Naruto Shippuden
Episode 431

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 431 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

Karin's trip to Dream Land lasts only a single episode, and it turns out that brevity doesn't make for a more compelling story. Save for a few details that long-time viewers will know as dream creations, this is mostly just her life story. Since much of the character's origins remain a mystery, a lot of what we see is new material. We learn that Karin was orphaned at a young age as a result of a small village near the Hidden Grass taking excessive advantage of her mother's healing chakra. As the last remaining descendant of the Uzumaki clan in town, Karin is forced to heal wounded ninja in her mother's place using her somewhat suggestive heal-bite technique. Battered, unloved, and nearly drained of chakra for years, Karin goes on to serve Orochimaru when he saves her from her plight.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Karin is her exuberant love for Sasuke. Her infatuation with the wayward Uchiha has always been her defining character trait. In this episode, we learn that she became enamored with Sasuke as a pre-teen at the chunin exams, before meeting him during their time with Orochimaru. (However, whether this encounter is a product of the Infinite Tsukuyomi or actual canon is unclear.) Just like in the real world, she joins Sasuke's Taka group after he betrays their mutual employer. In the most notable departure from known continuity, Sasuke doesn't try to kill Karin after Danzo's defeat, resulting in her never being jailed by the Hidden Leaf. This means she's free to continue following the object of her desires, which also enables her to get revenge on the man most responsible for her mother's death.

The main problem with this episode is how little it seems like an extended dream sequence. Both Madara and Obito prattled on for ages about how the Infinite Tsukuyomi would send every human being to their respective utopia. Putting the entire world in a perpetual dream state was their primary purpose, after all. This motivation encourages philosophical debate about whether endless happiness is worth the sacrifice if it's not real. If this dream sequence is supposed to demonstrate what the villains were fighting for, it seems like they got short-changed.

Karin's story is far too depressing and grounded in reality to be her ideal world. Despite valuing Sasuke above all else, she doesn't even dream up a world in which the two of them live happily ever after. Seeing the two of them in a relationship would have made for an entertaining story, but here, Sasuke hardly treats her any different than usual. It turns out her greatest desire is simply to see him smile at her. It's an understated dream, unsuited for the silly and obsessed Karin and running counter to how she's acted throughout the series. In the end, she gets her revenge and her Sasuke smile, but she still experiences far too much emotional turmoil in the process.

If not for the opening and closing scenes that show Karin being enveloped by a Divine Tree leaf, this week's Naruto Shippūden would feel like any other flashback or origin story. A few scenes were taken from previous episodes, but fortunately, we don't even begin to approach clip show territory. Also, in what's become the norm, many scenes are populated by noticeably off-model characters, but even that could have been forgiven if the content was more inspired.

Rating: C

Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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