Naruto 2 by Masashi Kishimoto: B

From the back cover:
Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura have passed the final test to become junior ninja—but now the real challenge begins. Tired of menial tasks, the young ninja ask for a tougher assignment, and find themselves—together with their teacher, Kakashi—bodyguarding a cranky old man from the Land of the Waves. But Tazuna the bridgebuilder is in more danger than anyone realizes: he’s the target of elite ninja assassins, including Zabuza, “the demon,” and our heroes are about to face a trial by fire…

I’m happy to report that there were no crude gags or nosebleeds whatsoever in this volume. Instead, the team gets a new assignment that, besides having fun ninja battles, opens Naruto’s eyes to a few things. He’d held a very idealistic dream of becoming a ninja leader, without having the slightest idea of what a real battle is like or considering that sometimes a hero must sacrifice their life for the sake of others. I liked that he wasn’t instantly the hero of the conflict.

Sasuke and Kakashi completely steal the show for me. Sasuke is silent and competent, and I like that sort of character. Kakashi is the rational adult with an occasional silly side, teaching the children sternly and fairly, and also completely awesome when he is actually compelled to fight. He kind of reminds me of Remus Lupin. Like… if he were a ninja.

I am glad I gave this series one more try, because the second volume is loads better than the first. The one thing left that bugs me is Sakura’s apparent utter uselessness. I hope she begins to serve some purpose eventually.

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