Naruto Shippuden
Episodes 494-495

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 494 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

How would you rate episode 495 of
Naruto Shippūden ?

Naruto Shippūden serves up an extra-large helping of silly this week, with two episodes dedicated to showcasing the show's lighter side. When it comes to the series' anime-original content, the stories that are built around humor have always been my favorites, so it's no surprise that I walked away from the latest installments entertained. Granted, if you're not a fan of the show's increasingly sporadic forays into comedy, there's a good chance that these two episodes won't be your cup of tea.

With Naruto and Hinata's wedding just one month away, their friends and mentor figures are going out of their way to prepare for the big day. However, the festivities hit a snag when Kakashi and Shizune realize that with everyone attending the ceremony, none of the Hidden Leaf 12 will be available to go on missions that day. Fortunately, a strange law enacted by Tsunade during her time as Hokage may hold the solution. According to this law, only shinobi whose wedding gifts are deemed winners by the Hokage are permitted to attend ninja weddings. Although he was initially hesitant to rely on this law, Kakashi tasks the village's Jonin with seeking out suitable wedding presents, prompting the couple's friends to embark on their own gift hunts.

Episode 494 primarily focuses on Iruka-sensei, who's been asked to take the exam to become the Ninja Academy's vice principal. Further complicating Iruka's life is a trio of Naruto-esque troublemakers who delight in engaging in the same type of attention-getting mischief as the Leaf's new savior. Wanting to give Naruto the gift of good news on his wedding day, Iruka resolves to take the exam but ultimately changes his mind after Tsukune, the trio's leader, makes him remember how much he enjoys working with students on an individual level.

This episode is a fitting finale for Iruka, who was never particularly important outside of the earliest episodes. Naruto's Ninja Academy instructor wasn't really a character who demanded closure—he's rather unremarkable compared to the rest of the cast—but his decision to remain a teacher and foster future Narutos is an appropriate way to bring his story full circle. Unfortunately, Kakashi's interpretation of Iruka's choice feels muddled and unclear. How is Iruka being unable to see what's in front of him applicable to Kakashi's decision to enforce Tsunade's weird law? While fairly light on action, episode 494 is also among the best-looking episodes in recent memory, with the visuals being almost feature-film caliber.

Although episode 494 features its fair share of laughs, episode 495 sees the show shift into full-on madcap comedy mode. Hoping to give Naruto and Hinata gifts that will truly make them happy, Lee and Tenten comb the village in search of the right presents. Unable to process a bizarre hint given to him by Neji's ghost, Lee seeks guidance from Iruka and Guy but still comes up empty. After a fair amount of humorous trial and error, the strength-obsessed Lee ultimately decides to give the couple dumbbells, which were his initial choice of gift. Spending time with Lee also helps Iruka realize that the initial video greeting he recorded for Naruto could have been better, and he requests that Konohamaru allow him to reshoot it.

This episode goes off the rails at virtually every turn, but by and large, it's hilarious. Of course, if you're not overly fond of the bushy-browed taijutsu expert, your mileage may vary. The super-deformity is so rampant, most of the featured players spend the majority of the episode sporting cartoonishly large eyes and dropped jaws. Anyone who misses Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals is liable to feel like they're visiting an old friend, as much of the humor—particularly the role-playing skits—is highly reminiscent of that underrated gem. Episode 495 also features a number of fun background gags, such as random appearances from Konorin, the Leaf's new mascot, and various instances of Yamato tailing Orochimaru, who's presumably in town for the wedding. Like the episode that preceded it, this story's conclusion feels somewhat muddled, and I'm still not entirely clear on why Lee elected to go with the dumbbells, Neji's ghostly visit or no.

Choosing to make this novel the end of Naruto's anime adaptation is an interesting decision. It offers plenty of opportunities for comedy and gives nearly every supporting character one last turn in the spotlight. Since the previous two novel-based arcs were light on humor, revisiting the lighter side of the series before curtain call is a fitting direction for the show to take. If you don't need world-shattering stakes and furious battles to enjoy this franchise, this week's episodes make for a satisfying small-scale Naruto experience.

Rating: A-

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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