Chapter 541: Raikage vs. Naruto?!
Before the chapter begins, we’re treated to an interesting splash page that has been the subject of perhaps more fan discussion than the chapter itself:
The boys’ side of the bathhouse is quite crowded compared to the girls’.
The plot of this chapter can be divided into two sections. In the first, we pick up where we left off last week with the confrontation between Naruto and B on the one side and the Raikage and Hokage on the other. The conflict at stake is already well-established: Madara wants to kidnap the jinchuuriki in order to complete his uber-genjutsu, the “Moon’s Eye Plan”, and the Shinobi alliance has decided the best way to thwart him is by hiding B and Naruto and fighting to protect them. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Naruto, especially as his current powers allow him to sense his friends and comrades who are out there actively participating in the war.
Naruto and the Raikage argue about this, but the Raikage cuts him off, apparently determined to beat him into submission. Naruto is surprised by how fast the Raikage moves and realizes he’s in danger. He appeals to Tsunade, but she stands by the Alliance’s decision to shut Naruto out of the fight—although her response hints that her personal feelings disagree. Having failed to talk his way out of this, Naruto resolves to force his way through.
As they face off, the Raikage mentions the Fourth Hokage. He says that Minato was believed to be the destined child—the student of Jiraiya’s that would be the savior of the world. He then insults Minato for having failed to defeat the Kyuubi, and starts to berate Naruto as well. Naruto, remembering everything he has recently learned about his parents and how his father gave him the Kyuubi’s power in the hope that he would use it to thwart Madara in the end, angrily responds that his father didn’t fail at all.
The Raikage recalls a younger version of Minato and how he was believed to be Jiraiya’s destined student.
The Raikage then decides that he will kill Naruto, considering it better for him to die and the Kyuubi to be temporarily lost than for Madara to get his hands on him. Tsunade becomes furious at this, but it is B who steps in to prevent his brother from landing a potentially fatal blow on Naruto. B points out that the Raikage could just as easily kill him instead and it would have the same effect. The Raikage claims that he would do this, “if and when the time comes”, but that since B is more battle-ready than Naruto, killing Naruto is the smarter choice.
B defends Naruto from his brother’s blow.
B refuses to back down. Raikage points out that the jinchuuriki have a duty to their villages and the world as weapons who help maintain the balance of power. B responds that they are also individuals with their own feelings and desires. He bumps fists with the Raikage in order to explain himself more fully.
The second section of the chapter launches into a flashback of how B and the Raikage became brothers—revealing for the first time that they are not related by blood.
In the flashback, B is among several Kumo children who are being brought before the Third Raikage and his intended successor—A, the current Raikage—for some kind of test. The test is to determine who will become “B”—that is, A’s tag-team partner. It seems that it is Kumo’s tradition to give a partner to each Raikage who is responsible for both bringing out his power and protecting him.
The proctor of the test apparently can’t count.
The test for this is to attempt to perform the double lariat with A (the beheading move that destroyed Kisame’s clone). In order for it to work, the partner must balance A’s power perfectly. Several of the candidates attempt it and fail. The Third Raikage laments that if A had a real brother this test would not be necessary. But just as he and the proctor are on the verge of giving up on the test, B successfully performs the move.
B celebrates in his usual fashion as A approaches to congratulate him.
A congratulates him with a fist bump and pronounces that from this day forward they will be brothers.
Thoughts on the chapter
- The most notable part of the chapter for me was the Raikage’s sudden and grossly utilitarian decision to kill Naruto. Up to this point, I’ve felt reasonably warm toward the Raikage, despite his surly demeanor and his earlier conflict with Naruto over whether or not to pardon Sasuke. Granted, like most characters over the age of 30, he’s entrenched in the old ninja system with all its problematic philosophies, but he still seemed like a decent enough person. His behavior in the meetings with the other Kage showed a commitment to integrity, and I found it easy to sympathize with his concern for his brother’s safety. He also behaves with human warmth toward his subordinates—I’m particularly thinking of Darui’s flashback about being his “right arm”. So to me it came as a shock to see him commit to such a brutal course of action, especially without the approval of the rest of the Alliance and over the explicit objections of Tsunade and B, and this chapter has led me to feel much colder toward the character.
- Yet, this plot twist also gives us the chance to revisit an old and still very important theme of the series: using people as tools/weapons. At this point, B has the microphone, metaphorically speaking, but we haven’t really heard yet what his response is going to be. The flashback we’ve seen so far only sets up the early connection between B and his brother. What this will reveal about B’s thoughts on the matter of being a tool/weapon vs. an individual is still unclear.
- It’s not too surprising to learn that the Raikage encountered Minato in the past, but it is a bit surprising that he’s aware of the prophecy that Jiraiya would have a student who would change the world. This makes me wonder how widely known that prophecy is among shinobi—is it something that is known to a select few, such as village leaders, or is it something that is talked about far and wide?
- Then there is the revelation that A and B are not blood brothers. This is a bit surprising to me, as there seems to be a family resemblance between them, but others have pointed out that there is also a big age gap, and many fans don’t seem that surprised by this revelation. I’m not sure how this will influence the outcome of this confrontation. It seems the bond between A and B is going to be a major factor in whether or not Naruto will be allowed to go to the battlefield without fighting the Raikage—is that bond stronger because it was forged on something other than blood? We’ll have to see how the rest of the flashback plays out.
- Finally, there are a number of plotlines that are on hold this chapter that still need to be resolved. Perhaps the most urgent is how the Alliance will fare against the disguised Zetsus that have infiltrated their ranks. Will they be able to solve this problem before Naruto arrives, especially considering he’s been delayed? Or will this be a problem that they will need Naruto’s help with?