Naruto Shippuden
Episodes 449-450

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 449 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

How would you rate episode 450 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

After hijacking the show for nearly five months, Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls comes to an end. Although this dark chapter in Naruto filler history will be followed by another large smattering of anime-original episodes, it's hard to imagine Itachi Shinden being worse than its predecessor. (Plus, it's based on a couple of “canonized” light novels. That's something, I guess.) I'm generally willing to give filler excursions a chance instead of condemning them right out of the gate, but the Pervy Sage has not made it easy. Week after week, I've tried—often in vain—to find redeeming qualities in the current arc (or set of arcs?), and more often than not, I've come up short.

Episode 449

Episode 449 begins with a blatant example of telling instead of showing, as Tsunade (standing in for Minato, who's attending an emergency Kage summit) informs the Sasuke-less Hidden Leaf 12 that the wayward Uchiha is rumored to have joined up with the Akatsuki, who have been kidnapping assorted Kage and jonin-level shinobi from other villages. Unwilling to believe that brooding, power-hungry Sasuke could possibly be evil, his friends insist on tracking him down and bringing him back to the village. (Because that worked out great the last time they tried this.) Armed with an informational packet on the Akatsuki, our heroes set out on their mission.

At the Akatsuki's base of operations, the villains bring Sasuke up to speed on their plan to rule the shinobi world with Sasori's growing army of ninja-turned-puppets. Sasuke, however, isn't really feeling it and decides to head out on his own. Shortly thereafter, he's approached by Itachi, who apparently survived having his heart fatally pierced a couple weeks back. Somehow, learning that his brother is still alive inspires Sasuke to drop his grudge against the Leaf. When he returns to the Akatsuki hideout, he finds his Hidden Leaf comrades locked in combat with various villains. Wanting to make good with his friends, Sasuke joins Naruto and Sakura in their battle against Sasori, who's inexplicably serving as this arc's Big Bad. Not long after, the group is joined by Minato, Gaara, and nearly every other supporting character, who appear out of nowhere and make short work of Sasori's expansive puppet army while Team 7 takes on Sasori himself. To quote Naruto, “Dad! And everyone!”

When Sasori whips out the puppet-ized Raikage, Mizukage, and Tsuchikage, the kids summon their respective ninja beasts before being joined by Jiraiya, Itachi, Konan, and Nagato. Not surprisingly, with so much firepower at the ready, the group is able to take out Puppet Boy with relative ease. We don't actually see the abducted Kage turned back into humans, but I assume they'll be okay? Additionally, we never see how some of the characters' skirmishes with various Akatsuki members play out, but I'm long past the point of having any expectations. With the bad guys defeated, Sasuke agrees to return to the Leaf—but, accompanied by ominous organ music, he makes it clear that he still intends to change the shinobi world in his own way.

As the second-to-last entry in the Ninja Scrolls saga, this episode crams way too much plot into 20-odd minutes. Characters make life-changing decisions at the drop of a hat, and there are numerous instances of telling instead of showing. Although the Akatsuki's master plan is a little more diabolical than their ultimate goal in the actual canon, these versions of the characters aren't menacing enough to make them feel like a substantial threat. Also, seeing these guys get beaten—first as people, then reanimated corpses, now as literary villains—has gotten very old. The end of the episode is probably supposed to be analogous to the villages-uniting, world-threatening danger of the Fourth Great Ninja War, but without seeing the villages work out their differences to bring this alliance to fruition, it's basically meaningless.

Episode 449's fevered pacing hits the viewer like an out-of-control freight train. Stuff happens this episode—too much stuff. Stuff that makes no sense, even within the context of this fantastical world. Stuff that doesn't really matter, since this all takes place in a book—which only exists in a dream world—and counts for nothing. Characters primarily function as props and appear and disappear with no rhyme or reason. Jiraiya, the supposed author of this mess, officially has the writing skills of an overexcited kindergartner.

Rating: D-

Episode 450

This week's episode takes place shortly after the battle in the previous installment. The boys head to the roof of Orochimaru's dilapidated palace to engage in their second face-off in four episodes. I'm unclear on why this showdown needs to occur. At this point, Sasuke appears to realize that he's acted like a heel throughout the entirety of this arc, but he's still determined to take out his daddy issues and emotional angst on Naruto. True to character, Sasuke treats this super-powered skirmish as one enormous therapy session, revealing that he's always been jealous of Naruto's optimism and willingness to throw down for his comrades. Despite working hard his entire life and graduating from the Ninja Academy at the top of his class, Sasuke feels inferior to his longtime rival. In what should come as a surprise to no one, Naruto subsequently reveals that he feels similarly about Sasuke. Watching Sasuke work hard inspired Naruto to do the same, and Naruto credits his opponent with helping him become stronger. Viewers familiar with the source material will recognize this exchange as one giant allusion to the end of the manga. Although it's strange to see the anime re-imagine events it's yet to cover, this is likely the closest we'll get to seeing Kishimoto's ending in animated form for the foreseeable future.

Episode 450 is a little easier to stomach thanks to the gorgeous visuals and top-shelf animation. Throughout the course of the episode, the boys roll out nearly every one of their signature attacks. As the battle wears on, the techniques they use become progressively more powerful, culminating in Naruto's Sage Mode Tailed Beast Bomb going up against Sasuke's Sunsano'o Yasaka Magatama. It's definitely a sight to behold; I just wish I could feel something for these versions of the characters.

After beating the snot out of one another, Naruto and Sasuke shrug off their differences and head back to the village, after which the audience is shown a sleeping Tsunade. Oddly, she isn't in the gazebo where she's been loitering for the better part of 19 episodes—but a sitting room in the Hokage's palace. Her deceased lover Dan (remember, this is a dream world) then arrives to inform her that she's late for his Kage summit. When the Fifth asks what happened to the book she's been reading, Dan reveals that there was no book, officially making the last two cours' worth of material a visual representation of a book being read in a dream within a dream. (Christopher Nolan, eat your heart out.) As Dan leads Tsunade out of the room, it's revealed that Jiraiya, Nawaki, and not-evil Orochimaru are also alive and well. The minute or so we see of her ideal world demonstrates that it would have been fun to explore in greater detail.

The Naruto Shippūden fanbase around the world just let out a collective sigh because Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls is finally over. Considering the plethora of intriguing story possibilities the Infinite Tsukuyomi could have offered, an overlong re-imagining of key events is particularly disappointing. Still, what's done is done. Since the show's pacing was obliterated a long time ago, those of us still watching have more or less accepted that Naruto Shippūden has become an endless filler fest. Let's just hope the anime's next attempt at original content proves more entertaining.

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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