Sakura and Ino’s fight continues from the previous volume, with Ino using her mind control to get Sakura to surrender the fight. This of course makes no sense, since everyone knows that it isn’t Sakura surrendering, and fights would be very simple indeed if one was allowed to surrender for their opponent. Though I guess it’s more the fact that Sakura is at Ino’s mercy and it isn’t like she could put up a fight.
But fight Sakura does. Or, more accurately, Inner Sakura fights. Which begs the question as to what Inner Sakura really is, but that’s never really answered, and the whole idea is abandoned like the Ninja Info Cards. Though I guess it’s her true self, her true feelings, manifested? Which would make sense that she doesn’t show up later, considering that Sakura is truer to herself later on. Sort of.
Sakura manages to drive Ino from her mind, and the two manage to get one last punch in each, before both collapse.
The next fight is TenTen vs Temari, and the former literally gets her ass handed to her off-screen.
Oh, and Sakura and Ino fight about Sasuke, because we so wanted to read about that.
The next fight is Shikamaru vs. Kin, the girl from the sound trio. Her ability…is kind of lame in comparison to the other two. She uses bells attached to needles to distract her opponent, and then throws more needles at them when they are turned around. Problem is needles aren’t exactly the most deadly projectile weapon out there. Maybe if she used poison coated needles it would be a different matter, but she just uses needles, and Shikamaru isn’t exactly mortally wounded by them. So he uses his shadow to knock her unconscious against the wall.
Naruto fights Kiba next, and I’m suddenly reminded that this manga does have a main character. He hasn’t done anything recently, so I think you can forgive me for forgetting. That’s the trouble of trying to juggle a large cast like this in a manga, the focus shifts away from the main character far too often. Even if the main character isn’t all that interesting, focus should always be on them, rather than switching around between other characters.
Unless that side character is Lee. I demand more screen-time for Lee!
Naruto does a lot better than people expected, using illusions and doppelgangers to trick Kiba. As far as fights go, it’s definitely one of the high points of this volume. Like I’ve said before, Kishimoto knows what he’s doing when it comes to fights. If he were a bit better at everything else then this manga would deserve all the praise it gets.
Naruto’s tactics are really fun to read, combining trickery with a level of ingenuity he hasn’t shown before. Though I could do without the diagrams explaining what is going on. Then again, this manga was written for an audience slightly younger than me. Who knows, maybe they need them to keep track of what’s going on?
Of course the fight is marred by the slap stick humor, but again, younger audience.
As Kiba is being carted off by the medics he tells Hinata that if she faces against Gara she should forfeit immediately. And if she is paired against Neji she should also forfeit. So of course the next fight is her vs Neji. Neji tells her to forfeit, saying that she isn’t fit to be a ninja, or a leader. Hinata doesn’t want to forfeit, because she’s been trying to improve herself, but Neji claims that nobody can change how they are born.
I really, really, really like the scene between Neji and Hinata. The way he picks her apart mentally is well put together and drawn. The emotions of the scene are conveyed excellently. Hinata is about to give up, but Naruto supports her, and she is able to get her courage back. Hinata puts up a good fight, in what is a beautifully drawn sequence of martial arts. But Neji is better than her, and completely thrashes her.
Now, the Naruto fight was fun to read, but it’s at this point that I’m really enjoying this volume. The Neji/Hinata fight is a great climax for the book, it ties in the necessary back story into the fight, without breaking the flow of the action too severely. It easily draws even a passive reader into it, and exciting them for the next volume. Whether Kishimoto manages to capitalize on that will bear examination in the next review.
But that’s not all, after Hinata falls to Neji, Kishimoto ends the volume with one final chapter, that begins the fight between Gaara and Lee. Of course he baits us into thinking that it’ll be Chouji fighting Gaara, which gets a chuckle out of me because the panel arrangement is much better and effectively builds up the joke. Well done Kishimoto.
This volume got progressively better towards the end. Kishimoto tied in more than just fighting into the fights, and made some pretty important character development part of the combat. Even though this wouldn’t be a good starting point for anyone new to the series, then again none of the volumes besides volume one are good starting points, I’m going to have to say that volume nine is easily one of my favorites out of the bunch, for both the Naruto fight, and Hinata’s fight. I’ll definitely make picking this one up a priority (though it will have to wait in line till I get caught up in Fairy Tail and One Piece).
If there is one Naruto volume you pick up, make it this one.
If you liked my review, Buy the Manga Here: Naruto – Volume 9