by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 418 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
If the producers of Naruto Shippūden don't think viewers will notice when the show "subtly" goes into drawn-out flashback mode, they've got another think coming. Luckily, this week's venture into Flashback Land is something we haven't already seen, and it doesn't constitute the majority of the episode. (However, the post-credits preview indicates that next week's installment may be solidly flashback-focused.)
Although only a miniscule amount of progress is made in the Madara fight, we're treated to a number of well-paced sequences set in the current timeline. Orochimaru, Karin, Suigetsu and Jugo reach Sasuke's prone body and discover a transformed Kabuto healing him, albeit in a somewhat disturbing manner. Strangely, Kabuto's had a change of heart about his place in the whole war-that-killed-tens-of-thousands thing, and he's accepted himself for who he truly is. The war was apparently just one enormous therapy session all along. This somehow means Orochimaru's former right-hand man has the power and desire to save Sasuke. It's not a particularly engaging segment, but it might make viewers nostalgic for the compelling string of episodes some years ago in which Sasuke and his three followers stole the spotlight.
Back on the front lines of the Madara fight, Minato and Kakashi inform Guy that his taijutsu is just about the only thing that will be effective against Madara. The sequence features some sloppy moments like arm-less Minato clearly enunciating his words despite holding a kunai in his mouth and the villain waiting patiently while the heroes strategize. (The latter is a staple of far too many action anime.) Even so, these flaws are overlookable in the face of actual story progression.
The action then grinds to a halt for the umpteenth time. Guy's about to risk his life—to use an attack he knows will kill him, regardless of the outcome of the fight—so it's as good a time as any for him to reflect on his childhood. In a way, that makes sense. However, the overuse of fillers and flashbacks until this point, particularly the repetitive Obito-centric stories, have soured me on yet another segue. Setting aside the series' problematic overreliance on misplaced filler as a whole, the Guy-as-a-child flashback at least entertains.
Guy's father, Might Dai (seriously, that's his name), is as overdramatic and gung-ho as Guy and Lee, skintight green bodysuit and all. The overall theme of the segment, that perseverance and hard work pay off for those not blessed with talent, is nothing new. It's Rock Lee's creed and has been a focal part of many stories featuring ol' "Bushy Brows." However, it's amusing to see familiar faces from Guy and Kakashi's generation as children and recognize how very alike Guy and Lee are. (Not that we didn't know that already.)
Episode 418 starts the plot progression train up again only to take a detour down another track. At this point, it would be a surprise to get a few episodes in a row that didn't pull that trick. Accepting that Naruto Shippūden will never operate at a steady pace again, barring some "Naruto Kai" type of rerelease, at least the latest diversion shows more promise than other recent filler episodes.
Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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