by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 480 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Community score: 3.9
With the series' overarching plot over and done with, where does Naruto Shippūden go from here? Back to where it all started, apparently. In the first installment of the “Boyhood” miniseries, we're treated to extended looks at the respective childhoods of Naruto and Hinata. Since the show's anime-original material has already explored this particular time period at length, there isn't a whole lot of new information to be gleaned from the latest installment. Regardless, episode 480 is an enjoyable watch that represents one of Naruto Shippūden's better filler efforts.
Right off the bat, longtime viewers will notice that the art style is markedly different from what we're used to. In keeping with the somber, dreamlike tone of both segments, the character designs are looser and more cartoony than usual. (Visually, the episode bears a striking resemblance to a Studio 4°C production.) The ethereal motif effectively conveys a sense of childlike wonderment—appropriate for an episode focused on the early childhoods of two principal characters.
The first half of the episode documents a day in the life of a much younger Naruto. (His exact age is never given, but this seems to take place prior to his Ninja Academy days.) After taking an awkward stroll around the village and eliciting disapproving clucks from various townspeople, Naruto decides to retreat to the solitude of the nearby woodlands to blow off some steam. While preparing a campfire dinner of grilled fish and mushroom stew, the headstrong youth is approached by Sarutobi Hiruzen (a.k.a. the Third Hokage), who he doesn't appear to recognize. Using the stars as a metaphor, Hiruzen teaches Naruto that he should focus on being himself instead of trying to blend in with the rest of the village's inhabitants. (Unfortunately, there's a good chance this by-the-books lesson may have kicked off young Naruto's wave of chronic mischief.)
Although Naruto being regarded as an outsider is a theme that's been revisited countless times, the unique artistic choices and reflective tone make this segment worth checking out. Since Naruto's ostracization is treated with a little more realism than usual, it's hard not to feel sorry for him despite knowing his story has a happy ending. I did find it odd, however, that Naruto didn't recognize Hiruzen. It's never been explicitly stated, but I kind of figured that Naruto lived at the Hokage's palace until a certain age, and I was under the impression that the Third had been his guardian. Was this not the case? Has Naruto been living in the same studio apartment since he was a baby? (Honestly, it's always irked me that Naruto lived on his own as a kid. Regardless of how busy he was, Hiruzen should have taken him in.)
The second segment chronicles Neji and Hinata's first meeting—which took place on the latter's third birthday. Despite being only four and three years old respectively, both Hyuuga children are highly proficient in taijutsu, though Neji is considerably more skilled than his slightly younger cousin. Shortly thereafter, the show time-skips to Hinata's uncle Hizashi's funeral, where Hinata is overcome with guilt after seeing the normally-reserved Neji burst into tears. This prompts her to flee the funeral and run into the village, where she encounters Naruto, who offers to walk her home. (I assume this is supposed to be their first meeting, though I wouldn't be surprised if another anime-original episode contradicts this.) After gazing upon the Hyuuga estate, Naruto expresses disbelief that someone who lives in such a lavish house surrounded by family members could possibly be as sad as the crestfallen Hinata. Despite the inadvertent insensitivity of this statement, Hinata nonetheless draws comfort from the words of her future crush.
This story touches on all of the things that we associate with young Hinata—her feelings of inadequacy, her platonic admiration of Neji, and her crush on Naruto. That said, it doesn't really add anything new to the mythos—aside from a cute Hinata/Naruto scene. However, like the first segment, it's pretty to look at, and if you don't mind a well-intentioned retread, you'll likely walk away entertained.
If you've been thoroughly soured on anime-original material, you can essentially consider Naruto Shippūden “over” as of last week, even though the manga's epilogue has yet to be animated. For now though, it looks like anything goes, and I suspect the anime's efforts at crafting original content will once again prove hit-or-miss. So far, the “Boyhood” arc has proven mildly entertaining, though its tone and visuals are more impressive than the actual stories being told.
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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