A lot of things kinda happened in recent weeks, and I was originally going to go through all of the filler episodes and give my views on them. I was 13 episodes in when I realised that I just couldn’t put myself through that torture. So I skipped on to Shippuden.
Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen anything Naruto.
This week, we’re taking a look at the first arc of the Shippuden run – the Kazekage Rescue Arc. It lasts for 32 episodes, and I’ll say this now – the series doesn’t pull any punches right out of the gate. It makes sense, considering it’s a continuation of the original series. Right off the bat, you already get an intense stand-off between Naruto and Sakura (as well as an unnamed character) against Sasuke. This is the moment that a lot of fans obviously were waiting for in the midst of all the fillers, but it’s here! And it left me excited to see this moment in full when it arrived. The Boruto series, in both manga and anime canon, have seen this method being used to set up the character Kawaki, but I may talk about that in the future if I decide to review the Boruto series.
Throughout the first few episodes, from Naruto’s return to after the rematch for the bells versus Kakashi, there’s a lot of remarks about how he’s grown – I should have made a counter on this, but it’s too late now. There are more counters to come in the future.
You notice that the art style is more clear and concise, and I thought that might have something to do with the time between the original series and Shippuden. However, because the Japanese releases of the series were only a week apart, I think it’s more a stylistic change they went for starting with Shippuden. All of the fights looked like they’d improved, except perhaps the fights between Team Gai and their trap clones.
In the midst of the bell challenge, we’re also treated to a battle between Akatsuki member Deidara and (best boy) Gaara, who ended up being a busy boy and became the Kazekage. See, told you they didn’t pull any punches! Although I think I prefer the Abridged series that was up quite a while ago that implemented the Black Knight scene from Holy Grail but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.
I also suppose it’s a bit of a cheap trick by faking book spoilers to get the bells, but you gotta take advantage of those weak spots, but at least Naruto’s getting cleverer, in stark contrast to the fillers where they made him a dumb caricature.
Onto the main fights – I didn’t really think much of the fights against fake Itachi and Kisame. I mean, I forgot to include them on this post initially, so…
I see a lot of talk about how this arc is the only one where Sakura is useful. Yes, she saves Kankuro’s life and fights alongside Chiyo against Sasori. But I felt that the latter instance people have it all wrong. They say she fought with the assistance of Chiyo, where I feel it’s the opposite way around. Going by the flashbacks and circumstance, I feel that this was entirely Chiyo’s fight, hence why she tagged along for the journey. Sakura simply assisted her instead.
Naruto and Kakashi going up against Deidara isn’t really much to speak of, because it’s mostly Naruto getting angry and evolving into a game of cat and mouse. But it all culminates later and isn’t even the most boring fight.
Yes, the most boring fights to me are the aforementioned Team Gai vs trap clone fights. Can we just say that Tenten is as useless here as she was in pretty much every arc? That’s not a Tenten bash at all, it’s the way she’s written into the story – she’s only there to either agree on things or to reprimand Lee and Gai. People hate on Sakura for the uselessness, but that’s only really valid in the original run. Tenten, however, has been written to be consistently unnecessary, and it’s like adding a fanfiction character that doesn’t really have anything to contribute except form some kind of bond with another character romantically.
I have to mention that Masashi Kishimoto himself stated that he cannot write female protagonists well, and it’s clear going forward into filler Tenten later in the series.
I mean, my favourite anime character dies, so that engaged a lot of feels. However, this is also the first time – and sadly not the last – we see ‘Ass-Pull No Jutsu’ come out, although it was already set up for that in the first place. For me, though, the main shock was that a character died pretty quickly into the series that wasn’t an enemy.
I remember not liking Chiyo on the first watch back in 2011, but now I liked her straight away, probably because I knew what was about to happen at the end of the arc.
We have to talk about the openings, though. Hero’s Come Back and Distance are great openings – Hero’s Come Back simply teases tidbits of what’s to come in the current arc, while Distance is the confirmation that we’ll see Sasuke in the next arc. Let’s not talk about that perverted scene, nor is it the only one in the series to do this. Thanks, Orochimaru.
I also have to highlight the better soundtrack that separates itself away from the original, and there are a lot of different themes that highlight the new maturity of the series.
Overall, I feel that it’s a strong start to the series, just like the original series. I know Shippuden won’t keep up this good momentum throughout the series, but we can bask in the good story-arcs while we can!