Naruto Shippuden
Episode 411

by Amy McNulty,

On one hand, parts of episode 411 are an improvement over last week. On the other, it still features characters we're not at all invested in—Gaara's disciples and the boring new monk villain Houichi—and subjects us to Houichi's attempts at extracting Tailed Beasts from two of the jinchūriki in real time. Picture twelve minutes of Gaara (and eventually Foo) grunting, unable to move—in real time. Even to the most forgiving viewer, it should be clear that the producers are shamelessly padding this arc.

This week's foray into the sand storm storyline is more cohesive than last week's, and the storm eventually abates, giving viewers hope that the lengthiest filler arc to date will soon do the same. However, the next beat in the story finds Houichi perched on a cliff, strumming his shamisen, moving naught but his hand. This causes chains to come out of his chest and latch onto the jinchūriki—some of the most powerful fighters in the world of Naruto—and slowly pull out what appear to be chakra-based clones of the Tailed Beasts from inside their bodies. This accounts for the entirety of this week's action.

You would think that once Gaara was trapped—unable to move but still able to speak—he would direct the help that arrived to the wide-open monk sitting up there playing a tune, but no. Instead of punching the guy or at least showing someone attempt to punch him only to be magically blocked by shamisen-induced chains or something, Gaara wants everyone to leave and not put themselves in danger. While wanting to get his ineffective disciples out of the line of fire is perfectly understandable, he could have at least instructed them to find help. Maybe have them send word to Kankuro, Temari or the scores of other capable ninja? It looks like Team Guy might show up next week to save the day, but given Gaara's current attitude, they would be doing so in direct violation of the Kazekage's wishes.

An episode of this caliber might have been more palatable in the middle of a run of better episodes, but the weaker offerings in the second chunin exam arc are just like the wasteland in which they take place: seemingly endless and punishingly dull. At the very least, this sandstorm story might signal an end to the pattern of showcasing each secondary Hidden Leaf ninja for two to three episodes. However, without the focus on meaningful characters, it comes across as even more tedious. While Gaara might be worthy of the spotlight, and it's not terrible to get to know Foo a little better, everything that needs to be said about Gaara's character development in the series has been said. (In much more coherent stories than this one, I might add.) This stationary battle is not compelling to watch, nor does it offer any new insights into his character.

Rating: D+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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