Sasuke has finally arrived at the finals of the Chunin exam, albeit in an untimely fashion (being mere seconds from disqualification), this doesn’t really bother anyone in a significant way when we he actually arrives though, because the world of ‘Naruto’ was always more about explosive action than precision.
In this volume, at least, that holds true, with a long series of battles taking the foreground, and very little emotion, as the Sand and Sound Villages make their attack under Orochimaru posing as the Kazekage, or the leader of the Sand Village (who he killed). Midway between Sasuke and Gaara’s fight, the men clothed in black and dotted about the arena – presumed to have been the anbu black ops – reveal their true nature, casting a Genjutsu (illusion) on the people of the Hidden Leaf Village, causing them to fall asleep, and launching their attack from there, as double-agents of the Sand and Sound Villages.
Unaffected, however, because of their superior abilities, Kakashi, Gai and the rest of the Jonin rank ninja dispel the Genjutsu on themselves, and eventually on their students, while fighting back the invading army. Shikimaru, Sakura and Naruto, in particular, are sent to follow Sasuke, who is chasing Gaara to resolve their fight; Gaara, who is supposedly crucial to the invasion plans, but who seems to have failed, but continues to be a threat, his bloodlust still taking priority over the mission.
All the while, Orochimaru fights the Leaf Village’s Hokage, Sarutobi, at the top of the arena, encased in a barrier by the Sound Ninja, and beyond the reach of others. This should have been the best series of fights so far in the series, and in reality, they probably still are, but it does have moments where the animation can be detrimental, and this is a good example. There are some impressive moments as well, but they don’t have the same impact, even if they’re not entirely wasted.
This volume is better than the ones before it that focused on action (like much of the series), and probably contains the best episodes so far, this side of those concerned with Zabuza and Haku, so if you’ve followed the series this far, there’s no need to stop here. Again, however, there is a definite focus on action, at the expense of emotion, but enough happens that it isn’t really missed, and there’s no lack of drama.
Another good volume full of action and character exhibition, with few real misgivings this side of individual preference – the DVD format does wonders for Naruto in particular, which is better viewed at one’s own pace, as experience has taught me, and this proves to be the case here.