We all know what became of shonen superstar Naruto Uzumaki: his big show NARUTO was condemned to filler purgatory while his mangaka caught up. The resulting filler episodes were so bad they tanked the reputation of the franchise, and viewer interest waned. Some even swore off the show for good. Was it any wonder, then, that when they finally got back to the original storyline retitled it as NARUTO SHIPPUDEN to try to shake the filler stigma?
As for myself, I never made it to the filler. I lost interest in the series due to various life commitments--mostly school, I think--around the time the Akatsuki showed up. I heard through osmosis about the horrors that came, so I didn't feel too inclined to return (though I was slightly amused by the ramen-powered ninjas). After being pleasantly surprised by the first episode of the original NARUTO earlier this week, I thought I would give SHIPPUDEN a try to see if it could pull me back in with the same nostalgic glow.
...But I was deceived. I don't think the filler actually ended.
Usually when you're dealing with a flashforward scenario like SHIPPUDEN begins with, it's to some tense and climactic point that makes you wonder how things got to that state. This is undermined, though, when everything moves so slowly that there's no tension. How long do you actually expect me to watch people play Hide and Go Seek? How much staring at each other is actually going to take place without any action? Just how drawn out are you trying to make this thing?
And then there's the super cheesy reintroduction of all the characters in Konohagakure. There's no conflict, no plot—Naruto and Jiraiya just walk around, saying hi to people. Sure you get to see how they've grown and changed since the time skip, but doing it in such a procedural way takes all the gravitas out of these reveals.
It all smacks of boring fan fiction. Instead of actually telling a story, the show seemed more content to show off new character designs that weren't all that different than the old ones. After the hope that was rekindled in me after watching the original show, this is a huge letdown. I don't think I'll be coming back to SHIPPUDEN anytime soon.
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.