by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 457 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Despite the narrative unevenness of the past few episodes, Itachi's Story has generally kept the focus squarely on its title character. However, in its penultimate installment, this miniseries devotes the bulk of its runtime to the rest of the Akatsuki. While the shift in focus isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does contribute to the increasing sense of disjointedness that's plagued the latter half of this arc.
Although last week's episode ended with the introduction of Kisame, this week's Naruto Shippūden doesn't place any focus on his relationship with Itachi, who largely serves as an observer and sits on the sidelines this time around. Instead, the episode examines the fledgling days of the partnerships between both Deidara and Sasori, and Hidan and Kakuzu. While their initial encounters are brief, they're fairly memorable and make for good viewing, provided you're a fan of the Akatsuki's most eccentric members. If anything, this latest outing can best be described as “Akatsuki's Story.”
Episode 457 opens with the Akatsuki welcoming “explosive” arts patron Deidara into its ranks. Immediately after partnering him with Sasori, Pain tasks the unlikely duo with tracking down and killing Orochimaru, who's holed up in the Land of Sand. Although they ultimately fail to finish their target off, Sasori and Deidara learn about the existence of the Reanimation Jutsu from their encounter with him. Shortly thereafter, the Akatsuki is contracted to take down a homicidal maniac who's been committing indiscriminate murders in the Land of Steam. As it turns out, this wandering psychopath is none other than Hidan, and after witnessing his immortality with their own eyes, the group decides to recruit him. Following a small time jump, the episode ends with Pain briefing his comrades on Orochimaru and the Hidden Sound's assault on the Leaf, which took place during Naruto and company's first chūnin exam.
Going off the post-credits preview, we probably shouldn't expect much more in the way of new material from Itachi's Story. It looks like this arc is going to conclude with a collection of clips from the Uchiha brothers' various encounters, culminating in Itachi's death at the hands of Sasuke. I'll withhold judgment until next week, but I can't imagine any more light is going to be shed on Tenma's death or Itachi's first encounter with Obito/Tobi. This speaks to my primary problem with this miniseries—its propensity for jumping around and refusal to elaborate on important events. Despite recently spending over two cours condensing and rehashing the main story, this show is suddenly acting like it's pressed for time. All things considered, Itachi's Story has been an enjoyable ride, but as things stand, it feels incredibly incomplete.
This week's episode is enjoyable, especially if you love the banter between two of the Akatsuki's most memorable and flamboyant two-man cells—and I do. Unfortunately, the pacing is very rushed, and the episode feels like two disparate stories that have been hastily stitched together. Like previous installments, this one is fine when taken on its own, but it's hardly conducive to a tightly-structured narrative.
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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