Naruto Shippuden
Episode 452

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 452 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

For the second week in a row, Naruto Shippuden delivers a solid episode by way of Itachi's Story. Although the prevalent mood is still largely somber, the second installment of Itachi's Story breaks up some of the doom and gloom with well-timed comedic interludes and gives us a peek at the titular character's Ninja Academy days. Although there's little action this week, the animation and artwork are almost on-par with last week's feast for the eyes.

Episode 452 opens with Obito unleashing the Nine Tails on the Hidden Leaf. (Why is Tsunade's face on Hokage Rock in the opening shot? This was over a decade before her tenure as Fifth.) It's interesting to experience the horrors of this fateful night through the eyes of someone other than Kushina, Minato, or Obito. While it doesn't excuse the way the villagers ostracized Naruto, the immense destruction and collateral damage Kurama causes gives us a better understanding of why they were so wary of the spiky-haired ragamuffin at the beginning of the series. As a six-year-old Itachi struggles to get his baby brother to safety, viewers feel the boys' peril. However, unlike the rest of the village's citizenry, Itachi is able to keep his cool throughout this devastating ordeal. When Itachi makes it to a designated safe zone with Sasuke and Mikoto (another child of the Uchiha clan), Fugaku isn't the least bit surprised that his son emerged from the Nine Tails' attack unscathed.

Following the Uzumakis' memorial service, Danzo uses the reconstruction of the village as an opportunity to revise the Leaf's borders. Not surprisingly, the Uchiha clan is given the short end of the stick, with both their police station and neighborhood being moved to the outskirts of the village. With great trepidation, Fugaku begrudgingly accepts Danzo's terms and encourages his fellow Uchiha to do the same. In light of slights like this, it isn't difficult to understand the reasoning behind the Uchiha clan's failed coup. Despite their invaluable contributions, they spent generations being treated like second class citizens in a village their ancestor helped establish.

Shortly thereafter, Itachi starts attending the Ninja Academy. Skill-wise, he's heads and tails above the rest of his class. (Without a hint of arrogance, he describes the jutsu the school teaches as “too easy.”) Like Sasuke, everything he does elicits attention from scores of female classmates, much to the chagrin of the slightly Naruto-esque Kamano and his group of flunkies. It's interesting to compare the two brothers at a young age. Even though Itachi isn't overly friendly, he's not as snobbish and angry as his younger brother. While he seems aware of the fact that he possesses a greater knack for ninjutsu than his classmates, he doesn't really look down on his peers or view himself as their superior.

Kamano's overblown reactions to Itachi's natural genius set the stage for a number of humorous moments during the episode's latter half. Outside of Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals and the nonsensical Sunny Side Battle OVA, Itachi has never really been used as a source of comedy, and it's nice to see some levity added to his character. After saving Kamano and company from a bully, Itachi inadvertently becomes the group's leader. However, the young Uchiha's time at the academy is brief. After only one year, his instructor recommends Itachi for early graduation, as there's nothing left for him to learn. Itachi finishing his formal education at the age of seven indicates that he's even more of a genius than his decidedly snarkier brother. He set a high standard for Sasuke to live up to, which explains why the latter spent so much of his childhood feeling inadequate, even though he received top marks himself. (Fugaku's pointed comparisons of the two boys certainly didn't help matters.)

The two episodes of this miniseries that have aired thus far are more entertaining than any of the anime-original material the show rolled out in 2015. Without being weighed down by last week's clunky framing device, this week's episode is able to hit the ground running. Even though we know the central character's ultimate fate, Itachi's continued growth in the coming weeks is sure to prove an exciting adventure.

Rating: B+

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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


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