Say goodbye to the woods and hello to some sweet one-on-one combat
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 29-35, and we continue this week with episodes 36-42.
This week, the theme is Leaving The Forest For Some Rad One-On-Ones. The next stage of the Chunin exam starts as the passing teams leave the Forest of Death and are now randomly placed in a series of one-on-one fights. Those that have watched the show know that we're basically counting down to Rock Lee's classic fight against Gaara, but there are some fights here that shouldn't be ignored, particularly the one involving Sakura and Ino. But we'll get to that soon. For now, let's dive right in and talk about the hot button political issue that's on everyone's minds these days: shadow clones.
How do you feel about the use of clones in Naruto? I remember not liking them for some weird reason back in high school, but now I like how dynamic they can make the action scenes sometimes. Do you think they're overused? Have a lot more potential?
Paul: I wouldn't say Naruto's Shadow Clone technique is over-used. They keep allowing enough time to pass that I forget it's his main technique, and they also keep coming up with creative ways to use it (exploding a giant snake from within, disguising as a giant shuriken, disguising as his team mates to get the drop on an enemy, etc.), so I like how it's a fairly well-defined power that is made interesting by the versatile ways Naruto uses it to solve problems.
Joseph: Yeah, it's used creatively enough and it's a cool technique to begin with. I just feel bad for the animators who realize they need to draw a dozen of the same character fighting a dozen of another character for an upcoming scene.
Kevin: I am literally counting every single shadow clone each week, so clearly you were not alone in thinking that they are overused. Personally, I quite like that Naruto actually tries to be clever with how he uses them, transforming them to overcome an otherwise difficult situation several times already. Later on, we'll see other uses, and both Shippuden and Boruto expand on the idea even further, so there is a lot of untapped potential to come.
Kara: I've seen them used creatively, which is kind of neat. At the same time, that creative use of them has made me super paranoid. We've seen Clone Jutsu combined with the Transformation Technique on multiple occasions already. It's made for some cool diversions and unexpected wins, but I'm getting to a point where I'm not even sure who's really onscreen in battles. If that's the point, fair play to the creators.
David: For now it's ok, used sparingly and diversely enough that when it is the "twist" in a fight I'm usually into it. Genjutsu as a whole is more what I have a problem with, especially as the series goes on - when nothing you are looking at is ever necessarily even real, it can become hard to get invested in fights.
Peter: I'm noticing a lot more my second round though how Naruto uses them only exclusively for deception. Just about every real threat can KO Naruto pretty easily so it's all about misdirection. One thing I'm loving about Boruto is that he uses them a lot more kinetically, redirecting and accelerating himself in various ways using his clones and wind jutsu as springboards. It's a cool twist.
Jared: If the clones were an overpowered ability, it'd probably be much worse, but as it stands, I think they're fine. Especially since for the most part they've been used for deception in Naruto's case. The only times when it feels excessive is when Naruto creates a butt ton of clones and they aren't that effective, outside of blowing up a big snake.
Danni: I wouldn't say they're overused. Every ninja in this show seems to have their one "thing" they're great at, we just see the Shadow Clones the most since Naruto is the protagonist. I do hope he develops more techniques as he gets more experience as a ninja, but for now I'm content seeing how creatively he uses his clones.
Nate: I always love seeing simple abilities used in creative ways, and since the idea of Shadow Clones are so synonymous with the idea of a "ninja" in fiction, it's cool to see Naruto use them so extensively. Also as Peter pointed out, it's really cool to see the different ways Naruto, and later Boruto, individually use Shadow Clones.
Carolyn: I don't mind them, for the most part. It does occasionally become a bit much, but I think they generally do a good job of creating danger without simply overwhelming the scene with nothing but clones.
Noelle: I think they're pretty alright. I feel like a 'special move' only becomes repetitive when it's used in the same way, over and over again, but the series is doing a good job of avoiding that. Every time Naruto's clones come out, he uses them in a different way, so it's still unpredictable how they will be used. As long as they don't become one-note, I don't have any issue.
Well, the Forest of Death is over. How did you like it? Think you could pass it? Have any recommendations for streamlining or expanding the next Forest of Death phase?
Paul: There's no way I would pass The Forest of Death; I'd get eaten by leeches or a giant snake within the first 10 minutes. My only recommendation for streamlining the experience would be not to stuff a recap episode right before it gets going, because it breaks the rhythm of the story arc.
Joseph: If anything, the anime could have built upon this test without venturing too deep into filler territory. I would have liked to see more of the natural dangers of the forest, AKA more of those massive centipedes. The one thing Naruto's world is missing so far is a sense of peril outside of the ninja-versus-ninja action.
Kevin: Easiest answer first: I'd die immediately. As for whether I liked it: it is enjoyable to watch, but it is probably the weakest of the tests, largely due to the overlapping stories making each individual thread more difficult to follow. For streamlining the test, I would recommend introducing Orochimaru earlier, maybe as the leader of the Sound ninja like how he appears in the third test preliminaries room, so that all of his plot stuff can start before the Forest of Death, and so more time can be devoted to the Genins' actual survival and tracking.
Kara: I can't pretend I wouldn't have tried to sneak a peek at my scroll and thought I was being super stealthy about it. I'd just be lying out there like a free snack for the forest critters.
David: I enjoyed it overall but if I were to change one thing it would actually be to put Orochimaru later; the intensity of that conflict incidentally wound up mostly overshadowing everything that came after it. Really a nitpick though, because other than that I have nothing but good things to say. The Sound Ninja sure are cool.
Peter: Lowkey love the forest more than the subsequent tournament(s). Putting characters against one another in a featureless room is one thing, but juggling multi-person fights in a massive, multi-level forest environment is something else. You absolutely cannot skip this arc. Sasuke vs Orochimaru is one of the best fights in the series and Sakura gets one of her best moments. OK, maybe after the Sound trio fight...
Jared: I'm a goner like thirty minutes into this test. Some big bug's gonna come across me and I'm just gonna fall over and tap out. The only thing I could see being expanded upon is just the actual forest being more of a threat since most of those kind of just get taken care of fairly quickly and moved on from.
Danni: If you told me that I have to spend five days in a forest I would give up before the test even began. I really enjoyed this part of the exams. It not only had some fantastic fights but also some of the best character moments in the show. It really gave more of the rookies time to shine, which I appreciated. I think the one change I would make would be to stop letting super murderous legendary ninjas infiltrate it and attack the genin. Someone really should have said something.
Carolyn: I mean, I've never even been camping ...
Noelle: I think I enjoyed Forest of Death better upon the rewatch than I did originally. My first run as a kid, I knew plot-important stuff happened, but it wasn't what I was interested in, so I didn't care for it much. That's still pretty true- it's not my favorite portion of the Chuunin Exams, but looking at it with an analytical eye vs purely consuming it has done it some favors. Would I survive the exam? It's not impossible, but I can't say my chances look good.
We're now beginning a string of one-on-one matches, which is honestly something that I've been waiting for since Naruto began. First time watchers: Did you think that there would be more at this point?
Paul: I didn't know what to expect, but I'd like to point out that putting another preliminary test in the form of elimination style deathmatches in between The Forest of Death and the final test of the Chunin Exams seems like a really crummy thing to do. But, hey, ninja aren't exactly known for playing fair...
Joseph: Ah, the requisite shonen pseudo-tournament. I'm a sucker for these, and there's a lot of battle variety in what we've seen so far here. Also, we finally got our first really gross power in the form of parasitic chakra-eating insects. More gross powers, please!
Kara: I'm not a big watcher of shonen anime, so the whole drawn-out story arcs/fights thing has always been kind of a joke at best for me. Now actually engaging with it? I... really kind of like it. I come primarily from giant robot and magical girl fandoms, and I love over-the-top fights. I was worried I'd be bored by this long string of one-on-one matches, but I'm actually digging it a lot.
Peter: This is just Kishimoto flexing all over other shonen authors. "Yeah, I think I've got like 20 unique fighting styles I can break out for all these side characters." One thing I love in particular is how gross/horrifying a lot of powers are and the characters react appropriately. No one is getting anywhere near Shino for the foreseeable future.
Jared: Having watched/read shonen series in the past, I'm not too surprised we haven't gotten a ton of one-on-one fights. Given how many characters we've been introduced to, it makes sense it's been a lot more group fights. Plus, with some of these early prelim fights basically being jobber matches, maybe it's a good thing this didn't happen until now.
Danni: I have been a bit surprised at how many of the battles thus far have been group affairs. My understanding is this is the tournament arc-equivalent for Naruto, and tournament arcs are always the best arcs.
Carolyn: I was also surprised that it took so long to really get into the one-on-one type battles because I remember that arc as being my favorite on my first watch. I'm actually quite glad there haven't been too many up to this point, I feel like that makes the tournament arc stand out even more.
And, because I love asking people what their favorite fight in a particular anime is, I'll ask it here: Favorite fight in Naruto thus far?
Paul: There are so many great fight sequences to choose from, but I'll be basic and say that my current favorite is the Sakura vs. Ino match because it offers another opportunity for Sakura to shine and because I'm a sucker for anything involving a cross-counter punch or a double-knockout finish.
Joseph: I love me some puppet trickery so I gravitated toward Misumi Tsurugi vs. Kankurō.
Kevin: ... Any chance you can ask again next week? If I have to answer for the fights thus far, probably Haru versus Sasuke/Naruto. I ragged on the fight when it happened because the characters could literally just run 20 feet to get away, but it showcased various character motivations, advanced Naruto and Sasuke's relationship and gave the audience a glimpse of the Nine-Tailed Fox's power, all while being one of the highest stakes fights thus far.
Kara: Sakura vs. Ino. I feel like I'm finally getting all that Sakura characterization I've been wanting for weeks, and I enjoy the way it's paced between the action sequences. Plus I'm a fan of getting creative with jutsus, so Ino's hair rope got me. Mainly, though, it's cool to see two people so equally matched that they just straight up knocked each other out.
David: I can't decide between, well, literally any of Sasuke's fights. The animators love that boy, and his style itself feels more like actually choreographed combat instead of the big power plays that require another character to spend the next five minutes explaining what I just saw. Sometimes when they really don't even need to - glaring at the end of Shino's recent battle here.
Peter: Depends on what we're talking about. Action and animation it's definitely Sasuke vs Orochimaru. Narratively, the Haku fight. If we're just talking about the tournament so far gotta go with Sakura vs Ino. I forgot how hype that finisher was. Actually completely forgot about this subplot... not sure if that indicates how much they follow up on it later on...
Jared: I really dug everything about the fight against Haku and Zabuza on the bridge, but I was real surprised how much I dug the Sakura vs. Ino fight. This really felt like a good way to continue Sakura getting her push finally, but also it was kind of neat to see how it was built around Ino's mind body switch jutsu, but really just boiled down to being an old fashioned fist fight with a great rivalry and build attached to it.
Danni: Sasuke vs. Orochimaru for sure. There have been a fair few fights that I've really liked parts of, but that's the first full fight that blew my mind from start to finish.
Nate: Seconding Kevin here, but I'll gush about that next week. So far, it's probably Sakura vs. Ino, since we get one of the most straightforward ninja fights, using multiple levels of technique even at a small scale like this, and ending in an awesome cross counter. Good job, ladies.
Carolyn: So far, I'll have to agree with the Haku fight, just because of the emotional ramifications that came out of it. We still haven't gotten to my favorite favorite fight, though.
Noelle: Also agreeing with Nate and Kevin, can we get this question next week? I think as of right now, it has to be the Haku fight, because it was really meaningful. A lot of the fights have been fun but just alright, where that one and the fallout of it gave me a genuine emotional reaction. It's a good fight. Animation-wise, Sasuke vs Orochimaru takes the cake.
Sasuke's "grim n' edgy" character is Naruto's equivalent of the "Characters spend years charging up their moves" joke about Dragon Ball Z. It's something people make fun of even if they haven't seen the show. But honestly, I don't really mind Sasuke. How do you feel about him now that you've gotten to know him a little better? Be honest.
Paul: I was going to say that I hope Sasuke has more interesting development to his character than just his role as an avenger struggling to grow more powerful in order to defeat his evil older brother, but instead I'll just say:
Kevin: If I'm being honest, he's actually less edgy than I remember. Sure, he scoffs a lot and goes off to do things on his own, but even now things can catch him off guard, he emotes more than I thought he would and he sees Naruto as someone he actually wants to fight, showing that they see each others as equals, instead of Sasuke thinking that he's better than everyone like when he was first introduced.
Joseph: Sasuke comes off as more of an antisocial loner than someone who is particularly edgy to me. I don't have strong feelings toward or against him, so I'll just say "he's fine."
Kara: Sasuke isn't as bad as he's made out to be in jokes and fandom, but I can absolutely see where those jokes come from. Also, it really feels like Sasuke is meant to be the star of this show but Naruto just kinda grabbed the camera from him. Which is not a complaint - I really dig the idea that our lead even has to fight the show itself to get noticed.
David: It's weird, he himself is fine, so I think upon this watch I've realized his reputation comes more from how the other characters talk about him. How many times has he or someone else called him an "avenger" so far?
Peter: I remember him being more obnoxious and his constant styling on enemies really sells his super cool persona. Obviously the animators, and probably Kishimoto, really love it when Sasuke fights people. He still hasn't broken out his goth romper yet though, so...
Jared: I honestly thought he'd be worse than he has been, but he really hasn't been too bad. There are certainly times where he feels like a character of that late '90s/early '00s time period, but that's just what was in vogue. Plus, anybody who does a piledriver is alright in my book. Although, I was playing the latest Code: Realize fan disc and his voice actor is in that, so I can't escape him.
Danni: I expected him to be very single-minded in his edginess before this watchthrough, so I've been pleasantly surprised by how much personality he shows, both exhibiting fear in the face of enemies like Orochimaru and camaraderie with Naruto.
Nate: You kinda need this sort of character--the quiet, cool guy--to play off a hot-blooded shonen main character. You see it all the time--Rukawa in Slam Dunk, Kageyama in Haikyu, Yuno in Black Clover--and it really helps balance things out in terms of story and action. I've always seen Sasuke as the necessary edgelord--Naruto wants to see the good in people, but Sasuke's just there to do work.
Carolyn: He's not so much edgy as super standoffish and that can be off-putting. It really does feel like he's the main character at times, but that's OK with me. Naruto can be a bit overbearing at times.
Noelle: I have very mixed feelings on Sasuke, but the meat of that comes later. From who he is at the moment, he's a very troubled kid who's fairly smart, but is still kind of awkward when it comes to dealing with other people worming their way in. There's nothing wrong with that. Later is when my complaints will start to roll in.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with Naruto, but I like the fact that our Slack channel momentarily discussed what Shakespeare adaptations would be like in anime. What Shakespeare play do YOU think would work best as a shonen anime.
Paul: First off, I'd just like to apologize for steering the conversation in that direction. As the resident English/Creative Writing major with a background in theatre focusing on Shakespeare, I am fully to blame for that. That being said, I stand by my original assertion, which is that there should be a Shonen Jump version of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, set in OUTER SPACE, with transforming giant robots.
Joseph: I haven't read Shakespeare since college and I was also an English major. How about Romeo + Juliet as directed by Baz Luhrmann and depicting the forbidden love between Naruto and Sasuke. Oh wait, that wasn't the question. I'm gonna leave my answer as is, though.
Kara: Twelfth Night. Romance plot and mistaken identity sound more shoujo, but hear me out. Plenty of B plot to work with thanks to Sir Toby and the servants, fictional setting (Illyria) so the character designer can just go off if they want to, and an underdog (Viola as Cesario) getting thrown into fight scenes constantly. Also Malvolio is a massive scenery-chewer.
Peter: Definitely Othello. Main character and his partner try to hold everything together fighting all their friends who have betrayed them. Even the love interest he has yet to kiss seems to betray him. Then you find out it was his best friend the whole time and cue final battle with them repeatedly yelling each others names.
Jared: If you really want to get a lengthy shonen anime that spans generations of characters, the Henriad tetralogy of Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V would be perfect. Plus, I'd love to see how they'd adapt the bizarre French language cursing scene from Henry V. Considering there really aren't that many Japanese manga adaptations of Shakespeare outside of Requiem of the Rose King and a few others, this is a market that I would love to see get fully explored and expanded regardless if it was shonen or not.
Danni: Is now a good time to mention that I never did the reading in my Western Literature class and just spent every period reading off of Sparknotes?
Nate: For a senior year English project, we remade the third act of Macbeth as a kung-fu story, so I'd probably be down to do that again, this time in shonen form with 1000% more yelling.
Carolyn: The Tempest and Macbeth are my favorites. The Tempest is so magical I could easily see it working as a fantasy type anime. It would also make a pretty great "Hero's Journey" type thing. But really I would just kill to see the three witches from Macbeth show up in an anime series. That would be awesome.
Noelle: I really and truly love Macbeth, and I'd love to see it in anime- especially since things like the witches would be great horror fodder. Also Hamlet, since Hamlet also has things like ghosts and pirates inbetween all the stabbings.
"I'm gonna be Hokage!" count: 14
Bowls of ramen consumed: 2 bowls, 3 cups
Shadow Clones: 118, plus 3 uncountable scenes
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 MARCH 1st, we’ll talk about EPISODES 43-49 as NATE MING returns! The elimination tournament continues, and we start one of Naruto's most legendary fights!
-Then, on MARCH 8th, the Chunin Exam finals begin in EPISODES 50-56, with CAROLYN BURKE hosting!
-On MARCH 15th, DANNI WILMOTH covers EPISODES 57-63--Naruto settles a grudge as the finals heat up!
Have any comments or questions about episodes 36-42? What about our upcoming installment, featuring episodes 43-49?
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. He has a Twitter that he uses.
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