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How Is NARUTO Like DOCTOR WHO? Catching Up with SHIPPUDEN #371 - 373

Both of these franchises have been around a long time. How do they keep fans engaged?

The gang's all here.
The gang's all here.

I experienced two blasts from the past this week, one a tad more literal than the other. First were episodes 371 – 373 of NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, some of the last of the franchise. The original NARUTO not only took the world of shonen by storm, it reignited my own interest in anime during my college years. I ended up dropping the show for one reason or another shortly after Naruto started training with Jiraiya and haven’t really checked in since.

The second was Peter Capaldi’s premiere episode as the titular Doctor in the BBC’s DOCTOR WHO series. This was another show that I had dove into head first, watching episodes from all the various incarnations of the character to bone up on lore. I hadn’t watched a single episode of Matt Smith’s last season, though, as the novelty of a pulp science hero who always wins had worn out.

As long running shows with extensive canons, these two franchises have a lot more in common than you’d think. Checking in after such long breaks, I was pretty surprised – but not by how much things had changed. I was surprised, really, by how much they hadn’t.

I noticed the big changes first, of course. SHIPPUDEN began after a large time skip in the original NARUTO series, so all the kid ninjas had naturally done some growing up. Also, hey, Naruto’s made of fire now. Having reconciled with the Nine-Tailed Fox demon sealed within him, he’s unlocked a bevvy of new powers and now has more chakra than you can shake ten tails at – which is good because every ninja ever is fighting the Ten Tails Cactus demon.

MADE OF FIRE
MADE OF FIRE

And I do mean ever ninja ever. We’re not just talking all the Hidden Leaf ninjas, or even all their allies. Recognizing the Ten Tails as a threat to all ninja-kind, even freakin’ Sasuke shows up. Sasuke – the one who abandoned the concept of friendship by becoming the pupil of evil snake-dude Orochimaru. Orochimaru’s probably gonna show up and help too! And then probably kill everybody!

And then there’s the fact that they’ve brought back all four of the previous Hokages back from the dead. It’s like the yearly Ninja Scout Jamboree!

Even these guys.
Even these guys.

Capaldi’s WHO similarly brings back a trio of popular characters, all of who somehow know more about Time Lord regeneration than Companion Clara. This is very convenient, as the Doctor’s in no state to tell her anything about it. They behave precisely how you’d expect if you’d seen them before: Strax the Sontaran nurse is gruff, but well-intentioned; lizard woman Madam Vastra is wry and eats someone offscreen; and Jenny the human says “ma’am” a lot. The whole gang, back together!

A rehash of an old villain even makes an appearance. The Clockwork Men from the “Girl in the Fireplace” episode are in Victorian London now, running about stealing body parts for the exact same reasons they did in their first appearance. Their origin is even the sister ship of one that produced the first versions. All the while, the new Doctor struggles to remember details from that first adventure, which of course leads to lots of overt references to it.

"Girl in the Fireplace" Clockwork Men for reference.
"Girl in the Fireplace" Clockwork Men for reference.

I find his sort of pandering nostalgia a cheap substitute for actual content. They try to get you to relive positive memories of the past so that you associate the feelings you had then with the content you’re watching now. Wasn’t that guy with the long scarf great? Wasn’t that Sontaran silly? Remember how cool “The Girl in the Fireplace” was when you first saw it? Apply those feelings to this show, please, so we don’t have to make up anything new.

SHIPPUDEN is simultaneously less shameless and better at this than WHO. Naruto and Sakura both have extended flashback montages, reaching all the way back to fighting Zabuza (the first real story arc of the franchise). And sure there’s sappy music playing, and sure they’re monologuing about the power of friendship and marveling at how much they’ve grown as shinobi, but dangit at least something’s new. The shonen flashback is an overused trope, sure, but you know at least the insight the character is having that will immediately bring them a huge boost in power. Something big is going to come from that saved animation budget.

Yet the characters behave just as they always did. Sasuke is standoffish and cool. Sakura cares more about Sasuke than Naruto and gets angry when called out on it. Naruto is a blowhard who really just wants to impress his peers (and make out with Sakura). They even make a big deal of how Team 7 is finally back together again, just like old times. Even Sai shows up (seemingly out of nowhere) in case anyone ever liked Sai.

Then everyone uses their signature moves -- the Hokages, the Rock Ninjas, all of Naruto’s ex-classmates and of course Team 7 – only now they’re of course supercharged with ninja mastery. In a rare moment of turnaround, Sakura is even allowed to be badass as she attains a new level of strength on the battlefield. She’s “finally keeping up with” Naruto and Sasuke which, truth be told, felt more like an apology than character development.

But at least that’s something. Clara big change in character seemed to be accepting the fact that her boyfriend is now an old man.

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO

It all comes down to one simple concept that I think everyone on Anime Vice will be familiar with: fan service. While in anime circles it’s usually shorthand for ecchi, that’s really only one shade of it. It more broadly refers to anything that fans of the show – your most devoted viewership – want to see or see again. In the case of DOCTOR WHO, it was a lot of inside jokes and pleas for nostalgia, and the problem with those is that if you don’t get the joke or haven’t seen the show, you feel excluded.

Sure these SHIPPUDEN eps are fan service. Naruto meets his dad, for crying out loud! But at least they do so in a way that doesn’t require you to have seen every one of the hundreds of episodes of the show to enjoy it.

And as standalone episodes, I did enjoy this look back into SHIPPUDEN. You can go along for the ride, even if it is toward the end, by being swept up in the shonen cool. DOCTOR WHO felt more like a pulpy hodgepodge of elements clumped together for maximum fanbase effect. While I wouldn’t say either was an example of stellar storytelling, SHIPPUDEN certainly entertained me.

=======================

About the Author

Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.

katmicon Aug. 29, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

Wow, i was really looking forward to this new doctor who season. Now my excitement is starting to fizzle even before i watch the first episode.

Destinyheroknighton Aug. 29, 2014 at 5:23 p.m.

Hmm, I agree. But, I feel Doctor Who was better because it was more fun and I didn't want to punch someone

Sigh, I don't like Naruto. Nothing really excite me about it anymore. I just want it to end already

And Sakura need another apology

taichokageon Aug. 29, 2014 at 9:24 p.m.

Well Doctor Who is far more intellectual and much older and has had numerous experienced writers. I wouldn't expect too many anime to stack up to Doctor Who to be honest, Naruto or otherwise.

YotaruVegetaon Aug. 30, 2014 at 5:26 p.m.

@katmic: Why? It was a very good ep.

takashichea moderator on Aug. 31, 2014 at 12:59 p.m.

I finish watching the recent episodes even though I haven't really caught up and watch all of the episodes. I saw that pic which made me curious and watch those episodes.

On Foxx's article, I was a bit disturbed how Sakura readily accept Sasuke into their group as well as the others. I know it's war and any help is appreciated. No one was really angry at Sasuke for almost killing Sakura, vowing to destroy the Leaf, nor sending Shikamaru's group into danger to rescue Sasuke who voluntarily joins Orochimaru's group.

Best moment for me was Orochimaru, Karin, and Suigetsu's weird moment. It reminds of Naruto back in the old days where it was bizarre humor with some ninja gimmick to it.

katmicon Aug. 31, 2014 at 1:44 p.m.

@YotaruVegeta said:

@katmic: Why? It was a very good ep.

I havent seen the episode yet but the review seems to suggest that it wasn't that great. I will probably check out myself

Kuma_From_Argentinaon Aug. 31, 2014 at 8:51 p.m.

This made me remember an article I made in a facebook group. I translated it because it was in spanish

Kamen Rider and Doctor Who

Prologue

In this short text I plan to explain the similarities between these two shows, I got into both shows almost at the same time (Doctor Who first) and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between both shows. I’ll try to convey these points in common as quickly and efficiently as I can without getting too sidetracked on smaller details. With this said, let’s begin.

Part 1: Origin and Format

Both are long running sci-fi shows, (51 for DW and 42 for KR). Both are massive cornerstones of pop culture on their respective islands (XD) and both share multiple traits. Not only as trailblazers for other shows inspired or similar to them but also for the television in their countries. Both shows can clearly be separated by each incarnation of the title character.

Even if the Doctors are, in the end, the same guy, the Riders aren’t. Yet both groups of characters share between themselves a lot of quirks, personality traits and a common modus operandi. As the Doctors flash their Sonic Screwdrivers, the Riders use the Rider Kick. Obviously this comparison could be made with many other franchise but we must dig deeper.

The first Rider, Takeshi Hongo, lacked many, many of the traits that are a given for Kamen Riders in the present. He had a shitload of finishers, the kick really taking flight more on his second incarnation. He also didn’t perform a Henshin pose until later. Making a parallel with the Doctors, the first one (Played by William Hartnell) lacked many of the traits tied to the Doctor, like the Sonic Screwdriver, or the whole Time Lord backstory.

To further increase the comparison, both Hiroshi Fujioka (Who played Takeshi Hongo) and William Hartnell (1 Doctor). Both had to leave the show because of Health issues and were replaced by a new version. From this point onward you could also point little details, like the most recognizable incarnations in popular culture from both characters (Kamen Rider Ichigo and the 4 Doctor) both wore scarves, but as I said I’ll try not to rely on that trivial knowledge.

Part 2: Of Hiatus and Failed revivals.

Other big trait both series shared is having a hiatus around the 90’s. Both with similar issues with production, having a producer trying to aim to children while writers wanted to do more mature things saying the kids could handle it. Kamen Rider Black RX and the 7 Doctor were the lasts of the classical periods of their shows. Doctor Who grouped all of their Doctors by calling them Classic Doctors, while the Riders from that period are referred to as Showa Riders.

During the 90’s controversial attempts of reviving the franchise were attempted, both received with lukewarm critics. Kamen Rider went full mature with Shin Kamen Rider Prologue, a hyper violent movie with decapitations and frankly amazing visual effects in the Henshin Sequence of the most organic Rider yet. The Doctor had the 8 Doctor Movie, as well with greater effects and new decisions, like the inclusion of romance. Both were promised a series after their movies and both were screwed. Kamen Rider Shin was a bit more screwed over than the 8 Doctor.

Part 3: Revival

In the dawn of a new century both shows had a revival. Kamen Rider returned in the 2000 with Kamen Rider Kuuga, a darker incarnation of the character with an actor that didn’t wanted to be type casted as a Rider and flipped the bird on the franchise once he finished his run. I don’t know why that sounds familiar….wait a second I know…Doctor Who returned on 2005 with Christopher Eccleston donning the screwdriver. He also did a season and then cut ties and burned the bridges with the franchise. Both actors never appeared in the franchises anniversaries, ignoring fan out cry.

From that point onward both series shared another important moment. After 2009, both series shared a similar change, as both improved the cameras and technology, giving everything put afterwards a distinct look in comparison to the earlier NEW or Heisei era. In DW it was the change of the Showrunner as he had popular acclaim for his episodes during the previous Showrunner Era, while in KR it was a new direction Teoi asked them to take as they could make the show more relaying on gimmicks and more humor oriented, as one of the last series of the earlier era sold a lot with that.

Part 4: Anniversaries

Both series celebrate their anniversaries by brining older incarnations to play, yet their method is different. DW makes anniversaries scarce, to increase the hype around him, and the meeting of two Doctors or more is taken like a huge thing or a one off joke (Time Crash) While in KR, the team-ups are almost a franchise on itself, putting out movies each year and adding for good measure other franchises. Yet both series, at their core handle the anniversaries pretty similarly.

Part 5 Useless Trivia

· The Tenth Showa Rider, Kamen Rider ZX is sometimes referred on the Internet as the Paul Mcgann (8 Doctor) Rider, as he only appeared in one movie and got screwed from a series.

· Both Series have an Incarnation who is willing to appear in everything they ask to. (Decade and the Tenth Doctor)

· Actors in the New series tend to be fans of the old series (In KR there is even the latest KR, Kamen Rider Gaim, who was a fan of Kamen Rider Kuuga, the first new season)

· As all the Doctors periods have different flavors, as the First was educational, the second weird Sci-fi, the Third more Secret Service and so on, so are the Riders, as everyone has a different theme on their season.

· Both series had differences of format between the old and new series.

I hope this was enlightening….

Dig Deeper into Naruto

A young boy, Naruto, with a demon sealed inside him wants to become the best ninja in his village and become the next Hokage. Thus Naruto, joined by his team mates and leader, begins his journey to become Hokage of Konoha.

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