As intriguing as the possibility is, it’s kind of hard to fathom that Neji would betray his fellow ninjas and side with Madara for some yet to be explained reason. I entertained the idea for a bit because it’s completely out of left wing (i.e. a straight-edged ninja turning to the dark side), but before long, gave Neji the benefit of the doubt due to all the backstory I’ve seen about his character. Much like it was alluded to in the chapter, there’s always the possibility that he’s under the influence of Madara’s eye techniques, except it’s hard to buy into that suspicion when they haven’t come into contact with one another. This left me thinking that it’s good ‘ol Zetsu planting the seeds of doubt like the proficient spy that he is.
This latest development is almost like a test of sorts to see if readers are paying attention to all the subtle details in the story, as the chakra test by the sensory ninjas quickly ruled out the use of a transformation technique to infiltrate the ninja alliance’s medics. In all likelihood, that was intended to make unsuspecting readers overlook the fact that white Zetsu can create a perfect clone of someone he’s come into contact with — right down to their chakra — much like we saw with both himself and Kisame. As such, the real surprise came from the ninja sneaking about for a chance to profess his love to Sakura. He was effectively the red herring that diverted most of the attention away from “Neji”. In any case, the possibility that this is all Zetsu’s doing does seem to be the most probable explanation at the moment.
As odd as it may sound, what caught my attention the most this chapter were the earlier pages between Naruto and the Kyuubi. Our spirited protagonist is never short of big goals it seems, but what I really liked was how his declaration of eliminating all of the Nine-Tails’ hatred put a very literal spin on the idea that “change has to start from within.” In other words, before Naruto has any hope of eliminated all the hatred in the world, he has to eliminate all of the hatred in his own heart (which just so happens to contain a demon fox). It’s kind of cheesy when I put it that way, but the notion does serve as a morale to the story that I feel series like this should be promoting to its younger audiences.
Last but definitely not least was the little bit of dialogue between Itachi and Pain, which I gather is some foreshadowing of Madara’s unworldly powers now that he has both a Sharingan and a Rinnegan. I like to joke about how he probably has the ability to make the universe implode on itself by “crossing the streams”, except it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched since Madara specializes in space-time techniques. Hax + Hax = More Hax?
Note: I’ll be picking back up regular coverage of the Naruto manga. It’s not too time-consuming to cover and helps alleviate Kiiragi’s load a bit. I figured some people might like having me “around” too.