Hey everyone! It’s now part 2 of my series where I look back at old Naruto episodes and pass my judgement on the arcs. Today, we’re looking at the Chunin Exam and Konoha Crush arcs. I lumped the two together because originally they were classed as the same arc, and they also keep the same antagonists. They lead seamlessly into each other, too, which only makes sense that I include both in the same post. It’s a long arc, spanning 60 episodes, so I’ll keep it short-ish.
Also, spoilers ahead!
There are quite a few openings and endings for this section, and this is where we saw a more frequent alternation of ending themes, thus setting the theme for the rest of the show. During the Chunin Exam and Konoha Crush arcs, we were treated to four openings and five endings. The openings and endings for this section were as follows, and GO! and Many Times Before carried over into the Search for Tsunade arc:
- Opening: R*O*C*K*S by Hound Dog – 20-25
- Opening: Haruka Kanata by Asian Kung-Fu Generation – 26-53
- Opening: Kanashimi o Yasashisa ni by Little by Little – 54-77
- Opening: GO! by FLOW – 78-80
- Ending: Wind by Akeboshi – 20-25
- Ending: Harmonia by Rhythem – 26-51
- Ending: Viva*Rock-Japanese Side by Orange Range – 52-64
- Ending: Alive by Raiko – 65-77
- Ending: Many Times Before by The Massmissile – 78-80
Now, this is probably one of the meatiest posts I’ll have to write up for this half of the series. The Chunin Exam arc re-introduced the Rookie 9, and some new characters that we’ll come to know and love – such as Rock Lee, Neji Hyuga, Might Guy and last but certainly not least, Gaara of the Funk (I’m sorry, I had to reference the Abridged series). In all seriousness, I’ll get to that last one soon. We also get introduced to what these new characters can do, and some of them appear hella scary, to begin with.
It’s also in this arc where I find Sasuke to be more insufferable – he’s eyed up as competition by a lot of the candidates, but he’s become a lot more power-hungry. Naruto has also become more insufferable, but that’s a knock-on effect from the attention that Sasuke gets, especially in the first stages of the exam. Neji was also insufferable and one-note as a character, but it’s explained by his back-story, and it also important all the way into Shippuden later on. In stark contrast, Sakura becomes less irritating and more developed and stops being such a dick to Naruto.
The first exam for the Chunin exams was quite an interesting concept, where the candidates were encouraged to cheat stealthily. And by the end, Naruto launches in with his famous Talk no Jutsu to encourage the rest of the candidates to proceed to round 2, which takes place in the Forest of Death.
Episode 26, Special Report: Live from the Forest of Death!, is the first of many, many filler episodes, and is not worth watching, as it’s just a recap of what has happened thus far, but set in an interview setting conducted by Konohamaru, Moegi and Udon. Even I skipped this episode while rewatching, but I have to put that disclaimer in here.
The second exam was most certainly high-stakes for our trio. We got our first introduction of Orochimaru, as well as the catalyst for much of what is to come from here on out.
The preliminary battles were hit and miss. We had spectacular scenes from Hinata and Neji, as well as Rock Lee and Gaara. But then you had…Naruto farting, and Choji getting one-shot by Dosu. And so. Many. Flashbacks. Some were repeated, others took way too long, and took the focus off the fight scenes. They failed to keep us immersed.
We were then taken to the gap between exam rounds, where we are introduced to the pretty awesome Jiraiya. I downplay that because he is a total pervert.
Then we get to the finals of the Chunin exams. They’re not much to sniff about, except for Neji moaning about his destiny, Shikamaru moaning about having to compete, Shino just wanting his screen time and everyone else moaning about Sasuke being late. But that’s nothing compared to afterwards, where we saw Hiruzen and Orochimaru engaging in a tug-of-war with the latter’s soul, a chase sequence, Shino getting his screen time (yay) and the moment Gaara stopped being a dick.
At least the flashbacks for the Konoha Crush section were stronger – featuring Orochimaru and Gaara, the latter of the two is always one to bring me to tears, and this time is no exception. This is the point in the series where he becomes my favourite character, just for that development alone.
The arcs end on a bittersweet note, with the passing of the Third Hokage, but a light at the end of the tunnel. Except for the teaser of the Akatsuki, of course. But that’s a tale for next week!
Let’s see here – we have a broad dynamic of new characters, but they have some key attribute to them that makes them recognisable. But the level of talent shown at the first half of the series is a true testament to how ‘under levelled’ these rookies are and have been thrust into a dangerous world filled with psychos and weird Jutsu.
Of course, they are small fry compared to what we see much later, but it’s interesting to see the different styles that they bring to the table. I mean, that’s not to say they won’t get stronger later, but the stakes are higher as it’s a huge competition, rather than everyone being allies, taking down a singular enemy.
Speaking of enemies, we have two major enemies here – Orochimaru and Gaara. The latter enemy is a knock-on effect from a tragic back-story and Orochimaru’s input in terms of the attack on Konoha. Orochimaru sets up wonderfully with Sasuke for later in the series!
Final Score: 7.5/10 – a strong concept that is executed well, but the number of flashbacks wasn’t necessary, at least until Gaara’s back-story.
Next Week: Search for Tsunade and Land of Tea arcs.