Naruto Shippuden
Episode 385

by Amy McNulty,

The Naruto manga is ending next week! Cue the bittersweet cries of countless fans around the world. (Although there's already news about a Naruto manga miniseries for next year.) This week's Naruto Shippūden seems to carry an extra special significance in light of the manga's end on Monday. So does episode 385 leave us eager to see the rest of the story unfold in anime form?

Well, it does a passable job, but it's nothing to write home about. Last week's episode brought us the most action and progression we've seen in a number of weeks. Episode 385 puts a brake on that momentum to take us on a flashback journey to Obito's youth. Since Obito is not going to be the focus of the battle for much longer, the animators probably thought it best to work in everything you could possibly want to know about the character before he goes. Unfortunately, we already know quite a lot about him, especially his similarities to Naruto. While presenting Obito's history as a Naruto-who-chose-the-dark-side story could be compelling, all the new scenes in episode 385 don't add much to the story.

Young Obito was a self-aggrandizing, optimistic youth with dreams of becoming Hokage. Kakashi was his Sasuke-like genius rival (minus the fangirls and the outright hatred for everyone around him, although there are hints of the latter too). Rin was a two-dimensional, incredibly kind young girl in the Sakura role, only with less personality. If these additional scenes of their time together were going to add anything, they might have fleshed her out more. However, she's destined to become the refrigerated-girlfriend whose death sets Obito down his "destroy the world and put it under a peaceful illusion" spell, so that's the only thing that matters about her apparently. At least we finally get to see the origin of the famous photo of the three of them with their teacher. (The photo is also a parallel to the same type of picture Team Seven took with their teacher.)

The few scenes in the modern era have Naruto and Obito staring each other down and debating what's right for the world and what it truly means to be Hokage. They've both stated their points of view too many times for this to be intriguing, and Naruto even hits the viewer over the head with the message that his life was a lot like Obito's. At least the animators make some interesting visual choices for their tête-à-tête, having the two walk around and gesture in another dimension as they debate. (What this dimension actually is—probably some kind of telepathy thing—is unclear.) Shots zoom so far up to their faces, it's tempting to ask the characters to please take a step back from the camera. At the same time, the zooming does help emphasize the anger these two are feeling.

Episode 385 stands well enough with the majority of Naruto Shippūden episodes, even if it adds little to the narrative. If you've been longing for more Obito backstory, it looks like there's even more on the way. However, if you're eager for this stage of the battle to progress, it's a disappointment. The fact that it aired several days before the source material wraps up isn't its fault, but it'd just be nice to wallow in more Naruto-related excitement as we prepare to say goodbye.

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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