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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Seasons Seven & Eight)

Sorry, folks. I've been lazy on the blog-front this month. There are a number of contributing factors, but the most important one is my (maybe) promotion in the business world. For the past year and ten months I have been a fast food cook at a Sonic Drive-In and earlier last week I was asked if I wanted to be a shift supervisor/assistant manager. I said yes without really thinking it over because I knew being stuck as a cook is a dead end job (read as: one step above being homeless or in jail) and having "manager" in my resume would be a good thing.

Anyway, I'm wondering how I'm going to do this thing and these "distractions" have kept my blog feeling rather lonesome lately. Of course, none of this will mean shit if I can't survive my training (or lack thereof). 

Personal crap aside, I think it's time to get things going around here again.

To start with I want to talk about season seven of Naruto Shippuden. At only eight episodes it has to be one of the shortest "seasons" I've ever seen. Since this is filler that is a good thing. I'm not a big fan of filler period, let alone filler that drags on forever.

This mini-season is kind of a parallel to Naruto's relationship with Jiraiya. At this point Naruto doesn't know about Jiraiya's death and is going about his own business in typical Naruto fashion. After failing to capture Itachi and losing track of Sasuke, Naruto and co. begin their journey back to the Hidden Leaf Village only to be interrupted. Naruto, Sakura, Yamato, and Sai then journey to Land Such-and-Such in order to escort a woman named Hotaru to a village. This particular woman happens to have a reluctant master who can do cool stuff with bubbles. The two of them are the focal point of the filler arc and throughout the season Naruto gets to explain about how awesome his master is over and over again. It's pretty damn heartbreaking. 

One subject that isn't even touched during this filler arc is the whole Itachi/Sasuke debacle. I know it's filler, but Naruto doesn't even seem phased by that stuff. Either the writers wanted to leave that for the canon material to flesh out or they just chose to ignore the whole thing because it was easier to do and hey, it's fucking filler anyway, so who cares, right? That's one of the bad things about filler, though. Once the canon material resumes the filler can often appear as a blatant contradiction to the canon material even if that wasn't intended. 

For you folks out there who can't seem to get your trap fix then you'd be happy to know that there is a trap character in this filler arc. He's one of the villains and at first sight you will expect him to talk like a woman like the character from the previous filler arc. Not so, though. Mr. Girly Boy has a deep voice. I'm not sure which I find creepier. 

At the end of the filler arc Pain makes a move to attack the six-tailed Jinchuriki  (bubble dude) and that leaves us with a surprisingly sad ending to this filler arc. If I hadn't been rendered numb by the death-fest that was season six I might have been a bit more emotionally affected. 

Season eight starts off where season six left us. Naruto makes it back to the village and he's in his bed sulking about Sasuke killing Itachi and getting away. He remembers his last encounter with Itachi and this is where I will start to sound a bit foolish. In my previous review I stated that Itachi couldn't get his words across to Naruto because Naruto was being a dick. That's wasn't actually the case, though. 

Itachi asked Naruto just how he plans to bring Sasuke back to the Hidden Leaf. When he said that he would somehow find a way to do it without killing Sasuke while also saving the Leaf from Sasuke, Itachi shoved a crow down Naruto's throat. That may sound painful (pardon the pun), but Itachi said that it was some of his power even though he hoped Naruto would never have to use it. 

With that flashback over Naruto is brought back to earth by a knock on the window. It's none other than Kakashi Sensei and Kakashi tells Naruto that Lady Hokage wants to talk with him.

Okay, folks. Get those hankies ready. You know what's coming next. At the meeting Naruto is informed about Jiraiya's death. All of the frogs from Mount Myoboku are there, too. After a beautifully animated episode about Naruto sulking, Naruto begins Sage training at Mount Myoboku with the frogs. Naruto's goal is to do what Jiraiya couldn't do: Kill Pain. 

While Naruto is at Mount Myoboku Pain (all six of his forms) begins his (their) attack on the Hidden Leaf. 

At this point I am oddly reminded of Dragonball Z when the Saiyans are attacking earth while Goku is away on King Kai's planet training. Shounen logic dictates that the hero will make it back in time, but not until almost all hope is lost. Shit gets more dramatic that way. 

In a battle with one of the Pains, Kakashi gets killed while trying to help Choji escape. Since I knew Kakashi had to be alive in later episodes I figured something would happen to revive him, but I wasn't quite sure what. While "dead," Kakashi gets to have a sitdown with his own deceased father, the White Fang of the Hidden Leaf. The White Fang was shamed for saving his own comrades and abandoning a mission and the White Fang dealt with that shame by killing himself. That's just something ninja don't do. 

Watching Kakashi and his father chat was definitely neat. 

Naruto had a chat with his own father, too. After Hinata gets knocked out by one of the Pains, Naruto loses control and ultimately releases eight of the tails of the nine-tailed beast. However, just before Naruto can pull off the seal inside of himself that completely seals the nine-tails Namikaze Minato comes to the rescue. 

As a final resort, the legendary Fourth Hokage implanted some of his chakra inside of the seal. As the man said himself the downside was seeing the nine-tails again, but the plus side was seeing his son as a young man. 

Naruto is pretty damn shocked to discover that he is in fact the son of the Fourth. So shocked he punches Minato in the gut. I mean, it's got to be a pretty dick move to place a fucking devil inside of your son, right? 

The reunion is ultimately touching, though. Very short, too. There are a lot of unanswered questions left for Naruto, but one of them isn't about the leader of the Akatsuki. Naruto is told by Minato that the leader of the Akatsuki is actually the dude in the mask and not Pain and that maybe mask man had something to do with the nine-tails' attack on the Leaf sixteen years ago. 

Before parting, Minato completely reseals the nine-tails and tells Naruto that it's the last time he'll be able to do so. 

Once awake Naruto is back in Sage Mode and ready to finish off Pain. 

And he does so in pretty epic fashion. 

There is still the "real" Pain to contend with though and thanks to the use of his nature powers Naruto has found him. After managing to convince a few of the elder ninjas to let him go confront the real Pain alone, Naruto begins what can only be described as another step in his maturation process. 

Naruto wants to hear Pain's full story before deciding whether to kill him or not. Pain's real name is Uzumaki Nagato and his actual condition is kind of a letdown. Not much of one because I could see it coming, but I was hoping that Nagato would have been a bit more menacing-looking or something. Instead he reminded me of the first time I saw Darth Vader without the mask. Just kind of... "So that's the bad guy that killed Jiraiya? Is this a joke?" 

Before Nagato can tell his story we get two filler episodes that go back in time to the first series. I don't mind some flashbacks if they are canon, but these don't have shit to do with season eight. I think they were a movie tie-in or something. I skipped them because I wanted the real story behind Nagato's actions. 

His story is sad, too. Not sad enough to make you understand killing Jiraiya or destroying a whole fucking village, but sad enough if you are capable of even the slightest form of empathy. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Naruto decides not to kill Nagato and Konan. Instead he wants to make them believe that he will makes changes once he is hokage to stop the cycle of hatred that always involves ninjas. Perhaps even more surprisingly is Nagato's willingness to believe in Naruto at the end. At the cost of his life, Nagato performs a forbidden jutsu that will resurrect all of the people he had killed in the Hidden Leaf. 

And that's how Kakashi gets brought back to life. Yup, it's shounen. 

Let's see... I've just about covered everything except for maybe two things. 

The first is the sight of the village celebrating and treating Naruto as the hero he most certainly is. It's a welcome sight considering how much shit the village made him take over the years. One thing I like about Naruto is that it is an underdog's story and seeing him get bounced in the air by everybody was amazing. 

The other thing I should mention is Sasuke's apparent betrayal of the Akatsuki, but I'm not going to because I'm getting tired. 

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