Naruto Shippuden
Episode 434

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 434 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

This week's Naruto Shippūden raises an interesting (albeit unintentional) question: how on earth did Jiraiya become a massive bestselling author if what we're seeing is a representation of his work? There are three possible answers. A.) The best authors in this world rewrite the life stories of their acquaintances without even bothering to change their names. (Never mind that these characters actually have far greater adventures in real life. Making up a far less engaging story is clearly the better idea. Also, how well did he know any of the kids besides Naruto? Would this all be based on his impressions of the secondary characters from stories Naruto told him while they were training?) B.) Jiraiya's Make-Out Paradise series only rose to prominence because of the X-rated content. (It's the Fifty Shades of the Hidden Leaf!) This actually makes sense, as Jiraiya himself said his first novel—which also revolved around a ninja named Naruto—flopped because it didn't contain any naughty bits. C.) The show's producers are doing a poor job of presenting what they hoped would be a compelling alternate-world Naruto adventure. All jokes aside, most viewers are probably leaning in the direction of C. Still, it's possible that what we're seeing is simply Tsunade's idea of what Jiraiya's final manuscript would be, since the whole thing is a representation of a book she's reading in a dream world.

While investigating their teachers' disappearance, two teams of Hidden Leaf genin are intercepted by members of the Akatsuki. Team 7 faces off against Hidan, while Team Asuma goes head-to-head with Nagato, Konan, and Yahiko (not the pin-cushiony corpse version of the character), who go by "Team Jiraiya" here. The adolescent versions of Naruto and Sasuke do a good job of holding their own against the nigh-immortal Hidan, who eventually has to be rescued by his partner Kakuzu. Seeing these two engage in their trademark bickering as they drag an unconscious Kakashi to their base of operations is amusing, but the amount of screentime they share is regrettably brief.

As Shikamaru, Ino and Choji do battle against Team Jiraiya, Nagato reveals that his group aims to bring sweeping changes to the war-happy ninja world. Following Nagato and company's eventual retreat, Team Asuma tracks them to an abandoned village. Since it vaguely mirrors the circumstances surrounding his parents' death, seeing Shikamaru question some kids who returned to the village to retrieve a creepy-looking teddy bear causes Yahiko to unleash a super-powered scream. This ultimately razes the structure the characters are in, creating a massive crater in the ground.

In some respects, the latest chapter in "Tales of Naruto the Gallant" is an improvement over the previous installment. There's some decent action sequences, and it's always fun to see our heroes as children again. However, many of the featured antagonists have been defeated multiple times throughout the course of the series, and viewers now know their respective strengths and weaknesses inside-out. Furthermore, the stakes have never been lower. On the incredible off-chance that the Hidden Leaf 12 don't come out on top, who cares? This is a false reality within a false reality.

The episode's best moment is also its funniest. After Team Jiraiya reveals its namesake, Ino remarks that women turn to goo at the mere mention of the Pervy Sage, and Shikamaru and Choji chime in about how all men want to be him. This causes dream-world Tsunade to clutch at the manuscript infuriatingly. If he were alive to dream it, this might actually pass for Jiraiya's Infinite Tsukuyomi utopia. It doesn't make a lot of sense as it is, and it dispels some of the illusion-within-an-illusion conceit, but it's good for a laugh.

The Infinite Tsukuyomi was practically a gift from Kishimoto to the anime staff. Strangely, instead of presenting us with fun depictions of each character's dream world, they're giving us a random collection of tales with a tenuous connection to the main storyline. While far from the worst filler episode the series has produced, this week's installment doesn't do the show any favors.

Rating: C-

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.


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