Naruto Shippuden
Episode 415

by Amy McNulty,

If you thought Naruto Shippūden was finished straying from the main storyline for the foreseeable future, prepare to be disappointed. Not quite two-thirds of the way through this week's episode, Obito and Kakashi decide to once again reminisce about their childhood rivalry, a plotline that has already been explored at great length. (Eventually, they're sure to remind viewers of the multiple tragedies they faced that led to so much angst, as if any of us have forgotten.)

Until that point, the action is slow but pivotal, despite the "twist" of Obito joining forces with the good guys being entirely predictable. (As he so helpfully remembers, Naruto once gave him a personalized sermon extolling the virtues of life and friendship, as He does to all who worship Him.) Madara's confidence in his former protégé's loyalty apparently makes all the difference, as he easily countered a triple-attack from Gaara, Kakashi and Minato not moments before. That's three of the series' strongest fighters. For a brief moment, you can feel the tension created by Obito's betrayal, and the hair's breadth of a chance our heroes have to save Naruto—but as usual, no one watching is really worried things won't work out. Madara's grandstanding about his visions of a world without conflict and chakra are standard, dull villain fare that we've seen him spout many times before.

When the story shifts to flashback mode, the scenes themselves aren't boring to watch. However, they are redundant and cover the same ground we've seen countless times before. The long batch of flashback-centric episodes that aired shortly before this recently-concluded stretch of filler made it abundantly clear that Obito, Kakashi and Rin were a lot like Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura in their youth. There's no point in taking another trip back to the past with Team Minato. It's obvious the producers are playing for time because they have a certain number of episodes they want to make before the show ends. Unfortunately, the pacing of this "epic" final fight has been shredded to pieces and much of the tension is gone as a result.

If there's a lesson to be gleaned from episode 415, it's that viewers should never get their hopes up with this series. Don't get too excited when a long-awaited face-off seems imminent, because in all likelihood, the real action is weeks, months, or years away. While Naruto is as much about characterization as it is about action—perhaps even more so—the creative minds behind the series frequently do a poor job of deciding when to prioritize one over the other. Inserting repetitive character introspections in the midst of highly-anticipated smackdowns never pays off.

Rating: C+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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