by Amy McNulty,
Naruto Shippūden 392 is the Naruto viewers wish they could see every week. Fast-paced and packed with fluidly animated motion, the episode's flaws are few and far between. With almost no recap clips and no lingering shots that overstay their welcome, this episode features expertly executed plot progression from start to finish.
Fully-reborn Madara faces off against Naruto, Gaara, Killer Bee and the nine Tailed Beasts. Despite the beasts' hulking size and massive power, Madara clearly has the edge despite being blind, and he continues to build up his strength when White Zetsu arrives with a new arm and one of his master's Rinnegan eyeballs. Within seconds, he has all nine of the beasts ensnared and is about to seal them into the Ten Tails again, starting with Gaara's Shukaku.
Although most of the supporting cast is absent, there's enough going on that they're not sorely missed. The action is actually better served without the episode cutting to supporting characters or unnamed red shirt ninjas every few minutes. If those characters are going to be there, they ought to be participating in the plot, not commenting on it.
The ideal episode of Naruto Shippūden would include some of the humor the show is so good at, but the trade-off in this episode is beautiful animation and plot progression. There are a few instances where the characters, in typical shonen style, over-explain, but the "Thank you, Captain Obvious" moments mixed with otherwise confusing ones aren't nearly as obtrusive and frequent as they has been in some previous episodes.
The one segue in the episode is a new flashback to Shukaku's past before Gaara, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Unlike the recent Gaara-heavy clip show, the scene doesn't seem out of left field as it explains why Shukaku might finally be forming a bond with his former jinchūriki in the face of a common enemy. Choosing to examine Shukaku's feelings toward Gaara makes more sense now than it did a few weeks ago, as he's the first to be at risk when Madara commences his attack.
Madara has been built up as the ultimate Naruto Shippūden villain for a while, and it's good to finally see him living up to that promise. His past growing up with his friend and occasional enemy Hashirama has been fully explored by now, so it's a relief to see the action unfold uninterrupted. When it was Obito's turn at bat as the ultimate villain, the show's momentum sputtered to a halt more than once due to constant reiterations of Obito's past. While it's still too early in this fight to tell if the show will repeat its past mistakes, for this week at least, viewers can revel in Naruto Shippūden at some of its finest.
Part high-flying action, part quiet introspection, Naruto Shippūden episode 392 is the rare Naruto episode that gets the pacing just right. The episode successfully builds a sense of real danger and threat in Madara. It helps, too, that Madara is less talkative (at least as of right now) than Obito and comes across as less of a repetitive moaner.
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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