by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 500 of
Naruto Shippūden ?
Naruto Shippūden celebrates the end of an era with the moments leading up to the wedding of its titular character. Rather than offer up any big surprises or act as a half-hour commercial for the upcoming sequel series, episode 500 gives viewers a chance to hang out with their favorite characters in a relaxed setting—and for the most part, it works. Seeing as his name is in the title, the finale might have given Naruto more time in the spotlight, but it's true that for all intents and purposes, his story ended several months ago.
The first half of the episode finds Iruka continuing to fret over his congratulatory video message and pondering the nature of his relationship with Naruto. However, after Naruto requests that he attend the wedding as his father, Iruka feels that his relationship with his former student is now clearly defined, prompting him to stop worrying about the aforementioned message. The latter half finds the series' most prominent supporting players arriving at the wedding and provides them with one last chance to display their respective quirks. For example, Lee and Guy insist on juggling dumbbells as Tenten reacts with embarrassment, Choji's eyes turn into hearts after he lays eyes on the lavish wedding cake, and Sasuke sends a hawk with a one-word congratulatory note in lieu of actually attending. (This was ridiculous but perfectly Sasuke.) The episode—and by extension, the series—ends with Naruto and Hinata leaving hand-in-hand to attend their wedding.
Iruka is an odd choice to be getting so much attention in the final arc; the storyline has made him out to be a more important presence in Naruto's life than he actually was. He was the first adult to show young, ostracized Naruto compassion and support, but he was never the supportive father figure this episode makes him out to be. (He was also largely absent from the storyline after the first few episodes, save for occasional appearances.) Even though some of the anime-original episodes set during Naruto's Ninja Academy days created the impression that Iruka cared about Naruto before the events of the first episode, he never openly displayed such feelings until the fateful battle with Mizuki. (Largely because part of him still blamed Naruto for his own parents' deaths at the paws of Kurama) In fact, the whole premise only somewhat works at all within the anime continuity, as Naruto and Iruka saw even less of one another in the source material. While it's meaningful that Naruto asks him to stand in as his father during the wedding, the audience has had far more time to get to know other characters in that role—Kakashi, Jiraiya, and even Yamato to a lesser exent—so this sentiment isn't as touching as it was likely intended to be.
On the technical front, episode 500 features top-shelf artwork and animation all the way through—which is fitting, since this is curtain call. Several scenes—e.g. Iruka arguing with Naruto against a gorgeous nighttime backdrop of the village and Naruto and Hinata gazing at Hokage Rock—are nearly feature-film caliber. If I were grading the episode on visuals alone, this would easily be an “A+.”
Episode 500 is a surprisingly low-key finale for an action series, but since the show ran out of manga months ago and is now adapting light novels, few expected anything game-changing. While not as meaningful as the end of the source material (animated as episode 479—except for the conspicuously absent flash-forward epilogue), it's a serviceable send-off for a franchise that many fans have followed for over a decade, itself a sequel to a show that ran for several years before that. Despite the rampant problems with the anime adaptation of the Fourth Shinobi World War arc, it can't be denied that Boruto has some big shoes to fill.
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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