Naruto Shippuden
Episode 436

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 436 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

Having successfully located the impossible-to-kill children, Teams Jiraiya and Asuma face off against the giant salamander-like monsters who make their home beneath the abandoned village. (Why this village has nightmare beasts dwelling beneath its surface is left unexplained, but it makes about as much sense as anything else in this arc.) For the most part, the fight is well-choreographed and doesn't eat up too much runtime, but Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji displaying their signature moves for the umpteenth time doesn't elicit much excitement. After safely delivering the tots to their negligent mother, Jiraiya's former disciples and Team Asuma prepare for their long-overdue faceoff, but they're hampered by the arrival of Team Kurenai. (Odd that the sensory perception team would be the last to arrive on the scene.) Meanwhile, the remaining two thirds of Teams Seven and Guy try to work out a plan of action in the wake of Naruto and Neji's abrupt departure. Never one to stand idly by when his mentor is in trouble, Rock Lee frantically runs around the village in an attempt to find a portal to the alternate dimension where the teachers are being held.

After following Not-Tobi into the aforementioned dimension, Neji and Naruto are treated to droll villain exposition, complete with a holographic flashback to the night Neji's father decided to sacrifice himself for his twin brother. Once again, Not-Tobi proclaims his disdain for the Hidden Leaf's draconian rules, positing that the village doesn't value the lives of children. By abducting their instructors, Not-Tobi hoped to inspire the kids to break mission protocol and show them that not all rules should be sacrosanct.

This arc has the unique distinction of being both the longest and least-compelling Infinite Tsukuyomi story to date. If the staff was dead-set on animating Jiraiya's unpublished manuscript, they easily could have done so outside this dream world framework. The Infinite Tsukuyomi just adds an additional layer of ridiculousness to an already ludicrous story. If "Tales of Naruto the Gallant" is any indication, Jiraiya isn't much of a storyteller. (Let's just hope this was his first draft.) He's fictionalizing the lives of real people in his universe, who had considerably more interesting real-life adventures. Also, isn't including an account of the Hizashi/Hiashi Hyuga swap in this book kind of risky? I mean, he's practically revealing state secrets, and if this info got out, it could start a war. How wide a release was this thing supposed to get? How did Jiraiya even know about that incident? Was Naruto really loquacious enough to paint detailed portraits of all his friends while training with the author?

With less time devoted to wandering around an underground cavern in search of impervious-to-death survivors, this episode's pacing is a step up from last week's. The animation is also more fluid, particularly during the action sequences—with one laughably bad exception. During one scene transition, we see an overhead shot of Sasuke, Sakura, Lee, and Tenten, and for several seconds, there's absolutely no movement or dialog. Despite lingering for three seconds, the shot seems to stick around for so much longer. It's almost like the animation staff decided to just hold the scene for a beat too long after realizing they were a little short on time.

Team Jiraiya attempting to recruit Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji resulted in this week's most awkward scene thanks to the soundtrack. In Jiraiya's manuscript, Yahiko, Konan, and Nagato aren't as evil as their real world counterparts. (At least Konan and Nagato aren't, anyway.) The haunting Pain theme, which suited one of the series' most powerful and compelling villains, seems incredibly out of place here. These watered-down versions of Yahiko and company don't really warrant such an epic-sounding track.

I'm all for revisiting the younger versions of the Hidden Leaf 12. In fact, filler arcs that revolve around our heroes' 12-year-old incarnations are typically among the series' best anime-original offerings. Unfortunately, this story lacks all the charm of the show's previous trips to the past. With no end in sight for this latest arc, Naruto fans are in for long-term disappointment.

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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