Naruto Shippuden : Review |
Naruto. The series that sold over 220 million manga copies, winning handful of awards along the way. An anime that ranked as one of the most watched series in Japan that got tarnished by a greedy studio and has received tons of internet backlash throughout the years.
Let me start off by saying Naruto is by no means a flawless anime. It's the exact opposite. The series had too many fillers. Sometimes the animation quality was below par and pacing can be painfully slow at times. But please bear with me here. I'm going to tell you why it has been the best experience an anime gave me in my entire life and dig into what made the series popular while also explaining its flaws.
Story - 8
The story of Naruto has been a mixed bag. While it's not bad, it's certainly no Berserk. But what it is, is beautiful (probably not the word that can be often used to describe a shounen anime), but it really is. It's unpredictable, it's thrilling, it plays with your emotions, it's funny, it's tragic, it's sometimes downright frustrating but it is, more than anything, wondrous and fun while being able to take itself seriously when it needs to. It starts off where the first part of Naruto ended and the very first scenes gives us a sneak peak of things to come. The series eases you back into the world of Naruto with a slow paced , almost SOL like first few episodes. And the story then on is presented in a collection of long well constructed story arcs with the bigger picture stories of Sasuke and the Akatsuki being told parallelly till a certain point. Down the line this is series deals with more mature themes and darker tones and manage to execute well on most of those themes if not all. The story is mainly hampered (not ruined) by fillers and pacing issues which I will discuss below.
Let's start with the filler. The amount of filler in this show is staggering. It counts as 219 total filler episodes which make up 44% of the series as a whole.
The issues that lies within the filler episodes is that they are not allowed to make any significant changes to the story or specifically its characters. This being a mainly character driven plot, this becomes a huge issue because any significant event in fillers could affect the characters so they can't move ahead the plot line at all. So mostly what we get is poorly written mini-arcs and episodes that don’t affect any of the characters or the world in any significant way. This is worsened by the below par writing for these filler episode as they are not written by the original author Masashi Kishimoto himself.
However, there are exceptions for this. Some of the filler episodes can be genuinely enjoyable but those are few and far between. The fact that filler can't move the plot along fuels the second big flaw. Which is,
Pacing Issues. Aside from what I've said above, even some of the non-filler episodes are very slow paced. This is mainly only an issue at the start of the series. If you're into characters chilling down and wasting a lot of time, this may sit well with you. But even then some of these episodes might be below par for your taste. Once the series kicks it into high gear around 70th episode, it mostly manages to keep that pace up.
Now that we got the flaws out of the way, let's talk positives.
The main strength of the series is its characters, who drive the plot (which we will discuss in detail later). After the first 70 episodes, things begin to get lot more interesting really fast. The world of shinobi gets expanded exponentially, and if you're a fan of deep lore in stories, this will fit right in your wheel house because it begins to explore the roots of the world and its history very deeply.
Another thing that this series does very well is explaining its core concepts to the viewer. The techniques that characters use and how the things in shinobi world works are explained in detail. Also, the concept of Chakra and what a versatile and detailed power system it is compared to other shounen series really stands out.
The amount of themes explored in the series are vast. It explores all the basic themes of a typical shounen and as it goes on it delves into themes such as the nature of humans, self sacrifice, discrimination, manipulation, roots of war and peace, difference of perceptions, the line between good and evil, and alienation. It manages to deal with all these themes without abandoning the shounen type feel or becoming pretentious.
Something that the author, Kishimoto, really excels at is setting up events. For example, during the early episodes of Naruto (the prequel to this show), he has already started setting up major events that happened in the last of episodes of Shippuden. In the beginning, we look over these little details and minor events and have no idea that they are going to have such an impact later in the series, and when it all comes together in the end, you feel so satisfied. Most of the times these events and twists will take you by surprise and maybe you'll have fun trying to figure out them before they happen as Kishimoto drops clues for you to pick up throughout the entire series. Same thing applies to the moments that tug at your heartstrings , they feel genuine because how the story builds up to those moments.
Being a battle shounen ,of course there are going to be battles, and this is one area that the series really shines.
As I see it , battles can be broken down into three different segments in this anime , The battle of wits , The battle of ideologies , The physical battle. All three come in union to make some memorable and truly great moments. Each characters ideologies and philosophies gets tested time and time again by their opponents and we can see even the main character himself doubt his ideologies towards the end. When we see someone gets broken inside as well as the outside it's devastating to watch. To put it blatantly, Naruto has the best combat scenes I've ever witnessed in an anime. I have to mention that this style of combat is heavily inspired by Hunter x Hunter. Kishimoto does a fantastic job putting emotions into its battle scenes which are backed up by gorgeous animations (at times, we'll get to that later) and a mesmerizing soundtrack, and with these combined it really sets up fantastic visual storytelling through combat. Kishimoto does an excellent job at setting up the events leading up to the fight to make it feel all the more personal and these battles often comes down to which character outwits the other rather than who can punch harder. This makes characters like Shikamaru Nara who have very little ability make a huge impact in the series.
Variety of the fighting styles is massive, ranging from intimate hand to hand style combats, tactical combats, long range jutsu battles, and most often a mix of all of these!
The last arc of the series has been very controversial as the constant change of antagonists has irritated some of the viewers. But in all honesty, all of the antagonists that presented had different motives that drove them to do what they do and distinctively different from each other which made them very enjoyable. That being said, the final part of the war arc was really disappointing as the final villain of the series is the worst character that the series had to offer as the villain had almost no personality and motives were shaky at best. Without spoiling anything all I can say is that decisions taken during the last war arc felt like it was done to unnecessarily prolong the final battle and messed it up with a poorly written villain and bad story decisions. But the final episodes after the War arc manages to reign it all in and give a proper farewell to the series it so richly deserves.
Throughout the series you will witness friends become foes, foes become friends, unlikely alliances formed and broken, that precious character you loved die, revenge plots, plot twists, characters growing up, politics, romance, and the world itself change. It can be flawed at times but it's a full package and Kishimoto always seemed to have the ending and everything planned out from the very beginning.
Characters - 10
Now this is the core of the franchise.
Each character in Naruto is very distinctive from each other. Each has a core motive that drives them, a unique personality, and a specialty in different skill sets. And hats-off to Kishimoto for his brilliant character design as he used a very bright color pallet and made each one very distinctive to make each of them stand out.
No matter which kind of characters you prefer, you're sure to find someone here that you can relate to. What the series really does well is making sure that you'll be attached to the characters emotionally. And you will cheer them on as they try to achieve their goals , watch their philosophies and ideologies gets tested , watch them break or prevail and break down crying at their deaths.
You will get to see how what's happening around the characters change them , mold them. Witnessing how tragedies that's happening around them having an effect on their psyche is one of the strongest points of Naruto Shippuden. It's fun seeing small character interactions from early episodes grow into full blown relationships.
Now let's move on to the "Villains"
This series checks all the boxes when it comes to antagonist character archetypes.
*Self-Righteous Villain with a God Complex* [checked] , *Money Hungry Villains* [checked] , *Religious Psychopaths* [checked] , *Villain who is after Revenge* [checked]. I think I've made my point there. But what makes this villains so enjoyable is that no one is a villain just for the sake for being a villain. The best kind of villains are the ones you can empathize with, the ones that you feel for and understand them and make you question your own morality, this is something that this series excels at. As same as the main characters, the villains too have core motivation driving them. They have their own beliefs, ideologies and they are willing to fight for what they think is right. You might find yourself cheering on the villains more than the "heroes." The morality here is blurred.
But coming back to the war arc, its main flaw is the final villain (which I will not spoil here). Compared with the other villainous characters from the series, the final character is very bland and their motivations are not entirely clear or most likely not relatable to any of the viewers. That being said, this character is only in the series for a very small amount of episodes and the others certainly do more than enough to make up for it.
Art and Animation - 7.5
Again we have a mixed bag here.
This show can look stunning when it wants to, and by stunning I meant big budget movie level of quality. But at times the quality can drop way below par.
I think I should specially mention Hiroyuki Yamashita’s work here. He mainly works on battle scenes and this man is a genius when it comes to it. Even though he only worked on a limited number of episodes, his episodes pushes the animation, choreography and stylishness to 11!
Despite this I can't give it a higher score because this show is wildly inconsistent with its animation.
And as for character designs, we already talked about how Kishimoto made his characters very distinctive and imaginative and how the bright color pallet fuels this.
Sound - 10
This is an another strong point of the series. Yasuharu Takanashi has made a masterpiece of a soundtrack for this series that manages to highlight the intensity, the tragedies, and the sorrow of each moment. The emotions that Kishimoto wants to portray make it through to us so well because of this soundtrack. It connects us with the world of Naruto Shippuden in a special way. I would recommend listening to tracks like Samidare (Early Summer Rain) to get a taste of what the soundtrack is like.
Enjoyment and Overall Experience - 10
Naruto Shippuden is more of an experience that needs to be had than just a mere show. It played with our emotions for over a decade and now it has been concluded. The enjoyment of Naruto Shippuden goes beyond just the series itself. This series has a very big community and fanbase that you could interact with. And its lore is so vast that you would never run out of things to discuss about it. Although it has its share of major flaws, this series is a journey that shouldn't be missed if you're fine with the hefty commitment. It's by no means a flawless anime , but it's an anime with highs that more than makes up for it's lows. It reaches for the stars but makes a few tumbles along the way , but the best moments of Naruto are some of the best moments in the medium itself.
And with this, I conclude my review for this series that defined a generation.
Sub or Dub ? : Sub is recommended
| Recommendations for Similar Series |
[Naruto] : Yes, the original series. It's essential to watch it before the Shippuden series because it contains a lot of character development and build-up for the Shippuden series.
[Fullmetal Alchemist : Brotherhood ] : This series contains most of the things that made Shippuden great such as good character development, good soundtrack, and excellent world building. This series does it in about 70 episodes which is truly a magnificent achievement. If you like Naruto Shippuden, it's a given that you will like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood as well.
[Hunter X Hunter (2011)] : A series that greatly inspired Naruto. Both anime feel very similar in style. If the inconsistencies of Naruto bothered you, you'll find a much more consistent pacing and quality of writing here. Whether the highs of Hunter X Hunter matches up to the highs of Shippuden or FMA Brotherhood is up for debate, but you won't have to sit through any lows like you have to endure with Naruto or Naruto Shippuden.
[Proofreading - SomeRandomNerd]