I can understand what the story was going for by having Chouji fumble around with the thought of fighting Asuma, but that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoyed this often used character development pattern. Naturally, the idea is to show that he’s a very emotional person who loves and respects those close to him — so much that it works against him as a ninja on the battlefield — before letting him redeem himself by pulling off a surprise turnaround that leaves everyone in awe (i.e. the cliffhanger of this chapter).
The problem I always have with it is how antagonizing it is to see someone drag their feet in a situation that puts their friends at risk, who are fighting off the same urge to just breakdown under the weight of the emotions. Yes, emotions can blind oneself to logic and reason, but it doesn’t change how irksome it is to see Chouji succumb to them time and time again. This is after he confirmed his resolve with Shikamaru and Ino too, which is why I have an even harder time being completely understanding of his situation. He’s too finicky.
I think just about everyone was expecting Asuma to pull out the “fat” trump card to spur on Chouji, so if there was a surprise turn of events, it would be how the latter managed to hold back even in spite of that taboo remark. I almost see it as an embarrassment that Chouza had to get involved to slap some sense into his son, whereas Ino had to put herself at risk to cover up for Chouji’s hesitation. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the skyscraper arc in Kaiji, except it was even more annoying in that series because Kaiji was sympathetic towards the people who were going to get him killed, even after he swore to treat all the competition as enemies like he should have. (He clearly didn’t learn his lesson from the first arc.)
Chouji’s actions weren’t nearly as frustrating, but they did make me less receptive towards the emphasis on him inheriting the oath of the Akimichi family and passing it on to future generations. Then again, this has always been a part of Chouji’s character and why I haven’t been much of a fan of him. He’s the big guy with the big heart. Now let’s see what he can do with those butterfly wings.