Somewhere amid the stand-off between the ninja clan PTA’s stand-off with an army of evil sumo wrestlers, the infinitely-applicable visual metaphor of a urine stream disrupting a line of ants and then the deadly jutsu of soccer ball hadokens, I came to realize that NARUTO proper maybe isn’t that far removed from ROCK LEE & HIS NINJA PALS.
I figured that super-deformed spoof was supposed to be far more ridiculous than the show it was spinning off of, but I now realize that SHIPPUDEN is actually just as wacky. Actually, it’s maybe even stranger for how all the wackiness I’ve just described is played rather matter-of-fact and deadpan.
Anyway, as you might’ve guessed, I couldn’t sit on my hands, so I went ahead and took a look at the latest SHIPPUDEN episode just like I did for ONE PIECE last week. Contrasting the two, I’d say that jumping into long-running series at episode numbers this high gives you a better… sense to spot characters who probably have a back-story behind them. There are a number of crowd shots of the local meeting in this episode where I’m pretty sure that certain, unspeaking villagers in attendance weren't just thrown in to randomly fill the space.
There’s a level of detail and specificity to their design which gives off some visual aroma which tells me they’ve probably been key players in at least an previous episode or two. When they bring up the “Forth Ninja War,” I also get the sense that Ninja Wars 1-3 have actually played out on-screen somewhere back in this show’s voluminous back catalog.
(It also says a lot about a show’s level of comfort and security when you can grab a random episode and find the title character is only just alluded to a couple times throughout the whole running time).
I don’t know if there’s anything profound for me to observe here, since I’m coming in so late and more-than-likely missing plenty of slight allusions that carry a lot of significance. I just think it’s so strange that this rather quaint and charming Saturday Morning Toon-style plot about kids mistaking a traveling circus for monsters has an STAND BY ME-style interlude where one of those kids actually stabs another.
Perhaps childhood’s somehow just as Picaresque, but still deadlier, in the world of NARUTO?
Watch this episode, "The Allied Mom Force!” here and decide for yourself.