As The Fourth Shinobi World War continues to unfurl over tens of episodes, it feels a lot like the ninja equivalent of cold war. These two immeasurably powerful forces collide, taking inches of ground at a time. For the last few collections, the protracted battles have felt exactly like the stalemate situation of static warfare, but Box 26 puts things in gear. Following a resurrected Madara Uchiha, dominating the battlefield with the incredible depth of his power that closed the previous collection, the latest instalment is a slice of Shippuden doing what it does best.
As a combat series, Naruto has led the pack with its intricacies and logistics of battle, and how ninjutsu can be strategically utilised. When it comes to the aforementioned scrap against Madara, though, things become more a down and dirty free for all. The five kage unite and stand together to hold the line – a herculean task even for ninja of their collective talents. Among the many benefits of Naruto’s signature shadow clone jutsu is being able to slug it out in simultaneous fights. Off he goes with Killer Bee where they encounter the other Madara sporting a new Tobi mask, this one with two eye holes for both the Rinnegan and Sharingan.
The shadow clones might help tie the numerous battles together as the narrative jumps from skirmish to skirmish, but the episodes still feel jumbled. We might spend three episodes on one fight, only to jump to another for a couple more. The collection ends by focussing on Sasuke encountering a resurrected Itachi, and following him to one of Orochimaru’s favourite hideouts. Inside is Kabuto Yakushi, the spectacled orchestrator of the war. Cue fight scene. And after dozens of episodes of plotting in the shadows, we finally see Kabuto fight, while Anko is still unfortunately unconscious on the floor.
Friendship and family are the twin pillars of Naruto, with each conflict arising or resulting in one or the other. The bond between the titular ninja and the Nine-Tailed Fox was born of blood and fire, with the boy a vessel to cage the wee beastie in place. But the two formed a sort of symbiotic relationship, something that has very slowly flourished into mutual dependency and, we daresay, friendship. At this point we can even emphasise with the Nine-Tails after a peek into his internal monologue. Even tailed beasts get the blues. After everything, an undeterred Naruto still wants to make nice and banish the Nine-Tails’ hate. Clearly, there’s something in his oath as Naruto achieves a tailed beast transformation, enabling him to tap into tremendous power and access deeper levels of the Jinchuriki plane.
Being able to converse with the inner consciousness of the Jinchuriki while their reanimated forms wage war under Madara’s control is quite a boon. The proceeding battle is as gloriously over the top as we’ve come to expect. Combat is Naruto’s bread and butter, and it doesn’t disappoint on that front, helped in no small part by Yasuharu Takanashi’s energetic and rousing score. Shippuden might be drawing to a close, but with Manga Entertainment’s regular releases, we can delay the inevitable just a little longer.
For our review of Box 25, click here.
English dub; story boards; production gallery & trailers.