Naruto Shippuden Collection 36 (Episodes 459-472) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 329 minutes approx.
I’m beginning to wonder if the producers behind Naruto Shippuden are vying for the title of World’s Biggest Trolls. Why? Because this latest release sees the story return to the Fourth Great Ninja War after another break (I’ve lost count of how many there have been) and we are barely a few episodes in resuming the story before we divert for more non-canon/flashback material!
On the plus side, some of these episodes are what I like to call “congruent filler” in that they have been crafted to fit in with the main plot thus flesh out the history of the new characters and plot developments introduced, and for those viewers such as myself who haven’t read the original manga are not likely to be aware this content isn’t directly from the pen of Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto.
A quick recap: Madara has triggered the dreaded Infinite Tsukuyomi but is shocked by the betrayal of Black Zetsu, stabbing Madara through the heart and forcing all the chakra around him to enter his body. Zetsu then reveals he has been using Madara to initiate Infinite Tsukuyomi through false pretences, having rewritten the scripture on the Stone Tablet of Hagoromo Otsutsuki to prevent the Rinnegan ever being used.
Zetsu’s plan all along was to resurrect Kaguya Otsutsuki, claiming his actions were her will. As soon as Kaguya’s rebirth is complete the story jumps back in a whole millennium to explain Kaguya’s history from her arrival on earth in search of the fruit from the God Tree, to her manipulation of the people of the Land of Ancestors and eventual matriarch of the Otsuski clan having attend god like powers in the name of peace.
Yet, like many altruistic dreamers who obtain the power to achieve global peace, they become corrupt and instead of an idyllic utopia, pain, suffering, and destruction are the results. This needed to be rectified, the responsibility befalling to Kaguya’s twin sons, Hagoromo and Hamura, who defeat their mother in battle and seal her and the chakra of the ten tails her away.
Getting confused about the origins and possession of the ten tails is permitted as they seem to change with every major arc within the Naruto diegesis, or at least the details do, as if the truth is supposed to be complex. This might be Kishimoto changing his mind or having a kernel of an idea that he thinks he can eke out for as long as possible or twist to keep his audience hooked and invested.
The eking out part Kishimoto has certainly got down pat, no argument there, the twists on the other hand will assuredly be polarising, either providing more exciting surprises for some or leaving them rolling their eyes as in “Oh, what now?”. For this ambivalent writer, it is a bit from column A and bit from column B – it is remarkable how Kishimoto can keep finding new ways to drive the story forward whilst keeping everything within the overall framework, yet it feels like we are retreading old ground.
Remarkably the recap involving the history of brothers Hagoromo and Hamura is non-canon yet feels authentic enough to have been adapted directly from the manga, whilst a standalone episode set way back in the early days of Team 7’s training is canon but comes across as a frivolous distraction. It’s therefore ironic the four instalments some purists might skip add more to the story than a genuine slice of source material.
As ever, these exposition heavy episodes and ersatz detours from the main story result in less screen time for our titular hero, spending much of it, as do the support cast, in a literal holding pattern akin to suspended animation whilst these backstories are relayed. However, there are short bursts of action to remind us there is a battle going on and the impetus changes hands on each move, bringing with it tragedy and in some instances, bittersweet redemption.
The progress of the main story continues to take incremental steps forwards, which is frustrating enough given the amount of time this stage of the Ninja War arc has been running. Yet, there is a huge bombshell dropped in one of the revelations that alters the entire complexity, not just of this battle, but the entire dynamic of the Naruto saga – but somehow it feels incidental and thrown in as just another twist when it should be treated with greater importance.
Knowing that the show only has 28 episodes left to run gives the impression Kishimoto is trying to make the climax as memorable and epic as possible, and it may turn out that way, but so far across this entire arc, the mantle of central antagonist has changed hands at least three times already. This means every single one of the villains who believed they were at the heart of the war has been either duped or manipulated by someone else.
if Black Zetsu is the final boss (to borrow from gaming parlance) of this sinuous and complex web of multi-generational string pulling, does this mean he knew exactly how everything would pan out from the beginning? That the motives and actions of Madara, Obito, Orochimaru, and Akatsuki, et al, from birth were in fact all working exactly to his maniacal masterplan?
The way all of the histories of these people come from different eras and their current nefarious status from disparate scenarios puts the odds of this at very slim indeed when analysed like this. Maybe this wasn’t a concern when Kishimoto wrote the story, instead he was strictly looking forwards and hoped that with the length of this arc being what it is, nobody would notice everything doesn’t exactly al tie up under scrutiny!
With two volumes of Naruto Shippuden left to go, this is another collection of episodes that fit into the “one step forward two steps back” category, but at least the end of this interminable arc is (presumably) nigh…
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ***
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