Reviews: First Try Series
It'll take more than a case of food poisoning for this to get a passing grade
The First Try Series, by Lucilla, is a For Want of a Nail fic that explores an alternate possibility of Naruto's development, but falls into too many stylistic pitfalls to truly do this concept justice. The plot involves a simple change to canon. Unlike in canon, Naruto passes on his first try at graduating from the academy because the proctor for the final exam got food poisoning, and because his Genin Exam was administered by a man who hates Naruto, but has to pass a relative. The writing style relies far too much on exposition rather than dialogue, with many scenes happening offscreen, and important events like battles coming off as though the narration had skimmed over them. It feels as though we're being told about what happened rather than shown it, which is never a good thing. Characterization is not the author's strong suit. Most of the OCs come off as bland and uninteresting, if they're not one-dimensional strawmen like Sakura's mother. Sasuke and Sakura have their jerkish tendencies exaggerated and their competence diminished, so instead of them growing along with Naruto and developing as a team, the story consists of Naruto and Tetsuo lecturing Sakura and Sakura while driving home how much better than his teammates Naruto is. To a lesser degree, Kakashi gets bashed as being obsessed with training Naruto, the child of his late sensei, and is shown as far less effective than the OC, Tetsuo. Even Naruto himself bears little resemblance to his canon counterpart, being fouler tempered, far less patient with his teammates and generally fairly abrasive. Granted, there are reasons for this- the trauma he suffers at various points and his less pleasant teammates- but his personality gets tiresome before long. There's quite a bit of Fanon here, from how ninja and civilians interact, to why the academy produces such supposedly poor-quality graduates. Given how many developments are driven forth by the author's poorly founded theories, the story often comes off as forced and not very believable. In conclusion, perhaps it's for the best that Naruto didn't canonically have this stroke of good fortune, and that his manga was not written by Lucilla.
Awesome fic, but not without its flaws
This has been one of the few really good retellings of Naruto, up there with Team 8 in terms of overall quality. Naruto as a veteran genin surprisingly works and Tetsuo is a great sensei to him, and Suzume and Satoshi are both enjoyable to read about. However, it isn't without its flaws. One of the biggest flaws is that the author...really has trouble writing action. Its not bad, per say, but it just lacks flow, and instead of showing a full fight scene on screen we get a play by play after the fight ends. What should be entertaining fights, such as Naruto vs Neji or Naruto vs Gaara are practically glossed over with the latter being an almost Off Screen Moment Of Awesome. Another flaw is how he handles Naruto's character. He turns Naruto from a Genius Ditz who has one of the biggest, most forgiving hearts in the entirety of Shonen (up there with fricken Goku-or even better) into a somewhat cynical person who rarely forgives. This is in complete odds with his canon personality. He refuses to forgive Kakashi and let him train him, he muses that he'll never forgive Gaara (and even doesn't get the whole Not So Different characterization), and genuinely acts like a cynical bastard. Not to mention changing his overall enjoyable fighting style from using his clones in inventive ways to...laying traps. Not that that's bad, but it just doesn't fit with the Naruto we all know and love from canon. And his refusal to even try to learn to use the Fox's power is a Wall Banger in itself and not only short sighted, but insanely stupid. Another thing he got wrong is KN0 being capable of all these feats when in canon, its a power that even genin such as Sasuke, Neji, or Gaara can handle. The second KN 0 Naruto attacked Zabuza in anger he should have been on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle after all. Its not like in Part II where it'd be justified, given Naruto has reached Jonin level himself at the start of Shippuden. It just seems like a downgrade for the enemies and an upgrade for Naruto. However, despite these flaws it is not only an enjoyable fic, but highly recommended from me. Its still a absolute joy to read.