Naruto Shippuden
Episode 394

by Amy McNulty,

Naruto Shippūden 394 is more like "Naruto: The Paperwork" or "Naruto: The Political Debates." With political figures discussing the reinstatement of chūnin exams after the rather disastrous one in the first Naruto series, we're treated to scenes of characters confiding they're going to propose something and then seeing them propose it in the following scene. Riveting. Even Attack of the Clones had more action between its political debates. There isn't a single punch or kick in this episode. There have been episodes that aren't action-heavy before, but they at least had something better to offer than the occasional moment of humor and a detailed look at the political system in the world of Naruto.

This episode is the start of an entirely unnecessary filler arc that takes place between the first Naruto series and Naruto Shippūden. There's no question now that the producers are determined to stretch out this series before the end, and if they're going to spend episodes on filler, focusing on how all of the rest of the main Hidden Leaf youngsters (except Naruto, the eternal-genin) finally became chūnin isn't a bad option. However, wasting an entire episode on the process of setting up the exam is a rather dull choice.

Sure, there are some political machinations going on since this is set in the days when Gaara was newly Kazekage and not everyone had accepted him. (Village elders seem to have a dark side no matter what village they're from.) There are a few amusing moments, like Shizune alluding to the fact that the very Kazekage with whom the Hidden Leaf wishes to co-host the upcoming exams is one of the key figures responsible for ruining the last ones. Seeing the rest of the Kage in their home countries, long before we met them on the show, is also good for a few chuckles. Their immediate distrust of Tsunade's plans and refusal to cooperate serve as good reminders that before the Fourth Shinobi World War, alliances between countries were rare and tenuous. Still, it's not enough to make the episode very enjoyable.

The very beginning shows scenes we've seen from the current timeline, almost as a reminder that there are more exciting things going on. The connections to filler set in the past are feeble at best; the producers would have done better to discard all pretense that the episode is connected to the current storyline at all. If there must be filler, choosing to start it after one of Naruto's rare weeks off is probably a good idea since the time off has already dampened some of the momentum the show built up. However, by the time we get back to the main storyline, the show will have the difficult task of making the Madara showdown exciting again. It was a mistake to interrupt the final Obito fight with so many flashbacks, and in many respects, the show is repeating the same mistake here.

At the very least, Naruto Shippūden 394 is well-paced for what it is, and the many scenes of people sitting around a table, looking at scrolls and having drawn-out discussions means that the lack of movement isn't noticeable. Still, the plot is too tedious to justify the filler excursion.

Rating: C-

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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