Naruto Shippuden
Episodes 376-377

by Amy McNulty,

This week, Naruto Shippūden asks us to forget the cliffhanger from last Thursday and enjoy a two-episode special. Episodes 376 and 377 are "filler" episodes in the loosest sense. Although you could squint and pinpoint them somewhere way back around episodes 55 and 56 (Naruto training with Yamato and Kakashi at the waterfall), they're still not entirely canon. It's best to view the episodes as a special promoting the Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution video game released this week in Japan (North American release is next week) without getting bogged down with the details. Think of these episodes as taking place in an alternate timeline or view them as a 45-minute commercial, take your pick.

Mecha exist now in the Naruto Shippūden world, thanks to game developers looking for something to spice up the long-running franchise. There are movies and some electronics in the Naruto world, but the thought of mecha never crossed my mind. However, Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto designed the mechas that appear in this week's episodes and the corresponding video game, so he obviously condones the inclusion. Trying to work mecha into the storyline of Naruto Shippūden outside of a game is almost like a cat trying to fit into a box half its size though. It'll probably get in there if it curls up enough, but it'll also spill out, constantly reminding anyone who crosses its path that it has no business being there. Even so, it sure is entertaining to watch.

Getting back to the initial point: This was made to promote the game and entertain without strict adherence to the Naruto Shippūden canon. If you can stomach that and accept that the true storyline was put on hold for another week, there's a lot to enjoy in this episode. Characters we haven't seen in a long time grace our screens once again. There's more humor than we've gotten out of the series in a while, and slaptick-heavy, Looney Tunes-esque humor at that. The reliance on amusing standby jokes established through filler episodes in the past—Shino being the forgotten/hated-for-no-reason "Meg Griffin" of the Naruto universe, for example—gives way to absurdity quickly. The over-the-top art style punctuates the jokes perfectly. If you loved Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals as much as I did, you'll thoroughly enjoy this episode. More than once, it prompted a spit-take as the jokes became progressively more bizarre.

That said, the first 10 minutes and a scene toward the end grind the humor to a halt and knock a few points off of the rating. Aside from the clever Frankenstein allusion we see at the start, the first 10 minutes of the special are virtually humor-free. If it had retained that tone throughout, it wouldn't have been particularly memorable. However, once it switches gears and shifts its focus to madcap humor, it stands well on its own. If thoroughly skippable yet funny Naruto Shippūden isn't your thing, these episodes aren't going to change your mind, but it's an enjoyable excursion for the rest of us, especially those who wish Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals was still airing.

Rating: B

Naruto Shippuden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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