Naruto Shippuden
Episode 426

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 426 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

It's been so long since Naruto Shippūden devoted any focus to the hordes of secondary characters and nameless faces still fighting it out on the battlefield that it's almost surprising to be reminded they exist. As the Infinite Tsukuyomi enchants the inhabitants of Naruto's world, Madara's master plan comes to fruition. Night turns into day as people and animals become enveloped in pods and their life energy is used to feed what remains of the Divine Tree. Under the Infinite Tsukuyomi's genjutsu, everyone goes to their own personal dream world. It's Madara's dream come true, and it might be the producers' dream too, when you consider how much they love padding out the ending of Naruto to keep the show running.

Before all hell breaks loose, there's a brief flurry of activity as Naruto unleashes an insanely powerful new attack he never had to perfect through training. (This runs counter to the show's long-running theme of characters like Naruto showcasing the virtues of hard work and never giving up in the face of failure.) After Sasuke uses his Susanoo to shield his teammates from the Infinite Tsukuyomi, the original Team 7 and a handful of reanimated corpses are the only sentient beings left unaffected by the all-encompassing genjutsu. Even though it makes sense from a narrative perspective, the series' most important characters being the only ones to retain their free will is a little too convenient. Still, it's not like the secondary characters would have been much help anyway.

All action grinds to a halt when Yamato is finally released from his imprisonment in the Divine Tree, only to succumb to the Infinite Tsukuyomi. His happily-ever-after dream involves finding the place where he belongs: leading the new Team 7 permanently—with Kakashi's blessing, of course. He even dreams up Sasuke's return to the Village of the Hidden Leaf. Even though Yamato never personally taught the wayward Uchiha, Sasuke's return to the village pleases his dream versions of Naruto and Sakura. Yamato's happy if they're happy, so it makes sense. While seeing the Yamato-led Team 7 of Naruto, Sakura, and Sai back in action drums up feelings of nostalgia, the brief storyline is too simple and devoid of any real danger or emotion. In fairness, that's kind of the point—this is Yamato's dream for a happy life, after all. However, if this is only the first of many similarly-structured episodes, viewers could be in for another long trip to Filler Land. Each character only has a single panel devoted to his or her dream world in the source material, and honestly, that's all they needed. Anything longer than that is going to have to offer some entertainment value beyond a look into each character's hopes and dreams.

It's no secret that the production staff will jump on any opportunity to produce filler, and the concept of character-centric dream worlds was evidently too good to pass up. It's too early to judge the success of the excursions just yet, as this week's episode does move the story forward a little. However, keeping track of the "real" story may prove difficult if we, like the characters, are caught in a web of Infinite Tsukuyomi illusions for too long.

Rating: C+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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