Naruto Shippuden
Episode 498

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 498 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

After being swept into the background for the majority of the Fourth Shinobi World War, Shino and Kiba are given one final turn in the spotlight. Although Hinata's teammates used to be among the show's most important supporting players, they've primarily been used for comedy purposes throughout the Shippūden era—Kiba with his fierce desire to compete with Naruto, and Shino with his lack of presence. Strangely, an entire episode built around these characters isn't as humorous as some viewers might expect, but the latest installment is still solid as far as non-manga-inspired material goes.

Hoping to score a unique wedding present for Naruto and Hinata, Kiba and Shino set off in search of the elusive honey wine, a rare liquid crafted by ninja of the Senju clan. These days, the only person still making honey wine is a mysterious beekeeper who resides in the dilapidated city of Soraku. Shortly after reaching Soraku, the duo encounters Momo, a ninja feline expert who Kiba quickly falls for. Acting on Momo's advice, the boys wander into a nearby bamboo forest in search of the beekeeper. After becoming separated from his teammate, Shino comes face-to-face with his target, who informs him that the forest is protected by a powerful jutsu that turns a person's inner doubts into literal fog that prevents them from finding their way out. Since Team 8 will be disbanding after the upcoming wedding, Shino is currently racked with doubt regarding his future, making it impossible for him to exit the forest. On the flip side, the ever-confident Kiba isn't hindered by the fog at all. Predictably, Shino is eventually able to work past his doubt, leave the forest, and return to the Hidden Leaf Village with a renewed sense of confidence and a bottle of honey wine.

While not as humorous as the first few minutes would suggest, episode 498 is a fitting end to Shino's character arc. Even though this trait is often mined for comedy, Shino has always struggled with self-worth in the face of being frequently overlooked, and it makes sense that the prospect of being separated from the only two peers who've consistently acknowledged him would trigger doubt. Summoning the strength to embrace change instead of continuing to wallow in doubt indicates some noteworthy maturity for the show's perpetual punching bag.

Kiba, on the other hand, doesn't come away from the proceedings with any real lessons—his confidence is still out of proportion with reality—but Kiba wouldn't be himself if he experienced prolonged doubt, and not being ensnared by the beekeeper's jutsu is a great way to illustrate that. Instead, the most noteworthy thing to happen to Kiba this week is his meeting with Momo, the shinobi he's living with in the manga's epilogue.

With larger-than-life peers like Naruto and Lee, it's easy to see why Shino—and to a lesser extent, Kiba—are frequently given the shaft, but this episode does a great job of letting two-thirds of Team 8 shine. Despite not being as funny as previous Shino-centric fillers, episode 498 hits all the right emotional notes and makes good use of its central characters.

Rating: B+

Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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