Naruto Shippuden
Episode 400

by Amy McNulty,

As of today, Naruto Shippūden has 400 episodes under its belt. What special surprise do the producers have in store to commemorate this milestone? The short answer is "nothing." In fact, episode 400 is filler-within-filler with a dash of flashbacks.

To be fair, the episode number is arbitrary and the producers are under no obligation to do anything special. (Plus, if you count the original 220 episodes of Naruto, episode 660 of the series isn't a special number at all.) Still, with the recent end of the manga and the (eventual) end of the anime series perhaps sometime this year, not to mention The Last: Naruto the Movie making its debut in U.S. theaters, it might have been nice to see a bigger deal made of this week's episode.

This week is a step down from last week, especially when taking into account the lack of action. There's hardly a single blow exchanged, and when a fight does break out, animation shortcuts ensure there isn't much to marvel at. With half the episode devoted to the backstory of Shira, a minor character we just met, and the other half full of flashbacks to the history of Rock Lee, a character whose backstory we've already seen a number of times, the producers' need to pad this chunin exam out becomes obvious. While more entertaining than the arc's first two episodes, which just showed the politics of planning the exam, it's not memorable in the least.

Shira, like Lee and Naruto, was an outcast. Unable to use anything but taijutsu, he had to train on his own until Gaara discovered his talent and not only let him become a ninja, but even asked him to be his tutor in hand-to-hand combat. Also like Lee and Naruto, Shira worked incredibly hard to get where he is, and his eternal optimism leads him to forgive those who've wronged him. He even has Naruto's talent to simply talk to bad guys/bullies and get them to acknowledge their wrongdoings. If anything, Shira is Lee and Naruto Lite because he knows how to be optimistic without wide-eyed screaming about how awesome youth and hard work are. Still, while he may make for less obnoxious company, he makes for a duller character. Besides, we've gone down this "optimistic, bullied pariah becomes a shining ninja star" route with more important characters not once, but twice, in the show already. Why do it again? (Mind you, this isn't even counting all the anime-original guest characters with similar backstories who have appeared in the various filler arcs and feature films.)

Naruto Shippūden episode 400 isn't boring, but it's not particularly exciting, either. At least the episode ends with Lee and Shira's teams getting their hands on the scrolls they need to pass the second round of the exam, provided they're able to hold on to them until the end. That's some progress forward, but at the last minute, Lee convinces Shira to battle him for no other reason than for the thrill of the fight, ensuring that this arc-within-an-arc continues for at least another week.

Rating: B-

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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