The chapter begins with the Alliance following through on the strategy they began in the last chapter, attacking Madara and Obito instead of the Juubi, since they are the enemy’s “mind”. Madara perceives their objective and notes that taking out the enemy’s mind is, after all, the basics.
Madara is not worried, though. He knows what the Alliance learns an instant later: The Juubi has not been effectively blocked. The attacking army is thrown back in an explosive release of the Juubi’s power. Many are wounded, and some are probably killed.
The Juubi explodes from the Alliance’s ineffective trap, transformed into a new monstrosity.
While the army on the battlefield scrambles to treat the wounded and regroup, Shikaku and the others at HQ observe the massive chakra of the Juubi forming its own sphere. Shikaku struggles to think of a strategy to hold the Juubi at bay long enough for the army to follow through on attacking the Uchiha duo. He suddenly seems to have an idea, and asks Inoichi to connect him to Kakashi so he can check something about what has occurred so far—but what that something is isn’t revealed.
Back at HQ, the Juubi’s power manifests itself in some strange growth on the sensing sphere.
The Juubi groans and wails as it completes its transformation, and Madara observes that it will soon become hard to control. He tells Obito to use Hashirama’s cells to strengthen the bond. The two prepare to show off the power of their transformed weapon.
Kakashi breaks his private line with Shikaku and prepares to fight, but he realizes the Kamui won’t make it in time and asks his Iwa comrade, Kitsuchi, to use an Earth release technique to throw it off balance. The Juubi still releases a Tailed Beast Ball, but one thrown wildly off-course. Kakashi watches the explosion and is awed by its power and range.
While the army on the battlefield still reels from the aftershock, Madara and Obito prepare to aim the next bomb. This time, it hits its mark—a town so far away from the battle, only the long range of the Byakuugan can witness it from the battlefield.
A horrified Hyuuga witnesses the destruction of a far-off town.
As the Juubi aims yet another bomb, Ao observes that it only seems to be selecting far-away targets. The group at HQ realizes that this means no one is safe, including the daimyo and the citizens of each of their countries. Then Ao tells everyone to keep calm, but before he can say why, Shikaku puts it together: The beast’s most recent bomb is headed their way.
One of the sensing ninjas says they should get away immediately, but another argues that it’s pointless. The power of the Tailed Beast Ball is too broad; they can’t escape. He teases the first ninja for thinking he’d be safe at HQ, but the first ninja says he just doesn’t want to die without accomplishing something first. Then Shikaku announces that he has a strategy. Communicating it to the army on the battlefield will be their last job.
Shikaku has a plan.
What that plan is, we readers still don’t know. But the army receives it within moments of the bomb’s impact, along with the understanding of what has happened to the shinobi at HQ.
Shikamaru and Ino grieve for their fathers.
From atop the Juubi’s horned head, Madara and Obito gloat in their strategic victory. It seems they have successfully taken out their enemy’s mind. Well, it’s the basics, after all.
Thoughts on the chapter
- Tension increases
I was impressed with the tension this chapter created. The long-range Tailed Beast Ball was an unexpected twist that created some dramatic results. Not only has it put the Alliance at a distinct disadvantage strategically, but it also created some great dramatic moments for the side characters. I was especially affected by 1) the scene where the two young-ish shinobi argue about what to do in the face of impending death and Shikaku declares what their last act will be, and 2) the series of panels showing Shikamaru realizing what is happening and all the emotions on his face, culminating at the top of the next page with his angry expression opposite Ino’s tears.
- Nearing the climax?
- Shikaku’s plan
- Controlling the Juubi
- Madara’s goals vs. Obito’s goals
- Destructive despair
- Team 10’s grief
- Are they really dead?
There have been several signs that we are nearing the climax/final battle of the series. In one sense, we may well be in the final battle already. That is, while there are certainly other battles and threads of conflict left to be addressed, they may well be incorporated or inter-cut with this battle rather than taking place after the battle is over. Or to put it another way, this battle could conceivable continue through the end of the action and just be interspersed with whatever else is to come. What do you think? Will this battle come to some kind of resolution and be followed by other events in the storyline, or are we already within the action sequence that will bring us to whatever the denouement will be?
The first thing I wonder is, what is Shikaku’s plan? The main clue we have is that he wanted to confirm something with Kakashi before he would commit to it. Has he perceived a weakness in Obito? That seems most likely to me. Or perhaps something about the formation of the Juubi will allow the Alliance to put a stop to it. We also have another clue in that he was thinking about blocking abilities and the specialties of the three clans when he decided to contact Kakashi.
The second thing I wonder is, will it be effective? Considering the drama of this chapter and Shikaku claiming it to be his final act, I would guess that it will be at least mostly effective at removing the Juubi as an immediate threat. For those who think that would be too easy, remember that Madara and Obito probably have plenty of other tricks up their sleeve. And don’t forget Sasuke. While my gut feeling is that Sasuke’s group is headed in a different direction at this point, you never know when they might show up and throw a wrench in things. I suspect that Sasuke would not be a helpful presence to either of the two current sides of the battle at this point.
To further complicate things, Madara hinted that the Juubi is difficult for them to control. Could it be possible to turn the Juubi against them? We also learn that a steady supply of Hashirama’s cells connect Obito to the Juubi. This makes me wonder if the reason Kabuto took Yamato out before the war began was because they didn’t want the Alliance to have a shinobi with Hashirama’s DNA.
Another wrinkle to consider is the discrepancy between Madara’s goals and Obito’s. Madara seems to mainly be concerned with displaying his power. It seems he still wants to be the best, or the winner, even with his rival long gone. Obito, on the other hand, seems genuinely sold on the idea of recreating the world into a false image of happiness.
I am struck by Obito’s line about showing the Alliance what despair is. Obito acts out of his own despair, and uses it as an excuse to bring despair to others. He directs the Juubi's killer power not only at other shinobi, but at innocent villages. Sasuke’s wrath against Konoha—and not only those who are guilty of the crimes against his family—is similar. It reminds me of the real-life tragedies that are brought about by terrorists and mass murderers, especially the kind that go on a suicidal rampage, trying to share their despair with others in a last bid for fame or significance or whatever. This was already on my mind earlier this week, not because of the school shooting in Connecticut, but because of a much smaller incident in a Portland shopping mall. But of course, the news about the tragedy in Connecticut brings the question into even clearer focus: Why do people sometimes turn their despair or frustration with the world (or whatever motivates them) on to innocent victims?
Once again, Team 10 is the focus in a storyline involving grief. Considering how much is going on in the story right now, I doubt it will get as much attention as Asuma’s death, but, unless Kishi decides to troll (see next point), I think it will have at least some kind of follow-up. What are your expectations for how Shikamaru and Ino will handle this?
My instincts say “yes”. Kishi knows he has to up the stakes to make the war seem real. He was going to have to kill some named “good guys” sooner or later. Also, authors often tend to torture the characters they like, and Kishi seems to like Shikamaru. On the other hand, Kishi has definitely pulled punches before on this kind of thing, so we’ll see.
Are the shinobi at HQ really dead?