Naruto 3-in-1 volume 7 is an omnibus edition of the original volumes 19, 20 and 21. Like all of the previous Naruto omnibus editions, this volume collects a very nice selection of stories. Each volume tells its own story while also serving as satisfying continuation of the series. Volume 19 is the direct continuation of the previous volume’s story. Naruto and Jiraiya have just found Tsunade, another of the Three Legendary Shinobi, and they are trying to convince her to accept the position as the Fifth Hokage of Konohagakure village. Orochimaru and Kabuto are also after Tsunade but their goal is to have her heal Orochimaru’s arms that he can continue with his plot to acquire the Sharingan and destroy Konohagakure. The whole volume is an extended fight sequence and as exciting as it is to have the Three Legendary Shinobi fight, it was a bit of a disappointing fight. Part of it had to do with the fact that all three were incapacitated in some way. Orochimaru is unable to use his arms since his fight with the Third Hokage. Tsunade is emotionally crippled as she is struggling between her responsibilities as a Konoha ninja and her more selfish goals. Jiraiya, well, he got poisoned by Tsunade in an earlier story. The other reason the fight was a disappointment had to do with the type of fighting. All three used summoning jutsu and the whole fight escalates in scale and it actually becomes less interesting sine the summoned animals (toad, slug and snake) do much of the fighting. Still, it’s not all bad. We get to see some interesting fighting combinations like Gamabunta (the chief toad) spitting out oil and Jiraiya igniting it with a flame ball. It’s also nice to see Kabuto and Tsunade using their medical jutsu to fight.
Volume 20 served as a nice change of pace. It’s breather volume, taking place between a story arc that just finished an another one that is about to begin. Masashi Kishimoto takes the time to catch up on a few of the other characters and develop them further. He spends time shedding new light on Naruto and Sasuke’s mutual friendship and rivalry. He also spends some time on Rock Lee. Lee is still recovering from the injuries he suffered while fighting Gaara in the Chûnin exam. I have to admit I’ve always been a little disturbed by Guy’s teaching techniques. It’s like brainwashing to a degree. Lee is limited in what he can do. He’s only able to do one of the three main types of justsu. Guy acts as if that’s not a handicap at all but it is. He convinces Lee that even without special abilities he’s able to achieve the same heights in fighting abilities as all of the other genin (low-level ninja). Part of Guy’s teachings are true, Lee can still become a great ninja, but what I don’t like about Guy’s message is that he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that everything Lee will achieve will come at a high price. We witnessed Lee’s incredible taijutsu (physical techniques) during his fight we Gaara but it has left him nearly crippled. It’s nice to get to catch up on all the younger ninjas as the series has had some really hectic plot developments and it elevated the series to a whole new level of action and story but a little breather from time to time is nice.
The final volume of this collection, volume 21, is the beginning of a new arc. After being healed by Tsunade and recognizing Naruto’s impressive growth, Sasuke feels like he hasn’t progressed as a ninja as well as he should have. He’s recently been spurred to achieve greater strength following an encounter with his brother, the man on how he will like to get his revenger for annihilating the Uchiha clan. Sasuke departs to join Orochimaru to become stronger. This leads to Tsunade sending out Shikamaru on a mission to bring Sasuke back to Konohagakure. Shikamaru has always been one of my favourite characters in Naruto. I think it’s great that we get to see him actually lead a team. That’s what he is really good at as opposed to one-on-one fighting. He’s a good fighter but being a ninja is more than just being a strong fighter. Giving Shikamaru this mission and having us follow him on it gives the reader a slightly different look at the world of Naruto, a world in which countries military is made up of ninjas. I was pretty excited about this story arc when I first read it and I’m excited about it now, too. Even though Sasuke isn’t one of my favourite characters (he’s too much of a brooder and feels much too sorry for himself) it’s nice to see him get into action. He’s been moping a lot for several volumes now and if he’s serious about getting stronger, he’s got to go out and do something about it. I don’t think he’s going about it the right way but that’s what makes the story interesting. I’m also excited about this arc because we’ll be seeing some of the Genins in action; some in particular we haven’t really seen do much before.
All three volumes collected in this omnibus edition are a tad underwhelming compared to the crazy volumes that preceded it. The series really came into its own as of the 5th volume, the start of the Chûnin exam. It continued to reach new heights with the end of the exam and Orochimaru’s attack on the village in volume 13. It’s only natural that things started to come down a bit in order to recoup and prepare for the next big storyline. Naruto is also a series that has tons of regular and recurring characters. Kishimoto has regularly been introducing characters since the first volume but in volume 20, he gave the readers the time to catch up with a few characters before starting the next art and though it wasn’t as exciting as some of the stories, I appreciated the change to catch up. The Sasuke Retrieval Team is made up in part of some ninjas we haven’t spent a whole lot of time with before and the spotlight chapters on Choji and his battles (one inner and exterior) for his self-confidence was a rather nice way to start off the new arc. It’s unnecessary to say, but I’m really looking forward to the next 3-in-1 omnibus!