After an endless wasteland of filler, Naruto returns! Joy! Happiness! Frowns turned upside down! I couldn't believe it when the fillers ended. I was ecstatic.
Now I'm ready with a pillow whenever I tune in every friday. Question mark? I'll tell you why I'm prone to falling asleep while watching Naruto:Shippuuden - it just isn't Naruto anymore. It just isn't the same series.
Story: Don't get me wrong, Naruto didn't just magically start stabbing me with disappointment because the story started to totally go downhill. In fact, the first episode's preview with Naruto's future encounter with Sasuke had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn't believe it: Naruto was back! No, the story continues and follows through adequately as a continuation of the original Naruto. The great elements of the original story are still here: the theme of an everlasting friendship, the importance of maintaining hope, the need to endure and persevere .. these themes are all still there! Naruto is still a great guy and he still strives to protect his friends and 'save' Sasuke while taking on Akatsuki at the same time. So what happened to Naruto? Well, story-wise, nothing. I still love the story. I love the world of Naruto, the ninjas, the techniques, the weapons, the themes, the plot. Although the story doesn't present the viewers with anything deep or complicated, I still like it. But the story isn't the problem. The story as it is and as it continues, gets a 7.5/10 from me.
Characters: It was great to see how much the characters changed from the original Naruto. Character development in this aspect, was great. Pretty much everbody had a new design and they all looked great. In terms of personality, well, they were the same loveable characters, unique in their own way. In terms of Naruto and Sakura, they really developed. Although he still acts like it, Naruto isn't the same happy loudmouth he used to be. He's been deeply scarred from Sasuke's betrayal, and despite all thats happened, he's still obsessed with saving him. Of course, Sasuke's betrayal affected Sakura too and she's really toughened up. She isn't the useless twist she used to be, and shes really grown to respect and care for Naruto. Character development is great, the characters are great, old and new. Sai for example, is an interesting add on, he brought the funnies and kept the comedic aspects of the show alive. The characters aren't the problem either: 8/10
Art / Animation: Here is where Shippuuden starts going downhill. In terms of the new characters and their new character designs, I love em. But Naruto just isn't animated as well as it used to be. There is a lot of repeated animation in Shippuuden. This ranges from terribly animated tree jumping scenes (it actually looks more like they're flying instead of jumping half the time, lazy much?) to staring faces and overused flashbacks. I can understand the need to repeat the frames from things like the tree jumping scenes that are filled with dialog, or the occasional flashback to remind us of what happened in the original Naruto or something a couple of episodes ago. But the extent of it is teetering on the cliff side. The quality is just going downhill. Kakashi's new Sharingan attack for example, was terribly done in my opinion. I could have done that effect in photoshop. To make it worst, they drew it out for minutes on end ... completely destroying the 'cool factor'. There are also several still scenes that consist of pure eye to eye combat with wind blowing in the background. Cool? I think not, not when pointless staring takes up about 15% of the episode's air time. Asides from this, the coloring and detail of the characters in terms of shading and such also seem to be lacking in contrast to the original Naruto. Looking at the two, they just aren't on the same level anymore. Maybe it's because I've gotten so used to the series, or because I've watched so many more series since the original Naruto, but the quality has definitely deteriorated. Of course, some of the big fights are still animated quite nicely: 7/10
Sound: Things just get worst from here. While I loved the new opening and closing songs, the episode bgm just isn't the same. The upbeat action music heard in the original Naruto has been replaced by lame 'lets make this fight seem really tense and epic' music that fails horribly. I want the old soundtracks back! Granted, the series is alot more serious now, but the background soundtracks really can't shake the excitement meter up to where it used to be: 6/10
Ok, so it's the same story, continued. The same characters, with some cool new additions are there. The animatiors are getting a bit lazy, and the soundtracks aren't making me chew my fingernails anymore. Does this really warrant a 6?
Pacing: This is what has killed Naruto. Not Akatasuki, Not Orochimaru, not Sasuke, not Sakura's poundings - the pacing has killed our beloved hero, Naruto. This is the sole reason that the plot development seems slow and nonexistent, this is why character development is hard to note unless you really love the series, this is why animation is being reused, repeated, or not done at all, this is why I can no longer enjoy Naruto like I used to. So much time is deliberately wasted on mundane scenes such as staring, or camera panning that there are often many awkward pauses that make you wonder, 'did my computer freeze?'. This should NOT be happening in an anime! The amount of still scenes and overused camera panning should not be in surplus and evident enough to deteriorate the quality of a show! There are so many episodes that had amazing potential to be jaw-droppers, but they weren't. Intense battles like episodes 41-43 are completely ruined due to horribly SLOW SLOW pacing!
Arguably, the animators want to avoid killing its viewers with a plauge of fillers, but is it really worth it to completely destroy such a potentially satisfying anime? In my opinion, they're ruining the series. We waited and endured just as our hero taught us to - only to be attacked by this monstrosity. The pacing effectively destroyed my love for this show. You may argue that fillers are worse and thats debatable. What isn't however, is that there is enough manga material for at least another 50 FAST paced Naruto episodes. Thats a year! Probably more when you consider that by the time 50 episodes are released, there could be enough material for another 20 or so potential episodes.
Overall: Same enjoyable story with great potential. But the pacing needs to change. That pillow I mentioned at the beginning of this long, terrible review? It wasn't for sleeping. It was to stop me from killing myself from bashing my head against the desk as I watched a potentially good series slaughtered before my eyes. 6/10