Naruto Shippuden
Episode 420

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 420 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

Exciting action and honest-to-goodness plot progression are the order of the day in episode 420. Fans of Rock Lee and Might Guy's taijutsu will get a kick out of seeing the Evening Elephant technique on full display as "Night Guy" takes center stage. Not surprisingly, opening all Eight Gates takes an immense physical toll on Guy and quickly causes him to break several bones. However, since Madara's Truthseeker Orbs actually sustain some damage, his efforts still pay off.

Shortly after the halfway point, the episode shifts focus from the Guy/Madara brawl to long-absent Naruto, who awakens in what appears to be a different dimension. Without explanation, Hagoromo, the fabled Sage of the Six Paths, appears before our hero. After a humorous interlude in which the two experience communication difficulties, the Sage quickly glosses over his family's history and shares the tale of his two sons. One son, Ashura, was a "dunce" who struggled to gain strength but forged bonds with countless allies to make up for his lack of natural talent. The other, Indra, was a fiercely independent genius who insisted on accomplishing his goals alone. Although the brothers are long dead, their chakra has lived on for centuries and reincarnated into many different hosts throughout the ages. Guess which one was reincarnated as Naruto? It's another case of parallels between characters that are too on-the-nose.

Hagoromo reveals too much information at once, leaving Naruto (and the viewers) little time to unpack what happened and why it's important to the current conflict with Madara. The reason why Guy alone is effective at harming Madara is murky as well. Additionally, when Naruto asks the Sage exactly what his deity-like mother, Kaguya, is and where she came from, Hagoromo insists that it isn't important. None of these issues take away from the enjoyment, but a series as continuity-heavy as Naruto shouldn't shrug off major questions with such wild abandon.

It's distracting that Madara consistently speaks to himself throughout the episode. In true mustache-twirling villain fashion, Madara feels the need to state aloud how Guy's attacks affect him. No one is nearby, nor would anyone benefit from the information. Characters speaking unnecessarily during battles isn't a first for this series or shonen anime in general. On one hand, these solo conversations break up the frenetic action, although that largely benefits the animators more than the viewers. On the other, they'll take you out of the moment if you stop to think about them.

The art and animation are back in top form this week. After months of minimal action, it's refreshing to see a battle sequence animated so smoothly and paced so adeptly, even if it doesn't last the entire episode. Although the discussion between Hagoromo and Naruto doesn't require much movement, Naruto's confused and flabbergasted expressions add some much-needed levity.

Bereft of lengthy flashbacks and filler material, episode 420 takes the show back in the right direction. While the battle scars of too many filler segues are still fresh, the episode showcases enough action, humor and plot progression to give long-time viewers hope. If Naruto Shippūden's finale is going to be as epic as promised, the show needs more episodes like this to guide the story to a well-paced conclusion.

Rating: B+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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