Naruto Shippuden
Episode 461

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 461 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

The Backstory Express keeps chugging along in this week's Naruto Shippūden. Now that some light has been shone on Kaguya's early days on Earth, it's time for her twin sons, Hagoromo (a.k.a. the Sage of Six Paths) and Hamura, to take center stage. Oddly, instead of giving us a glimpse into their formative years, the show introduces us to the Otsutsuki twins as young adults. Since this series is dead-set on putting off its conclusion for as long as possible, you'd think the staff would have been more amenable to showing their childhoods in more detail.

After a brief segue courtesy of Black Zetsu (who informs us that the real story of Kaguya is about to begin), we rejoin the Rabbit Goddess and her sons in Flashback Land. Following the events of the previous episode, Kaguya has essentially become the ruler of a rather sparsely-populated planet. Although she still mistrusts humans, she realizes they serve an important purpose—namely, providing the Divine Tree with sustenance—which prevents her from getting rid of them altogether. When the episode begins, Hagoromo and Hamura, who have been expressly forbidden from approaching the Divine Tree, have grown suspicious of the secretive rituals their mother performs to keep it alive. After some clumsy sleuthing and a conversation with a young Gamamaru (a.k.a. the Toad Sage), the boys discover what the audience knew all along: their mother is feeding humans to the tree, which is gradually draining the planet's natural energy. Having grown up in the company of humans, Kaguya's sons hold them in greater affection than their mother, who sees them as nothing but plant food. Realizing that their mother needs to be stopped, Hagoromo and Hamura study Sage Jutsu under Gamamaru to prepare themselves for the battle ahead. However, the ever-perceptive Kaguya soon discovers what her brood is up to and confronts Hamura, ending the episode on a low-key cliffhanger.

Since we're essentially introduced to Hagoromo and Hamura after they've grown up, we're never given a chance to see them develop a rapport with their mother. Frankly, it would have been interesting to see the largely emotionless Kaguya raise the children for whom she sacrificed so much. As was the case with Tenji, we're clearly supposed to believe that she cares for these boys, but we're shown very little to support this. Maybe crafting a story in which the stoic Rabbit Goddess let her guard down was too lofty a challenge for the show's screenwriters, but I'm already getting tired of this arc's propensity for telling instead of showing.

Another instance of this can be found in Hagoromo's relationship with Haori, a handmaiden who serves his mother. Kaguya sacrificing this woman to the Divine Tree prominently factored into Hagoromo's decision to turn on his own mother, but we were barely given any indication that he harbored romantic feelings for the woman. In some respects, this was handled worse than Kaguya's relationship with Tenji. At least those two had a few extended interactions. While Naruto Shippūden isn't a romance, it's odd that these elements aren't focused on at all, even when they're supposed to play an integral role in the proceedings.

There isn't much in the way of action this week, which might actually be a good thing in light of the episode's lackluster animation and visuals. There are also several attempts at comedy that all crash and burn. However, despite all its flaws, episode 461 provides some fascinating (albeit poorly structured) insight into the Otsutsuki family. The seeds have been planted for an epic battle between mother and sons, but so far, the staff has done a poor job of making us feel anything for this arc's key players.

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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