Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Season Four)

At this point you're probably all like, "Man, will this dude ever stop talking about Naruto and other stupid shounen anime?" The answer to that question is yes, but that won't be for a while. I do miss watching things that are a bit more realistic and coherent in terms of plot, but endless action, drawn-out fights, and questionable plot turns helped define the sort of anime viewer I am today. I grew up on the filler-filled Dragonball Z so I have a high tolerance for shows that can go on a long time without covering a lot of ground. 

The Naruto series as a whole has its moments where it is really good and moves at a nice clip just like a lot of other shounen anime, but it's the filler that is killer. Season four is really good, but it's sandwiched between filler arcs. Episodes 57-71 were filler (with the exception of the final minutes of episode 71) and all of season five (90-112) is filler. How much you watch is up to you. 

I for one skipped over much of the filler stuff in season three so I could get to season four and I don't regret my decision. 

In season four Naruto resumes his training to create a new Jutsu under the watchful eyes of Kakashi-sensei and Yamato. Since Naruto is of the Wind chakra type he now has to find a way to apply his Wind powers to his Rasengan, a task that is easier said than done. The Rasengan itself is an unfinished technique because the Fourth Hokage couldn't complete it. Since it is incomplete not even Kakashi-sensei can tell Naruto on the next direction to go. It's all up to Naruto to figure out a way to make the Rasengan advance.

Meanwhile, two Akatsuki baddies are up to no good. They've captured the Two Tails Jinchuriki and slaughtered a bunch of monks at a Temple in the Land of Fire (the Temple was introduced in the filler arc the previous season). Shikamaru, Asuma, and two pointless characters are sent to the Temple in the Land of Fire in order to deal with the Akatsuki members. 

These Akatsuki members are Hidan and Kakuzu and they act a lot like an old married couple. Hidan is the loud and obnoxious one and Kakuzu is the quiet one who keeps vowing to kill Hidan. Ain't that sweet?

Hidan definitely succeeded in getting on my nerves. In general, I'm not a very big talker and people who talk about pointless shit for hours on end can get on my nerves. So I actually sympathized with Kakuzu on this matter. 

While the they are on their way to a collection office to get money for a dead monk with a bounty on his head, they argue constantly. Well, Hidan is doing most of the arguing because he is against doing things for money and claims that what they are doing is against his religion. 

It's kind of funny, but it more and more begins to feel like Hidan is yet another of those characters that are nothing more than background padding. Like the guys traveling with Asuma and Shikamaru, Hidan just seems to make Kakuzu look cooler by comparison. I don't really have a problem with that kind of thing, but if that was the case then maybe giving Hidan so much dialog was going a bit too far.

In turns out that Hidan is not a character to be fucked with. As Asuma and Shikamaru and those other guys traveling with them soon find out. Despite being a loud mouth, Hidan has a killer (pun alert) ability that Asuma gets to witness first hand. 

After that it is time to break out the tissues, folks. While Sarutobi Asuma has never been a main character I did always think he was kind of cool. So the moment when Asuma gets killed by Hidan... Well, it's pretty tough. The Third Hokage dying early in the first series was understandable. While a bit of a cruel ploy by the author, it did serve as a notice that even the best and wisest of warriors get killed by bad guys. In a way the death of Asuma is yet another passing of the torch and a bit of a fitting one since Asuma is actually the son of the Third Hokage. Still, the few episodes dedicated to his passing and his funeral are tough slogging because they are so bleak and depressing. However, episode 82 is rather brilliantly animated.

The old Team Ten (Shikamaru, Choji, Ino) reunites against Tsunade's wishes, but Kakashi-sensei chooses to stand in for the departed Asuma when it looks like that Asuma's former students won't be deterred from their quest for vengeance. Team Seven (Naruto, Sakura, Sai, Yamato) is told that they will be the backup for Team Ten and that Naruto has 24 hours to complete his new Jutsu or else Tsunade will choose to send another team as backup. 

Naturally, Naruto completes his Jutsu even if he doesn't actually master it and then it's off to battle.

Team Ten are the first to learn of Kakuzu's ability to spawn hollow-looking (Bleach-reference) creatures from his body thanks to his five hearts. So what initially started out as four versus two quickly escalates into six versus four. Those odds aren't good.

Shikamaru, a genius if ever there was one, decides that the best way to defeat the two stalwarts would be to separate them. Naturally, Shikamaru decides to take on Hidan by himself. 

Kakashi-sensei isn't to be outdone. I can't speak for any filler material or movies, but as far as canon material goes we haven't seen him fight before. Two staredowns with Itachi don't count. And, no, he didn't really fight against Zabuza, either. So if you've been patiently waiting to watch Kakashi-sensei to lay down a gauntlet then consider your patience rewarded. 

It really all comes down to Naruto coming in to save the day, though. With Kakashi-sensei eventually weakening after going all out for too long, Naruto and Team Seven come in at the last moment to save the day. 

Naruto's Wind Style: Rasen Shuriken is pretty badass. Definitely worth the wait to see it in action. 

Well, I think I'm all talked-out. I really enjoyed this season. Unfortunately, season five is all filler as I mentioned earlier. I might watch it or I might skip ahead. I'm thinking I might watch it, though. Because, at the rate I've been going, I really will catch up in no time. We'll see. 

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