…is what I would’ve liked to say about Neji, except he’s beyond gone when he can’t differentiate Kiba from Akamaru. Admittedly, I was amused by their short dialogue more than most people probably were. Their comedic routine also served as a nice juxtaposition to the hardworking and extremely devoted Hinata, whom I’m secretly hoping Naruto will continue to see in a better light. In addition to Sakura being reminded of Sasuke after a sudden confession — and not Naruto — Hinata has the whole “Mizuki Nana factor” going for her in the anime, which to me is a clear edge over Sakura’s Nakamura Chie. (Not that I watch the anime anymore…)
Seiyuu justification notwithstanding, the fact that Sakura is still so heavily “invested” in Sasuke spoke volumes about how Naruto is still competing against another guy who doesn’t give a damn about her. It’s almost insult to injury that his love rival so to speak is still “winning” after all these years when he’s not even around and trying to. While I personally don’t care for the character shipping one way or another, Sakura’s blind love beyond reason is ultimately why I find it hard to favor her over Hinata. The only reason I care to point it out is because I tend to favor a brash tsundere over the quiet, devoted alternative, yet Naruto (as a series) continues to go against that trend.
As for the developments of actual interest, Sakura does deserve praise for catching onto white Zetsu’s chakra-perfect cloning technique when the latter didn’t realize that Tonton is Tsunade’s pet pig. It didn’t look like she was purposely using it to check if Neji is really who he seemed to be, and simply became suspicious mid-conversation, so kudos to her quick thinking after learning that spies had infiltrated their ranks. I presume the reason for keeping both Itachi and Pain (Nagato) away from the front lines was to cause further confusion as to whether this is the work of a Sharingan or a Rinnegan, much like it did in this very chapter when Ao was frantically throwing out possibilities.
The question now is what Shikaku will do to deal with all the white Zetsu clones. The ninja alliance can’t really discuss the next phase of their plan let alone execute it with spies snooping about, so I’m looking forward to seeing what type of countermeasure he comes up with. Much like Shikamaru, I’m never quite sure what the Naras will come up since they plan numerous steps ahead. I don’t care to speculate either for that very reason, and will just be content about suspecting that “Neji” was a white Zetsu clone last chapter.
Of course, what I’m looking forward to more is Bee
checking out Tsunade’s rack partnering up with Naruto and potentially getting into a bit of an exchange with their Kages. I highly doubt the four of them will get into a heated clash, but I can see Naruto convincing Tsunade to let him participate in the war efforts from now. It would be pretty messed up if all this build-up towards our hero joining the war only resulted in him getting sidelined again. I can only imagine the readership rage over having to wait another twenty or so chapters before Naruto comes face-to-face with Madara or Sasuke. Kishimoto-sensei, please don’t go out of your way to prove me wrong.