Naruto Shippuden
Episode 388

by Amy McNulty,

Obito is still motionless on the ground, hearing Kakashi sing Naruto's praises. Nearby, Gaara decides to ask Shukaku, the beast that once inhabited him, to help in the next stage of the fight. The other Tailed Beasts ask Gaara if he considers Naruto a friend, and that's about all the new material found in Naruto Shippūden episode 388.

The rest of the episode is filled with flashbacks to Gaara's childhood, his initial encounters with Naruto and the time he miraculously came back to life after having his Tailed Beast removed. (He's the only Jinchūriki to experience a permanent rebirth after being robbed of his beast. Convenient, and yet another example that death in the world of Naruto isn't the final, permanent thing Obito kept insisting it was.)

If you've been watching this series for a while, you've seen everything there is to see in this episode. You know all there is to know about Gaara and the evolution of his relationship with Naruto. Much like Obito, Gaara had some things in common with Naruto, but chose a darker path. In Gaara's case, he didn't lose a friend, but rather was completely unable to make friends until meeting Naruto. It was isolation and the power of a Tailed Beast that made him so coldhearted, not outside manipulation. Still, the message is clear. The star of this series is the greatest, even though he was once shunned, and he brings people together. It's a recurring theme throughout the series, one shared by many shōnen mainstays.

This episode utterly destroys what little momentum the last episode succeeded in building between all the Obito flashbacks. At least the focus on Obito right before his (sort of) fall made a little sense. It was revisiting what brought that major antagonist to this point right before the end of his role in the story. The choice to focus on Gaara comes out of nowhere. Perhaps the production team saw a scene of Gaara speaking to Shukaku in the manga for a couple of panels and thought, "This means we can focus on him, although he's done nothing of import for dozens of episodes."

If the Naruto Shippūden production team needs this many clip shows, they ought to at least figure out how to space them more evenly. Randomly selecting a character to get a spotlight (a trend that seems like it'll continue next week) makes the choice even more obtrusive. Even the minimal-movement episodes that advance the story are more engaging than this.

While there are many production reasons for clip shows, Naruto Shippūden still has an obligation to entertain. Otherwise, what's the point of airing an episode at all? Perhaps after too many weeks of reruns, casual viewers may forget to tune in by the time a new episode airs. Sponsors in Japan may also be less likely to spend money on second-run episodes. Nonetheless, too many of these clip-laden segues could potentially backfire with all but the most loyal viewers.

Rating: D

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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