by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 458 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Rather than present us with any new information or end things on a meaningful note, Itachi's Story treats its slapdash conclusion like an afterthought. The first half of this week's Naruto Shippūden is a hastily edited collection of clips that showcase Itachi's big moments from previous episodes. I'd have welcomed the opportunity to see some of these moments from a different perspective, but that would have required additional effort—something this series is not overly fond of. In the end, Itachi's Story was never able to live up to the expectations created by its first couple episodes. This miniseries started off strong, floundered in the middle, and ended with a glorified clip show. Better pacing and a more coherent narrative structure could have made a tremendous amount of difference.
I thought the whole point of Itachi's Story was to provide the audience with new insight into well-documented events, not blatantly show us what we've already seen. Even if there was no way to share new info after a certain point, there were better ways this could have ended. A whole episode devoted to Itachi and Kisame developing a rapport would have been entertaining. Maybe sprinkle in a few clips of Itachi's first encounter with Tobi/Obito?
The second half of the episode plops the audience right back into the main story without any hint of a recap. I know I've complained about this before, but I find it baffling that a show that regularly takes months-long breaks from its actual plot expects viewers to keep all the pertinent details of its increasingly complicated story fresh in their minds. Having successfully deflected the Infinite Tsukuyomi, Team 7 decides to fight fire with fire and use the Rinnegan to combat the aforementioned jutsu. However, before they can set their plan into motion, Madara appears before them and once again proceeds to wax poetic about how he's doing what's best for the shinobi world. Upon wrapping up his umpteenth stereotypical villain speech, Madara has his heart pierced by Black Zetsu, who's still possessing the recently-reformed Obito.
Black Zetsu then reveals that he's not, in fact, Madara's creation—but rather Kaguya's. Furthermore, the Infinite Tsukuyomi isn't actually a jutsu; it's a way for Kaguya to collect chakra and create servants. As it turns out, all the White Zetsu we've seen are people who had been enveloped by the previous Infinite Tsukuyomi, and everyone currently under its spell will soon experience the same fate. Black Zetsu then releases Obito and melds with Madara, culminating in the rebirth of alien entity/moon goddess Otsutsuki Kaguya.
There was some decent action in the second half, as well as some very cool imagery. The bloated Madara/Black Zetsu/Kaguya fusion called to mind the final act of Akira and gave this portion of the episode a distinctly horror-like feel. Even if I hadn't read the manga, I'm not sure I would have found the Infinite Tsukuyomi's true origins particularly shocking, but it's still a clever way to move the story along. Also, when I reviewed Volume 70 of the source material, I wasn't crazy about the fact that Madara, someone who had served as the series' master villain until this point, was effortlessly dispatched by Black Zetsu, and my opinion on this development remains unchanged. At this point—especially in the anime—it feels like our heroes have been fighting Madara forever. Being done in by an entity he believed to be his will incarnate is certainly surprising; I'm just not sure it's a smart move.
As the final installment of Itachi's Story, episode 458 falls flat. However, as a return to the manga's storyline, its latter half is fairly entertaining. Unfortunately, the rapid transition from one story to the other is jarring and loses the episode some points. If I were grading each half as its own episode, I'd probably give the first part a “D-“ and the second a “B.” While I'm glad to see Naruto Shippūden return to its overarching plot, recent history suggests that we shouldn't get too comfortable.
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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