Naruto Shippuden
Episode 395

by Amy McNulty,

Naruto Shippūden 395 is an improvement over last week's political debate-heavy episode, but it's still just leading up to the crux of this batch of filler: the chūnin exams. Although there is still some focus on sending delegations to other countries and distrust among the various village leaders, the episode at least examines how individual characters react to the idea of an upcoming exam. That's more compelling to the average viewer than watching how a bill was enacted.

The content of this week's episode may be new, but a lot of it is familiar territory. It must be nice to voice a Naruto character, as even if your character dies, there's a strong chance he or she will return in a filler arc set before their death—or as a reanimated corpse. As this filler arc takes place before the beginning of Shippūden, dead heroes are back to mentoring young ninja, baddies who have been defeated are once again brooding villainously, and Sakura is back to feeling inadequate and left behind when she thinks of Naruto and Sasuke.

While seeing what familiar characters were up to between the original series and Shippūden gives some additional insight into their overall nature, none of these characters grace the screen long enough to really offer anything new. (This may change with Fuu in future episodes, but Pain and Konan are more likely to prove brief cameos, like most of the Kage in the previous episode.) Plus, it's hard to celebrate what strides a character like Sakura has made with her self-image when we're essentially back to square one for a few weeks.

Still, the latter half of the episode is better served by choosing Sakura as its focus. She rejects the idea of taking the exams with Ino and Choji because she's afraid of proving a burden to them, as she thinks she was to Team 7. (The girl has self-esteem issues.) When the episode initially meanders from one village to the next, it's hard to get invested in any of their concerns about the exams. Following Sakura as she wrestles with her inadequacies may be a well-worn path in the show, but at least it makes the build-up for the exams more personal. The only mistake is interrupting her story to briefly show Naruto training with Jiraiya just because she's wondering what he's up to. Yes, we know it's his show, but we also know he's not a chūnin even in the present timeline, so there's no chance of him playing an integral role in this story. It reeks of the producers attempting to pad out this storyline as much as they can.

If anything, Naruto Shippūden 395 gives viewers hope that this anime-original arc will eventually build into something more exciting, as the shift from politics to individual characters is more likely to capture audience interest. The episode ends with a funky-looking collection of genin arriving in the Hidden Leaf, so the exams themselves are bound to prove more riveting—once the show finally gets around to showing them.

Rating: C+

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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