The forest of death continues and Naruto takes a multi-episode nap
Welcome to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! I'm Daniel Dockery aka That Dude That Won't Shut Up About One Piece, 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 22-28, and we continue this week with episodes 29-35.
This week, the theme is Naruto Minus Naruto, as we lose our title character pretty early on. But despite missing someone shouting about how they're gonna be Hokage one day, this actually seemed to work out pretty well, as it gave our favorite boy Rock Lee and the consistently underrated Sakura a time to shine. Sasuke did some stuff, too, I guess. We also got some bad guy reveals and Gaara being as Gaara as possible. So let's dive right in and let the Crunchyroll Features team give you their thoughts on a batch of episodes that didn't have an ounce of quit in them.
So, not a lot of Naruto in this set of episodes, huh? I mean, we've already gotten to know Sasuke, Sakura, Rock Lee, etc. pretty well so far, so it's not like they can't carry the story, but how do you like the show when the title character spends most of it unconscious?
Paul: I'm fine with it as long as the supporting characters have plenty of interesting things to do. Naruto's personal blend of lunk-headed enthusiasm hasn't really clicked with me yet, so I'm happy to see other characters take center stage now and then, and I like that Sakura finally got a moment to prove her mettle in these episodes.
Peter: This was probably Sakura's biggest moment in Naruto... possibly including Shippuden. I forgot they combined her special haircut scene with the Ino flashback. The whole situation with the sound ninja was kind of a cluster but I felt like that sequence was particularly well-done. Episode 30 is easily the best in the series so far, I forgot how well directed the moment where Sakura realizes she's alone is.
Danni: I've joked in my livetweets that I can't tell whether the main character of this show is Naruto or Sasuke yet, but that kind of became not a joke at all this time around, didn't it? That was kind of a shame, given that his material at the very beginning of this batch where he's chiding Sasuke is great. Luckily, the rest of the cast was great all around in this batch.
Noelle: It is pretty funny to have the protagonist absent, but it's clearly not just wasting time. A lot of stuff happens while Naruto is out cold, especially the big fight where Sakura shines, and she needed to shine! A protagonist doesn't have to be there all the time, even if they are carrying the story, and these segments are proof of that.
Jared: Having Naruto out for most of the episodes really made some other characters step up and gave them a time to shine like Sakura (finally) and Ino's group. You couldn't get away with having him be gone or KO'd all the time, but especially when the show just brought forth all these new characters, it worked.
Kevin: It actually helped to up the stakes a bit and create space for more character development. Sakura hasn't needed to do much until now, since Sasuke and Naruto could fight instead. In this set of episodes, the boys were unconscious the majority of the time, so not only did she need to push herself to look after them, but she also needed to fight opponents that even seasoned Genin like Lee couldn't stand up against. Running or hiding weren't options.
Carolyn: THIS is the Sakura I remembered and have been missing this whole time. I am fine with Naruto sitting out a spell so Sakura can rise.
David: While I like that the other characters are getting the spotlight, I'm also not a huge fan of how they're getting it. Lee? He's allowed to be cool for a little bit, but still has to be undermined by his limitations that also define his character. Sakura? We have to square getting her development with her entire character revolving around Sasuke. Oh, and Sasuke? Got cool powers from the new bad guy, so the whole thing feels a little artificial by the end.
Joseph: It kind of makes it seem like they just didn't know what to do with Naruto while other people have the spotlight, because knowing his character he would have to butt in no matter what, dattebayo! If it paves the way for more episodes like 30, which features out of this world choreography and animation, I'm all for it, dattebayo.
Kara: I'm a Doctor Who fan - having the lead unconscious or straight-up missing for major portions of story is familiar territory. That said, I'm glad it was used to good effect here. I was hesitant coming into the Chunin Exam arc because there are Just So Many Characters, and a lot of them are completely new but clearly important. Giving Nart some down time while we get to know how they work (and how characters we've seen before are growing) was a good idea.
These episodes are sort of bookended by two horrific reveals:
How do you feel about these two? I've been playing a lot of Gaara in Jump Force, but I forgot that he pretty much opens his character arc in the show through intense murder.
Paul: I mentioned this on Twitter before, but although Orochimaru is clearly coded to be this big, scary, impressive villain, he strikes me as the ninja equivalent of that bad friend whom everybody kinda knows but nobody particularly likes. Orochimaru's the kind of guy who would get a little too drunk at the holiday ninja party, and then he'd awkwardly hit on your ninja girlfriend, and then he'd puke on your ninja couch cushion and then flip it over to hide the ninja vomit rather than tell you about it. Damn it, Orochimaru!
Gaara is just a comical murder-baby so far. Again, I know he's supposed to be frightening, but I just think he's a precious little sandy cinnamon roll.
Peter: Given what Orochimaru's done so far, I'm actually curious if Kishimoto had a plan for him at this point. One of this lines in particular speaking with Anko is hilarious in retrospect. I have a new appreciation for Temari and Kankuro. The scene where they were trying to get Gaara to calm down was particularly good. You got a sense of how desperate and afraid they are of Gaara. Also I don't remember Orochimaru using so many... wind ki blasts? I think Kishimoto wasn't sure what powers he had yet.
Danni: I'm a little disappointed that my perfect snake wife was just a creepy old snake man in disguise. I'm honestly more terrified of Gaara right now. Orochimaru seems like he actually has a plan. Gaara just seems a bit...unhinged...
Noelle: I definitely agree with Peter, where Orochimaru in his introduction definitely wasn't as cohesive power-wise, as opposed to the snakes and more snakes that he becomes later. He is set up to be extremely threatening, but at this point, it's definitely more potential than it is factual. As for Gaara, Gaara is one of my faves, even if he starts out as a murder machine. The murder does not stop my appreciation for him. You go, Gaara.
Jared: Now I want a redub of those scenes with Orochimaru except with the Higher Power reveal audio. They certainly make him seem to be a big deal, although it's still relatively shrouded in mystery. Gaara's showing fell incredibly flat for me. Unlike when we first saw him where he had this mysterious aura about him, this just felt like he was made to be the ultimate edgelord. Which if the folks above me are indicating, he gets better, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.
Kevin: For both of them, I feel like their introductions worked well to establish them as serious threats. Orochimaru as a somewhat unknown quantity that even the adults are scared of, while Gaara is a coldblooded Genin that doesn't bat an eye at killing people, to the point that even his teammates fear for their lives when around him. For Orochimaru though, I can't remember any actual reason why he's actually in the Chunin Exam. We'll get to future events in later installments, but why bother actually joining the Genin?
Carolyn: I remember loving Orochimaru the first time I watched the show and thinking he was a major villain. They certainly set him to seem that way. I'm interested to see if my thoughts on that change as we progress. I also remember thinking Gaara was quite impressive and mysterious, though he was never a favorite character of mine. Rewatching the show, they definitely hype up his skills.
David: Gaara having a team that is scared of him is significantly more scary than Orochimaru's clear long-term threat foundation going on here. It's kind of cheating but I think this matters a lot for how impactful this ends up being very soon, whereas Orochimaru's threat is much more broad and lore-spanning in the grand scheme of things.
Joseph: Between Orochimaru, cursed Sasuke, and Gaara, there's so much DANGER in these eps. I love it!
Kara: Holy crow, things got dark. I'm not saying that as a negative, either. I'll be curious to see what happens with Orochimaru, because that's some high-stakes stuff that got thrown into the mix. I had a feeling Gaara was gonna make Sasuke look like a ray of sunshine by comparison, but I'm with Akamaru on that whole situation.
If you had to get into intense anime battles in your actual, half-anime life, and you had to copy a Naruto character's techniques, whose style would you use?
Paul: I will continue to stan for my main man, Choji Akimichi, and his ability to transform into the boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Also, they never kill the chubby comic relief characters, so my plot armor would keep me safe from harm but not from embarrassment.
Peter: I feel like the correct answer is Gaara since you can just stand in place writing poems while sand kills people. Practically I think it's hard to argue that Sasuke doesn't have the most "ninja-like" style incorporating the three "jutsus" and leaning heavily on misdirection and outmaneuvering. Each requires having a pretty particular thing though, so it's kind of a lottery by birth.
Danni: Probably Orochimaru. Less for his actual fighting techniques and more because his Mr. Fantastic powers could come in handy when lounging around the house.
Noelle: Gaara's, having sand do my bidding would be pretty neat, and it's not like I sleep much anyway.
Jared: Rock Lee's techniques are what basically what I imagined myself when I was younger when thinking of having anime type fights.
Kevin: I would probably go for the Sharingan, largely due to how versatile it is. It gives amazing kinetic vision, allowing the user to dodge more and land more hits, lets them copy any ninjutsu the enemy uses, can make [REDACTED], or [REDACTED] or even summon [REDACTED], and that's without even getting into the unique abilities from [REDACTED]! Basically, it allows for a lot of flexible techniques, and just with the slight drawback of [REDACTED].
Carolyn: Ooh, can I redact stuff, too? My favorite hasn't happened yet. Have I mentioned how much I love Shikamaru?
David: Is it wrong to want to be Sasuke just because he gets the most well-animated fight scenes? I want to be as cool as he is in those.
Joseph: I've always been a fan of the Shadow Imitation Technique of the Nara clan. I think this is the first time we've seen it in the anime, but throughout the manga I always found it awesome whenever, BAM, someone found themselves ensared out of nowhere.
Kara: Gonna have to say Ino and the body-hopping. I'm so clumsy, the only way I'll ever effectively beat someone up is if I project into them and beat myself up.
So, Sakura gets a few cool minutes in Episode 32. I especially like the reveal that it wasn't a substitution and that she was actually dropping on Zaku and gutting through those Kunai. However, it's kind of mired in a lot of flashback and a weird "How does my face look?" backstory. How did you feel about it? I will say, for a little bit, I got hyped. Bleeding Sakura descending like Batman on this goon is a dope visual.
Paul: I'm glad Sakura finally got a chance to shine, and I didn't feel that the drama of the scene was terribly undercut by her childhood anxieties about having such an enormous forehead. It contextualizes some of her earlier, snappish behavior, and I was impressed with her growth as a character when she expressed a genuine desire to protect Naruto and when she offered Rock Lee her heartfelt thanks.
Peter: I'm kind of two minds on this watching it for the second time. If anything I feel like her dramatic move was undercut by the fact that there were two more Leaf squads that could have stepped in acting as a sort of safety net rather than anything actually relying on her. That said, I think the balance between her efforts in the moment and Ino remembering the extremely dumb stupid kid reason they stopped being friends was great.
Danni: I adored it. A woman's body in media is often portrayed as a priceless work of art. It's an object whose fragile beauty is meant to be fawned over and protected. The slightest mark of imperfection is detrimental to the whole piece. This either leads to strong women whose bodies remain unscathed or weak women whose bodies exist to be tragically violated. Seeing Sakura use her own body as both a weapon and a shield in this fight was nothing less than refreshing. She cast aside the beauty of her long hair, took three kunai to the body in order to get closer than her target, straight up sunk her teeth into him like a wild animal, and took a beating without flinching or letting go. It was so incredibly refreshing to see a woman actually fight with her whole body rather than an objectified version of one.
Noelle: This is Sakura's big awesome moment, and she nailed it. She doesn't have signature jutsu like Naruto's clones or Sasuke's fire - all she really has are perfected versions of the basics. That she's able to use her intellect to her advantage; setting traps, tricking her opponents, it works for her character. The fact that she is unyielding is fantastic, considering that in a lot of anime fight scenes featuring women it it's rarely conveyed just how brutal they can get. Sakura's desperately fighting, and she will take kunai and even bite her opponents if it means she can help her friends. It's rough, messy, and great. Let girls have brawls too!
Jared: I'm a huge fan of the "cutting your hair to signify a big change" trope, so I was incredibly excited to see it here. This moment for Sakura was essentially what I'd been waiting for this entire time with her and it delivered. I was kind of surprised how much backstory we got here, but I think it fit well with everything that was happening around them with Sakura and Ino. Everything about how she attacks Zaku felt like she was desperately doing anything she could to survive, which included things like biting and not letting go. Plus, I'm surprised they showed her bloodied up.
Kevin: To put it this way, Sakura faking out Zaku is both my highest and lowest point of the week. I love that we finally got to see her fight and even out think her opponent, and I was even okay with seeing Ino struggle with their history when deciding how to act, seeing her friend-turned-rival in trouble. They probably could have cut one or two of the flashbacks and lost nothing from the storytelling though.
Carolyn: I actually loved the flashbacks explaining her desire for long hair to impress Sasuke and her rivalry for his heart mixed in with Sakura being an awesome fighter. We saw where she came from and we see where she's headed. Her cutting off her hair (epic) was not just a clever tactic, it was her moving past her fickle, shallow priorities and stepping up. (And incidentally, finally winning Sasuke's respect.) I liked that contrast and I thought it made her powerful moments more meaningful.
David: I don't like how being feminine was presented so constantly as a negative thing in the lead up to her 'level up', especially because it got immediately followed up by a line from Shikamaru to Choji about how they need to be the 'men' of the situation. I also don't like how it didn't end up even really helping the situation, but Sasuke's unintentional powerup did. I do like how the story clearly realized how drastically it was underutilizing its main female characters and tried to rectify that as well as it could within the characterization it had already established for them. So, basically, I like that it ended up where it was, but I wish it didn't have to do that in the first place.
Joseph: Sakura's moment makes up for a lot of her inaction in previous episodes. It made it feel like a much more significant turn, and I think it's another great argument for the power of anime adaptations in taking certain aspects of the source material to the next level. I would also be remiss not to mention how major of a role she played in stopping Sasuke after he awakened to some straight-up Final Fantasy IV midi cover music.
Kara: Sakura's characterization grew three sizes this week! Normally I have nothing against romance or a crush being a motivator (people in the real world act that way sometimes), but I was getting second-hand embarrassment whenever everyone and their mother used her emotions against her because she was that much of an open book. She was seriously dope in episode 32, and I do like that she didn't drop her feelings so much as compartmentalize them. Was it perfect? No. Was it better than what we've seen for the last few weeks? Very much. Plus we've spent so much time being told she knows her stuff, it was nice to see it in action.
If you've read the manga, how do you feel about the pacing of the anime at this point?
Peter: I appreciate they're not trying to draw things out, past a few recap episodes. The only real filler we've gotten was a few more social scenes that ultimately helped build up the individual Team 7 members more so I'm good with them. Visually the series uses the manga as a direct roadmap the majority of the time but the departures, like in Naruto's fight against Haku, were extremely good.
Noelle: It's definitely a little slower, especially since you can read the same amount content much faster than you can watch it. Different mediums lend to different speeds. At the same time, it's not significantly slower - not like One Piece - so it's pretty tolerable. I can't say I have much complaints with the pacing.
David: It's gotten slower recently, but it's still MUCH better than I expect from long-running shonen adaptations even today. I never feel like a half hour isn't used effectively, which is impressive.
Joseph: They've chopped a few minutes off the absurdly long flashbacks at the start of each episode, so it's much punchier now than when it was covering the Zabuza fight. The adaptation nails some of the big moments, so I think they do a fantastic job of making the most out of Kishimoto's story and characters.
Last but not least, what was everyone's high and low points for this week, along with anything else you want to shout out?
Paul: My high point was the fight between Sasuke and Orochimaru in Episode 30. Pierrot's animation team really pulled out all the stops for that one, and I was frankly blown away by how well-staged it was, especially since the previous episode was so janky, to the point where it gave us the "Naruto, you look kind of cool" silly face meme. My low point was the reveal that Rock Lee's ultimate technique is just a glorified Izuna Drop. I was disappointed by that, because I was expecting something really far out there.
Peter: I'd have to say everyone involved had a low moment against the sound ninja. Rock Lee could have actually just kicked the guys head off so I'm not sure why he pulled out his ultimate technique. The master strategist Shikamaru really handled the InoShikaCho combo poorly (why not just have Ino knock the paralyzed guy out then 3v1 the last guy?). Feels like there were too many cooks in the kitchen while Kishimoto was trying to let Sakura stand on her own. High point was Sasuke's epic fight against Orichimaru... or maybe Gaara being Goth Prime?
Danni: If you can't guess already, the high point of this batch for me is Sakura's battle. Naruto snapping Sasuke out of his daze and the whole fight between Sasuke and Orochimaru are close runner-ups. I can't say there were any real low, low points for me in this batch, but I could have done without the whole prolonged tension of them debating whether or not to open the scroll simply for them to move on without opening it. I really feel like that could have been a lot more condensed.
Noelle: It has to be Sakura's battle. She's the last member of the team who hasn't really had a moment of growth, as she's mostly been stuck fawning over Sasuke. Now she has a moment of her own, to show that she really can be one of their peers in combat, not just because she's assigned to be alongside them. Sasuke vs Orochimaru was also fantastic to watch. Low points would probably be the Sound Ninja fight when Sakura wasn't the highlight, it felt a little too long.
Jared: The true answer here is Sakura finally getting her moment as the high point. The flow of these episodes just kept moving until the end where things really slowed down, but that makes sense. Sasuke pulling out a Canadian Destroyer (front flip piledriver) was something I absolutely wasn't expecting. Maybe my low points would be Gaara's fight and then Naruto wanting to open up the scroll since it felt way too obvious that he'd do that.
Kevin: Sakura's fight somehow managed to be both the best and worst moments. The best moment was when she uses Substitution multiple times to trick her opponent into giving her an opening, even though she needed to take multiple kunai wounds in the process. It was awesome to see her thinking, and there might've even been a bit of Naruto rubbing off on her, given how brazen the plan was. Unfortunately, it led to the end of her plan... biting Zaku's arm and just holding on as he kept punching her head. Great plan, Sakura.
Carolyn: The squirrel and the hair cut were high points for me. Also, just seeing everyone have respect for each other. Sakura thanks Rock Lee, Rock Lee acknowledges Sasuke's ability. Good stuff.
David: It might not sound like it so far, but Sakura's fight is my high point for not just this bit, but the entirety of the show - it's one of the defining moments of the series to me, something that has stuck with me for decades at this point. So, criticisms aside, that matters a lot to me. Low point is how even when the show is trying to make Lee cool is still undermines him just as quickly, making it hard to believe it really appreciates his struggle.
Joseph: Episode 30 is an all-timer, so that's gotta be my high point. The low point was probably the Sound Ninja. Their powers are cool, and I understand jutsu is a term encompassing techniques in a wide swath, but to me they just had prosthetics and weapons. Hey, check out my jutsu *pulls out a gun*.
Kara: Can't decide between Sasuka vs. Orochimaru or Sakura finally Doing Things as my high point. Really liked both. Low point was probably every time I had to see Naruto squiggling around in snake guts.
"I'm gonna be Hokage!" count: 14
Bowls of ramen consumed: 2 bowls, 3 cups
Shadow Clones: 115
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 22ND, we’re looking at EPISODES 36-42 as I, DANIEL DOCKERY, IN MY TRUE BEAST FORM, 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 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!
-On MARCH 8th, we move on to the final stage of the Chunin Exam with EPISODES 50-56, hosted by CAROLYN BURKE!
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?
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. He has a Twitter that he uses.
Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!