The moment Masashi Kishimoto announced that he was going to end the manga this month, I was utterly in shock. I thought I was already mentally and emotionally prepared for it. When rumors circulated online about the impending conclusion of Naruto, I decided to ready myself just in case the gossips become true. But even after it was officially announced by Kishimoto himself, I was still doubtful. My inner otaku refused to believe it. I just couldn’t accept the fact that the story that I had been tailing for the past couple of years would finally end. No. I just simply couldn’t acknowledge it.
But no matter how much I repudiated, the truth haunted me. And the moment I dreaded finally came. Chapters 699 and 700 were released simultaneously, signaling the inevitable end of my favorite manga. Upon reading 699, the emotions that I had been trying to repress from the past couple of weeks suddenly poured out. The previous chapters, which mainly depicted the struggle between Naruto and Sasuke, were just too much for me. The feelings I had when Sasuke finally acknowledged his defeat were beyond description. To be honest, I was actually upset with him when he declared a revolution against the Kage and the shinobi world. But putting into consideration all the miseries he had suffered, I couldn’t totally blame him for his actions. He was annoying, that is true. But I couldn’t just simply disregard the reasons why he chose to stay in darkness. And I was thankful to Naruto for saving his friend. For chasing him and knocking him unconscious until Sasuke finally realized the path he was trying to take. So when I saw Sasuke flashing a genuine smile to Naruto, my heart just leapt for joy. The tears he spilled were so precious. He had never shown such emotions to anyone other than Naruto.
Chapter 699, I believe, was a far more suitable ending to this manga than 700. In 699, Team 7 finally reunited, and when Sakura and Kakashi arrived at the Valley of the End. I felt like I was with them, too. That was one of the things I had been waiting for all these years—to see the four of them together again.
The Infinite Tsukuyomi had been undone, and everyone was saved. It was just too unfortunate that Naruto and Sasuke lost one of their arms, but I think it was also very symbolic. The blood that gushed out of their severed arms was linked together, as if representing the strong bond that held them through their ventures. Kakashi became the sixth Hokage, and everything turned back to normal. Sasuke was pardoned for his previous sins, but he chose to continue traveling the world as he took his road to redemption. He flicked Sakura on her forehead, and that action was enough to melt my heart. I am not a big fan of any pairings, but I must admit that that scene was touching. But what’s even more touching was the last part where Naruto met Sasuke before the latter began his journey. He already returned Sasuke’s forehead protector that was left after their first big fight at the Valley of the End. That panel could have been the best ending for this series, as it provided a sense of closure between the rivalry and friendship of Naruto and Sasuke. The only missing part would be the inauguration of Naruto as the Hokage, which I thought would never happen since the trailers of the upcoming movie only showed Kakashi as the Hokage. I would totally flip out if Kishimoto didn’t let Naruto achieve his other dream that he also chased for the last 15 years.
That information was actually included in the final chapter. But that was the only thing I liked about 700. Personally, I would love it even more if the characters were only portrayed as adults, but WITHOUT ANY KIDS. I wished to see all of them supporting Naruto with his duties as the seventh Hokage, and Sasuke serving as his right-hand man and staying in the village for good. Now that they had finally acknowledged each other, it would be such a waste if Sasuke would just continue to wander somewhere. Besides, the other pairings seemed to be forcibly made up. How did Chouji and Karui end up together if (correct me if I’m wrong) they were not even shown conversing with each other in the previous episodes? There were a couple of plot holes here and there, and I also didn’t like the fact that Naruto and Sasuke didn’t seem to take care of their children as you would expect them to do considering the solitude lives they had when they were kids. (And LOL, Sarada actually resembles Karin more than Sakura.)
And speaking of Karin, a lot of other characters were not shown in the finale. Team Taka and Yamato (oh my poor Yamato!), for instance, did not exist in any panels. I pity Yamato since he had been gone throughout the most parts of the Fourth Shinobi War, and he was only briefly shown again after Infinite Tsukuyomi was dissolved. How great it would be if he was shown chatting together with Kakashi and Gai!
Chapter 700 was probably just fine for most fans, and it was actually okay for me, too. I was only expecting it to be far better than that. After all, I didn’t wait every week for a new chapter for so many years to get a plain ending like that.
The only things I actually liked about this chapter are the following:
- Naruto finally fulfilling his dream of becoming a Hokage.
- Temari and Shikamaru with their son, Shikadai. I ship these two more than the other OTPs in the series. So their pairing is fine with me.
- Sasuke with his Madara hairstyle. Nuff said.
- Kakashi and Gai casually talking with each other. Just like the old times.
- Everyone matured really well in terms of their physical appearance.
Aside from those, the whole chapter itself was nothing special, much to my disappointment. It didn’t reach my expectations. Chapter 699 would have been a better ending for the manga’s 15-year run. But I am not a critic or something. I am just a mere fan. And as a fan who grew up together with the characters in this series, I cannot convey my feelings now that it already concluded. I laughed at their antics and stupidity. I cried at their deaths and pain. I got annoyed and fell in love with each of them. I imagined myself living with them. I waited anxiously every week for what was going to happen next. I endured watching all the fillers in the anime. But now, I don’t have anything else to look forward to every week. And that thought makes me sad. It has been a long and rough journey, but it was worth reaching the end. After 15 years, Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke, together with their friends and other shinobi, have finally grown up. And I am proud to say that I grew up with them.
So I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Masashi Kishimoto-sensei and to everyone who was behind the creation and production of Naruto. It has been a wonderful roller coaster ride, and I wouldn’t mind riding it again in the future. I am looking forward to the upcoming spin-off series next year. But for now, let me just reread the manga from the very start, だってばよ!