Naruto Shippuden
Episode 424

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 424 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

This week's episode serves as an example of how great Naruto Shippūden can be when the pacing is near perfect. If the show stopped littering the main storyline with lengthy, ill-timed, out-of-place flashbacks and filler excursions, fans could look forward to episodes of this caliber every week. While I'm not against anime-original material, there's a time and place for it—and the show has abused it as a gimmick to stretch out the final story arc for far too long.

In any case, all thoughts of fillers, clip shows and flashbacks can be pushed aside this week, as Naruto and Sasuke team up against an increasingly desperate Madara. Fans who have longed to see the series' two most important characters join forces to take down the main antagonist are sure to walk away happy. Despite being weakened by Guy's Evening Elephant technique, Madara still poses a substantial threat to our heroes. As is the case with many combat-heavy episodes, the animation is in top form this week. The new Six Paths Sages chakra upgrades to Naruto's Rasengan and Sasuke's Chidori are visually stunning, and viewers will marvel at the crackle of the energy blasts. Naruto singlehandedly cutting down the enormous Divine Tree is arguably one of the coolest scenes in recent memory. Both visually and animation-wise, the entire episode feels more polished than usual.

Unfortunately, certain details of the fight remain fuzzy, and the combat mechanics are sometimes laughably absurd. Impromptu eyeball transplants are nothing new to the series, but the process has never looked quite as ridiculous as it does during the fly-by eyeball-robbery Madara pulls on Kakashi. Still, at least that means it's not drawn out for a ridiculous amount of time. The shadow-Madara that Naruto can sense and Sasuke can actually see is quickly glossed over, as is Madara's magical consumption of the Divine Tree. The stakes are clear: Despite Naruto and Sasuke's power upgrades, Madara is determined to keep the fight going. However, the finer details of how Madara manages to remain a threat are less apparent.

Regrettably, the pacing weakens toward the end of the episode. In a move straight out of an old-fashioned weekly serial, Sakura takes a frustratingly long time to stab Obito's Rinnegan eye. He begs her to do it. She's thought of him as nothing but an enemy ever since he revealed himself. If Madara gets his hands on the eye in question, he'll get a boost in strength and have access to deadlier techniques. She's a medical ninjutsu genius who recently cut a hole in Naruto's chest and stuck her hand in there to manually restart his heart, so she's clearly not squeamish. Plus, it's already been established that an eyeball-swap is tantamount to getting a new pair of glasses in this world, so even if she destroys the Rinnegan, chances are she'll be able to find Obito another eye if either cares to replace it. Despite all this, Sakura stands motionless while clutching a kunai in her shaking hand, since she just can't bring herself to put Obito's eye out. This, naturally, allows Madara time to steal Kakashi's eye and make his way to the other dimension where Obito is hiding, effectively ending the episode on a forced cliffhanger.

For the most part, episode 424 is what more episodes of the series should strive to be. It's paced well until the end, and the action sequences are a sight to behold. If the events were less ambiguous and basic logic were utilized in several key scenes, it would be a near-perfect episode.

Rating: A-

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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