I've never understood fillers. What is the point in them? Why do they exist? From a business point of view I get the fact that you need to keep your fans watching your show but from an artistic point of view they are terrible, boring, and do nothing for the world or characters. This is twice as true for Naruto Shippuden. Over the last year I've done two things that have greatly improved my experience when watching shonen anime. The first is to skip all filler episodes. The second is to wait until about 10-15 episodes build up and then to watch them in one sitting. This allows the pace to be much faster and my impression of the show to be more pleasant and objective. With that in mind let me give my impressions of the 5 kage summit arc of Naruto Shippuden
This arc brings back Sasuke into the spotlight as his kidnapping of Killer Bee doesn't go unanswered by the Cloud Village. They convene a meeting of the 5 kages to discuss the fate of Sasuke and the actions of Akatsuki. Naturally this means that we get introduced to a whole new bunch of characters. I won't even begin to try and tell you who they are because one I can't remember most of them and two I doubt that they will play any major role in the future. However, a character I am beginning to like more and more now is Sai. Ever since the Sasuke Retrieval arc he had very little screen time which I found a little disappointing because his change was great. The first few episodes of this arc really shows him beginning to understand the concept of feelings and relationships as he tries to strengthen the ones he formed himself. He also had quite possibly the most kick ass moment in the entire Shippuden show when he basically goes up to Sakura and calls her a bitch for the way she has treated Naruto which I totally agreed with.
Naturally this gathering of powers doesn't go unnoticed by Madara. Before I go any further though I just want to say I can never say his name properly without adding a Japanese accent...anyway. He tells Sasuke that Danzo will be at the meeting as he has now appointed himself the new Hokage. This immediately causes Sasuke to go over there to exact his revenge on him. Personally I think that's pretty fucking bold for him to try and murder Danzo in a room filled with the most powerful shinobi in the world. The meeting is held in the country of Iron which is a neutral country protected by samurai. I don't know how I feel about having samurai in my ninja show yet and for better or for worse they are not in there long enough for me to render a judgment. As Sasuke infiltrates the complex his cover is blown and he is attacked by the Raikage who is seeking revenge for his brother's kidnapping. This is where the volume gets turned up to 11. Having a battle take place with the kages was something I knew would be awesome and it didn't disappoint. Each kage brings their own fighting style and set of tricks and just when you thought that you saw the most badass shit they throw something even more badass at you. The Tsuchikage in particular had a move that I loved. All this culminates in Sasuke being defeated but is then rescued by Madara who goes on to reveal his grand secret plan for world domination. I know that is selling the story way short and in reality there is some nice plot development that happens along the way but honestly how surprised can these fucking people be. All villains either want world domination or complete chaos. It never changes folks. Anyway he declares the Fourth Ninja War forcing the Kages to form an shinobi alliance.
Meanwhile Naruto who went to the Iron Country and tried to reason with the Raikage to spare Sasuke but failed. He gets a visit from Sakura who finds out that everyone in Konoha has abandoned Sasuke and is ready to kill him if need be. She tries to convince Naruto to stop chasing Sasuke by basically telling him that she loves him and that he doesn't have to fulfill his promise he made to her. Now for those who can't tell I hate that pink whore. She is the one character in the whole series I have never liked and this was the most infuriating moment I had with her. Not only is she lying to Naruto but she is doing so by trying to manipulate and mess with his feelings. Also while we are on the subject of romance I thought it was weird how they never addressed the fact that Hinata confessed her feelings to Naruto. I really hope they do at some point and he hooks up with her. I like her better. Anyway Naruto doesn't fall for it and later learns the truth from Sai but also learns from Gaara that the attack on the Kages has made Sasuke an international target. All this proves too much for Naruto who collapses and is forced to recover and take a break. I actually really liked Naruto in this arc. One thing about the time-skip that I really didn't like was that he didn't really mature much mentally or emotionally. He was still the same kid but just older. I feel like over the last 2 arcs he has really show tremendous growth and has begun to understand the deeper problems in the shinobi world. This allows him to interact with his elders and provide a more profound insight. This is how I think every show involving kids should handle growth and maturity. One of the great things about growing up is that the world doesn't change but our perception of that world does and how we chose to live and interact with the world changes. While I certainly do miss the happy-go-lucky mood and attitude of the original series I feel like moments like these really exemplify an evolution of the Shippuden series over the original as opposed to a change in tone.
The final coda of this arc deals with Sasuke's battle with Danzo who in the middle of the ruckus at the summit escaped. Danzo reveals not only what is hiding beneath his bandaged eye but also behind his right arm. His special technique is Izanagi and while I certainly like the concept behind it I was a little put off by how abstract it was. Much like the X-men or any superhero based universe the powers that the characters wield may be extraordinary but they all follow the basic laws of our world or at least follow the laws of their own twisted world. Izanagi is a move that seemed a little too far-fetched which is saying a lot in the world of Naruto. Either way Danzo is eventually defeated and taken by Madara. In the end Danzo ended up being an anti-villain and one who I really enjoyed. The show does a great job of making him seem like a cruel fuck but then turn it around in the end by portraying him as a self-sacraficing man who understood the shinobi world better than anyone and as someone who cared for his village as much as any of the other Hokage. His character twist was something I didn't expect but really came to enjoy. With the battle now over Sasuke prepares to retreat but is ambushed by Sakura and Kakashi, and later Naruto. What transpires is easily the weakest part of the entire series because it features one of my most annoying elements of anime which is the flashback. It seems every fucking time Naruto and Sasuke meet they have to go into a fucking flashback. They came so often and lasted way too long. The worst part was that at times they were flashbacks of episodes in this arc. I mean what the holy fuck?! How fucking lazy can you be to pad out your episode with something that happened 5 episodes ago. I guess they have to remind you in their retarded way that it still is a shonen anime and can't get too close to manga. Thankfully this nuisance was only in the last few episodes so it didn't ruin the experience but definitely tainted what was otherwise a great arc. Sasuke leaves with Madara and everyone returns to their village to prepare for the upcoming war.
Overall this was another solid entry into the Shippuden storyline. I am glad that I decided to adopt this new build-up method of watching anime because I can see myself painting a much more derisive and vengeful review if I had to wait a week only to skip through half of the show. Giving myself about 6-7 hours of footage and skipping through all the crap allowed me to see a great arc. I found myself drawn to the plot and the characters more than the action this time around. This arc sets up some shit down the road and undoubtedly I see Naruto undergoing another training session which should be very exciting.