It's time to dive into the Chunin Exams with a written test and a forest with deadly implications
Welcome to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! I'm Jared Clemons, 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 15-21, and we continue this week with episodes 22-28.
Welcome to Rock Lee appreciation week! I think Rock is further proof that if you’re confident enough to pull off a bowl cut, then you’re a force to be reckoned with. This set of episodes had a nice flow to them that broke up the action that was there at the beginning and end, while also having a rather intense written quiz where everyone got to show off their skills. The recap episode does try to break up that flow, but it picks right back up afterwards. Also, how’d Yawn from Resident Evil make its way into the Forest of Death and eat Naruto?
Before we discuss these episodes, let's check out some questions and comments you had from our last installment!
“Is the number of Shadow Clones for Naruto alone or also counting Kakashi-sensei's clones at the end of the Zabuza battle?”
Let’s hand this over to our counting statistician Kevin! “I'm counting every Shadow Clone I can, Naruto and otherwise (so yes, Kakashi's are included). The only clones I'm skipping are the ones where there are simply too many in a scene to practically count (like in the first episode) and when it seems to be a variable amount.”
“I think they are forgetting this is a shonen anime/manga. Females tend to be there for decoration as the boys relate to the male main characters.”
Check out The Promised Neverland every Thursday, here on Crunchyroll!
Normally we pass it to the Crunchyroll Features team here, but since we’ve started the Chunin Exams, IT’S TIME FOR A POP QUIZ!
How would you cheat on the first Chunin Exam?
A: Use some form of jutsu to find the answers and give them to your team.
B: Use an animal or object to scour the classroom for answers.
C: Just look at the test beside you, what could possibly go wrong?
D: Cheating? I’ll just answer these questions honestly.
The Features team answered as such:
A: Noelle (I originally put 2, then I remembered the exam was a test-based group project)
B: Paul, Kevin, Joseph
C: David, Carolyn (Here’s the thing, you can get caught five times. Just be blatant, get it done in one shot, and you’re good.)
D: Nate, Kara, Danni (I was so straight-laced in school that I wouldn’t even think that the answer was in fact to cheat. I’d probably end up with a blank sheet like Naruto.), Peter (I was actually a straight A student in college so, if that tracks, I’d be the Sakura. That said, when I grasped the actual purpose of the test, I’d answer incorrectly then rewrite everything at the very end instead of what she did.)
We’d also like to hear from you! Leave your answer in the comments down below and we’ll tally up the results next week to see how you’d deal with the first Chunin Exam!
Now, let's see what the Crunchyroll Features team thought of this week's episodes!
This set of episodes is bookended with two different types of fights. Rock Lee’s test of strength against Sasuke (and briefly Naruto) kicks things off, and at the end we have the psychological battle against Shiore in the Forest of Death. What did you think about how these fights differed and did you have a preference of one or the other?
Kevin: I definitely preferred Rock Lee versus Sasuke. Sure, the stakes are higher in the Forest of Death, but Sasuke versus Lee has significantly higher personal stakes. Sasuke keeps being shown as the strongest of the Genin to the point that he can even prove troublesome for Jonin, and then Lee doesn’t even go all out to defeat him, not out of disrespect, but out of some kind of mystery block on some of his abilities that he is not supposed to remove for currently unknown reasons.
Paul: I prefer the fight between Sasuke and Rock Lee, although it's tough to judge, since neither fight really reaches a conclusion in the episodes we viewed this week. Despite Rock Lee's clear advantage in the initial confrontation, Sasuke and Rock Lee still have unfinished business, and the fight with Shiore is ongoing. I prefer the presentation of Rock Lee's Taijutsu skills over Shiore's snake-based abilities, which are either Genjutsu or Ninjutsu.
Noelle: Definitely Rock Lee vs Sasuke. I know by now everyone knows the basics of Naruto due to its widespread popularity, but that fight introduced something knew. It also shows that it isn’t just against trained assassins that Sasuke has trouble with, but with his own peers as well. Shiore’s fight is a different kind of fight, but it still isn’t as dynamic (so far).
Joseph: Pop me in the general consensus so far, as well. I love the way Rock Lee just kind of embarrasses Sasuke with his mastery of Taijutsu. It’s very different to what we’ve seen so far, skill-wise, and it’s a fantastic character introduction in general.
Carolyn: Rock Lee will always have my heart. I remember identifying with him a lot when I was younger because he was so awkward and motivated (maybe possibly because he was pushed to be). I forgot how he was so willing to call people out. I’m sure Sasuke could stand to realize he’s not superior.
Peter: I have NO clue why the fight against that jobber ninja who first pretended to be Naruto was better animated than Rock Lee. I’m starting to really notice that Kishimoto gave Naruto and Sasuke distinct fight psychologies by having Naruto always coming up with new fakes and Sasuke new kinetic moves. Which is pretty much why Sasuke gets all the good sakuga. That shuriken foot throw was choice. That said I love how they adapted Shiore’s killing intent opener. Really gave her a creepy feel.
Kara: I like them both because they seem to embody the polar opposites of the show for me. We’ve got Rock Lee over on one side with the general rivalry and tests of strength, where it’s entertaining but there’s no real feeling of threat. It’s just fun to watch them fight. Then we’ve got Shiore over here who looks like someone shook a Junji Ito manga ‘til she fell out, and I simultaneously love where that fight is going and am utterly horrified by it. We were starting to see some serious ish with the Zabuza and Haku fight, but note this down as the sort of thing I never expected to see.
Danni: It’s a tough choice between the two. Conceptually, I like the battle in the forest because of how frankly horrifying it is. I’m second-guessing how real everything I’m seeing is because of how mind-bending it is so far, and I can’t wait to see Naruto’s counterattack. His mindset may end up being much more attuned to an enemy like this one. That being said, I LOVE ROCK LEE. He is my absolute favorite character so far. Genius vs. Effort is a very anime thing that I never get tired of, and I’m glad to see Effort may have the upper hand so far, especially when Effort is as dorky and earnest as Rock Lee.
David: Actually going to give it to the Shiore fight. Not that I don’t appreciate how plucky and fun Rock Lee is, but so far the show hasn’t had a character manage to be so frightening while also, strictly speaking, doing almost nothing at all, and it totally works. Also, it ends (so far) with Naruto’s best line yet: “The password...I forgot it!”
We meet a lot of new characters and are reintroduced to some we briefly met thanks to the Chunin Exams. Are there any standout characters thus far from what we’ve seen?
Nate: This show is now the Rock Lee Power Hour--also this is where I think most folks start deciding who their real favorite characters are. I mean, we all have a favorite from Team 7 and from the handful of side characters, but now it's really on.
Kevin: Obviously Rock Lee is a standout since he even got his own fight scene and multiple scenes establishing how powerful but odd he is. Outside of the best boy in Naruto… I seriously went down the list of characters who have been introduced in the past 10 or so episodes to see who had had the most impact, and after Lee was Kiba, mainly due to being the only character I can think of who always has a dog as a hat. Many of the Genin grow in to their own over time, but Lee is the only one with a particularly strong introduction.
Paul: There were a lot of new characters with slick new abilities, but I'm still waiting for my main man Choji Akimichi's time to shine. Potato chip ninja for life!
Noelle: Rock Lee appreciation, all the way. This series has a huge cast of characters, for better or for worse, but as of right now, Lee is the only one who’s made a dynamic introduction so far. He’s so different from the rest of the characters, in abilities and personality, and there’s no way you can ignore him.
Joseph: Is there an echo in here, because I love Rock Lee, baby!
Carolyn: Obviously, love Rock Lee. But have always been a fan of Shikamaru, as well. The bored underachiever who is actually very smart. Great kid.
Peter: I couldn’t get over how Naruto described Hinata during her introduction. Tenten’s cheating strategy was by far my favorite and just another reason I feel like she got robbed later on in the series. I took so many screenshots of Sakura being a brat too. Forgot Rock had a thing for her.
Kara: Rock Lee is awesome and all, but have you seen Akamaru? What a good boy. No one told me there would be a good doggo. I’m so happy.
Danni: I would die for Rock Lee.
David: Kiba gets not just one but TWO chances to show off how cool he and Akamaru are here, between using dogspeak to cheat and the slug trap in the forest.
Our first opening and ending switch has occured as we now move into season two with "Far Away" and "Harmonia". What are your thoughts on these new songs and how do you think they compare to "R★O★C★K★S" and "Wind"?
Nate: "Far Away" is probably the most beloved Naruto OP by a long shot--it's just so badass, and Asian Kung-fu Generation rarely disappoints. Seeing all the teams and setting it to this awesome song just opens up Naruto's world--it's more than just Team 7 now. "Harmonia" is pretty cool and very catchy, but "Wind" hits so much harder.
Kevin: Throughout the first 25 episodes, I basically never watched the opening, and almost always watched the ending. Far Away and Harmonia reversed that. I love the screaming vocals and establishing shots of the various Leaf Genin as much as I did as a kid.
Paul: Again, I'm the wrong person to ask about music, but I prefer the new opening theme (“Far Away”) to the first one (“R★O★C★K★S”) and the original ending theme (“Wind”) to the second one (“Harmonia”). The animation with the dancing Sakura and Ino struck me as just kinda bizarre.
Noelle: “Far Away” is just good. Hearing it is a flood of positive nostalgia, and reminds me of just how much fun the series can be. It’s a great song, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s classic still holds up after all this time. “Harmonia” is an okay song, but the animation of Sakura and Ino dancing and pining after Sasuke feels like a weird add-on. “Wind” was so emotionally powerful and now it’s a feel-good song about girls with crushes that don’t really get touched upon. As such, “Harmonia” feels much flatter in comparison-- following up the first ending is a hard act, and it didn’t really succeed.
Joseph: As much as I enjoyed the first, Asian Kung-Fu Generation really killed it with this OP. I was sad to see “Wind” go as the ED, but all good things must come to an end.
Carolyn: First OP is best OP just because it is so cheesy and I love that. “Wind” is beautiful. I have to favor it over “Harmonia.”
Peter: "Far Away" is far and away better than "Rocks." The three man squad setup always gave Naruto OPs really cool ways of showing off each ninja team together. That rotating camera is great. "Wind" is the best ED though. Still waiting on "Turning Sadness into Kindness."
Kara: I actually prefer “Far Away” to “Rocks.” I feel a lot more primed to watch people beat each other up after listening to it (which is a good thing, honest). “Harmonia” is no “Wind,” but it’s cute—I’m just not sure about the dancing Ino and Sakura. There’s something a little uncanny about them that I can’t put my finger on.
Danni: Of course an opening that rips as hard as “Far Away” could only come from Asian Kung Fu Generation. I liked the last one, but holy cow “Far Away” kicks butt. “Harmonia” is maybe a little too cutesy for a shonen show. “Wind” had much more emotional impact.
David: I was straight-up never a fan of the faux-80s sound of Rocks, so I was very excited when Far Away finally showed up. On the flip side, Wind ended up surprising me and I won’t be surprised if it ends up being one of the most memorable pieces of music in the whole show by the end.
The first full recap episode finally happens with episode 26. It’s interesting and bizarre with how it breaks the fourth wall throughout and is told through an interview style. Did this style make it easier to watch or were you just ready to see what the Forest of Death brought?
Kevin: It is one of the few episodes thus far that I have paused to go look at other things every few minutes. The fourth wall breaks were enjoyable in a way, I just didn’t care for the recap, especially since Konohamaru was involved.
Paul: Recap episodes are such a drag. While the fourth wall-breaking gags were cute, I much prefer Gintama's take on these things, where they'll have 11 minutes of background shots while the voice actors rag on how lazy the animators are and how they're running out of time and budget. I'm really keen on seeing all of the over-the-top shenanigans in the Forest of Death, so I didn't really appreciate the interruption.
Noelle: I’m okay with recap episodes not happening, they just feel like a waste of time. Unless it’s something that makes the recap fun to watch in its own right, then it’s a very clear ‘okay, you’re obviously just trying to pad the season’. Like Paul said, Gintama does a great job with this. But if it’s just a straight-up recap, that’s boring, no thanks.
Joseph: This was a very sly recap episode, but a recap nonetheless. I usually use eps like this as an opportunity to write about anime while I half-watch anime.
Carolyn: I’m usually bored with recaps, but I do appreciate the effort applied to make this one sort of unique.
Peter: I basically let it play in the background while scrolling through Twitter, sorry.
Kara: I tried reminding myself that Naruto was pre-binge-watching culture, pre-streaming, pre-all that. There were certainly ways in 2003 to get previous episodes, but supplying a straightforward recap introducing the main cast may have been beneficial to them half a year in. Even so, I’ve seen much better recap episodes that accomplish much more. I just wanted to get to the death forest, honestly.
Danni: The opening bit commenting about how there would be no Prince of Tennis that week was pretty funny, but once the recap began I pretty much just zoned out til the end.
David: The best part of the whole experience is the (probably?) unintentional comedy at the beginning of the episode, where, while Konohamaru and Naruto run back and forth and bicker, the entire rest of the cast is standing completely still in the background staring at the event. I could hardly believe they let that go.
Last but not least, what was everyone’s high and low points for this week, along with anything else you want to shout out?
Kevin: The written exam is something that I enjoy so much that I still remembered much of it, even years since having watched it. Combining intel gathering techniques for the first part and culminating with needing to have the guts to potentially end your career as the final question is both great for tension and could realistically be a test that ninjas would take if this society actually existed.
A moment that I want to shout out is actually a personal one. This is one of the first shows that my older sister and I watched together and talked about when we were younger. I found it really cool that she realized that Team 7 were basically showing off different intel gathering techniques: Sakura knew the answers going in, Sasuke realized how to obtain them in the moment, and Naruto couldn’t get the answers on his own so relied on others.
Paul: My high point was definitely the written portion of the Chunin Exam, which I describe as “the most shonen thing ever combined with the most Japanese education system thing ever”. I loved the conceit that the true purpose of the test was to cheat without getting caught, and I loved all of the far-out ninja powers on display. My low point was definitely the recap episode. I understand why such things are necessary from the viewpoint of a weekly broadcast, but that's now how I want to consume my anime.
Noelle: The written exam is fun. It’s a really clever way to weed out the crowd, and seeing everyone realize that yes, cheating is necessary and finding different ways to do so. Everyone using their talents not for combat, but to find information is clever, and adds a necessary element to the series. Not everything is punching and being flashy (even if admittedly, most of the series is). I remember this the most strongly out of the Chunin Exams, much more so than the other two. Low point, recaps.
Joseph: I love the twist of the 10th and final question in episode 25. Naruto is still early on but it already has a habit of introducing characters who are very strict and have a history of presenting students with impossible odds. That Ibiki's torture techniques skew toward the psychological is a fitting final test for would-be ninja.
I also greatly enjoy Naruto's little turd attitude in this and other episodes in the batch. From his blatant bluff at the end of the written exam to him mocking the Forest of Death, his brash idiocy is now endearing. As for the low point? The recap, I guess. This was a fun series of episodes.
Carolyn: Naruto was 100 percent correct about the final question long before the guidelines for it were ever announced. I loved that. It still shows his capacity for intelligence and rational thought even while everyone around him treats him like a lughead. Also, just watching all the inventive ways the kids tried to cheat on the test was very entertaining.
Peter: High point for me was probably Sasuke’s dumb password then Naruto dropping back in and saying just what Sakura had predicted in the middle of an extremely serious and creepy scene. Also we’re getting into the highs of Naruto combat animations. Low point, I suppose having to sit through the exam again it feels like they REALLY over explained the rules even with the psychological double bluff going on.
Nate: The written exam is one of my all-time favorite parts of Naruto, letting a whole bunch of side characters shine--it's always great to revisit this part of the story. What's not so great is getting a whole episode of recaps when the Land of Waves arc was already really bad about recaps overstaying their welcome.
Kara: Nate mentioned to us at one point that the written exam was really good, and I remember thinking he must have been overselling it. But there I was, sitting through multiple episodes of kids taking a written test and really enjoying it. Low point was, once again, Moegi talking about her “adult sexiness.” Someone have a word with her, my God. On another positive note, gotta give a quick shout-out to Rock Lee and Might Guy’s scene after the fight with Sasuke. I am here for ludicrous hot-blooded training.
Danni: I had quite a few high points this time around. The scene with Rock and Guy was so outrageous and out there that it was probably the funniest the show has ever been. It really helped endear me to those two. The fourth wall breaking bit in the recap episode was also pretty funny. However I think the high, high point for me is the simple moment where Sasuke and Sakura look into the current antagonist’s eyes and see all the different ways she might kill them. It’s presented in such a raw and unique way compared to the rest of the show. It hit hard. Lowest point was of course having to sit through another recap episode.
David: The written exam as a whole is absolutely great, but the single highest point here is the very end where Naruto crashes into the intense scene between Shiore and his teammates, completely destroys the atmosphere, and manages to come off the coolest he’s ever been while doing so. I don’t want to keep ragging on the recap episode, so I want to use this space to mention that Kabuto is a huge creep hanging out with these kids as well as a snitch, and he needs to stop interrupting people when they are talking.
"I'm gonna be Hokage!" count: 14
Bowls of ramen consumed: 2 bowls, 3 cups
Shadow Clones: 112
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 15TH, we’re looking at EPISODES 29-35 as DANIEL DOCKERY hosts as the Forest of Death continues to torment! THIS IS THE ONLY INSTALLMENT WE'RE ACCEPTING QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-Then, on FEBRUARY 22ND, it’s EPISODES 36-42 with DANIEL pulling double duty as we see how many teams escape the Forest of Death!
-On MARCH 1ST, we’ll talk about EPISODES 43-49 as NATE MING returns as we enter into one-on-one competition including a showdown between Rock Lee and Gaara!
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 22-28? What about our upcoming installment, featuring episodes 29-35? Don't forget to answer our Pop Quiz as well!