Naruto Shippuden
Episode 374

by Amy McNulty,

Way back in May 2012, episode 261 of Naruto Shippūden aired, launching the Fourth Shinobi World War arc. The storyline promised an epic "war-to-end-all-wars," and we were sure the end of Naruto was just around the corner—and that it might go out with a bang. Over two years later and with still so much of the manga left to be adapted into anime, we don't feel much closer. Apparently, only two days have passed in the Naruto world. Two days. It would take you longer than that to watch all 113 episodes in this arc that have aired thus far, even if you forwent sleep and bathroom breaks.

To be fair, that number includes segues into long flashbacks and episodes that highlight what individual characters are doing, so many of the episodes take place concurrently. But as of episode 374, the side trips seem to be at an end. Sasuke's back, and Naruto and Sakura are putting aside their grievances with him to reunite as the original Team 7 for a large-scale battle against the Ten Tails. They've each summoned the biggest beasts—slug, frog, and snake—of their masters, the legendary Sannin. Time for some great giant-monster-vs-monster action, right? (Action we've admittedly seen already in the even bigger nine-tailed-beasts showdown of this arc.)

Not so much: they've each launched just the beginning of their beast techniques. Sasuke and Naruto only get one hit in before the episode focuses on Orochimaru, Karin and Suigetsu tracking down Tsunade and the other injured Kage. The comedic interludes in the Orochimaru segment are a welcome break, but if you were hoping for any progress in the big Ten Tails fight, you're not much closer after this episode.

Although the gradual pace of this arc can be frustrating for viewers, shonen battle anime simply wouldn't be quintessential without drawn-out battles. At least Naruto Shippūden has managed not to bore too often during this arc. (Thank you, Dragon Ball Z, for forever setting the standard for a real long, drawn-out battle.)

Naruto really is ending, even if it's taking its sweet time to get there. Fans who've followed the anime for well over a decade are owed backstories for each of their favorite characters, so I think those of us watching have accepted this arc is far from over. On the other hand, there's simply no way a new fan can jump in at this point because there are 594 episodes to catch up on. (Naruto aired 220 episodes before Naruto Shippūden even started.) Still, for those of us who've stuck it out, it's far from the worst anime. For every much-maligned "filler" episode, there are plenty of episodes that mean more to you because you've been there every step of the way. Episode 374 falls solidly into the "this one matters" camp, even if not much happens.

Rating: B

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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