Naruto Shippuden
Episodes 389-390

by Amy McNulty,

A two-episode special focusing on Hinata's younger sister Hinabi aired this week, likely to herald the release of the final Naruto Shippūden film in Japan on December 6th. Throwing out all pretense of tying itself to the Madara and Obito conflict in the current continuity, episodes 389 and 390 are filler done right, especially in comparison to last week's oddly timed clip show.

You don't even have to read the final Naruto manga chapter to guess why the Hyūga clan would be an apt choice for a special now, as many of the news bites surfacing about the final movie reveal the secret. Still, if you've managed to avoid these juicy tidbits so far, there's no need to fear spoilers here. Just know that the choice is less random than last week's focus on Gaara, so the special doesn't lose points for coming out of left field in my book.

The two episodes do include scenes we've seen before, but with an important distinction: the point of view is Hanabi's, the five-years-younger sister who wrested the title of the Hyūga clan's successor away from Hinata. She hasn't gotten much screen time in the past, and she hasn't been in any episodes at all for quite some time. (This special even addresses her absence from the Fourth Shinobi World War, although her young age made it unlikely she'd participate in the war to begin with.)

Hanabi appears more fully developed in this episode, less all-business and better able to accept her sister's strengths, even if Hinata lost the fight to determine succession. In fact, Hanabi comes to understand it's her sister's kindness and love for others—it was love that made her unable to harm Hanabi—is a different form of strength than technique alone, and this realization makes her a better warrior.

After the persistent focus on Rin in the Obito-centric fillers and clip shows a few weeks back, it's refreshing to see two kunoichi who are fully-rounded characters. Hinata may love Naruto (and creepily stalked him when she was a child), but her love for him inspires her to become a stronger, better person for herself, not just to cheer Naruto on. Hanabi may seem cold because of her relentless resolve to become a worthy successor to the Hyūga clan, but even her determination comes from a place of love and admiration toward her sister. This is probably the only sister-sister relationship in Naruto that matters, and it's represented brilliantly here.

If you're not a fan of fillers, Naruto Shippūden episodes 389 and 390 may disappoint simply because it's another week without any progression in the Fourth Shinobi World War. However, this special is a prime example of the anime's obligation to entertain even if the producers have to pad out the manga's story. Fillers are the perfect opportunity to explore new points of view and to add to segments that were important to the overall plot of the series. This special does so admirably, so much so that the few scenes straight out of previous episodes hardly seem superfluous at all.

Rating: B+

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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