With this arc, the story finally began to go somewhere as Madara initiated the Moon’s Eye Plan only to find himself betrayed by Black Zetsu, who revealed that he was actually working on behalf of Kaguya, mother of the Sage of Six Paths and his brother (note that two of those characters were never so much as brought up in any shape or form until the final stages of the war). With this, Kaguya was revived and the true nature of the Moon’s Eye Plan was—oh fuck it, it’s all dreck. To make a long story short: newly introduced progenitor of chakra users was behind everything and wants to turn everyone into White Zetsu for reasons. Good guys finally get a chance to beat up a woman. They do.
In case you haven’t figured out by this point, it was clear that Naruto just plain sucked to read due to the writing having increasingly taken a turn for the worse over several years, with each arc seemingly attempting to outdo the last in how bad things could get. If one could take solace in anything, it was that at least the story was nearly over.
Things That Rocked: Black Zetsu Entertains Us
I will say this about the arc, if one was to name the real star of it, Black Zetsu would be a serious candidate by virtue of his constant fucking with people. Let’s look at how he proceeded to screw with Obito, Minato, and Madara, in that order.
First up, Obito was about to piss off readers by becoming even more of a Nagato clone, sacrificing his life to use Rinne Tensei in order to revive all the people he’d killed during the war. It was a disappointing but not altogether unexpected development given expectations after Neji died in light of Obito being yet another foil to Naruto. But what’s this? Black Zetsu enters the scene, having escaped Chojuro’s notice with ease, takes over Obito’s body (somewhat), and resurrects Madara instead! Holy shit, yes! Thank you, Based Black Zetsu!
Then, when Minato decided that he’d be a good father for once in his pathetic existence, he had a convenient flashback to set the mood as he transferred the other half of Kurama’s chakra into Naruto (weird that he somehow managed to master using said chakra despite dying right after the sealing). As with that really dumb moment near the end of the first Matrix movie where Trinity doesn’t know when to save the spiel until after the good guys are out of the Matrix, this bought Black Zetsu enough time to fucking snatch that shit away at the last moment. That’s right! Just as Minato holds out his hand to transfer Kurama’s other half, Black Zetsu jumps up in between him and Naruto’s dying body, and fucking snatches that shit. Granted, Obito would fight back soon afterward, but that was still funny, and yet another mark on Minato’s record of constant failure.
Finally, when Madara stood victorious, having initiated the Infinite Tsukuyomi and preparing to take out Team 7, guess who stabs him in the back. Three guesses, first two don’t count. Black fucking Zetsu, that’s who!
Black Zetsu, take a bow.
Things that Sucked: A Dumb Way to Handle Madara
But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that the story handled Madara’s defeat well. The guy was a poorly written villain that was so powerful and given so many outs that it was clear that only the author could save the characters. So how do you find a way to have the good guys beat him? First came another one of them last minute powerups that Kishimoto saw fit to keep giving his two main characters. However, when that didn’t prove enough, he decided to have Black Zetsu fuck over Madara for the sake of Kaguya’s revival. No satisfying victory ripped from the jaws of defeat over the smug villain here, just an excuse for Kishimoto to have the good guys beat up a cardboard cutout of an antagonist. Speaking of which…
Things that Sucked: Kaguya
How much can a character who was introduced into the backstory within the very same and overlong arc and then shoehorned into the main plot suck?
Masashi Kishimoto attempts to answer this difficult question by revealing that Kaguya, a character who was not revealed until near the endgame, was actually behind Black Zetsu, who was in turn the true mastermind of the clusterfuck that is this manga’s villainous schemes.
Despite it seeming that Madara was the real mastermind behind everything that was going on, wait for it, he was actually being manipulated this entire time by Black Zetsu. Who was pretending to be a homunculus created by Madara’s will. When in reality he was created by Kaguya, the mother of the Sage of Six Paths. The very same Kaguya who was only introduced into the when Madara was talking about what he discovered when he read the tablet. Apparently, she was a tyrannical bitch who manifested the Ten Tails to reclaim her chakra from her sons. Also, Zetsu was actually behind the Uchiha madness, going from Uchiha to Uchiha in order to corrupt them in order to bring about the conditions necessary to revive Kaguya. Retcons galore! Shocking swerves galore!
There are so many things wrong with this particular development. First of all, look at all the information it retcons. Now, retcons by themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing. However, retconning details that had only become relevant within this very arc on the other hand, is near the height of stupidly bad writing. You can’t reveal that previously revealed information was inaccurate and expect it to hit the reader when said information was relatively recent in its conveyance.
Second, it continues a pattern of Kishimoto failing to write decent female characters. Kaguya is a completely flat character with little personality other than wanting her power back at all costs. She doesn’t speak much, her tactical thinking sucks, and everything she has to say or do depends on what exposition Black Zetsu has to offer. She’s nothing more than an antagonistic entity without any character. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some antagonists without much character can work because they serve as blank slates for viewpoint characters to play off. Moby Dick has no real personality by virtue of being a whale, but it is Ahab’s obsession that drives the conflict. Lovecraftian horrors could care less about humanity, but this indifference is part of what makes cosmic horror as a genre so damned terrifying on an existential level. Kaguya does not offer any of these things. She’s there to be an antagonist. She doesn’t feel like a force of nature. She doesn’t feel like a god given how quickly Naruto and company turn things around. And she most definitely doesn’t provide much space for anyone to frigging project anything onto. She’s wallpaper.
Third, it’s simply a twist for the sake of having a twist. It wasn’t properly foreshadowed. The character has little connection to current events or people. And it further pads what was already a heavily bloated arc. You don’t just foreshadow a huge twist within a short arc and expect it to work. Otherwise you wind up with the Espada twist all over again. Kaguya has no real relationship with any of the characters. As a result of that, there’s little emotional investment and character interaction for Kishimoto to work with. At least Madara and Obito—hugely flawed in their execution as they were—had some connection to the main story. Meanwhile, this climax continues long past the point where it was somewhat interesting. This is the equivalent of expanding the final battle sequence in The Avengers into something as long as the rest of the movie. Do you know how old what was an otherwise awesome, if slightly long climax like that would have gotten? The war arc had up to this point gone on for nearly 200 chapters. A story can’t breathe if the frigging climax keeps going and going and going like the fucking Energizer Bunny.
Fourth, it introduces extraterrestrials into the story. Introducing aliens and/or time travel into a plot that has never so much as hinted at either is usually a good sign that an author is out of ideas. It was worse than the whole Ten Tails thing because this is the sort of thing that people joke about when discussing just how bad a story can possibly get. And yet, here it was.
What makes it worse is that it absolves the system, the system of people who thought myopically in spite of their good intentions, the system whose existence created the incredibly flawed world of Naruto, the system that was implied to be the biggest enemy of those who sought reform, the system whose existence led to both heroes and villains coming up with plans to change it, of any and all blame. All the bad things that have happened? Blame the Uchiha, who were in turn being used by Zetsu, who was in turn created by Kaguya for the purpose of coming back to life.
Kaguya, thy name is suck.
Things that Sucked: The Fight
The battle itself was another problem with the arc given its poor structure and some of the odder elements of the fight.
First off, there was little in the way of real strategy and hackneyed attempts at teamwork. We had Naruto try to use a feint, but that didn’t really amount to anything, and for the most part, the fight involved each side to trying to overwhelm the other with brute force. Black Zetsu did all the thinking for Kaguya, who used her teleportation skills rather poorly given the potential applications, and only wound up harming her own cause at one point (see the results of the high gravity environment). Meanwhile, Team 7’s group effort at the end didn’t feel all that earned given what had happened shortly before and what would happen shortly after the fight.
A second issue was that the battle lacked much in the way of in-story logic. By this, I refer to Obito somehow managing to intervene all the way from the afterlife despite the lack of precedent in this sort of thing throughout the series, which had for the most part been somewhat ambiguous about the nature of the great hereafter aside from the glimpse offered by Kakashi’s meeting with Sakumo earlier in the story. Instead of being satisfying, it was merely distracting and an excuse for Kishimoto to throw the video game developers another bone.
Things that Sucked: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Filler
Another issue with this battle is that it ultimately came off as glorified filler. Think of it this way: aside from offering a solution for dealing with Madara, what actually changed in the greater context of the story once Kaguya and her plans were revealed? I guess Black Zetsu was dealt with, but even he wasn’t really the major threat in the arc. Obito did die, but he was dying one way or another.
Let’s face it: aside from some mostly minor details (and Madara), Kaguya had no real lasting impact save for the stuff that comes up in sequels set after the series proper, and Sasuke was going to do what he did anyway.
Things that Bugged Me: Why Were the Kage Necessary for the Summoning?
No really, why were the ghosts of all the previous Gokage necessary to summon our heroes back to their dimension? I could understand needing assistance to summon them and perhaps skill in controlling their chakras along with deep knowledge of such a technique, but were these the best choices? I guess it was fanservice, really.
The best part of the arc, Black Zetsu’s antics aside, was when it ended. It was basically poorly written filler revolving around a crappy twist that was used to get the story from Point A (the problem of Madara) to Point C (the defeat of Madara and Black Zetsu). Unfortunately, unlike most content used to pad out stories, this arc proved relevant to sequels and spinoff material. On the other hand, you can do what I do whenever I come across most of said material: ignore it completely and chuckle at all the poor stupid bastards still spending money on this franchise.