Naruto Shippuden
Episode 493

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 493 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

Episode 493 brings Shikamaru's Story to a predictable and fairly anticlimactic conclusion. Since making his first appearance, Gengo has proven himself to be a consistently underwhelming antagonist. While this may be meant to illustrate that this arc's master villain is nothing without his scores of brainwashed followers, it also makes his downfall unsatisfying. While Shikamaru is among the series' brightest minds, at no point does he appear to be at a disadvantage against his opponent for more than a few seconds. That's not to say Shikamaru had to go up against a Kaguya-level threat—and Gengo certainly seemed like a villain who nicely complemented this particular hero—but in the end, he was one of the more forgettable Naruto bad guys.

While Shikamaru pursues Gengo, his comrades Ino, Choji, and Temari clash with the brainwashed Sai, Soku, and Ro to the tune of some catchy cyberpunk-style music. Although Ino frees Sai from Gengo's control with her Mind Transfer Jutsu, Choji and Temari are somehow able to un-brainwash their opponents simply by beating the snot out of them. When Shikamaru finally catches up to his target, Gengo makes one last attempt to get inside his head and claims to have dispatched undercover operatives to all of the Hidden Villages. Nearly overtaken by rage at the thought of Gengo's cronies harming little Mirai, Shikamaru is able to regain his composure after thinking about Naruto and his friends from the Leaf. Gengo also reveals that he's a former comrade of Zabuza, whose ideal world he wishes to create—but linking Gengo to Zabuza, especially this late in the game, serves absolutely no purpose. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the Leaf crew arrives on the scene, and Shikamaru is able to defeat Gengo with assistance from Soku and Ro. Once Gengo and his men have been safely apprehended, Shikamaru clumsily asks Temari out on a date, while the surprisingly suave Sai compliments Ino, instantly capturing her heart.

While Gengo never lives up to his full potential as an antagonist, the final showdown against him at least hits some of the right notes. The darkness that renders Shikamaru's Shadow Capture Jutsu useless helps add tension to the proceedings, as does the creepy skeleton-studded dungeon where the confrontation takes place. The mental aspect of Shikamaru's fight—a battle against the darkness and worry inside of him—is well-suited to Shikamaru's character, as is him accepting help from friends at the last minute. He may be a tactical genius, but he's also smart enough to know when he can't do something alone.

In the grander scheme of things, this arc is noteworthy for documenting the first time Shikamaru officially asks Temari out after years of mutual attraction. Sai winding up with Ino is less meaningful, since this was never an established coupling (before the manga epilogue), and the two have had virtually no interactions prior to this. Still, it seems perfectly in character for the nearly emotionless Sai to fall for the first woman to show him kindness, and for the eternally lovesick Ino to instantly succumb to his flattery.

Naruto Shippūden's best anime-original (or in this case, book-based) offerings generally serve a purpose outside of keeping the franchise on life support; they entertain while adding new elements that expand the show's world. While the new characters introduced in Shikamaru's Story aren't particularly unique or memorable, the story itself nicely highlights the qualities that make its titular character stand out. Even if it wasn't his finest outing, this arc proved a fun final turn in the spotlight for the Leaf's finest strategist.

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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