A touching end to the first arc, our first filler episode and the start of one of the franchise's most memorable stories!
Welcome to the Great Crunchyroll Naruto Rewatch! I'm Kevin Matyi, and I'll be your host this week as we make our way through all 220 episodes of the original Naruto. Last week, we covered episodes 8-14, and we continue this week with episodes 15-21.
In these seven episodes, we wrapped up the first big arc of the series, including the first reveal of the Demon Fox’s power and some exposition about Kekkei Genkai, and after a touching scene for the main antagonists of the arc, Team 7 went back home, were recommended for the Chunin Exam, had some filler to prove they were ready and are about to start the actual Exam.
For those either not following along or who may have forgotten, the ranking system in Naruto is:
- Hokage (the leader of the village, it’s a different -kage for each village)
- Jonin (elite ninja like Kakashi and Zabuza, do not fight if you want to live)
- Chunin (your average jobber ninja, including Iruka and a bunch of nameless extras)
- Genin (rookies, like our protagonists)
So graduating from Genin to Chunin is a pretty big deal in the show. (Hey, if Naruto can have 9 minutes of recap before the end of the first arc, we can have 3 sentences!)
Before we discuss these episodes, let's check out some questions and comments you had from our last installment!
Nope, we're going through every episode of the show.
"Dattebayo" doesn't have a literal translation
And that's why I said that if we're going to make a counter for it, then someone who actually knows Japanese would be a better choice than me. Also, thanks for the lesson! I've been genuinely curious about that for years.
The power of Recap-jutsu
Some of the comments when we got to episode 14 last week were literally "man I forgot how these episodes really leaned in on the whole thing where the first 10 minutes of an episode is mostly just the last 10 minutes of the previous ep" and "I recommend doing some light housework whenever starting a new ep."
Remember, you can leave us questions in the comments for next week’s edition set of episodes, and we’ll answer them together in the next update!
Now, let's see what the Crunchyroll Features team thought of this week's episodes!
Now that we’re through the first arc have gotten to know Team 7, what do you think of Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and the overall group dynamic?
Kara: I really enjoyed seeing how Naruto and Sasuke grew as allies throughout the Land of Waves… but then it all sort of weirdly disappeared once they got home. Even so, their rivalry now seems to stem from an increased knowledge of each other’s abilities rather than just straight-up schoolyard dislike. I feel like we may be seeing a little peek into an increased role for Sakura, but still just a peek—her character building is still so rough, even Iruka-sensei just pre-tested her based on her crush on Sasuke.
Joseph: The return home definitely did feel like a soft reset on that dynamic, but for the most part Naruto and Sasuke showed some growth in the Land of the Waves. Sakura, not so much, but her time has yet to come.
Paul: I'm not entirely sold on the group dynamic yet. Sakura hasn't had a chance to contribute much yet, and while I like it when Naruto and Sasuke cooperate, the “hot-and-cold shonen rivals” thing is something I've seen dozens of times already in similar shows. I'd like to see more of what makes Team 7 a team, rather than just a group of teens that are stuck with each other.
Danni: I think the dynamic between Sasuke and Naruto has gotten pretty interesting following the battle against Haku where Sasuke seemingly sacrificed himself for Naruto. I’m glad Sakura is getting to know Sasuke to a point where she isn’t letting her infatuation cloud her judgement as much, but I’m still waiting for her to do anything of consequence.
Noelle: Overall, the Team 7 dynamic seems to be mostly concentrated on Naruto and Sasuke, who really did have some genuine bonding moments in the Land of Waves. They’re still no doubt rivals, but they’re still rivals who have each other’s backs in a dangerous situation, and that battle showed that pretty well. As for Sakura, well… Kishimoto’s writing for women has never been the best thing ever, so her story is pretty clunky. We get this tiny peek, but it is still just a meager glimpse when compared to something as dynamic as Naruto and Sasuke’s bond.
Peter: I really love it. Glad we got in some goofs before the Chunin exams started up. Couldn’t remember how much of a breather there was between the arcs. That said, nothing lasts forever…
Jared: I was really enjoying how Naruto and Sasuke were working together as a team, albeit slightly reluctantly. The way they came together during the Haku fight was a good culmination after the snippiness they’d had previously. Although, when they return home and it’s back to just being rivals, it felt like a weird step back. Sakura has really been getting the short end of the stick, but it at least seemed by the end that she isn’t going to just be clamoring for Sasuke all the time.
Carolyn: I have to agree, it felt like two steps forward, one step back on this one with the squabbling after they all spent so much time trying to get to know each other better, connecting and showing respect for each other last time around. It’s a little jarring to go back and forth like that.
We have seen that Chunin are the middle tier of ninjas, not as powerful or skilled as elite Jonin but more experienced than rookie Genin. As we go in to the Chunin Exam, what do you think the Genin should be tested on to prove that they’re ready to go to the next level?
Kara: In the previous episodes, the make-or-break attributes needed to win fights have been observation and adaptability. Knowing your stuff and having skills is important, but everything so far has come down to deconstructing new things on the fly, like Haku’s ice mirrors. To make a weird metaphor, if the Genin Exam is music theory, the Chunin Exam ought to be jazz: you know the basics, now it’s time to prove you have them at your fingertips and can use them creatively. The “observation” bit looks like it’s already being tested a little.
Joseph: I think they should be tested to some extent on their abilities to be, you know, ninja. Other than the tools of the trade, the closest they’ve really come so far is practicing the type of Chakra focus that the newly-introduced Gaara has clearly mastered. We saw as much when he was able to get close to Sasuke without him noticing, and that’s a skill none of our heroes have put on display yet.
Paul: I hope that the Chunin exams aren't so much a test of skill as a test of character. I'd like to see Naruto's resolve – his willingness to continue forward in forging his own Ninja path – challenged in a meaningful way. I'd like to see Sasuke receive a shock that leads to an attitude adjustment so that he can grow as a character and not be so laser-focused on revenge. And I'd like to see Sakura prove that she's capable in her own right.
Danni: Based on what I’ve heard about the Chunin exams I’m guessing it’ll essentially be a tournament arc where they’re pitted in one-on-one battles. We’ve seen some of their training always revolving around learning techniques or teamwork, but the fights against Haku and Zabuza showed they’re a little green when it actually comes to fighting other shinobi. Genin missions seemingly aren’t meant to involve combat, so I think it makes sense that moving in the ranks would require Genin to learn how to defeat their peers.
Noelle: Considering what’s been shown so far, I’d say instinct and flexibility would be the strong suits. The series hasn’t ignored that these are life-threatening situations that these kids are being put in, and having some form of flexibility in the face of danger is incredibly important. Ninja in this world are mercenary soldiers, at the end of the day. If they’d want to move up the ranks, they’d have to show the ability and fortitude to survive. Also, since this is a shonen series, teamwork is a necessity.
Peter: I forgot how ridiculously young Kakashi was when he graduated. I’m actually curious if Gaara sticking to that tree branch was supposed to show how badass he also was. In retrospect that’s pretty funny considering how base expectation that is by the next arc. In the manga Gaara didn’t even discorporate into sand… so I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m not even sure if Kishimoto knew what he was gonna do yet?
Jared: Their general ability and fighting skills is probably a must in terms of what is tested to see how they’re doing. Teamwork is another since it’s been a key point throughout that working together is important. I also want to see if they test them on anything regarding leadership or how to get your team out of dangerous situations. Sort of like a test on quickly improvising a way to get out of trouble.
Carolyn: I mean, after Zabuza and Haku I’d say they get an automatic pass. That being said, I’d like to see more than just fighting and ninja tricks and see them apply critical thinking in the middle of battle. Things along those lines. Show how they would fare mentally.
When the Rewatch started, there was a fair bit of discussion about how good the ending song “Wind” is. How do you feel about the music overall? Any standouts, good or bad?
Kara: I may go to hell for this, but the opening doesn’t really do it for me. It’s all right, but it doesn’t get me pumped for fighting. “Wind,” on the other hand, I absolutely love. I was only familiar with it from back when I hosted anime convention karaoke and at least one person a year would do it—I totally see why now. The music overall, I don’t have a huge amount of opinion on. It fits the bill, but none of it (save for the ending) has really bowled me over yet.
Joseph: I love the first OP and ED, and some of the incidental insert music is great, too. The rest of it is really forgettable and corny, though, especially the repeating track with all the crunchy guitar riffs
Paul: I'm the wrong person to ask about music, but I do like the insert song where they start chanting Ninja invocations in a death metal voice.
Danni: There’s one particular selection of background music that sounds near-identical to the title screen music in Sonic Adventure 2, so I’m pretty satisfied.
Noelle: I’m honestly surprised that there was debate about Wind because from what I remember, people seemed to like it. The fact that translations took a long time to circulate back then made it easier to digest for english-speaking fans. I was always under the impression it’s held up, even after all this time. As for the OP… well, it’s not FLOW’s "Go."
Peter: The guitar riff in "Raising The Fighting Spirit" is legendary. I think we’re about to hit my second favorite OP in the next block, but my favorite Naruto OP will always be "Turning Sadness into Kindness." "Wind" is the best ED, full stop.
Jared: I was actually kind of down on “Wind” initially thinking it’s just alright, but it really has grown on me as we’ve gone through these episodes. The insert songs from the original soundtrack really have a “of their time” sound, but they really seem to work when they’re placed in fight scenes or any dramatic moment.
Carolyn: The very '80s metal riffs that occasionally pop up have had me laughing quite a bit. But in a good way. It’s just a lot of fun.
What were your high and low points of the week?
Kara: High point was absolutely Zabuza going HAM on Gato and his guys. I’ve seen other people in the Rewatch talk about the “moment” for which Naruto clicked for them, and that was it for me. It was when I finally went, “Hell YES, oh my GOD this SHOW.” It was just so over-the-top, it was exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping for when I heard there was cool action in it. Low point is probably things just going straight right back to normal with Naruto and Sasuke after all they went through together… that and Moegi talking about her “adult” allure. No. No no no.
Joseph: My low point is the second half of the showdown against Zabuza and Haku. Once the ice mirrors are in place it really drags, but at least it’s all wrapped up with a solid emotional bow in the end. Speaking of which, my high point is the same as Kara’s. Everything in this batch of episodes is more than worth it for the spectacularly-animated moment in which Zabuza goes absolutely wild.
Paul: High point – Naruto going “Beast Mode” on Haku. Pierrot's animators really outdid themselves for that sequence, and the idea of Naruto contending with the nine-tailed fox spirit sealed within himself hooked me in ways that earlier parts of the story did not. Low point – That bit with the little girl in Konohamaru's group bragging about her sex appeal. I realize she's a kunoichi in training, but that gag rubbed me the wrong way.
Danni: This sequence surprisingly didn’t have a real low point for me. The lowest it ever really got was all the reused animation in the mirror fight leading up to Sasuke learning how to use his Sharingan. It’s hard to choose a high point because there are so many high points in this selection for me. It’s kind of dead heat between Beast mode Naruto and the death of Zabuza, though. The former was the best action the show has had up to this point, while the latter is the most choked up I’ve gotten so far. This was a spectacular set of episodes.
Noelle: I remember being sad about the Zabuza and Haku ending and I can say that hasn’t changed, at all! Naruto sticking up for Haku even after Haku died and Zabuza breaking his cold ruthless facade to show that he really cared about Haku all this time- yep, that still gets me. Naruto does sympathy for the villains fairly well, and that definitely comes full swing here. Also, Zabuza ripping through a crowd of mercenaries, even as he’s critically wounded. As for low points, going back to semi-normal life after having such a dynamic arc feels really off. It’s necessary for arc transitioning, but after that ending, it really felt like mood whiplash.
Peter: Since I’m already acquainted with the story beats I’d have to say the high point is Kyubi Naruto’s battle with Haku. This has probably been the anime’s biggest departure with the manga elaborating on that fight in a few ways. Haku jumping out of the shattered mirror was sick. That said, that death and the conclusion still hurts. Low point was probably realizing truth matched my memory regarding Sakura’s complete lack of participation in that battle.
Jared: This is only because of how we’re watching this and having just general knowledge of this show, but the drawn out Sasuke death bait and switch didn’t have the feel of a true death. Mostly because despite having not watched this show before, I didn’t think they would kill him off this early. The extreme tonal shift from the end of the Zabuza/Haku arc to the beginnings of the Chunin Exam was also strange, but I get why you need a break from the intensity. There were some incredible highs this week though with Naruto’s transformation and Naruto getting through to Zabuza about the way he truly felt about Haku were really, really good.
Carolyn: The moments of real, emotional truth have been high points for me. Kakashi showing Naruto actual death and reminding him this is the path he has chosen as a ninja. Naruto yelling about the way Haku was treated, his lessons about bullying. There were some really great lessons in this batch. The low point, probably Sakura still just having basically nothing to do. She’s kind of sat around for the past several episodes.
Are there any other moments or details that you want to draw attention to?
Kara: Those black and white shots of Naruto using the Nine Tails Chakra for the first time are super trippy… doubly so if you’re on painkillers.
Joseph: While I still think they drag like hell, I kind of dig how these earlier fights are somewhat of a puzzle. In episode 20, the way Naruto says, in English, “Good morning, Sakura-chan” belongs in a dang museum. For my money this is when Naruto really starts to pick up, as they introduce ninja from surrounding lands, some of which are key players moving forward. Also: ROCK LEE!
Paul: I should point out that I legit shed a tear for Zabuza, which is not something I expected to do. It's one thing to make villains that are sympathetic, but it takes a great deal of craft to create a villain that evokes genuine feelings of sorrow and pity, such that despite their evil actions, you can see the damaged person underneath, and you realize how their life could have turned out differently had they not been so hard-done by fate.
Danni: Rock Lee posing like Dwayne ‘The Fannypack’ Johnson
Noelle: Even without my fox bias, Kyubi Naruto is still some really, really cool stuff. Also, Rock Lee. I can’t believe I didn’t like Rock Lee during my first watch, he’s a truly fun kid.
Peter: Something to definitely keep an eye on that I’m noticing way more this time through is just how sociopathic every aspect of ninja society. Haku’s decision to kill his own heart wasn’t him being dramatic, just the base expectation of anyone in their profession. Naruto’s ideals are considered outlandish only because the rest of the world is insane.
Jared: The change in style for Naruto’s transformation during the fight with Haku where it became black and white was awesome. Konohamaru’s Metal Gear Solid tribute was real goofy as well.
Carolyn: How does Naruto want to be a Hokage so bad and have no idea about these exams?
"I'm gonna be Hokage!" count: 12
Ramen consumed: 2 bowls, 3 cups
Shadow Clones: 73
And that's everything for this week! Remember that you're always welcome to join us for this rewatch, especially if you haven't watched the original Naruto!
Here's our upcoming schedule!
-Next week, on FEBRUARY 8th, we'll be covering EPISODES 22-28, hosted by JARED CLEMONS, where we’ll finally see the start of the Chunin Exam and the end of season one! THIS IS THE ONLY INSTALLMENT WE'RE ACCEPTING QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-Then, on FEBRUARY 15th, it's EPISODES 29-34, hosted by DANIEL DOCKERY, where the teams that passed the first exam enter the Forest of Death!
-On FEBRUARY 22nd, DANIEL hosts again with EPISODES 35-41. After the Forest of Death, what could possibly be waiting for the surviving teams?
Thank you for joining us for the Great Crunchyroll Naruto Rewatch! Have a great weekend, and we'll see you all next time!
Have any comments or questions about episodes 15-21? What about our upcoming installment, featuring episodes 22-27?
Kevin Matyi is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. He's been watching anime for as long as he can remember, and his favorite shows tend to be shounen and other action series.
Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!