Naruto Shippuden
Episode 398

by Amy McNulty,

Episode 398 is Naruto Shippūden: Food Fight Edition. Not really, but food does fly and "ew overweight people are gross" jokes abound for an uncomfortably long segment in the middle of this episode. At least it's not going the easy "make-this-arc-last-forever" route and showing the chunin exam candidates on their three day, three night trek to the Land of Sand for the second round. (Then again, if the filler arc is here to stay, that time period could have presented a number of story opportunities to explore.) However, as the main characters take a break and rest up, viewers are left to sit through a break from the plot.

As tensions rise between chunin examinees from different countries, a misunderstanding at dinner leads to a brief skirmish. Most of the battle is played for laughs, but in a clear example of foreshadowing, Lee discovers something unique about another ninja. A giant scorpion also gets tossed into the action toward the end of the episode—if you thought being snowed in was bad, apparently these things are commonplace for part of the year in the Land of Sand—but the fight against the beast leaves a lot to be desired.

If there's one character who shines this week, it's Fuu, although her screen time is regrettably brief. As long-time viewers know, villages usually don't trust or remotely like their jinchūriki. Even with her two escorts' obvious distaste for Fuu's antics, she seems to have it a little better than Naruto did at first, but she's clearly lonely. With the goal of making a hundred friends, Fuu obliviously enters the fray, even jumping into the fight with the giant scorpion like it's an amusement park ride. Her optimistic, clueless nature leads not one but two characters to reflect on the overly positive ninja who's missing from this story even though his name is in the show's title. It's a bit of a stretch to accept that he's on so many people's minds all the time, but a lot of shonen protagonists seem to have that effect on people.

This episode is essentially a break from the plot of a long series of filler episodes that are already a break from the plot. Still, it's not a thoroughly un-entertaining episode, even though a number of jokes don't land as well as the producers may have hoped. (Your mileage may vary if you find fat jokes amusing.) The end of the episode outlines the rules for the third phase of the chunin exam, so next week promises to showcase more action. The fact that this same challenge was presented in the previous chunin exam—steal a scroll from another team and survive a few days in a dangerous venue—is more concerning, but just enough things are different this time around that the series may yet surprise us.

Rating: B-

Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.

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