Naruto Shippuden Episode 384
by Amy McNulty,
Since the last big action episode, Naruto Shippūden fans have been subject to a few too many instances of characters standing around talking. While talking is not always a bad thing in a shonen series, it can be a letdown in the middle of what otherwise promises to be an epic fight. If effective, episodes comprised of conversations between bouts of action can act like a showdown at high noon, with the discussion building to an explosion of frenetic choreographed violence. Drag out the buildup for too long though, and the payoff won't be as tension-filled as you hoped.
Naruto Shippūden pulls off that payoff in episode 384. The animation is looking better than usual; not only have we moved beyond episodes centering on telepathic communication, the animators aren't resorting to tricks to keep movement to a minimum. We see amazing action too, as Sasuke's Susanoo combines with Kurama, acting as its armor. Sasuke surprisingly defers to Naruto's commands for the battle, which makes me curious to see if he's merely biding his time. For now, their combined efforts are just the kind of zest this series has needed for a while. (How they work so well in sync after being apart and at odds for so long could be another deus ex machina, but it seems to work here nonetheless.)
What I've been hoping to see for weeks—the important secondary characters doing more than fretting on the sidelines—finally happens when Naruto summons his closest friends for help. Each gets a magic chakra coat to match his and moves in sync to drag the separate Tailed Beasts' spirits out of Obito's Ten Tails shell. Gaara and Killer Bee jump in to help with their own respective Tailed Beast chakra, and we come amazingly close to a resolution for this part of the fight.
Madara and Hashirama are still noticeably absent, but Naruto has finally made some breakthroughs in his fight with Obito. The scenes of Obito's life as it could have been and the comparisons between him and Naruto may be heavy-handed, but they're poignant too. The animators make some compelling artistic choices in delivering the message, such as swapping Naruto's face with Obito's.
The only drawback to this episode is the inclusion of flashbacks, some of which we've seen more than a few times. Although relevant and arguably necessary to remind viewers of scenes we haven't seen in a while, they still come across as mere tools to pad the episode out to running length, especially when they drag on for too long.
A few things have been sorely lacking in Naruto Shippūden for the past few weeks: action, fluid animation, giving the side characters something interesting to do, and real progression in the Obito battle. Episode 384 delivers on all of the above.
Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for nearly two decades.
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