Naruto Shippuden
Episode 455

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 455 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

After four weeks of documenting the titular character's pre-Akatsuki days, Itachi's Story dives right into the Uchiha genocide that shaped its protagonist's later years. Although a decent chunk of episode 455 is taken from previous installments, this week's Naruto Shippūden adds a number of intriguing new details to a story we all thought we knew. After being shown the aforementioned genocide through Sasuke's eyes more times than I can count, viewers are finally given a chance to experience it from the perspective of the perpetrator himself.

Following Shisui's death (which is quickly glossed over at the beginning of the episode), the Uchiha continue planning their coup d'etat. Sensing that his eldest son's loyalties may be wavering, Fugaku reveals that he too has awakened the Mangekyo Sharingan. With it, he intends to take control of the Nine Tails and the village. However, if Itachi agrees to join his father's rebellion efforts, Fugaku promises to put the Nine Tails plan on the backburner and work toward a “bloodless revolution.” Of course, we all know the choice Itachi ultimately makes. After reporting his father's intentions to the Leaf's higher-ups, Itachi is tasked with slaughtering every last Uchiha—with the exception of his younger brother.

Shortly before beginning the bloodbath, Itachi enlists the aid of Obito/Tobi, who apparently helped carry out this massacre. Admittedly, I'm unclear on why Obito would help slaughter his own clansmen. Was Itachi's decision to join the Akatsuki contingent upon this? Furthermore, why would Itachi accept help from the person who killed one of his best friends? Hopefully, this—along with Tenma's death and Izumi's fate—will be elaborated upon in future installments. With his final assignment as a Leaf shinobi complete, Itachi, now a wanted criminal, seeks refuge with the Akatsuki. After receiving a warm welcome from Orochimaru and being briefed on the organization's mission, Itachi is paired up with the former Swordsman of the Mist Juzo.

Episode 455's harried pacing is the biggest strike against it. Given this show's propensity for stretching stories out, I'm generally in favor of speeding things up a bit, but the latest installment goes overboard in this regard. Much of the episode jumps from one heavy moment to the next without giving the characters or the audience any semblance of breathing room. The show took its time documenting Itachi's early childhood, but the most important event in his life is covered in a matter of minutes.

If there's one standout feature of this episode, it's the horror-like feel. From the grim color palette to the mountain of corpses, this entire segment conveys the monstrousness of Itachi's actions. Unfortunately, we've seen the events of this night many times before, and this is far from the definitive version—which is a shame, since it absolutely should have been. Had the buildup been more coherent, things may have been different.

Now that this arc has covered its subject's childhood and moved onto his time with the Akatsuki, the storytelling possibilities are plentiful. Regrettably, episode 455 is only a so-so sendoff to Itachi's formative years. While it makes efforts to heighten our understanding of why Itachi chose the Leaf over the Uchiha, this latest offering is too rushed to have the intended emotional impact.

Rating: C+

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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