Another year of Naruto is upon us, the last year in the manga; though it is just as likely that we will be dealing with the anime for at least another year, if- not two. The Naruto franchise is of such fame that the powers that be aren’t likely to allow its brand to die anytime soon.
But enough of that; another year of the Naruto anime not only portends 12 new months of great material, but also more opportunity for filler. Which is the pit within which the anime is currently wandering. One might choose to take a positive approach on the topic, what with this filler arc being the best we have seen in…forever (and mostly because of Itachi).
Yet that would require ignoring the simple facts; the last few months of canon Naruto anime episodes have been some of the best we have ever encountered; this is Naruto as it should be, as it has always been, precluding the filler garbage, and in light of the current (albeit pleasant) desert of filler, I thought I would look back at the last season of canon Naruto material, truly magnificent outside of the filler element that still pepper even the best episodes.
Rather than simply touch on each and every episode, all the memorable elements that occurred within this massive span of episodes, I will instead make mention of those specific factors of the series that proved most crucial to my enjoyment as well as story and character progression:
I have never been Kabuto’s biggest fan; once a point of intrigue I will admit to getting relatively bored with his antics after he took over from Orochimaru. He simply seemed somewhat aimless and purposeless. It is a testament to Kishimoto’s foresight that all that madness had a purpose to play, not only within the Anime’s current timeline but the future of the manga.
Was I impressed by Kabuto Vs. Itachi and Sasuke? Well, not as much as I thought I would be, not that this particular battle had any downsides. In fact I would wager that this is one of the very few true shinobi fights we have seen in quite a while, which allowed the Uchiha brothers the opportunity to deploy all manner of wit to destroy what turned out to be an impressive foe.
It would be the rare individual that thought Kabuto stood an actual chance against his superior opponents; yet one cannot deny the efficacy of his progression in rationally transforming Kabuto into a threat worthy of Itachi’s attention, because I truly couldn’t fathom how Kishimoto would actually allow Kabuto to pose a credible threat.
I will show appreciation for the Kabuto flashback, truthfully of little importance with regards to developing the character, but none the less mildly interesting, especially the first part which showed us how Kabuto acquired his trademark glasses, harking back all the way to the Chunin exams, within the first few episodes of Naruto, when a mild mannered somewhat weak Kabuto nearly lost his marbles after that one soon to be Gaara fodder sound ninja cracked his lenses.
Admittedly touching as far as humanizing Kabuto (at least one part of it); but other than that, this was the one part of the last few months that was largely uninteresting in Naruto.
2. The Tailed Beasts-
Okay I will admit to enjoying the tailed beast song, a rather catchy tune on top of its implications to the story. I don’t know why a lot of fans expressed so many mixed emotions over the revelations regarding Kurama’s true name and the past that saw him transform into a demon, as if divesting him of his evil persona took something away from the series.
We have spent the better part of Naruto under a rather dark understanding of the nine tails fox and the other tailed beasts, entities around which the entire Naruto concept revolves; finally having some story development in this section cannot be a bad thing, understanding that these demonic representations of all evil, through which the various Jinchuriki harnessed such great power, actually possessed a conscious will for good as well as evil, could have been warped by the darkness of man kind and greed for power into the giant monsters they became.
I think the anime did a great job of humanizing these initially nameless characters; more than finally revealing Naruto Uzumaki’s transformative power at work, it also brought a new dimension to the series by basically casting humanity as the bane of their own existence, actions by even great shinobi like Hashirama and Minato, even in their most heroic element, only acting to stir the hate of the nine tails, turning it into the manifestation of chaos and hate it became.
The giant battle was awesome, Naruto and Killerbee teaming up against the 7 rinnegan wielding Jinchuriki considerable entertaining, especially as the fight escalated from conflict between overpowered undead shinobi to a clash between giant monsters.
Say what you want about Naruto, I love the way it will stray out of its comfort zone into all manner of territory, touching the dramatic elements, violence, comedy, sometimes even sneaking out of shonen into seinen realms.
And biju bombs all round.
3. Naruto Uzumaki
The man of the hour; take way Itachi, Minato, Hashirama and Madara-basically excluding shinobi godhood- and Naruto is hands down my favorite character of the series; it’s probably because I have spent HUNDREDS OF EPISOPDES waiting for him to finally shine that his current savior mentality doesn’t really phase me.
And no one can claim that it isn’t deserved, that Naruto doesn’t provide considerably more pleasant and rational character development than anything you will find in Bleach; you watch him strike the battlefield like a nuke and contend with the might of Kabuto’s entire zombie army all on his own, and it becomes difficult to use words like overdone or overpowered, not when you consider the fact that the character spent nearly %70 of his own series in the lowest tier of shinobi, almost always playing second fiddle to Sasuke.
There is greater satisfaction watching Naruto stand up to Obito and decimate the landscape than following Sasuke’s battles with the likes of Orochimaru, mostly because everything you see the young orange ninja display he took what feels like an age to master.
The final cloak transformation was AWESOME; what was turning out to be the worst double episode in Naruto history, bogged down by endless flashbacks was transformed into greatness.
Not just the AMAZING biju battle that came before, displaying Naruto’s very imaginative use of his new chakra arms, not just his combination with Gai and Kakashi; Naruto Uzumaki’s final cloak is the best looking thing I have ever seen in Naruto; I don’t know if it is the colors, the black lines against golden flame, or the great CGI, but I could look at chakra cloak Naruto all day.
And that final clash with MADARA UCHIHA (the man’s name requires emphasizing) following an even more epic clash with Obito…how am I supposed to wait for so long to find out what happens next? Someone tell me if this clash with Madara lives up to the hype or whether I should really temper my excitement.
Episode 322 marks the very first time I ever saw Naruto look completely and utterly afraid, Madara proving himself that large of a threat mere minutes following his arrival.
Am I the only Naruto fan that thinks that Itachi can simply do no wrong? I mean, ever since Kishimoto flipped the switch, turning the second most famous Uchiha from psychopath to desperate hero, he hasn’t pulled any punches in portraying the disturbing extent to which Itachi went to protect the leaf village, basically inferring to the fact that no end could justified the genocide of an entire clan.
And you would think that that would darken Itachi’s shine; only he still comes out of his storyline as the hero, and I cannot figure out if that is Kishimoto’s fault, or Itachi is so damn likeable that he could slaughter an entire hospital of babies and still have you rooting for him.
Episdoe 339 has to be one of the best Naruto episodes I have ever seen, not only because it brought the Itachi plot line to its final and decisive end, but the insight it provided into the psyche of Itachi the genocidal psychopath. I don’t know what I always imagined about the night the Uchiha clan fell, but I am pretty sure my visuals were so much more violent than what we saw in 339,usually involving a cold eyed Itachi brutally maiming and murdering to his heart’s content.
True Itachi was anything but bloodthirsty; one need only look to the best scene of Ep 339, when Itachi accosted his parents, allowed us to understand that they not only saw their death coming but knew who did it, going so far as to attack Itachi’s soul with a weapon stronger than any sharingan Jutsu; basically forgiving him for what he was about to do, allowing him a moment to breakdown before he finally delivered the blow amidst a storm of tears.
I mean, look at that face; that is the face of an Uchiha who would rather not commit genocide, but will do what he must.
Deep stuff; the idea of so many people assigning Naruto to the stuff of children, meant to entertain those of less discerning tastes, baffles me, with scenes such as this and more.
It reminds me of Doctor Who’s Day of the Doctor episode, which, more than any other Doctor who episode I have ever seen, finally brought the message of the doctor’s sin home, by having Badwolf Rose remind the warrior doctor that in killing the vast number of murderous timelords on his home world, he would also be annihilating several innocent souls, of which the children numbered a massive two billion.
And that is why, even after several centuries travel, we find a doctor incapable of shirking the chains of his guilt, not because of the death of an entire galaxy, but the destruction he wrought upon 2 billion innocent children.
Equally you find EP 339 taking the series into dark territory by allowing us to understand the true sense of Itachi’s sin, murdering so many innocent men, women and children to crush a rebellion; far from justifiable, certainly not for a village as vile as Konoha…but we all still love Itachi.
It’s decided; Danzo is the most evil being to ever walk the Naruto world; I cannot be imagining the fact that almost every major moment of despair that has ever been suffered in modern Konoha times can be traced back to Danzo.
Not even in Orochimaru do you find a nature so dark, Danzo basically twisting and warping souls and lives left and right during the long duration of his existence , the ripple effects of his actions continuing to echo through out the lives of giants like Itachi and Kabuto and Pain, each of which would only serve to pass the hate Danzo created in them onto the world around them.
There is no forgiving Danzo; I cannot believe I actually felt sorry for him in his final moments, as he reminisced on all he had done for the supposed sake of his village, before his life was snuffed out. At least Madara has the decency to not mask his actions behind benevolent intentions; he wants to rule, end of story.
Danzo actually believes his crap of good guy doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
I will admit that I haven’t been the biggest fan of Sasuke for quite a while now; but I found that these episodes made a genuine attempt to cast him in a different light; especially when he first meets Itachi in Episode 329, another favorite of fine.
Firstly, I loved their interaction, with Itachi basically blowing his brother off, knowing what Naruto didn’t, that Sasuke was so far gone that no amount of talk would change him. Itachi did what Itachi does best, spew out masterful wisdom in some of the series’ best lines, basically admitting his hand in the chaos that became Sasuke’s childhood and that he could have done better by simply telling his brother the truth and trusting his judgment.
It was a poignant few moments, one compounded by the emotional expressions cast upon Sasuke’s face; for two or so episodes, what we got wasn’t the avenger or whatever he calls himself, but Sasuke the leaf shinobi, one that showed an extraordinary amount of control in falling behind his brother and taking his lead.
He basically became old Sasuke for a while, innocent and vulnerable; basically listened to what Itachi had to say and probably found himself in Naruto’s footsteps for once, now chasing after someone that wouldn’t associate him the time of day.
These episodes proved that Itachi was very wrong about Naruto being the one person that could save Sasuke.
I don’t know why he never considered the possibility that he alone possessed the power to control his brother, Itachi being the one person that Sasuke actually respects unconditionally. Like he had told him several times over, Naruto simply cannot understand what Sasuke went through, not like Itachi.
To an extent EP 339 managed to justify, at least in my eyes, Sasuke’s psychotic rage towards Kohonha, specifically with that flashback in the restaurant, where Sasuke had to sit back and listen to the very people his brother saved drag Itachi’s name through the mud. Maybe Sasuke isn’t the whiny baby I always envisioned him to be. Maybe he’s just been confused all this time, incapable of understanding why Itachi would even now continue to fight for a place like Konoha that only continues to reveal new levels of corruption.
7. The five Kage-
THIS FIGHT WAS EPIC. Even knowing the eventual outcome I was on the edge of my seat the whole time; having considerably underestimated the Kage following Madara’s introduction, these shinobi proved to me why they stand at the top of their respective villages.
Admittedly it is quite easy root for Kazekage and even Tsunade, but Tsuchikage? In the space of 10 episodes he became my favorite living Kage of the present time, a true legend in his own right, not only standing up to the mighty Madara but basically raising his head as the spirit and soul of the anti Madara team.
Gaara is always awesome. The combos were awesome, so were the speeches, especially in the face of the most powerful Jutsu I have ever seen. Simply put, the five Kages rock, even boring old Tsunade (the verbal abuse she took from Madara was certainly galling).
There is something to be said about Madara, that he didn’t only achieve victory but managed to strike fear into the hearts of the five strongest shinobi of their respective villages.
It is unlikely that I am alone in declaring Tobi as one of the greatest Akatsuki members we have seen; I don’t know what it is about the loony character that endears him to me so much; but if they had to discard him (which they did quite a while ago, to my disappointment) Obito would be the perfect replacement.
Fake Madara Tobi was kind of bland; Obito on the other hand is turning out to be one of the better villains of the series; yes, I was spoiled about the identity of the man behind the mask. No, that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of some of the best story progression we have seen in Naruto in a while.
And it isn’t just the execution-which was amazing, specifically that flashback episode, chronicling Obito’s life up until his supposed death, done in complete silence, yet conveying so much with mere expressions and gestures- but the emotions the story evokes.
Because, of course you are going to root for this young Naruto-esq fellow in this attempts to return to his friends despite his current predicament; of course you will sympathize with his plight in the face of the Kakashi/Rin revelation, even cheer him on as he looses it against those shinobi.
Then you start hating him; because he didn’t simply carry out Madara’s will in approaching Nagato; he obliterated the lives of Nagato, Yahiko and konana, destroyed the bright future of the first Akatsuki and its message of peace, basically crafted within Pain a hate and despair that would haunt him for all his life, eventually leading to Konoha’s destruction and Jiraiya’s death.
And that last battle, against Yahiko’s comrades; was it really necessary to kill them all, so brutally? From that one shinobi that stuck himself in cement to protect his comrades, to Yahiko’s fate to Nagato’s heart rending despair to the kakashi/Rin storyline; Naruto went pretty dark with the Obito story, and did more to transform the series than any other arc.
This is indeed Naruto at its best, leaving you wondering whether to sympathize with Obito, cheer for him even, or damn him to hell. Am I the only one that thinks Obito had more than a simple crush on Rin? Because he seemed downright obsessed so much so that I can believe him doing everything he has done up to this moment for her sake.
And who else thought they might have been watching a Seinin after Obito’s rampage? Because that was one bloody massacre.
KAKASHI KILLED RIN? WHAT? There has to be something I am missing here; because Naruto took a complete 180 degree turn after that scene; I always figured Rin died and Kakashi probably felt some guilt in failing to protect her but, to kill her himself; that would send anyone over the edge, and Obito was already in a bad place at that point.
And this is the point where they choose to leap into fillers, just when the series is at its most intense?
kakashi, Naruto and Gai vs. Obito is one of the most intense and action packed battles I have ever seen; every move, every punch, kick, biju bomb was so perfectly choreographed as to wring the last drop of tension out of that scene.
Naruto fights haven’t been this…shinobi-like in a long while; Kakashi hasn’t been this good in ages, and we haven’t seen Gai so skilled as he he proved to be against Obito’s sharingan. The entire set up of this battle was perfect, Naruto bringing the overwhelming power, kakashi doing his analytical thing in the face of Gai’s awesome nunchaku play.
This here fight is a must watch for any Naruto fan; rather than spoiling the fun, the slow motion scenes allow you a deeper understanding of just how close this fight was, how far towards the edge each side stood against the other’s might. The fact that it was brains and strategy rather than power than brought the conflict to an end is an added bonus.
MADARA UCHIHA IS AWESOME; you cannot watch this legendary villain in action without wanting to scream his name over and over again.
What is the one major similarity that is also a difference between Aizen from Bleach and Naruto’s Madara? A simple question with a simple answer; Aizen was so overpowered he quickly became tiresome with regards to Bleach’s dragging plot.
Madara is so overpowered IT’S AWESOME. You simply cannot resist that swag, the arrogance of this greatest of Uchihas as he basically goes about schooling the shinobi world in the basics of true power. And its like not matter how bad ass you think Madara is at any given point, each new episode somehow manages to top the Uchiha badassness.
First was that total ownage of the shinobi alliance, Madara basically tearing through a few hundred to thousand foot soldiers with pure Taijutsu. Then Onoki (tsuchikag), Gaara and Naruto rallied their forces to stop him. And what does he do? Well, just look at this.
YES, A FREAKIN METEORITE: and since when could Susanoo perform chakra seals?
The five Kage finally rally to bring Madara to a stop and…I never thought it possible that the combined force of the shinobi world’s top authorities would look so tame. Well, Madara sure wasn’t impressed, in fact losing interest and retreating from what he thought was a pointlessly boring battle, but not before doing this.
AND WHAT THE HECK IS THIS? THIS THING IS MASSIVE.
I am in awe of the greatness of Madara Uchiha.I cannot wait to see how he deals with the kyubi cloak. I find it difficult to believe that even Hashirama could have dealt with both Madara and the nine tails at once; that doesn’t seem rationally possible.
11. Ten Tails-
So the Ten tails is more demon god than chakra Beast? And it is sealed within the moon? Interesting.
Michael Jackson returns and he still want's Sasuke’s body.
Here’s the thing about these most recent episodes of Naruto; Kishimoto has been doing a heck of a job basically closing all the loop holes too many Naruto fans were to quick to nitpick at; and I for one cannot help but feel satisfaction at this level of story telling, the interweaving of plots and characters and plans, all leading to one hell of a series finale.
If you’re not watching Naruto right now, then I do not know what you’re up to; the only series that could possibly draw me away from Hunter X Hunter.