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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Naruto Shippuden (Seasons Twelve & Thirteen)

Howdy, folks. It's that time again. But before I delve into season twelve I want to give you a chance to get caught up on all of my thoughts on the Naruto anime series.


Naruto Shippuden

Episodes 243-293 make up the twelfth and thirteenth seasons of Naruto Shippuden and they essentially cover the start of the Fourth Great Shinobi War. So if you've been waiting for some serious fighting action then you've come to the right place.

First we've got to have our build-up, though. Naruto, Guy, and Yamato arrive at an island where Naruto is told he is supposed to participate in a secret mission to help aid the Allied Shinobi War Effort. However, that isn't quite the case. The real reason both Bee and Naruto are on the island is so that they can be hidden from the eye of the dreadful Madara and his remaining Akatsuki members. 

With both Naruto and Bee being the primary targets of Madara, the Allied Shinobi Force decided to keep them out of sight for the duration of the war. Of course, we should know by now that won't happen. This show is Naruto and not People Not Named Naruto for a reason. 

While they are on the island Naruto asks Bee to train him to control the tailed-beast within him. Bee initially refuses Naruto even though one of the reasons Naruto and Bee are at their particular location is so that Bee could train Naruto.

The primary reason that Bee refuses to train Naruto is because Naruto isn't really at peace with himself. He is thus led by one of Bee's friends to the Waterfall of Truth where he is asked to confront his dark side. Of course, he won't be able to control the Nine-Tails until he beats his dark side. 

How do you beat someone who is... well, you? The answer is kinda obvious at this point. The answer is you don't beat yourself. You've got to accept yourself and try to make your weaknesses better through positive means. 

After successfully winning that fight, Bee decides to train Naruto. The two of them, joined by Yamato, go to a room that sort reminded me of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (The Room of Spirit and Time) from Dragonball Z. It's a room that just seems to go on forever and you've got to wonder who the hell built the damn thing and just what the construction costs were like. 

Once there Naruto frees the Nine-Tails from his confinement and the two of the them start duking it out inside of Naruto's mind, leaving Yamato and Bee to watch over Naruto's physical body. 

The last time that the Nine-Tails went on a rampage was during the fight with Pain and what stopped Naruto from being consumed completely was the sudden appearance of the late Fourth Hokage, Naruto's dad. This time Naruto gets help from his mom, Kushina.

While a lot Naruto flashbacks are a serious pain in the ass, the flashback episodes concerning Minato and his fight with the man in the mask (Tobi?) as well as his and Kushina's final moments are some of the best episodes in Naruto-dom. I hadn't been so moved by an anime since the deaths of Jiraiya and Itachi in season six. I really have to hand it to Kishimoto. A lot of fairly well-known shounen anime and manga don't play the death card with a sense of seriousness and drama. I love One Piece to death, but no one has really died yet after 300+ episodes. In Dragonball Z people died all the time, but they always came back. With many action anime having no real sense of finality, Naruto (and primarily its sequel series Naruto Shippuden) is a breath of fresh air. That's not saying characters can't come back or won't come back. There are always things like flashbacks and filler stories and even the canon Reanimation Jutsu (more on that later), but not all of the characters come back to be seen again. 

And even if they do come back what really makes Kishimoto's story stand out is that it feels like you'll never see the characters again when they really do die.

One trend I have noticed over the series is that even the baddest of bad guys is often portrayed in a bit of sympathetic light. I thought Pain was one of the baddest mtoherfuckers in the series and I hated his guts, but somehow my opinion about him changed by the time he died. I still don't like the fact that he killed Jiraiya, but at the end he did turn over a new leaf. 

Kisame was the same way in a sense. Kisame certainly didn't have as many redeeming qualities about himself and he never turned his back on evil, but he felt like a flesh and blood character in his final moments instead of just another faceless bad guy. His death didn't happen until after Naruto's ascension to Nine-Tails Chakra Mode, but it wasn't Naruto who managed to bring him down. In fact, Kisame decided to commit suicide. By taking all of his secrets with him he died honorably and that made me respect his character quite a bit more. 
The next death in the series is Konan's. I really didn't like Konan at first since she also helped Pain, but she also turned over a new leaf. After Naruto defeated Pain, Konan returned to the Hidden Rain Village and tried to live out a life of peace. Of course, Tobi/Madara had to show his ugly mug in search of Nagato's Rinnegan eyes.

Rather than blindly following Tobi again, Konan gives it all she has to take down the masked man. Until this fight I never realized just how strong Konan was by herself. Just the fact that she managed to damage Tobi's precious mask and take his right arm should be enough to prove this. The Paper Ocean attack where she actually parted the seas and created a huge paper bomb attack was amazing. It didn't work, though. I kind of wished it would have, but Tobi/Madara is on a different level. But if not for Izanagi, Tobi would have been killed.

Konan's death was really sad and the scene showing her reunited with Nagato, Jiraiya, and Yahiko in the house where they trained was the watery icing of the feels cake. 

I really do hope that Tobi gets his real soon. 

Kabuto, too. I think Kabuto, Tobi, and Sasuke are the only villains in this series I don't give two shits about, but Tobi is the far more likeable of the three. With the exception of a few flashback episodes, Sasuke isn't anywhere to be found in season twelve or thirteen and that's fine with me. Fuck him. 

Unfortunately, we get a big helping of Kabuto. 

Kabuto is a first rate prick, but this is the first time I've actually felt like he might be more dangerous than Tobi. Kabuto's use of the Reanimation Jutsu is particularly brutal, but the partnership forged between Tobi and Kabuto was done so in a way that it felt like Kabuto had certain intel on Tobi that gave him a decisive advantage. 

I think I have a good idea what Kabuto knows, too. 

Season twelve is split up by some flashback Sasuke filler, but just before that Yamato gets kidnapped by Kabuto. I'm kind of worried about him now because I haven't heard anything about him in quite a few episodes. I hope he isn't dead. That'd piss me off. 

Meanwhile the war is going on in all of its epic glory. Naruto is barely even featured during this time as he continues to train with Killer Bee to perfect his Chakra Mode and that gives a lot of other characters time to shine. Faced with the bizarre White Zetsu Soldiers and countless reanimated Shinobi like Sarutobi Asuma, Ginkaku, and Zabuza, the Allied Shinobi Force has its hands full, though. 

Things only get worse when Tobi decides to enter the battlefield himself (albeit briefly) with his giant Gedo Statue. 

Naruto isn't going to be pushed aside in favor of a bunch of other characters, though. His new form gives him the ability to sense chakra and he quickly learns that while he has been training the war has already been going on for quite some time. Naruto decides to escape from the island where he has been training and Killer Bee decides to join him. 

Even if it means taking on the Fourth Raikage and Lady Tsunade, Naruto won't stand by as his fellow Shinobi fight. Of course, we all know that Lady Tsunade won't fight Naruto, but the Fourth Raikage is another story.

Okay, folks, I know I have been yapping enough, but my post is almost at an end. The only thing I have left to talk about are the Power episodes at the end of season thirteen. These episodes are all filler just like the six episodes before it were, but what sets Power apart is the fantastic movie quality animation. These six episodes were originally intended to be a movie, but that plan was shelved and the story became filler instead. These episodes act as a bit of a prequel to the Fourth Great Shinobi War, but I wouldn't really swear by them.

These episodes were made to commemorate the 500th episode of the Naruto series and I think they did a good job. I would have preferred canon material to this, but the Power episodes are still good enough in their own right and I wouldn't recommend skipping them since they are pretty cool.

Now to season fourteen!

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