Naruto Shippuden
Episode 435

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 435 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

The Infinite Tsukuyomi fillers have been a mixed bag. The first couple stories were moderately entertaining, if not inconsistent with established rules. However, the longer they continue, the crazier the premises get, and the more unnecessary these episodes seem. If Naruto Shippūden is going to mine the Infinite Tsukuyomi for filler material, surely it can do better than this. Even excusing the awkward framing device, it's just not a good story, nor is it well-executed.

The fourth chapter of Jiraiya's Ninja Tales—or rather, "Tsunade Reading a Book She Never Knew Existed in an Imaginary World"—picks up where the previous installment left off. Immediately after leveling a house with a shriek that would put Shinji Ikari to shame, Nagato regrets his actions. Although this attack was meant to hamper Team Asuma, Shikamaru and company emerged unscathed, while the two children who returned home to retrieve their Five Nights at Freddy's-esque teddy bear fell into the smoldering crater that was once their residence. Overcome with guilt, Team Jiraiya immediately heads underground to locate the kids. Shikamaru, on the other hand, orders Ino and Choji to continue searching for their shanghaied sensei. Not surprisingly, the cool-headed strategist soon has a change of heart, resulting in Team Asuma teaming up with Jiraiya's former disciples to rescue the children from the enormous salamander-like monsters who live beneath the village.

Meanwhile, Teams Seven and Guy meet up in the abandoned village that serves as the villains' base of operations. The genin are then taunted by a mysterious voice, as images of their unconscious teachers appear before them. The voice chides the Hidden Leaf for its adherence to rules that devalue the lives of individual ninja, explaining that the hostages will die if the kids don't break protocol and deviate from the mission. Despite Sasuke's objections, headstrong Naruto and Neji enter the time-space portal provided by the unseen antagonist before it quickly disappears. (Kind of a random pairing, but hey, why not?)

Upon arriving in what appears to be an alternate dimension, the unlikely duo is greeted by a masked figure who bears a striking resemblance to Obito's alter ego Tobi. However, after discovering that this man possesses the Byakugan, Neji surmises that he's a member of the Hyuga clan. If nothing else, this development is surprising. Up until now, the audience had no reason to suspect that Tobi wasn't the one pulling the strings, and a Hyuga taking issue with the Hidden Leaf's draconian rules makes a lot of sense.

The proceedings are fiction within a dream within fiction, but there's no way the children would survive a fall of that magnitude, particularly without ninja powers. If the actual fall didn't do them in, the collapsed debris would finish the job. (They're just a little dirty!) Plus, we just met these kids at the tail end of the last episode, so we're not particularly invested in their fate. I understand that these versions of Nagato, Konan, and Yahiko aren't interested in unnecessary bloodshed, but their eventual rescue of the tots lacks the emotional punch the episode likely intended.

No wonder Jiraiya never published this "masterpiece." His work is in dire need of an editor to help with pacing and plotting. The pacing in particular is incredibly laggy and smacks of intentional padding on the part of the screenwriters. With the exception of Teams Asuma and Jiraiya's battle against the subterranean monsters, the animation is minimal, and reaction shots linger to the point of becoming frustrating. It's almost as if Jiraiya stopped the action in his manuscript to describe the details of the various backdrops with purple prose. This arc has already overstayed its welcome, but it's obvious that the producers are dead-set on making it longer. Why? With such a massive supporting cast, there aren't more interesting dream worlds we could be seeing?

Episode 435 is only memorable for its implausible badness. It's like bad fanfiction—which is strangely appropriate, since even in the world of Naruto, it actually is fanfiction about "real" people. The longer this arc continues, the more fans are liable to hop aboard the filler-hating bandwagon. If the anime staff insists on postponing the final battle, they need to make it worth the audience's while.

Rating: D+

Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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