in a way akin to the useless Disney sequels of classic Disney movies (Mulan 2 anyone?).

That being said, I would probably still consume any new Naruto coming out without hesitation—Once I rewatch the anime, I’ll probably go through and watch all the movies, and if there is a real part 3 of the manga I’ll probably read it. Naruto Gaiden is a short 10 chapter story that surrounds Sarada Uchiha, the daughter of Sasuke and Sakura. While the whole Sasuke and Sakura getting together in the end of Naruto thing never fully rang true because of how cold Sasuke is towards Sakura throughout most of the story, it is nice to see all Sakura’s pining and annoying behavior finally pay off.

I don’t want to spoil too much in case you want to read Naruto (I’ll put a link to a website where you can read all 700 chapters plus Naruto Gaiden for free at the bottom). But basically, the story surrounds Sarada and her attempt to meet and learn about her dad. Basically, Sasuke still ain’t shit, though he’s a dope ninja. He left on a mission while Sarada was still a baby and hasn’t been back since. While I like Sasuke for some reasons, he is just not a good people-person, which is another reason I don’t buy the whole him having a family thing, but again that’s another post for another time.

While the storyline isn’t one of my favorites, it was still really cool to see Team 7 as grown ups, Naruto as the 7th Hokage, and all of the Konoha 12’s kids running around. Sarada’s sidekick in the story is Cho-Cho Akimichi, the daughter of Choji. It’s cool because since Choji married a black woman, Cho-Cho is black and while she is a pretty liminal character, it’s nice to get some small racial diversity in there. This story does a little better with women as well: Sarada is a lot like Sasuke without the asshole parts, Cho-Cho is kind of funny in her quest to find her “real” father (because she is basically ashamed of her father and the Akimichi Clan’s tendency to be fat—something that is problematic, though the size of the Akimichi Clan is actually a testament to their strength), and Sakura is a badass as well. However, Sarada spends a lot of her time crying, and half of the story is about saving Sakura after she is captured. It’s an odd balance, and while this story is much shorter than the original Naruto story and still has some issues, it does much better than the original in that aspect.

For someone who loves Naruto and who is invested in the characters, it was an interesting look at the characters as they’ve gotten older and an interesting characterization of the new characters. If they end up writing a full on part 3, I probably wouldn’t mind reading it, though the original will always be my favorite.

Links to Naruto and Naruto Gaiden manga: