Naruto Shippuden Collection 35 (Episodes 445-458) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 330 minutes approx.
Release Date: February 11th
It’s got to the point now that being sarcastic about how coverage of the Fourth Great Ninja War has been interrupted for more filler stories is proving as difficult for me as it is for the producers of Naruto Shippuden to keep the story going for any prolonged period!
There are only so many ways to let you dear readers know that this release is more essentially throwaway content in a creative manner but ion this occasions, with the well having run dry, I’m afraid I’m going to have just be blunt about it – thirteen and a half of the fourteen episodes here are filler!
However they are what I like to call “congruent filler” in that the writers have used their brains and instead of just throwing in a distraction story arc they’ve cleverly woven it into the main story so w don’t lose sight that it is still a concern. This is achieved by the cast being trapped inside Madara’s powerful bounding genjutsu Infinite Tsukuyomi, and whilst in stasis we are privy to the dreams and memories being recalled in their minds.
Split into two parts, the first sees the conclusion of the Jiraiya’s Ninja Scrolls arc that began in the previous volume. Lady Tsunade is having a dream in which she is reading a fictional novel written by Jiraiya, which recounts the Naruto story but from an alternate perspective, where Naruto’s parents are still alive and his father is still Hokage.
We resume the story with Sasuke being dissatisfied with his progress as ninja compared to Naruto and leaves the Hidden Leaf village to train with Orochimaru. To keep the Leaf Ninja from interfering with Sasuke’s journey, Danzo has dispatched the Root Anbu which proves a temporary distraction. The Leaf Ninja split into smaller groups to deal with the Anbu and other opponents while Naruto surges ahead.
This leads to another inevitable showdown between Naruto and Sasuke but it comes with a twist. Meanwhile Pain arrives at the Leaf Village and launches a vengeful attack against them, trapping Minato, Tsunade and the villagers inside a giant impenetrable rock ball, the Chibaku Tensei. Can Naruto and the other ninjas return from their mission in time to save them?
You probably already know the answer to that question since there is another story arc to be covered in this set but it is interesting to see how the story we all know follows a completely different trajectory with one tiny adjustment to the core elements. That this is essentially a redacted retelling of extant material is excused by this alternate approach making it feel fresh, yet being part of a dream also makes it somewhat expendable.
For the second flashback tale we are in semi-canon mode as Sasuke, one of the few along with Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi safely outside of the Infinite Tsukuyomi, is able to call up the memories of his late brother Itachi. Key moments from his past have been briefly touched upon before, but this occasion we go right back to very early days before Sasuke was born, to meet Itachi as a five-year-old prodigy of the Uchiha Clan.
Itachi seems to pick up the Uchiha fireball jutsu amazingly quickly for his age, leading to him to graduate early from ninja academy to join his first squad. When Sasuke is born, Itachi earnestly vows to look after his younger brother having experienced the horrors of war first hand, beginning the tight bond between the brothers which is broken later when Itachi leaves the Uchiha clan and joins the Anbu.
Some of you might have good enough memories to recall when this was originally covered in the main plot many volumes ago, so Itachi’s disillusionment with the clan and his reasons for turning against them is taken as read here, hence the sudden and dramatic shift from the comical exploits of junior Itachi to the embittered adult version we are more familiar with.
Not really an obvious choice of character to divert our attention to in the middle of a major story arc, this at least gives us the chance to explore the depth of the complex relationship between the Uchiha brothers. Assuming Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto had some input to this these episode or gave his blessing, this is an interesting arc, if a bit dark and gloomy in charting the change from a well adjusted yet saturnine boy to a cynical and angry young man.
The relevance of this to the Fourth Ninja War is a tad nebulous but it does take us up to the point where Itachi becomes a member of the Akatsuki and their plan to capture all of the tailed beasts, which was a key situation eventually leading to the Ninja War. For the final episode in this release, the main story resumes (hurrah!) albeit for the second half only (boo!) ending on a typical cliffhanger note.
I think we are getting to the point of asking “when will it ever end?” which could refer to the constant interruptions or the Ninja War arc itself. The filler arcs are one thing but every time main story resumes, something new happens to eke it out further. The reality is we’ve probably forgotten more about the plot than we can remember, so let’s just finish up and move on?
With just 42 episodes left in the entire Naruto Shippuden series there is a quiet dread that there will a slow trundle to complete the Ninja War arc as the final story, or it will be more of the same with endless filler. Whichever it is, the end can’t come soon enough for this writer but the faithful among you will be lamenting the end of this epic journey for your favourite spiky haired ninja.
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black