Naruto 528 and 400+ chapters ago

Yes I know, both images are from chapter 527.

A short summary of what happened in the last few chapters: Ginkaku and Kinkaku fight using four of the five ninja treasures, which synergies allow them to capture and seal the souls of whom speaks the word they've used the most in their lives. The failsafe to this tactic is that you will still be sealed if you kept mum for too long. Mr. Hot and Ms. Cool of the Cloud Ninjas (no kidding, that's their name) fell prey to this tactic and got sealed. Mr. Dull (also his name) learned that he has an upperhand in this battle because he has two most-used words which rendered the technique ineffective... well, since he can switch between his two most-used words.

Like how Mr. Dull said so himself, it's a stupid word game... is this the reality of the ninja world Kishimoto has created? I understand the need to make different styles of combat for ninjas of various alliances or even eras, but this technique has reached a new low. That's what I thought of the recent introduction of elements combos like dust element, lava element and what, boil element? Heck, I've never liked the introduction of the elements in the first place; it just puts Naruto on the same level as most typical shounen series.

What I do like about Naruto's fighting is the uniqueness of Ninjutsu which was now missing from recent chapters. Shadow clones, body switching, illusions, medical ninjutsu, mind switching, sealing, familiar summoning, hand seals, puppets, tailed beasts, etc... that's that makes the series interesting. What do we have now? Water beats fire, lighting beats earth, elements combo makes everything imba, kage-level powers everywhere, sensors that render everything but direct combat useless, the biggest hadouken beats everything, Sharingan beats everything, Rinnegan beats Sharingan plus everything. When was the last time hand seals actually mattered?

And story-wise; what got me hooked onto Naruto, and also what I considered to be one of the best scene in manga history:

This scene still gives me goosebumps. The version above wasn't translated as well as the chinese one, but it still has the effect; Naruto with his hard work, determination and courage has defied all odds to be able to stand on the same stage as the strongest person in his level, while he was considered one of the weakest. It may be similar to one of those "loser + determination wins the bully" scenarios that were so common in shounen mangas, but no other manga I've seen has done this better than the Naruto vs Neji fight. It isn't about Naruto beating Neji in the end; it was about what it took to be able to get on that same stage.

Among the big three (Naruto, One Piece, Bleach), I've always regard Naruto as the best among them (although most prefer OP) but now I find it hard to see it more than a common shounen manga. When will I ever see the real Naruto that Kishimoto delivered again? Probably never...

That's a real GAME FACE.

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