Despite being more than a Year since the original manga Naruto ended in November of 2014, the franchise is still going strong, what with a sequel starring the childrens of the previous cast, Videogames, movies, novels and the Anime still airing.
The franchise that started back in 1999 from the hand of Masashi Kishimoto not only still has a lot of life in it, it still remains one of the most recognizable and popular manga & anime worldwide.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it is above any sort of criticism.
Spoilers for the Manga and Anime.
It is also assumed you are familiar with the later parts of the story.
A little bit of background first.
One of the biggest mysteries early in the series (as well as being infamous because most people were able to tell it within the first ten chapters) was the identity of the Fourth Hokage, the one who had sealed the nine-tails inside Naruto as a baby, as Naruto’s father.
A less obvious reveal done much later in the series was that Naruto’s mother, Uzumaki Kushina, had been the previous host of the nine-tails.
Now, looking back with this information in mind, it is possible to see a certain thematic symbolism in Naruto’s development of his skills. Namely that everything revolving around skill, it can be linked back to his father(Rasengan, for example), while everything about his sheer level of Chakra can be linked to his mother (For starters, the fact that the Nine-tail’s seal is located in Naruto’s Belly Button, which represents a connection to he one who gave you birth).
Throughout the series, Naruto needs to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles (perfecting the rasengan, dominating Sage Mode, etc.), it usually involves him combining this two in some way, which would represent him taking the legacy left upon by his parents and making it his own, which would fit one of the series big themes of the previous generation trusting the newer one and giving them the means to build upon a better future.
Minato’s technique and Kushina’s huge Chakra become Naruto’s, and in doing so, they become more than the sum.
This is further shown by the circumstances in which Naruto gets to speak with his deceased parents.
The first one happens during the fight with Pain, the seeming leader of Akatsuki and one of the strongest opponents Naruto faces throughout the series.
Before the fight between the two, Naruto had mastered the Sage Mode, training that involved him having to go through a process of emotional turmoil and maturation after having learnt of Jiraiya’s death (Minato’s own master and Naruto’s Godfather). Once Naruto managed to do he battles Pain in the ruins of Konoha. During the middle of the fight, the nine-trails is almost release but failsafe built by Minato activates. Said failsafe allowed Minator to appear in Naruto’s mental world and be able to speak with his son and give him some words of wisdom before he could go back and deal with Pain properly. This meeting also represents Naruto’s true reach of emotional maturity and his ability to forgive Pain for his actions.
This is the point in which he takes full ownership of his father’s legacy and makes it his own.
Later on, after the character of Tobi (later revealed to be Obito Uchiha and allied with Madara Uchiha) declares war against the five nations, Naruto is taken to an island where he meets Killer Bee, the host of the eight-tails beast and who helps him master the nine-tails power. To do this, Naruto first is required to face his inner darkness and accept it as part of himself, asserting his own self-worth in the process.
After he does this, Naruto enters a mental battle againt Nine-tails sohe can fully master he tail-beast power. When the Nine-tails own darkness, as well as his own, are seemingly too much for Nauto to handle, it is then that he meets hiw own mother Kushina the same way he had done before with Minato.
It is then that, wih Kushina’s words and aid, Naruto is able to overpower the Nine-Tails and get his power without being consumed by it’s darkness in the process. This also represents Naruto’s maturity as an individual and the moment he is able to fully overcome all the years of bullying he had endured as well as her mother’s promise, from her experience as a tail-beast host, that Naruto would be able to find happiness.
With this, Naruto fully embraces his role as a host of the Nine-tails beast as well as making his mother’s legacy his own.
It is through this two moments that Naruto fully matures into adulthood just in time for the impending arrival of the final battle against Akatsuki. We also learn through a flashback how Naruto became the host of the Nine-Tails when he was born and how Minato divided the power of the Nine-tails into two, the idea being that Naruto would live with that half inside himself and the other host would die and take it’s power with them. One half went into Naruto and the other… into Minato.
And so, right here, is where my big problem is. Why? During the war, Kabuto revives a number of dead shinobis as zombies to fight for Obito without them having a say in this matter. This includes historical figures, previous Kages (except the Hokages) and the tail-beast hosts who had been captured by Obito.
Later on, at Sasuke’s request, Orochimaru revives the Hokages, which includes Minato.
But not Kushina, from either side. Because Minato takes her place by being the one with the remaining half of the Nine-tails beast.
And so he is the one in charge of giving it to Naruto as their final gift to him. And because of this, Kushina doesn’t even make an appearence in the final arc, remaining someone characters mention, but never an active party in the arc. Not even when he is able to reach and talk to the other hosts. Kushina is completely missing in an arc all about dead characters coming back to life for one last battle.
And this is a problem because now Minato having the Nine-tails power removes part of the symbolism in Naruto’s own power. That his ability as a Ninja metaphorically came from his father, but that his huge amount of Chakra and the power of the nine-tails came from his mother. Now Minato posses this two and Kushina is relegated to the background.
What I feel the series could have done but missed the opportunity to do so was to let Kushina keep the other half of the Nine-Tails inside her and be one of the revived characters during the arc alongside Minato. That way, the two of them could have worked together to acomplish the same things as their son, metaphorically showing how Naruto’s power came from the two of them, not just Minato. But in doing it these way, it makes it seem as if Naruto’s power came from his father alone, that he takes it from his father. And that is a shame.
Besides, it would have been really cool to see Minato and Kushina kicking ass together.
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