Naruto Graphic Novel 3: Bridge of Courage
By: Kimberly Godwin – Wednesday, October 27th, 2004 (05:01:51 AM)
This review was originally posted on Planet Exile.com
If you had just graduated from a Ninja Academy and were told to climb a tree, would you consider that worthwhile training? Or perhaps you would feel that tree climbing was just an idle, childish pursuit of no value to being a better ninja? In Volume 3 of Naruto, by Masashi Kishimoto, our four ninja begin this volume by learning how to climb trees – without using their hands. Indeed, such a thing seems impossible but it can be done if the ninja focuses his or her chakra (spiritual energy), into their feet and exert the correct amount of force in order to adhere to the hard surface of the tree and reach the top.
The story of Naruto follows the life of a mischievous, goofy ninja orphan – Naruto, who wants to be the hero of his village and win the love and admiration of everyone around him and his ninja companions, Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi. The interactions between the characters are a little stereotypical: Sakura has a crush on the cold and confident Sasuke who was the top student in their class and who also doesn’t acknowledge her; Naruto has a crush on Sakura who picks on him every chance she gets and hates Sasuke who is his rival in training as well as love; and Kakashi is their mentor, striving to improve their ninjutsu and unlock the latent strengths and abilities of Naruto and Sasuke. But it is their interactions that make this story interesting and brings out a soft humanity in what is normally seen as a two-dimensional character type of a ninja.
The main plot in this installment is that Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke and Kakashi are still protecting the bridge builder, Tazuna and his family from more attempts on their life by Zabuza. The heroes must learn to harness their chakra in order to better protect their charges from harm. And the wounded Kakashi must fully recover from Zabuza’s last attack and ensure that his students are prepared for the next battle. Zabuza and his student, Haku are preparing in their own way and simply waiting for wounds to heal before they launch their next attack.
There is quite a bit of action in this volume, which does what seems to always happen in anime, manga and a kung-fu action flick – the characters tend to stand around and gloat before they actually get down to business and duke it out. But, I feel that it is this showboating that brings out some deeper back-story that would not be otherwise known about the “villains” of this volume, the androgynous Haku and his ruthless assassin mentor, Zabuza. And of course, there is a little bit of drama that states that if “you truly love something you must do everything in your power to protect it”. The storytelling in this flows very well and the pacing is pretty straightforward making it easy to get involved in the story and sympathize with the characters.
The artwork of the story itself is unique in that the artist does not rely too heavy on layered screen tones to create textures or colors on the characters or backgrounds and seems to reserve them for creating uniform shadows or skies. The work itself is heavily reliant on pen work – inking, crosshatching and line weight to create depth and textures, which means that there is quite a bit of fine detail in each page. This generally means that the page’s details are not lost in a sea of gray and the artwork does not run together.
Overall, this is a good story that is geared towards teenage boys with a touch of drama, action and of course, ninja. It’s a winning combination for a quick paced story that is unique amongst a flow of contemporary action stories with its quirky characters and a steady pacing that wins out over the overused villainous showboating. The following volumes appear to be setting up for some interesting turns, so be sure to stay tuned and keep reading! You won’t be disappointed.