Anime Review – Naruto Shippuden

Naruto-ShippudenNaruto Shippuden first hit our screens in February 2017. Throughout 500 279 canon episodes it kept us enthralled with epic fight scenes, moved by odd romances, intrigued by mysterious characters and constantly facepalming from extremely annoying fillers and relentless flashbacks. Warning: This anime may cause head injuries.

As with almost any successful, long-running anime series, it has inevitably polarised the community. While some undoubtedly think Naruto Shippuden is on par with chlamydia, others will excitedly claim it’s as good eating cookies while taking free stuff from hotel rooms. The truth? Well, it lies somewhere in the middle (it’s hard to beat cookies and freebies). But whether you’re a fan or a hater – there’s no denying this series has long had a huge presence in the anime community.

To give the quick, spoiler-free synopsis. Naruto Shippuden focuses around (go figure) Naruto – an overly righteous individual with a temper shorter than a micro penis. He’s on a quest to bring back his childhood rival and friend Sasuke from the shadows. Being one of nine jinchuuriki, Naruto hosts the power of a tailed beast inside of him – a power that a group of extremely powerful, for the most part nefarious, and semi-sexy ninjas known as the Akatsuki seek in order to set their devilish plan into motion.

To go further with specifics is to go into spoiler land – a land which is nobody’s friend. So we won’t go there.

Look at that badass stare. That determination. Those qualities I do not have. Source: Studio Pierrot
Look at that badass stare. That determination. Those qualities I do not have.    Source: Studio Pierrot

But overall the plot starts with a clear focus. It has a strong level of depth, some strange surprises, emotional tugs to pull at your heartstrings and insanely suspenseful action scenes. It builds, and then, once it looks like the plot is wrapping up – it explodes.

Admittedly I found the start of this ‘explosion’ to be exciting. But it’s also an explosion that continues forever, with the plot constantly expanding – to be bigger, more powerful, more complex. And while it’s definitely all of those things, personally i’m not sure if it was better overall.

Look at the Raikage go. His explosion is just a small fraction of the overall explosion. Yes. Imagine. Source: Studio Pierrot
Look at the Raikage go. His explosion is just a small fraction of the overall plot explosion. Yes. Imagine.     Source: Studio Pierrot

With a myriad of new characters now knocking on your screen the change can be somewhat overwhelming. Admittedly though this isn’t my main strife – it’s the way that they’re brought in which made be feel a little cheated. It was also the feeling that every plot event had to keep upstaging the last – ‘the next big thing’ so to speak – and I promise I don’t mean anything sexual when I say that!

Take my troubles with a grain of salt, because these aspects by no mean make the plot bad, and watching is often as satisfying as finally peeing after holding it in for an hour.

Bewildered Naruto is the best Naruto. Source: Studio Pierrot
Bewildered Naruto is the best Naruto.    Source: Studio Pierrot

Now stop! Yes – right there. And let us backtrack just a bit. Because like a broken doorbell that won’t stop ringing there are some blaring annoyances at play too. You guessed it (and if you didn’t we’ll pretend you did) – flashbacks and fillers.

There’s a place for flashbacks in anime. Naruto Shippuden took that place and expanded it about three thousand times. We saw everything. Flashbacks to pointless filler content. Flashbacks to the previous episode. Flashbacks reused multiple times – I mean the amount of times I had to see Naruto sitting on that swing alone must have been in the twenties. And to be honest. It got old. It got old pretty fast.

You, the audience, are treated like you suffer from short-term memory loss. “OH IN CASE YOU FORGOT – here’s ANOTHER flashback of Naruto being lonely as a child.” We. Get. It. We really do. These flashbacks creep into everything and really slow down the pace and disjoint the suspense, similar to if someone was to start vacuum cleaning next to your ear while you watched.

Here is an image of Sasuke not taken from a flashback. Because you're going to see enough flashbacks of this guy that I didn't want to add to the count. Source: Studio Pierrot
Here is an image of Sasuke not taken from a flashback. You’re going to see enough flashbacks of this guy. I didn’t want to add to the count.    Source: Studio Pierrot

But I digress. Similar to finding gold in a trash can, there were a handful of incredible flashbacks within the hundreds of horrid ones. Specifically the flashbacks into Nagato, Yahiko and Konan’s life, as well as the Nine Tails’ attack on Konoha both had me glued – like you couldn’t tear me away from the screen if the room I was watching in was burning to the ground (ok, you got me, slight exaggeration – boy’s gotta live).

What set these flashbacks apart was that they revealed new information, gave interesting insights and were showcased in a compelling way. They added to the story, and I have to give props to the anime for them.

But as we turn to talk fillers the praise undoubtedly ends. Some of the earlier fillers were ok – the Three Tails Arc and the Six Tails Arc were both fascinating and helped ease my inherent obsession with the tailed beasts while maintaining some relevance to the main plot.

But whoever was coming up with the fillers got lazy – like zero fucks given lazy. Because they quickly turned from being so-so to a turd that – trust me – you don’t want to go near. If anyone tries to tell you the fillers in Naruto Shippuden are good (post episode 151) then DO NOT TRUST THEM – these are the same kind of people who’ll try to sell you a used condom. My advice is to run away from them like they’re the evil person they clearly are.

They're even more evil than this Akatsuki member and his upside-down ways. Source: Studio Pierrot
They’re even more evil than this Akatsuki member and his upside-down ways.   Source: Studio Pierrot

But what you shouldn’t be running away from is this anime’s characters (except for when Killer Bee starts his horrible rapping, then you should get out as soon as possible). With a total of 475 episodes it’s no surprise that Naruto Shippuden hosts an enormous cast – and with ample time to flesh them out you do get to see these characters take full form. I’d even say in some situations the characters are overdeveloped – akin to a cake with too much icing (does such a thing exist?!) This was mainly caused by unwelcome flashbacks that continually rehashed what was already known.

However the strong development had a dark side *dims lights*. Shippuden was great at building characters. Yet once a characters’ psychological framework was established there wasn’t much room for it to change. There were definitely quite a few exceptions. But within the huge cast many supporting characters didn’t budge from their refined personality boundaries (besides development from the initial Naruto to Naruto Shippuden time gap).

Watch this guy with joy in the action scenes and then cry when he speaks. Source: Studio Pierrot
Watch this guy with joy in the action scenes and then cry when he speaks.    Source: Studio Pierrot

On one hand I wish they had, but another part of me feels this may have been for the best to avoid overcomplicating the series. Note that while we see most retain their base personality, electrifying new powers (pun intended!) and distinctive, character-driven battle techniques are constantly emerging.

To add – characters are almost all unique. From passionate to lazy, outgoing to reserved, likeable to incessantly irritating – there’s generally a handful you’ll resonate with and a few you’ll deeply despise. For me, this made viewing a little more emotional, and while I wasn’t quite having heated meltdowns or crying into my pillow after every episode, it did provide an emotional tug that made viewing as a whole more immersive.

Now to forcibly subject you to hearing my favourite characters. They were Konan, Gaara, Sai and Karin – who’s love for Sasuke reminded me of my love for food. Design wise I took a shine to Deidera and Fu (even though she had like one minute of total air time). Something about that mint green hair had me hooked.

Karin is batshit crazy and it's great. Source: Studio Pierrot
Karin is batshit crazy and it’s great.    Source: Studio Pierrot

Character design across the board was rather strong, being both appealing and easily distinguishable. But when we extend this to look at art and animation as whole it starts to get a little shaky. Not quite earthquake destroys city shaky, but there was a disturbance at play. There were moments when the art and animation was amazing, but at other times I couldn’t help but raise my right eyebrow and think “What happened here?”

Enter episode 167. Off the back of an amazing fight, faces now looked more like odd-shaped puddles with eyes. In this case it really comes down to personal preference, but similar to unwelcome sexual advances – I wasn’t a fan. This was mainly because it was weirdly inconsistent with the animation up to that point and I was like “Aaah! Change!” *Runs away*

The animation of episode 167. Is that a face? Are you confused? I'm confused. Source: Studio Pierrot
The animation of episode 167. Is that a face? Are you confused? I’m confused.    Source: Studio Pierrot

*Returns with glass of water* There were also moments where the animation was simply bad. Jumping from tree to tree often looked like flying, and some episodes saw the detail really drop off. The silver lining comes in the fact that most of the big fights are animated beautifully.

Being somewhat cryptic so as to avoid spoilers – the clang of multiple swords, the control of numerous puppets, the uncanny explosions, sage-mode displays, immortal rituals, visual showdowns, and even the battle involving thousands – all animated beautifully.

Not to mention powerful paper displays. P.S. I love Konan. Studio: Studio Pierrot
Not to mention powerful paper arrays. P.S. I love Konan.    Studio: Studio Pierrot

It was rare to leave a fight scene thinking the animation was weak. But I did sometimes end a fight thinking it had been overly drawn out by long, pointless chatter. Be wary of these moments. While i’m sure some would enjoy the chatter, on the occasions it happened I realised it definitely wasn’t for me.

Most of these action-packed scenes were also backed up by music that helped absorb you in the battle at hand. They synced well and had variety. My favourites had to be Denkousekka and Shutsujin, which I found often paired with the most spellbinding action and incredibly uplifting moments respectively. My least favourite was Utsusemi, because, to put it lightly, I thought it sounded like many animals dying at once.

So. There you sit. Exhausted after reading my ridiculously long review and potentially ready to start your long journey watching. With a captivating plot, diverse characters and enchanting powers Naruto Shippuden is destined to make you as happy as seeing someone laugh in their sleep.

But stop right there. *Slams door, shuts window, turns off the light and lights a small candle*. You feel the mood turning slightly sexy. A voice whispers softly in your ear, “make sure you skip the fillers.”

Thank you for reading my review! And sorry if it was a little excessively sexual at times – I didn’t intend this to be the case. It just kinda happened.

Rating 7/10