First of all, Naruto's classmates look really good in their vests. They're only about seventeen years old (I think that's right by now), but they're so grown up! I remember back when Sakura was an annoying little girl who needed to get a life beyond making googly eyes at Sasuke. Now, she's mature, responsible, a team player, and a valuable medical ninja who can punch like Toriko when she needs to.
And Ino? I remember when she was no more than a shallow girl who fought over Sasuke with Sakura. She can still be a little shallow now and then, but she's a team player, too. I actually like her now... even if she does need to buy longer shirts.
Choji? Well, he still eats a lot. But he's grown up to become a strong ninja.
Shikamaru? He's mature, strategic, invaluable, wise, cool... wait, he was always like that. But he doesn't complain as much now, which I'm sure his friends appreciate.
I could go on, but I won't. The point is that I've watched these characters grow up quite a bit, and it's good to see them become adults. Seeing them in their official vests gives me a sense of pride, even though I'm only an observer to their growth. At the same time, I feel sad for them. They are still young. Conflict with the Akatsuki cut their childhood short. Their classmate went rogue. And now, they stand on the brink of war, not as behind-the-scenes helpers, but as key fighters and even leaders. I hope they all survive.
Another thing that occurs to me: Naruto is going to be so ticked when he finds out they kept this from him. I mean, I suppose he could understand. After all, he needs the skills Bee can teach him, and the war would be lost if he were captured. But I still doubt he'll like the fact that his friends were in danger while he hid.
Further, personally, when I saw his friends all dressed and lined up for war, I thought that he should be with them. He belongs alongside them... yet as jinchuuriki of the Nine-Taled Fox, he's always been separate. I suppose this is just another example of how alone his life can be.
Gaara, now a former jinchuuriki, has also felt alone. When he became Kazekage, he gained the support of his village. He still feels his difference deeply, but he works through it. Now, he is commander-in-chief of the allied forces! Wow! He's young and a former outcast, so this is pretty impressive. This decision might have aired months ago, but the only appointment I really remember in the allied forces is the Raikage as supreme leader.
Both the shinobi army and the opposing Akatsuki forces are impressive.
On the one hand, we have the five shinobi villages. They've put aside their differences and come together to face the Akatsuki threat as one. They boast a force of 80,000 ninja, including all my favorites from the Leaf.
On the other hand, we have the Akatsuki, headed by the seemingly invincible Uchiha Madara with Kabuto by his side. Kabuto is no longer a simple teenage spy for Orochimaru. Nuh-uh. He's a full grown snakey mad scientist, and his nasty skills have supplied Madara with a very intimidating army.
First, there's the re-animation thing. They've taken dead Akatsuki members - from Deidara to Nagato - dead kage, dead former jinchuuriki, and various other dead ninja, many of whom I recognize as not only skilled ninja, but good people. All of these guys, and a good portion of their abilities, are on stand by to be re-animated and used in battle by Kabuto. Yikes.
Then, there's Zetzu. He's not just a really weird, split personality, black and white guy who's part of the Akatsuki. There are a zillion (I forget exactly how many) white Zetzu underground, waiting for battle against the the Allied Shinobi Force. All courtesy of Kabuto.
|Madara and Kabuto, with a zillion white Zetzu following|
Sasuke aside, things are really heating up. I'm excited to see more... especially now that Naruto has finished his fake "S-ranked" animal sorting mission and is back to training. Unfortunately, it looks like next week's episode won't be quite so exciting. The preview looked suspiciously flashback filled.
Oh well. I'm too excited about the coming war to let a few flashbacks steal my thunder.