Naruto Shippuden
Episode 383

by Amy McNulty,

Last week, Naruto Shippūden devoted an entire episode to pumping up the crowd for the next wave of the fight. This week, episode 383 starts off almost the same. Even despite improved animation—some drawings seem a little off model and shots still linger for too long on stills, but there's more movement overall—this first half is an unimportant rehash for the most part. While Naruto and Sasuke get a few attacks in, the rest of the crowd continues to share memories through telepathy.

The episode attempts some tension as Shikamaru, gaunt and unconscious, seems dangerously close to death. Still, rule one of Naruto Shippūden is that primary and even secondary characters are rarely in danger of dying for good. It happens—and it's a shock when it does—but because resurrections and close calls occur at a much higher rate, it's hard to get emotionally worked up when a character is at death's door. Sure enough, his fate is no surprise. However, as Shikamaru is one of the more compelling characters, with a genius intellect for strategy always at odds with his laziness, the show probably made the right choice here.

The second half of episode 383 picks up where the episode should have started: the next wave of the battle. The Kage fan out to lead the background ninja into a frontal assault against the Divine Tree while Naruto and Sasuke tackle Obito. (Madara is strangely absent, but perhaps he's just content to watch things unfold.)

The series dips a little too much into deus-ex-machina territory as Tsunade and Sakura combine powers to turn slug Katsuyu into an all-purpose healing slime. (Why on earth didn't they do this earlier? Perhaps the excuse is Tsunade just got there. Still, they could have used that in earlier battles.) This frees them both up to join the battle instead of running around healing everyone. (I always found it strange that two of the most powerful ninja in terms of physical strength are more occupied with healing on the field. Can't someone who doesn't know the "I can punch holes in mountains" technique show an interest in healing?)

Despite a little action, the episode slows down again toward the end as Obito and Naruto face off before the next round. Obito despairs about the hopelessness of friendship and the transient nature of the world, and ever-optimistic Naruto thinks friendship is the bee's knees and he's raring to save the world, but they're both broken records. This isn't unique to Naruto Shippūden—a lot of shōnen protagonists and villains grandstand in the same manner—but it does become grating in repeated doses.

Episode 383 is an example of how close the show can come to balancing things right without quite pulling off anything impressive. Some episodes should highlight other characters besides Naruto. However, with so many secondary and background characters present, the show doesn't have time to showcase everyone in depth. When this episode attempts it, those characters are mostly just thinking about how great Naruto is. We know he's great. Let's see what you guys can do to help out. The only exception to this is Orochimaru. Seeing him join the battle for his own self-serving reasons is immensely satisfying.

If the series is going to drag out this final fight—I almost laughed when Obito said the Divine Tree would destroy the world "in a few minutes"—then focus on small groups within the big battles. Let's see the techniques that define the secondary characters as individuals one more time before the curtain falls.

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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