Naruto Shippuden
Episode 490

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 490 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

True to its titular character, the second chapter of Shikamaru's Story offers up a mildly entertaining tale of espionage. Since Shikamaru has always been more of a thinker than a fighter, it makes sense for his turn in the spotlight to focus more on the intricacies of shinobi missions than outright brawling. While this week's episode does feature a small helping of action, it's far from the central focus. Even though the events of episode 490 are largely independent from the source novel, the anime version of Shikamaru's infiltration of the Land of Silence presents more of a challenge to the team than the account presented in the book.

Hoping to find a way to covertly sneak into the Land of Silence, Shikamaru and company venture into a tavern outside the country's walls. When the group's search for information fails to bear fruit, headstrong Soku becomes visibly frustrated with her leader's meticulous approach to infiltration, reasoning that they should just fight their way in. After Shikamaru rejects this suggestion, Soku threatens to desert the Leaf and defect to the Land of Silence, where she feels her talents may be better utilized. Wishing to capitalize on this opportunity, Komori, a Land of Silence spy working undercover as a tavern busboy, gives Soku secret directions to get to his homeland, where she's tasked with proving her mettle by dispatching the pursuing Shikamaru and Ro—which she appears to do. However, once the supposed corpses are left to rot, the two men spring back to life. As it turns out, Ro used his chakra-masking powers to create the impression of death, ensuring that Gengo's men would trust Soku enough to let her into their base. After knocking out Komori, Soku unlocks the Land of Silence's front gates, allowing her friends to enter. Unbeknownst to Komori, the pint-sized spy had been the group's mark from the moment they met him.

Since this is only the second episode Soku has appeared in, it's difficult to for viewers to feel the impact of her alleged betrayal. We barely know anything about this character, so it's possible that her disturbingly rash behavior is perfectly in line with her personality. On the other hand, the most logical conclusion to draw from her Benedict Arnold moment is that it's all part of a larger plan—especially given what we know about Shikamaru's ability to stay several steps ahead of his enemies. From what I remember, the novel doesn't contain any of this episode's storyline—no Komori, no betrayal fakeout—and the team is able to gain entry into to the Land of Silence in a far more straightforward fashion. This was an intriguing attempt to stretch out the story, but at no point did I feel that Soku's betrayal was genuine. Also, it's not really a complaint, but the character's “like” affectation has gotten pretty grating, though it is effective at conveying her immaturity.

While Naruto Shippūden has never been known for its twists and turns, the high predictability factor kept this week's outing from earning as high a grade as last week's. A full episode documenting how the group gained entry into the Land of Silence detracts from the danger Gengo poses from within those walls. Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether the anime staff continues to add their own flourishes to the narrative or if this was a one-off deal.

Rating: B-

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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