Naruto Chapter 698 – 699 Breakdown: Now that’s taking the term “brothers in arms” to a whole new level.
It’s a word that has seen it’s fair share of attention over the course of Naruto as a series, and likewise, one that has been a catalyst for a number of debates and discussions on our blog. During this war arc in particular, the theme of “destiny” became a matter of contention for many readers, and I think this sentiment stems from the fact that while in Part One Naruto was someone who had always defied his fate, in Part Two – and in this war arc in particular – it might have felt to some as though he had somehow become a slave to it.
However, I’ve never personally seen it that way. I’ve always seen Naruto as a character who was able to break through the molds and cycles that had trapped the world for so long. Despite being given titles such as the “Destined Child”, and despite the prophecies looming over his head, I think Naruto has always followed his own heart irrespective of what others believed he was destined to achieve, whether they foresaw his greatness or his demise.
As if to reinforce this particular sentiment, whereby Naruto could be seen as a catalyst for change, Kishi presented us with an eerily familiar scene in chapter 698 during the battle between Naruto and Sasuke, one that very much reflected a similar scene that occurred during Naruto’s battle with Neji during the Chunin exams.
What makes these two scenes so relatable, aside from the anti-emo uppercut that Naruto seems to have mastered on both occasions, are the similarities between Neji’s and Sasuke’s views at the times these battles took place.
During the Chunin Exams, Neji believed that all Shinobi were bound by a particular destiny, preordained from birth. He preached that while some individuals were always destined to be strong or to lead, others were likewise always fated to be weak and fall beneath them in an unchangeable hierarchy of predetermined prestige. It was with his powerful eyes, clouded by arrogance and shrouded in darkness, that Neji looked down on Naruto and saw him as something of an inferior being that was destined to lose to him. Much in the same manner, Sasuke also looks down on Naruto during their battle at the Valley of the End and even remarks on how, with the power of his eyes, he was destined to be the victor between the two of them.
On both occasions, Naruto proves his oppressors wrong by showing them that it’ is possible to break free from one’s own fate and change it, not only for himself, but for everyone else as well. I think, in a way, this was Kishi’s way of symbolically acknowledging how Naruto was able to pull Neji out of the darkness, as well as Neji’s words to Naruto during the Sound Four Arc with regards to his efforts to try and do the same for Sasuke.
Now, in a way, we’ve come full circle and much as he did against Neji in the Chunin Exam arc, Naruto has once again risen above the ceiling that others have tried to enclose him in.
Overcoming all odds, and after years of suffering and strain, Naruto finally managed to put an end to the battle between himself and Sasuke, not only for the two of them, but for their predecessors as well, leading all the way up to the spirits of Asura and Indra. I think for us readers as well, it was a moment we had been looking forward to for a long time, and for better or worse, we were finally able to witness it at last. Now that the dust has cleared and the damage has been done, all that’s left between the two, who were bound to each other as both brothers and enemies, was whatever feelings were left remaining, whether agonizing and hurtful, or simply peaceful and content.
What follows is a moment of inner self reflection for Sasuke and one of the few moments, if not the first, where we got a glimpse of his true, unadulterated feelings regarding his friend, Naruto.
What I found most interesting about this moment of insight into Sasuke’s feelings, was just how aware he actually was of Naruto’s suffering and how he formed a link between the two of them through that sense of shared pain and understanding. It also appears as though Sasuke was mindful of how Naruto was treated by their fellow villagers and even though he might not have known exactly why, he was well aware of the fact that Naruto was ostracized.
Sasuke even admits that when he saw Naruto suffer, he started hurting as well, in a similar manner to how Naruto also admitted that he hurt when he thought about Sasuke’s intentions to be alone. It does make me question why, despite knowing about Naruto’s suffering, Sasuke still contributed to it further and tried to cut him away – to the point of trying to kill him – but perhaps it could be written off to the idea that Sasuke just didn’t know how to deal with it in any other way. Or perhaps he saw it as a form of mercy towards Naruto, to end his suffering while taking up the mantle in order to suffer alone himself.
Either way, I think this moment of self reflection, for both Naruto and Sasuke, was one of the most compelling and emotional moments in the manga for me personally. It was further intensified when at the end of Sasuke’s myriad of thoughts, we’re given a simple yet picturesque image of the two of them lying there, bathed in the warm, radiant rays of the early morning sunlight. Despite the visage of their battered bodies, they appear to be resting peacefully, as if both were simply content to lie there in each other’s company regardless of whatever future was left in store for them, even if that future was death.
Chapter 698 certainly wasn’t without its harrowing and emotional moments. You could say that the chapter itself was a roller-coaster of both beautiful and yet haunting scenes, which visually reflected the bitter-sweet nature of this moment shared between two spiritual brothers, whose lives were locked in an endless cycle of bloodshed and conflict.
The double page spread at the end of the chapter, where you see both Naruto’s and Sasuke’s severed arms and the the blood that connected them together, was probably one of the most shocking and impactful scenes in this manga to date. It was further intensified on a symbolic level in chapter 699, when the scene pans out and you get a glimpse of the hands of Hashirama’s and Madara’s statues with their fingers wrapped around each other, as if holding each other in a gesture of friendship and understanding.
Whether it was through exceptional foresight or shear coincidence, I think it’s amazing how Kishi used the two statues of Hashirama and Madara, who were facing each other poised for battle, in such a manner to visually represent the the change from hatred and conflict to friendship and understanding. Where their predecessors failed, Naruto and Sasuke have succeeded in reaching a point where the endless cycle of conflict between Ashura and Indra can finally come to an end.
I also think it’s symbolic that the hands of the statues that were held in a manner so as to represent seals for gathering chakra and casting jutsu, are now being shown as a means of bonding with others. In a way, this also ties back to the original purpose of chakra, as well as the creation of Ninshu, which Hagoromo intended for people to use to connect with each other and share their feelings as opposed to creating a destructive means to wage war.
I personally think it would be a powerful gesture if two new statues were erected in the Valley of the End to commemorate the battle between Naruto and Sasuke, much in the same way they previously symbolized the battle between Hashirama and Madara. Only this time, instead of facing each other with swords in hand and jutsu at the ready, it should show the statues with their fingers interlocked as we see above, both as a sign of the struggle that was overcome, as well as the marking of the dawn of a new era.
In any case, I know I’ve been pasting large sections of pages from these past two chapters showing Sasuke’s thoughts, but I really do think they’re important enough to highlight, given that it was with his thoughts that this part in the series came to an end. So, instead of writing too much about it further, I thought I’d just show the entire scene – with all of Sasuke’s inner feelings – and let everyone interpret it in their own way and give their own meaning to it.
I know that we still had chapter 700 following in the wake of this, but I think in many ways, chapter 699 marked the end of Naruto as a series in itself, because it was the true end of the journey Naruto underwent to bring back Sasuke, and that is why I decided to end this breakdown here for now, as opposed to doing a triple.
I also think Sasuke’s words brought us back around full circle once again, back to what it means to be a Ninja, and that someone who “endures”. Through the pain and hardships, the smile and tears, the struggles and triumphs, a ninja always endures and strives towards the future. We don’t have all the answers now and sometimes the pain may seem unbearable, but there’s always hope as long as we stay steady on our path and take one step at a time together.
In any case, that’s all from me for now. I hope you all enjoyed the breakdown. I’ll still do a breakdown for chapter 700 in a week’s time, but for now I’ll leave you with what may very well be the last Bubbliton Contest we ever have for this series. I hope everyone get’s involved and takes part, and who knows, you might be lucky enough to take what could be the last “first place”.
I’ll see you all in the comments! ^ ^