by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 437 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Community score: 1.5
I've joked about it before, but seriously: this anime-original story is going on far too long. Although the producers are clearly enamored with it, this story isn't interesting enough to warrant taking up so many episodes (six and counting). It's got a ridiculous premise (or more accurately, a ridiculous "premise within a premise"), and its connection to the main storyline is tenuous at best. At the beginning of the episode, Tsunade informs Shizune that she's too invested in the manuscript to get up to eat. Are we seeing the same story here? (Thankfully, the irritation she displays in the post-credits preview does reflect my feelings on this arc.)
The episode opens with Jiraiya (who's not above writing himself into his own work) sneaking into one of Orochimaru's hideouts and stumbling upon a menacing figure whose face is hidden from the audience. (I'm beginning to sense a pattern in this arc's antagonists. It's like they're embarrassed to be seen in this story.) Meanwhile, Neji agrees to hear Not-Tobi's/Hizashi Hyuga (?)'s sales pitch, despite Naruto's objections. To prevent the titular hero from interfering, Not-Tobi incapacitates him by striking his chakra points, leaving him writhing on the ground. Whether Neji is actually considering joining forces with Not-Tobi or this is just a ruse to get him to drop his guard remains to be seen. Still, this isn't the real Neji, so I don't care much either way.
While en route to meet up with their friends, Sasuke and Sakura are intercepted by Sasori. Sasuke's Fireball Jutsu proves ineffective against the murderous puppet, and after dodging Sasori's attacks several times, the brooding Uchiha is grazed by his opponent's poison-tipped stinger. Not-Tobi brings Neji to watch the battle in the hopes of showing him the "true nature" of Hidden Leaf shinobi. (Does Sasuke's refusal to die count as a strike against the Leaf or something? That village is so selfish!) Desperate to get back on his feet, Naruto implores Kurama to loan him his Tailed Beast chakra. However, unless Naruto's willing to release the Eight Signed Seal his father put in place, the Nine Tails isn't interested. Before Naruto can make a decision, Jiraiya arrives on the scene via stomach-turning Toad Mouth Jutsu.
We've already seen Naruto and Kurama learn to accept one another and form a deep friendship in the main storyline. It took hundreds of episodes for them to become comfortable with each other and finally start working as a team. There's no reason for "Naruto Lite" to retread this ground. There aren't enough episodes in this storyline (we hope) to give the complex relationship between these two the focus it deserves.
Like last week's installment, episode 437's art and animation are on the low end of "good." There isn't much in the way of pulse-pounding action, but there's more walking, running, and jumping than you'd expect from an episode where characters discuss what they plan to do next at length. Unfortunately, there are still several instances of shots lingering for a beat too long. This episode—and by extension, this entire arc—reeks of shameless padding.
Episode 437 is arguably the least eventful entry in "Jiraiya's Ninja Tales" to date. We don't learn anything new about the mysterious villain, no real progress in made in the overall story, and the "highlight" of the episode is a middle-of-the-road fight sequence. Is there any escape from this tedious tale? How much longer will Jiraiya's self-aggrandizing, possibly treasonous fanfiction dominate the proceedings? I'll say one thing: I expected a lot of anime-original episodes because of the Infinite Tsukuyomi, but I certainly never expected this. As it stands, I can't think of a single character whose personal utopia would be less interesting than the current arc.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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