Naruto Shippuden
Episode 445

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 445 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

With no conceivable end in sight, Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls keeps chugging along at a punishingly slow pace. How long is this manuscript supposed to be, anyway? Considering how much material he's covered in a single book, I wonder if the Pervy Sage is the Hidden Leaf's George R.R. Martin. Even though the current arc is still unfolding, this week's episode drops several hints that yet another lengthy filler excursion is right around the corner.

Remember the unnamed village that was blown to smithereens at the end of the previous arc? The one where those stupid kids and their creepy teddy bear lived? Episode 445 reveals that Deidara was responsible for its destruction. Because he didn't have a chance to display his “art” while working for Hizashi, the blond baddie decided to drop one of his super-powered explosives on the aforementioned village, killing all the townspeople and Yahiko, who was giddily on his way to return the frequently abandoned bear. Sasori then convinced the remaining two thirds of Team Jiraiya that the Hidden Leaf was behind their friend's death, prompting Yahiko to become Pain and form the Akatsuki. Determined to take revenge on the Leaf, Pain is currently building an army of corpse puppets.

Strangely, the explanation behind the village's destruction raises more questions. Originally, it looked like Yahiko, creepy bear in hand, had just entered the blast radius when the bomb went off, which sort of explained why the ripped-up bear flew back to where Nagato and Konan were. However, this episode reveals that Yahiko was smack-dab in the middle of the town when the place was blown sky-high. That being the case, how did the bear coincidentally find its way back to Nagato and Konan? Even though Deidara blew up the village (for the stupidest reason imaginable), Nagato and Konan implicitly believe Sasori when he whips out one of the Hokage's daggers and claims the Leaf is responsible for their friend's death. He also puts a laughably small amount of effort into selling the lie. When asked if he truly believes the Leaf is to blame, he glibly replies, “Yeah, probably.” This is the reason Nagato crosses over to the dark side in this universe? Give me a break. Not even Hidan and Kakuzu's banter is particularly amusing in this world.

Still trying to catch up to Sasuke, Naruto and company periodically stop to trade blows with the Foundation Anbu—but otherwise spend the episode jumping across tree branches. In fact, episode 445 probably features more tree jumping than any other installment, so that's something, I guess. Lee's skirmish with Hayate (?) and Tenten's battle with Yugao (?) are mildly entertaining, but the choppy animation and disjointed atmosphere prevent these rows from being particularly memorable. The episode ends with Sasuke reaching Orochimaru's hideout as Naruto shouts his name for the umpteenth time.

Despite a lot of material being crammed into the twenty-odd–minute runtime, the pacing is snail-slow in many spots. Still shots linger for moments on end, and certain battle sequences practically unfold in slow motion. Then there's the tree jumping. The endless tree jumping. Hopping from one tree limb to the next is a popular method of transport in the ninja world, and it blew me away the first few times I saw it. ("They're not flying, but they look like they are!") Now I know it can be overdone.

Originally, I was joking, but at this point, I think Jiraiya's Ninja Scrolls may actually condense and re-imagine every major event from Naruto Shippūden. Unfortunately, by taking so many shortcuts, the show has lost any semblance of emotion. At least those of us still tuning in get to enjoy a few unintentional laughs every week.

Rating: D+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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