Naruto Shippuden
Episode 416

by Amy McNulty,

If you've been living under a rock for the past few years and suddenly decided to jump in to Naruto Shippūden at episode 416, you might find this anime-original tale about young Obito, Kakashi and Rin compelling, funny and, at times, even sweet. Conversely, those of us who have tuned in every week know this is the umpteenth time these characters' pasts have been explored. These episodes are beginning to elicit strange feelings of déjà vu, with at least part of this week's installment—the infamous bell test—replayed from episode 360, an earlier flashback episode. (Probably not for the first time either, but it's hard to remember clearly at this point.) The producers of Naruto Shippūden want to make sure we fully appreciate the Obito-Rin-Kakashi dynamic, even it means beating us over the head with it repeatedly.

Luckily, the characters are entertaining, even if Obito being a Naruto knockoff has long since gotten stale. The episode is essentially a vignette of different points in the lives of Team Minato. First we see them as graduating students, then new genin, and the transitions aren't exactly the smoothest. Nonetheless, Obito shines as the fastest D-level mission-doer of all time thanks to the sway he holds with the Hidden Leaf's aging seniors. Once every lost pet in the village is found and all the errands around town are done, Sarutobi has nothing left to occupy Team Minato's time, so he sends the kids and their teacher on Obito and Rin's first C-level mission outside of the Hidden Leaf.

The mission plays out predictably, with Obito, Kakashi and Rin acting perfectly in line with how young Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura would carry themselves in such a situation. Gung-ho Obito doesn't appreciate the gravity of the mission and insists on battling enemy shinobi against Minato's instruction. Somber Kakashi (pre ero-book-loving and teamwork-promoting days) is determined to complete the mission at all costs, even if it means ignoring an injured comrade. Rin waffles somewhere in between but otherwise does not prove entirely memorable or essential to the proceedings. Following the mission to the letter blows up in Kakashi's face, and he's sure to learn about the importance of teamwork by the end of this ordeal, which is left to be concluded next week.

The show's producers have a quota of episodes to meet, and it's clear they're going to pepper the long-awaited final battle with as many flashbacks and fillers as possible. As a result, the main storyline suffers from pacing issues, and the audience's retention abilities are put to the test. Keeping every detail of this complicated battle fresh in your mind, long enough to remember it between one filler endpiece to the next, is a tall order. With the series continuously harping on the same characters going through similar experiences to learn the same lessons over and over, it's become clear that the screenwriters have reached their creative peak for enriching Kishimoto's world. There's no logical narrative reason for Kakashi and Obito to reminisce about their past yet again, especially on the tail-end of a five-month filler arc. However, if you can forgive the fact that it's completely unnecessary, episode 416 is a mildly entertaining watch as far as recent fillers go.

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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