Naruto Shippuden Episode 413
by Amy McNulty,
After twenty long weeks, the anime-original chunin exam arc has come to an abrupt end. You thought there was supposed to be a third round to the exam? You noticed that no Hidden Leaf team managed to successfully gather the two scrolls needed to pass the second round? In light of all those stipulations and the second round's laggy pacing, you assumed there was no possible end in sight?
Naruto Shippūden episode 413 dashes all of your expectations. First, Gaara has to settle the score with Fugi, the pointy-eared mastermind behind Houichi's attacks. The Kazekage visits him in sand clone form and literally talks him to death. (Actually, he unintentionally convinces him to commit seppuku by showing how magnanimous he is about the whole attempted murder thing, but you get the idea.) Not only is Gaara there to extol the virtues of that god-among-men Naruto Uzumaki, he even flashes back to when he explained Naruto's greatness to Shira in the middle of his pro-Naruto speech to Fugi. Far too often, filler episodes utilize the "characters being inspired by absent Naruto" shtick, and this may be the most over-the-top example yet.
After that, one of Gaara's other disciples challenges Shira to a fight—not for a scroll, mind you, but to see how their skills stack up against one another for some reason. However, a few beats later, they're congratulating each other on a battle well fought. The fight takes place entirely off screen, and what little hope there was for any action this week—albeit between two characters no one cared about—is gone.
Suddenly, due to Fugi and Houchi's sandstorm attack, Gaara, Shikamaru and the other proctors decide to call off the third round and send reports home to the leaders of each shinobi village, leaving the fate of the examinees' promotions entirely in their hands. This makes no sense. Naruto is notoriously still a genin even after saving his village—and the entire world—multiple times. There's no promotion for him based on skill demonstrated in a crisis. Not everyone even got a chance to complete the first exam, because it was interrupted by a much larger threat than this piddly sand storm, musical monk, and overdramatic pointy-eared fellow. There was no consideration for what transpired, no "reports" sent home to let the leaders assign promotions at their discretion. However, that's exactly what happens here. In fact, Tsunade even double-promotes Neji because she thinks he outshone the rest. How exactly? His power helped free Gaara and Fuu ("Foo" was switched back to "Fuu" in the subtitles), but he didn't go above and beyond any more than Lee and Tenten. Even if the producers wanted to show how much everyone had matured—Shikamaru's coolheaded attitude was why he alone passed the first exams—it still feels like a cheap copout of an ending.
This was a terrible way to end a lengthy story arc, filler or not. On one hand, the plot had grown wearisome and it was long past time to get back to the main story, which left viewers smack-dab in the middle of a major battle. On the other hand, plot structure-wise, this episode is rushed and makes little sense as the climax and conclusion of a story that's gone on for so many weeks. Still, seeing as the second chunin exam wore out its welcome months ago, few fans are bound to bemoan the lackluster ending.
Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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