Cedric_alpha’s Toonami Review: Naruto Shippuden

Before I get into this, just know: 1) This is a whole review of the Naruto Shippuden series, not just where it is on Toonami right now. So if you’re reading this and are either new to it, right at where Toonami is, or wherever you are in the series, there will be some spoilers on here. You been warned. 2). Yes, I know, Naruto Shippuden isn’t done yet. And by the looks of it, it might not be done for some time to go. The series should’ve ended by now, or at least have at most 5-6 episodes left. But instead, Studio Pierott, the animation studio who made the Naruto anime series, likes to milk this franchise to the ground. And that’s why we are getting a “Road To TenTen” filler soon instead of a conclusion to the original manga right now. But I’ll talk more about them later. Right now, I want to start off all the way at the beginning. 2005. On Toonami. Naruto came on the air, and the little spikey blonde, orange jumpsuit-wearing, whiskered kid was a fevered hit. (Quick side note: I always wondered why no one pointed out he had whiskers on his face. They don’t stick out like it does on a cat. But they are there. Visible on his face. But I digress.) Anyway, I used to love Naruto. I loved it like crazy. Even when it went off the air cause of Toonami’s cancellation. Then being brought back on to the new Toonami in its uncut form. I was joyful for that. But you look at my Twitter feed now. And I am usually bashing the Clone making fucker knucklehead and his show on a basis. Why is this? What happened to me? What happened to the person who loved Naruto in HS? Well Shippuden is what happened. I’m gonna take you on a journey that is of the often critical/criticized Naruto Shippuden.

Characters

Before I get into the main story and others parts of Shippuden, I should definitely start out talking about the characters on here. Because like any shonen, they are the driving force of the show. Now, if your like 90% of anime viewers, or hell, even a casual viewer who has seen/heard of Naruto, you more than likely know all about the characters. Well, at least the main heroes/villains. But if you don’t, here’s a rundown. I told you some about Naruto Uzumaki. He has a lot of backstory so here’s a short version. Orphaned kid, has a giant Nine-Tailed fox demon in him that makes him not liked at first in the Hidden Leaf Village, is very lonely, sucks at ninja stuff at first but gets better (way better and then some) later. He loves ramen, and want to be Hokage to prove everyone wrong. etc etc. Naruto is basically the atypical shonen hero you see in a lot of Japanese manga/anime. Goofy, not too bright, but gets powerful, and becomes a hero to his village.

There are also his friends that I should talk about as well. Now, let me say something. These are my opinions on these characters. Your opinion on them might differ widely. (Or it might be the same, who knows.) So if you have a problem, deal with it. We start with Sasuke Uchiha. Oh boy Sasuke. He basically Naruto’s first real friend. He’s also Naruto’s main rival/lover he want’s to bone the crap outta best friend he won’t shut up about. Sasuke is an ass. Really, I don’t know how I can say it more. Yes, he’s a powerful character, with his Kekkei Genkai called the Sharingan, and his backstory (clan getting destroyed by his Older Brother) is a horrific (read: edgy) one but he’s an emo douche of the highest caliber.  He only wants power and revenge and doesn’t care what he destroys in the way. And yet, he’s still not the worst character in this series. Cause there is another friend of Naruto’s and her name is Sakura Haruno. This large foreheaded, pink annoyance is on alot of people’s list of Worst Anime character and Most Useless anime character ever. She doesn’t have a sad backstory like Naruto/Sasuke, and just won’t shut up. Somehow, Naruto has a crush on her for most of the series (and what does he get in return? Usually a brutal beating), but her loins are only focused on one person only: Sasuke. The upside? She has some superhuman strength in her and she is a “genius” (her’s and Tsunade’s words, not mine.) But most of the time, she gets in the way/fails when something is happening, and is just a huge freakin’ burden. I believe it is widely know that Sakura is the most hateable character on here. But I have seen for myself comments from people not only defending Sakura’s action, but calling her the best female in the Naruto series. As I said, opinions vary. There’s also Kakashi Hatake, AKA “Kakashi-sensei”, the teacher of these 3 mains, who are called Team 7. He’s the most likeable of them, and, like Sasuke, has a Sharingan too and is called the “Copy Ninja” (although, unlike Sasuke, he only has one and didn’t get it by birthright cause he’s not an Uchiha.) He trains these 3 to who they are and does alot of useful stuff when trouble comes knocking on the Hidden Leaf Village. Unlike Sakura.

Reading
Oh Kakashi. Enjoying his lewd books

But there are more characters in Naruto, and here is a rundown on a main ones. We have Sai, who is not only introduced early on to replaced the traitorous Sasuke, but is basically Sasuke 1.5, has very limited emotions and wants Naruto’s balls. Hey, don’t look at me. This really goes down in the show. Captain Yamato, who for a short time takes over for Kakashi, and is a Wood-Style Jutsu user. He also makes scary faces. Shikamaru, the shadow-using, lazy genius (It’s “really a drag” being this guy, lol.) Choji, the loveable, “big-boned” rolling human boulder. Ino, the angry, mind-transferring blonde (who has a rivalry with Sakura over stupid Sasuke. And can be as useless as she is.) Rock Lee, the big eyebrowed, tight jumpsuit wearing, energetic guy who knows only Taijutsu (and is one of the best characters, esp. drunk.) Neji, the doesn’t-take-crap-from-ya, Byakugan (another Kekki Genkai, kinda similar to the Sharingan) badass. TenTen, who … ummmm …. makes weapons come out of scrolls. I really don’t know what TenTen actually accomplishes. And she doesn’t know either. It’s true. Kiba and Akamaru, the man and his best friend combo who loves to tear stuff apart. Hinata, best girl on here and also Neji’s cousin, who also know the Byakugan. (And is one of the better females on this series. Again, opinions.) And Shino, the creepy bug dude who gets ignored by everyone. There’s also the Sand Siblings. Tamari, Kankuro and Gaara, who went from psychopathic monster in the first series to the Kazekage, or leader of Hidden Sand Village, on Shippuden. Should also point out that Gaara is like Naruto as in he is a Jinjuriki, or a human with a Bijuu (Tailed Beast) in them.

But other than the main ones we know, there are a ton more characters. And alot are important to the series. There’s Jiraiya, the “Pervy Sage” who trains Naruto throughout the series, teaches him the Rasengan and how to be a good person, and is basically Naruto’s father figure. Tsunade, the very busty, superpowerful 5th Hokage who leads the village. Guy-sensei, the older bushy eyebrowed tight jumpsuit wearing Taijutsu teacher (you can tell who he teaches), who is just a goofy, OP bundle of energy (and like his protege, one of the best characters on here.) Asuma-sensei, who teaches Shikamaru’s group, and smokes a alot to the point that he has moves to go along with it. Killer Bee, being a damn boss, is the same as Naruto and Gaara, and who can rap too, albeit poorly (Fool, Ya Fool!). And there’s also the most important character on here. That’s right, the big boss himself, Ichiraku. AKA the Ramen Guy. (Okay this is a joke, but he’s one the earliest to actually acknowledge Naruto. By serving him his food.) There are a ton more good guys too in the Naruto universe. But naming them all would take even more time that I don’t want to get into. Some are actually more important in the first series than here (ex. 3rd Hokage, Iruka-sensei) so why trudge it out anymore than it should.

But along with the good guys (okay, mostly good guys *coughSasukecough*) there are a bunch of villains too that are important to this series. Orchimaru, who is still creepy wanting Sasuke’s body and an all-around villian (who, with Jiraiya and Tsunade, were the “3 Legendary Sannin”.)  The Akatsuki, the main villain group of Shippuden, who wants to collect all the Tailed Beast to take over the world. The members include Itachi Uchiha, Kisame, Deidara (“Hmmm!”) Sasori, Hidan, Kakuzu, Pain, Nagato, Kohan, Toby (Both funny and serious Toby. I really miss funny Toby, just gonna point this out.), Zetsu, Obito and Madara Uchiha (AKA the best Uchiha and the person I’m rooting for to kick everyone’s ass because he’s such a boss. Don’t judge. Watching this show has made me root for him.) There’s also, Danzo, the most douchiest villain in Shippuden, and an all around un-likeable character. I’ll talk bout him more in a bit. There are also villains in filler and bit roles, but for real, who cares bout them. Being a long series, these villains do shape out the structure of the story in Shippuden, and they have roles they play, for better or worse. Speaking of the story, let’s get into that.

 Story

The story in Shippuden begins simple enough. Naruto comes back to the village after 2 1/2 years of training with Pervy Sage, and he’s grown up (kinda). Then Gaara is kidnapped by Deidara and Sasori , and they go rescue him. This is the first story arc out of a bunch of them, and Naruto at his most weakest in Shippuden (unless you count the filler/flashbacks that go back to his very annoying time in the original series) cause oh boy, does he get crazy power-ups. It basically follows Dragon Ball/DBZ to a tease. Again, being a long shonen series, there are alot of arcs that take place and shape the way how it is currently (Fighting Madara in a 4th Great Ninja War). From trying to get Sasuke to come back home, to Asuma’s fight with the Akatsuki, which I would spoil, but you’ll see soon in a few weeks/you already know what happens, Toonami viewers, to the Sasuke vs Itachi fight, the Pain arc, Naruto meeting his parents, to training with Killer Bee etc. These’s stories shape up our Spiky hair hero into the person he is, through training, to dealing with losing love ones, and learning how to train his inner fox demon. And they also help shape the other known characters through the same things.

The writing for these stories though can really vary though. Some will keep you on the edge of your seats, wanting more, seeing how good Shippuden can deliver. Unfortunately, these episodes are a dime a dozen. Alot of times Shippuden makes you want to bash your head on the table for the stuff it does. Whether it’s a endless amount of filler that won’t end (The beginning of Shippuden had arcs for filler. Now it seems like filler just pops up outta nowhere like a virus, during important parts. Thanks Studio Pierrot.) Or flashbacks that are pointless as hell and ruin the moment, usually during canon episodes. Although some flashbacks are helpful in getting to point stuff out, like the history of the Sharingan (How did we get from “see movements of people easily”, to “unleash a giant purple demon thing/black fire that destroys everything it touches that also makes your eyes bleed like crazy?”) and the Uchiha’s family history, which shows that only 5% of all Uchihas are totally sane. There is also Danzo too. Remember when I said he was the douchiest of all characters? Yeah, he is. But Shippuden, and mostly Naruto’s creator, tries to make him a tragic character. If you saw all the things he did, including making Sai emotionless beyond character development, to co-inspiring in making the Akatsuki going cuckoo, you definitely shouldn’t feel for this character. But Shippuden tries to do that, and it’s really stupid. Same with a lot of the villians on here. Obito does so much evil on here, but hey, here’s his sad backstory. Be sad for him. By the way, that’s another thing that Shippuden does. Show these backstories a TON of times. That sad Obito backstroy? The first time you see it, you feel sorry for what happens (cause, early on, you don’t know that he’s a bad guy.) But then they show it again. And again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN!!! It’s maddening. They ruin that whole moment by showing it constantly to slow whatever’s happening in the story. Hell, there’s even a mini 4 episode filler arc somewhere on here that is literally the first 130 episodes of the original Naruto series, but with a few bits spliced up and re-done. These aren’t needed at all. We saw this all before. But for some unknown reason, it’s there. I can’t tell you how much I loved that Naruto/Sasuke fight in the first series, only to have it ruined by Shippuden cause they show it 200+ times during the show.

LOL 2
There was a Ninja Ostrich on here. No really

To get a bit off track, let me rant a little about Pierrot. Yeah, this part of the Naruto series is the weakest, and Kishi writing does show very clearly. Everything after the Pain arc, and probably before the Sasuke/Itachi fight, just goes downhill. But Pierrot’s also to blame for this. Shippuden has been milked so badly, that you just want this to be put down so you don’t have to see it suffer no more. But Naruto is Pierrot’s cash cow, and it’s still popular around the world. So even though Shippuden should’ve ended some time this summer, it makes sense money wise that they want to see this continue. And at the same time, you shake your head in disbelief as you watch another Kakashi as a kid filler arc or a pointless Sakura story where she says she’s caught up with Naruto and Sasuke. Oh wait, that was actually canon.

 Animation

Speaking of Studio Pierrot, they are also the main animator of this show. Now, as someone who loves One Piece, likes the 90’s Sailor Moon series, and the Dragonball franchise (Except GT. You can burn in hell, GT), I know what it’s like to see see bad animation. Now let me tell you. The Naruto series as a whole, including Shippuden, can look gorgeous at times. Most of the time, the vast landscape, oceans, deserts, and forests of the Land of Fire, and the countless other nations, looks well done. The villages look beautiful. And the weather and nature all around can sometimes have a calming effect, when put together right with the music. I did like that about Shippuden. I like that it can take me to a somewhat different era of Japan, even if it’s kinda modern in some ways. (Electricity, widescreen monitors and wireless headsets are present. So are rave glowsticks masking as flashlights.) There is some CGI used in Shippuden. And well, it’s not as good. But there’s not a ton of it, and it’s mainly used in the movies. If you saw them, you can tell how bad it can look. Just wonky and out of place, and very cheaply made. But that aside, the background and design for everything around looks great.

Now, am I saying that Pierrot is better than Toei at animation? Well … ehhhhh. Now, I may love One Piece, but looking at Shippuden and One Piece side-by-side, Shippuden wins hands down by looking  better with the colors around it. That doesn’t mean that Pierrot is the Champion of Japanese Animation. Oh dear god no. Just because the set designs look great, the character designs are another story all together. The original Naruto had a bit more color to the characters at times and they had features (hair, eyes, clothes, etc.) that made it stick out. Shippuden’s characters look a bit bland by comparison.

And then there are times when Pierrot’s animation looks like … well, see for yourself.

Bad animation 4

Did someone approve of this to go on the air?

Bad animation 3

Sasuke, you’re not a freakin’ SHAFT anime character. Stop it!

Bad animation

 Look at that poor bastard I circled. Even the ground looks bad.

Bad animation 2

Then there’s this. Everything just went wrong here. One guy looks like he’s doing the ChaCha with his weapon in the background.

And still, I can’t forget the most famous of Naruto’s bad animations. Pain, how much greater is your pain?

Pain

Yeah, this is bad. But at least the action scenes look better than th-

Pain gif

Okay, maybe not. To makes matters worse, most of these aren’t even filler episodes. These are during the gigantic fights of Shippuden. This is supposed to be where all your money is supposed to go in. And yet, somehow they made it look like a bunch of 5th graders did all the work. This is what happens when you work your animators to the bone, and don’t pay them shit. And yet, some filler episodes look better than this. Still, Studio Pierrot isn’t the only one who has these problems. Alot of studios do at times. And besides, they still aren’t taking the throne away anytime soon from Toei.

Hell No
Oh come on Neji. Don’t be like that

Music

Now, we get to a staple of Shippuden that doesn’t falter. The music. The music on here is pretty great. In fact, sometimes the music is the best part of some arcs. Like this. The OP/ED’s for the Naruto series have usually been great (well, except for Lovers by 7, NS 9th OP. That song wasn’t good. And the filler it was accompanying with was THE WORST FILLER in the Shippuden series.) And they vary from a wide range. From a nice rock n’ roll beat, to a range of emotions it brings when watching the arc, to just plain weird. (And just to let it be known, this OP and this one, along with this ED, are my favorites.) But it’s not just the OP/ED’s that are great. The music within the show is also a staple, and has been throughout the whole series. When it gets going, it can really set the stage up perfectly. From having a lovely sitar playing during a beautiful showing of cherry blossoms falling through a village, to the original rock soundtrack from the first series being remixed a bit to show off the fights. Or even a haunting melody of a flute to symbolize that something scary is happening. Hell, there’s even hip-hop beats in this show too (thank you, Killer Bee.) When it gets right down to it, alot of times, the music is the best part of Shippuden. It’s usually one of the actual things that doesn’t bore me to tears with this show.

Subs vs Dubs

Now, I don’t know if the others on this site are gonna do this, but I am cause I can. Yes, I am doing a subs vs dubs debate on my reviews. Now, I’m not telling you which one you should watch instead. And if you’re watching on Toonami, then you don’t have a damn choice in the matter cause Jason Demarco has said no subs whatsoever. You can choose which one you like. I’m just making a comparison between the series. Now, I myself have been raise most my life on the dub version. But I have been watching mostly the sub version lately. And to be honest, I like the sub version alot more. And here are my reasons for that.

For one, even as I watched it as a kid, Naruto in its dubbed form sounded, well, a bit off. Now that not to say the actors are bad. Oh no. The Naruto dubbed series has a bunch of great voice actors. With Malie Flanagan voicing the title character, and Kate Higgins, Yuri Lowenthal, and Dave Wittenburg voicing the rest of Team 7. And not just them, a bunch of great VA’s have roles, including Stephanie Sheh, Steve Blum, Crispen Freeman, Johnny Young Bosch (AKA the JYB), Travis Willingham, Troy Baker, and Vic Mignogna. But even with these great voices, there are times where the show dubbing doesn’t feel right. Like they feel like they want to try, but it seems even they are bored with this story. Now do they do their best? Alot of times, yes. But other times, oh boy, it sounds bad. For some reason, Bleach, who like Naruto, Viz Media has the dubbed rights to, has basically all the same VA’s, but it sounds so much better than Naruto.

Now the subbed form, while not perfect, does sound way better at times than the dubbed form. The seiyuu’s leads are Junko Takeuchi, who is Naruto’s seiyuu (I have to point out. If you thought “Believe it!!” was an annoying saying from him in the dub, it’s tame compare to how many times “Dattebayo” or “ya know” is said in some way or form, on the subbed version. NEVER do a drinking game for it. Ever. You be dead by the end of any episode.) with Noriaki Sugiyama (Sasuke), Chie Nakamura (Sakura), and Kazuhiko Inoue (Kakashi). And there’s a bunch of others too (I’m not gonna name them all, but just note my favorites are Nana Mizuki (Hinata), Kosuke Toriumi (Kiba), Yoichi Masukawa (Rock Lee) and Masashi Ebara (Guy-sensei).) But they do a much better job of portraying the characters they voice. And can convey the emotions on them very clearly without sounding at times like they are winging it. Again, you can choose which ever version you want. And I still think the dub is reasonable. It’s not the worst thing I heard. Esp. with 4Shitz and DiC dubs you can find somewhere online. But overall, I would take the sub version of Naruto.

Closing Thoughts

So to close, Shippuden has a lot of problems. That’s putting it mildly. For starters, there is TOO MANY FILLERS/FLASHBACKS!!!!! Please Pierrot, just stop with all the fillers. You had the same problems with Bleach. You milk it to the point of no return. And I’m pretty sure Shippuden itself has surpassed Bleach for most filler episodes. The show cause of this then slows to a halt (and people think One Piece is slow), suffers, and we are then stuck watching Kakashi in his teens, helping a pre-teen Yamato, help a girl who turns into mist or some shit and disappears forever in a gust of wind. (Yes, this happens!) And cause of Shippuden, my love of the original Naruto is almost gone for good. Again, I have fond memories of watching Naruto. Watching it every Saturday on Toonami when it was still on CN. Seeing his growth and how he got stronger with every battle. Seeing the fights with Neji, Gaara, and Sasuke, and how he learned the Rasengan from Pervy Sage. The original Naruto is still great (for the first 130 or so episodes till it goes into filler hell the rest the way.) Even though I’m bashing on it now, Shippuden does have its good moments. Like the Asuma arc, Jiraiya’s death and how it affects Naruto, the Pain arc (bad animation aside) and how Naruto’s parents met him for the first time and sacrifice themselves just for him to survive. These are all good moments. Unfortunately, these good moments happen on occasion, and you really start to wonder when the hell it’s gonna be good again. I’m (so far as of this writing) on the Guy/Madara fight and as soon as it got good, here’s one and half episodes of a flashback of Guy as a kid with his crazy dad, cause screw you person watching this! Again, this series had potential to be good. But it keeps getting in its way for it to happen.

Last thought: If you don’t want to watch Shippuden but want to watch Naruto in anyway, watch either the original Naruto series, the movies (they’re range form meh to pretty good) or the funny spin-off series, Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals, which has gotten a lot of praise. Or if you don’t want to watch Shippuden but still want to experience it, just read the manga.

My Rating: 4/10

Naruto Shippuden is developed by Studio Pierrot. Its US distributor is Viz Media. And its manga can be read from the Shonen Jump manga lineup, which is also distributed by Viz.

Naruto Shippuden can be seen at 2 AM on Saturdays on Toonami. Is it also streaming online on Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Viz.com. 

*Update. It has been over a year since I made this, and they finally got to the last Naruto vs Sasuke fight in Naruto Shippuden. Only to start up another filler arc. There is no God.

*2nd Update: After 500 episodes, after all the filler, after all the ninja fights that aren’t really actual ninja fights, Naruto Shippuden finally came to an end on March 23, 2017. It ended with the wedding of Naruto and Hinata, as the show went out on a pretty good high note. Congrats to Shippuden on finally ending its run. And with that, the Naruto series is officially over wi-What’s that? It’s coming back in April with the Boruto series? ARE YOU FUC-*ends review*

 

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3 thoughts on “Cedric_alpha’s Toonami Review: Naruto Shippuden

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