Manga Review: Naruto – Shikamaru’s Story (A Cloud Drifting in the Silent Dark)
As Nara Shikamaru lies on the roof of the Hokage office, he wonders how his life went astray. Remembering back to the carefree days of silly antics, cloud watching and lazying around with his team, life wasn’t the same anymore. With Shikamaru’s rising status as a key advisor for the Sixth Hokage (Hatake Kakashi) and fellow members of the Shinobi Union, Shikamaru is pressured to step up and assist the higher-ups. Determined to work hard in order to unify the world once again, this is NARUTO: SHIKAMARU’S STORY (A DRIFTING CLOUD IN THE SILENT DARK).
The Fourth Shinobi World War marked a significant chapter in shinobi history. Not only did every nation offer manpower in their thousands but they eventually defeated Uchiha Madara and his mastermind plan to conquer the world. The end of war may have brought peace to the world temporarily but a concerning matter has now emerged where ninjas are suddenly disappearing off the map with their whereabouts unknown.
After receiving a strange letter from Team 7’s Sai whom was investigating the matter with a team of Anbu spies, Kakashi’s mind was not at ease at all. Fearful of the fact that Sai may have been ambushed by the enemy, all clues and links of missing ninjas directed to a mysterious empire — the Land of Silence. Assigned with two Anbus Ro and Soku, Shikamaru volunteers to infiltrate the Land of Silence, and assassinate the country’s damiyo, Gengo.
A superior improvement from what fans received in Naruto: Kakashi’s Story, Shikamaru’s Story is the second epilogue novel in the Naruto Gaiden series. Written by Takashi Yano (Itachi Shinden, Assassin’s Creed 4), this epilogue novel revolves around one of Konoha’s greatest intellects, Nara Shikamaru, and his perception of the world two years since the war.
Shikamaru may not be a central character in Naruto but fans will be enlightened by Shikamaru’s story and the role he plays in aiding Naruto to the apex of the ladder. From the young child who once thought everything was a ‘drag’ to the important role that his adult self now bears, Shikamaru has come a long way to where he is today.
For most Naruto fans, many regard Shikamaru as a man of little words who is especially noted for his apparent apathetic persona on the outside. Through the power of prose in Shikamaru’s Story, we appreciate Takashi Yano’s efforts of portraying the world from Shikamaru’s point of view. Despite his sometimes passive and lazy attitude, it is Shikamaru’s ambition to guide and protect the future generation of Konoha — even if it is at the cost of his happiness and having the ‘just right’ life.
Still ridden with guilt back to the days when Shikamaru failed his first mission of rescuing Sasuke, the audience still feels his pain up till this day, and because of this, we can only hope for Sai’s safety return.
Just when Shikamaru thought everything was going smoothly according to plan, Shikamaru discovers that missing ninjas have now converted to Gengo’s way of life — a life in which ninjas desire to dominate over the damiyo and ordinary humans. As a result, Shikamaru beings to question his role as a ninja: What does it mean to be a ninja? What is the purpose of life? What would it take to revolutionise the world? Has Shikamaru’s efforts of achieving ninja missions made a difference in the world?
For many Naruto fans, the author’s commentary on morals and philosophies about being a ninja follow a similar suit to Kishimoto’s writing that is often explored throughout the original series. While readers will be intrigued by the extensive commentary provided by Gengo about how the ninja system should be run, Shikamaru’s thoughts on the matter are also meticulously insightful as well. However, as much as we appreciate the weighing evaluation of the argument, the narrative soon becomes convoluted in bringing the message across to readers.
Thankfully, the inclusion of climactic action and romance throughout the novel generates a striking balance that will captivate readers. With the novel written in prose format, fans will be forced to visualise the action in their minds — a thrilling yet disappointing challenge as Naruto‘s action is best viewed visually.
In this epilogue story, not only do we see a majority of Konoha ninjas interacting with Shikamaru, but we also see our favourite Sand ninjas being involved as well. Besides seeing our favourite ninjas engaging in intense action, we also detect a few cozy moments shared between the characters. Whether it is through their actions or spoken dialogue, the prose style offers a transparent observation of their bonds and relationships.
Much to the delight of Shikamaru and Temari fans, fans will be ecstatic to see this solid friendship blossoming and taking it to the next level. With mutual respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses, this is a couple that was destined to happen from the beginning. However, it is not just Shikamaru and Temari who are in love. We also witness subtle hints and mentions of other Naruto characters being immersed in their own romances, including Sakura and Sasuke and Ino and Sai. Since there is no official Naruto sequel that has yet to tell us of the world in great detail, intimate moments like these make fans excited, and the content refreshing.
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