by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 419 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Naruto Shippūden often relies on parallels to tell the story. You're supposed to see Naruto in Obito, Gaara and many other outcast characters the titular protagonist meets throughout his journey. Kakashi once embodied Sasuke's less desirable qualities, and Rin was somewhat like Sakura. Even the Legendary Sannin—Jiraiya, Tsunade and Orochimaru—are a lot like Team 7, and each became a mentor to his or her modern-day counterpart. So it's little surprise that Guy had a lot in common with Lee as a child, and that his relationship with his father, Dai, closely mirrors the bond he shares with his favorite student.
Despite their inabilities to use ninjutsu effectively, both Guy and Lee are some of the strongest fighters in the series. Lee and Guy's stories have always been about the rewards of hard work (very hard work) when faced with a lack of "natural" talent. With so many secondary characters to choose from, it might seem odd that Guy's about to fight Madara one-on-one—but it works. Lee and Guy share a tenacity and willingness to fight until they drop. Since Naruto's out of commission at the moment, it makes sense for someone with equal optimism and grit to step in. It has to be Guy instead of Lee, simply because it makes more sense for the teacher to sacrifice his life than the student.
Most of episode 419 is a prolonged flashback chronicling Guy's struggle to get accepted to the Ninja Academy and fit in with his naturally gifted peers. Although the flashback is on the long side, as this is the second episode devoted to Guy's adolescence, it makes sense to examine this time period right before the character is about to engage in an epic showdown with one of the series' biggest villains. It's interesting to see how Guy's relationship with his dad differs slightly from Lee's relationship with his mentor; whereas Lee and Guy are about equal in skill, Guy actually surpasses his father at a young age. Predictably, he becomes embarrassed by his father's lack of skill, but thankfully, the show doesn't dwell on such a tired trope for too long. Instead, Dai trains hard enough to develop the Eight Gates Released Formation attack for his son, once again emphasizing the theme of hard work and sacrifice when it comes time for him to use it.
Unfortunately, while the story is satisfactory despite its repetitiveness, the art in the latter part of the episode is awkward enough to take the viewer out of the moment. Guy's face in particular is comically off-model as he prepares to begin his attack on Madara. Like many long-running series, Naruto Shippūden features inconsistent artwork, but it's usually more aesthetically pleasing than this. Although fans have come to expect episode-to-episode inconsistencies, seeing the aesthetic quality fluctuate within the same episode is jarring.
Episode 419 is a must-see for Might Guy groupies, as well as an entertaining detour for fans of the series in general. If you love Naruto, you likely see value in its central themes of hard work, sacrifice, and the cycle of mentor-to-student and parent-to-child. This episode exemplifies its themes commendably.
Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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