Naruto - Volume 30
Hot-blooded ninja action!
By Joseph Luster
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To say that the Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto manga is "going strong" would be like saying Dragon Ball enjoyed a "modest fanbase." At volume 30 here in the states and 43 in its homeland, Naruto shows no signs of stopping, and getting in its path might find you on the flattened end of the success express. On the American side, we're still pretty fresh in the post-time-jump era of the orange-clad ninja. For the unfamiliar, this period—designated in the anime as Naruto: ShippÅ«den—takes the story on a two-year leap, and the series' dynamic has seen a lot of changes during that gap.
The search continues in this volume for Gaara, who already looks about three shakes inside death's door, forcing Naruto's crew to split up into separate but equally deadly battles. For now, we're sticking with Sakura and Granny Chiyo, who both have their hands full with the brutally evil Sasori. Much like the sequel-spawning horror series, or Metallica circa 1986, Sasori is the master of puppets. Hiding his own figure within the confines of one of his masterpieces, he confronts our dynamic duo with poison-tipped needles that could drop both of them dead in an instant.
As the description suggests, this volume is pretty much nothing but action, wall-to-wall and door-to-door. Though we sometimes get a glimpse at what Rock Lee and Guy are up to, or how Naruto and Kakashi's simultaneous pursuit is going, the battle with Sasori is key. The time-jump Naruto chapters have been doing a really good job of raising the stakes so far, and this situation is conveyed in about as deadly a way as possible, with all of your favorite last minute shonen victories and impossible cliffhanging odds that swing the pendulum the other way.
Kishimoto's art has also changed a bit over the years, something I would have probably detailed a while ago had I been reviewing the volumes leading up to this one, as well. Much like some of its mega-popular contemporaries, the art still doesn't rely on tone too much, leaving almost all of the hard work to the stylistically sparse lines that make the action seem more animated and bring more focus to tightly drawn expressions.
Of course, none of this would matter if the action wasn't solid and easy to follow, and Naruto still manages to succeed in that category, as well. Even if you've never been a fan of the series, I would challenge almost anyone to pick up a volume and not understand why it prints money like Nintendo. Kishimoto is adept at hooking the reader and creating solid characters (and designing them as if they were born to be action figures) that keep things interesting and look cool while they're at it. Though I definitely think the manga is superior to the anime, as is typically the case, it's the type of tale that was made to work well in almost any format.
Publisher: Viz Media
Story & Art: Masashi Kishimoto