The Silence of the Sands
Welcome to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! I'm Danni Wilmoth, 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 50-56, and we continue this week with episodes 57-63.
This week we see the conclusion of Naruto’s training under Jiraiya and move onto what we’ve all been waiting for: the Third and Final Exam. The main event this time pits genius versus failure as Naruto seeks vengeance for Hinata and Lee against Neji in round one. It’s a raging battle of ideals that leaves everyone asking, “Where the hell is Sasuke?”
Before we discuss these episodes, let's take a look at a question WiseJake237 had about summoning:
Maybe I'm misunderstanding the Summoning Jutsu, but if Jiraiya is such a horn toad, why doesn't he just use the jutsu to summon attractive women? It seems like one of the Three Legendary Ninjas shouldn't have to go to the lengths that this guy does.
Danni: First of all, that pun had me simply croaking with laughter. Second, my understanding of summoning is that a contract has to be formed between the summoner and the one being summoned. I imagine that Jiraiya could theoretically summon women to him, but they’d have to give prior consent first. Exactly the way it should be!!!
Now, let's see what the Crunchyroll Features team thought of this week's episodes!
So this week’s batch of episodes began with us meeting Gamabunta, my big grumpy frog dad whom I love. I had always assumed summoning animals basically teleports them to your position to assist you, but he mentions something about it being his first time free in awhile. This begs the question, are summoning animals in Naruto basically Pokémon? And since Gamabunta can talk does that make him Detective Pikachu?
Kevin: Whether the Summoning Animals are from another world or just a different place but on the same world seems to be inconsistent. Gamabunta indicated that the Toad Realm and the Village Hidden in the Leaves are two different worlds, but if I remember correctly, when Kakashi introduced his dogs he said that they get teleported from a distant place, and the accompanying visual implied that it was just somewhere far away, but you could theoretically walk there. So in short: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Peter: Boruto gets into some weird spirit world stuff when they consult the Snake sages about Mitsuki’s location. I’m not sure if super late Shippuden gets into it. Pretty sure they’re all hanging out in some spirit world as shadows against a cave wall or something.
Noelle: If I remember correctly, I think the summoned animals are from another dimension or other realm, as we never see them in the regular ninja world. Not a lot of detail is put into that, but it’s always fun to see what new summons pop up next. I never thought about frog Ryan Reynolds before, but I’m sure thinking about it now.
Carolyn: I have no idea how to answer this question, honestly. But if the frog were Ryan Reynolds and/or Danny DeVito I would be here for it.
Paul: I believe that ninja summons are merely a manifestation of the individual summoner's will, i.e. that there is no separate, extra-dimensional “Toad Realm” or “Dog Realm,” but that these creatures are temporarily called into being and given form and personality by the magic of Ninjutsu. I think it's closer to the Shadow Clone technique that Naruto employs. Also, Gamabunta is clearly a yakuza, whereas Detective Pikachu is a cop.
Joseph: From what I recall there’s definitely another realm. Doesn’t Naruto end up there at some point? I’m going off my memory of the manga so gotta do a big shrug here, but I love the frogs in general.
David: I definitely feel bad for Gamabunta in the same way I feel bad for Pokémon, who mostly get let out to fight or do jobs. He spends who knows how long locked away in some vague spirit world, only to get summoned by some brat who literally won’t get off his back. Give the poor guy a break!
Kara: Too early for me to speculate. The world of Naruto has a lot of weird rules to it and I’m still trying to figure out the whole “raising children to fight to the death” thing before I go any further. That said, I am glad I’m not a summonable animal of any sort. I can’t imagine being in the middle of a nap or a conversation or whatever and just BOOM. Sorry, you’re here to fight now.
Both last week’s and this week’s episodes have contained allusions to a connection between Naruto and the Fourth Hokage, and the Fourth Hokage’s portrait last week makes it pretty clear what that connection is. Did anyone else happen to see that coming before now?
Kevin: I think that literally everyone knows the “secret” before it gets revealed in the show. Make no mistake though, as we go in to Shippuden and more is revealed, the writing will be beating you with a lead pipe of exposition to make sure that you understand every single detail.
Peter: During my first readthrough I think I knew as early as Zabuza since Minato appears in some photos and he has the same hair. I knew enough about shonen to know that the main character always has an important dad.
Noelle: Same as Peter, I figured it out pretty early on in my original readthrough--if two characters look uncannily similar in anime, they’re probably related.
Carolyn: I thought that was always kind of implied. I have seen the show before, but seem to remember making that assumption pretty early the first time around, too.
Paul: I assumed that the Fourth Hokage was Naruto's Dad (a.k.a. Boruto's Granddad) from the brief glimpse of him that we got during the flashback of him sealing away the Nine-Tailed Fox way back in the first episode. No real surprises there. The bigger question is who is Naruto's Mom, a.k.a. Boruto's Grandma?
Joseph: This is such a poorly-kept secret I forgot it hadn’t been revealed.
David: The ‘mystery’ may lie more in why he would choose to doom his own kid to societal ostracization than if he is Naruto’s dad or not.
Kara: I mean, between the resemblance, Naruto’s obsession with becoming Hokage, and the way pretty much any references to the Fourth Hokage are framed, it isn’t so much foreshadowing as a brick to the head. You’re telling me it gets more obvious?
A good way to tell when a series has settled into a comfortable position is when it begins experimenting in other genres. We saw that this week in episode 58 when Naruto dabbles in horror aesthetics to flesh out Gaara’s backstory a bit. It broke its own mold both visually and thematically. Do you think this change managed to accomplish anything a normal exposition episode wouldn’t have?
Kevin: I always appreciate any work of art being taken in a new direction, so I liked seeing episode 58 do something different, and the exposition where Naruto starts to understand how similar he and Gaara are was definitely one of the more effective moments. That being said, most of the rest of the episode didn’t really work. From Shikamaru’s magically disappearing shogi board to Ino somehow just having the fruit basket to Gaara actually being as stealthy as a ninja for the first time in his life to AN ENTIRE HOSPITAL BEING COMPLETELY EMPTY, a lot of stuff just didn’t add up outside of just needing to be that way to be creepy.
Peter: My second run through I was kinda flabbergasted Gaara suddenly got so verbose out of the context of writing goth poetry. That said Naruto’s response where he realized he completely understood the logic that brought Gaara to being a homicidal maniac was *chefs kiss*.
Noelle: Horror always requires some suspension of disbelief in order to be functional, so even though there were quite a few things off about the scene, I enjoyed it more so for the mood it evoked. On that end, I think it succeeded-- I’m always here for series being flexible with the genres they try out. Naruto’s dawning realization that had things been a little different, he could have easily turned out like Gaara, mmm, that was good stuff.
Carolyn: Ah, thank you for bringing this up. When we first started rewatching I was waiting to figure out why I used to like Gaara so much. Now I remember.
Paul: While I enjoyed the way they framed Gaara as if he were the antagonist of a slasher film, what resonated with me the most was when they dug into his back-story, demonstrating how truly emotionally damaged Gaara is. Prior to that, I couldn't take him seriously as a villain, but once I got a taste of the tragedy at the heart of his character, Gaara became much more palatable. It also re-contextualizes the Kanji character 愛 (“love”) that he has tattooed on his forehead.
Joseph: I also love Naruto’s reaction here. It’s one of those moments that goes a long way toward making a character more three-dimensional, and is leagues beyond the typical shonen “he’s bad so I gotta beat ‘im up!” attitude.
David: I honestly thought it was a little overwrought, but I very much appreciated the attempt to use a different style to bring some weight to a backstory that might have come across as sort of absurd if played completely straight.
Kara: I really like Gaara, but up ‘til now it’s been in the same way that I like horror movies: enjoying the spectacle. But the combination of his back story with (as others have said) Naruto’s reaction to it was just wonderful. I actually busted out laughing when Gaara said “You can’t understand what it’s like” because oh boy. Of all the people he could have said that to. And this scene was a reminder that in spite of his occasional annoying spans, Nart’s a good kid.
The main event this time around was obviously the fight between Naruto and Neji. It seems like every fight in Naruto gets overshadowed by Gaara vs. Rock Lee, but I think I might actually prefer Naruto vs. Neji between the two. In your eyes, how do they compare with one another?
Kevin: I still prefer Lee versus Gaara, mainly because the exposition was significantly better handled. Lee has a few cutaway scenes to show his progress and one or two moments to blatantly stating what he was trying to do, while Neji pretty much had an entire episode where he just explained his backstory to Naruto (and every single onlooker, but I guess no one actually cares that the Hyuga side family are basically slaves). Comparing the fighting is tougher, since Lee’s fight was much more bombastic and over the top, while Neji’s was more technical and strategic, so I can see the merits of both.
Peter: I have some more complex feelings in retrospect knowing Naruto’s actual place in the world. Even without the benefit of that knowledge the idea of hard work and never giving up allowing even failures to rise above geniuses felt a little stale given that Naruto had a chakra demon in his corner. All the emotional beats really hit hard as well. Shame Hinata didn’t get to see Naruto win.
Noelle: Still on the side of Rock Lee vs Gaara, since it’s hard to beat the pure energy that comes from that fight. Admittedly, I’m not as terribly attached to this fight, but putting my biases aside, I do think the two fights serve as something completely different. One has more bombast, and the other is more melancholy and introspective. It’s a little hard to compare the two, since they accomplish two different things.
Carolyn: Yeah, I also have to say Rock Lee and Gaara. A big part of which is just the fact I like those characters much more. Though, I did really appreciate Naruto echoing Hinata in his fight. He can be a very good friend sometimes.
Paul: Naruto vs. Neji is important because it's not just a clash of skills, but of ideals. Naruto triumphs not just because he's tougher and / or sneakier, but because he's got a more flexible perspective and because his desire to actively shape his own destiny is stronger than Neji's fatalism. They also frame it as the catalyst for Neji to grow and change, and I'm a sucker for that kind of character development. Rock Lee vs. Gaara is much more one-sided, in that it only really highlights Lee’s determination.
Joseph: I prefer Lee vs. Gaara, but this is a good and important fight in its own right. I did think it was hilarious when Neji stopped everything to laboriously explain his backstory to Naruto and the packed stadium. Hey, the ref said no arguing, he didn’t say anything about no expatiating!
David: Naruto vs. Neji is a pretty bad ‘fight’ - Naruto doesn’t do anything particularly special with his skillset that we haven’t seen before, Neji has him overpowered the whole time until Naruto turns on his fox chakra cheat code, and they spend essentially two straight episode on exposition. Lee vs. Gaara wins on that front. However, it is a very good ‘conflict’, with Neji’s worldview nagging at Naruto’s core beliefs in a way that feels natural for both the world they live in and how the series has characterized Naruto so far. In that sense, this Neji battle wins out. It’s also worth noting that with Naruto’s line “I’ll change Hyuga,” he’s officially made his first Hokage campaign promise.
Kara: For me, Gaara vs. Lee still takes it for the fight itself. It’s the end result of the Naruto vs. Neji fight that resonates for me more than the actual combat. The whole “gonna be the Hokage” thing, despite it becoming enough of a running gag that we track it every week, is at its core about acceptance and recognition. The fact that we see people applauding Naruto after the fight — even a few people going “Hey, that fox kid’s pretty dang good” — is so important. We’ve seen the results of Naruto’s hard work and training so far, but that’s a reward in his own language, in a way. That’s him being applauded where he was laughed at and shunned. So for that, I at least give it a nod.
Sasuke managed to take center stage for most of the Chunin Exams, but in the past few weeks his presence in the show has decreased more and more. In his absence Naruto has stepped back into the limelight to finally show us what he’s capable of. How do you feel about Naruto now compared to the beginning of this rewatch?
Kevin: I definitely enjoy him more now than at the beginning of the series. I get that his character is supposed to start as someone annoying who doesn’t listen to people, but having him be more focused, competent and actually able to hold his own in a fight and so show people that he isn’t just a screw up is much easier to watch than the kid from the first few episodes who couldn’t even transform.
Peter: Naruto’s fights still don’t get the same animation quality so there’s definitely some favoritism going on. Always felt that Naruto was the funnest to root for narratively but Sasuke was the funnest to watch fight.
Noelle: I think more focus on Naruto is a good thing- the series is named after him, and we need to see him grow. As well-animated as Sasuke is, he’s already reached the point where he’s highly capable (even if he still has his own struggles), and there’s a kind of effortlessness in his fights. Shonen always features the underdog rising to the top, and that’s Naruto, not Sasuke.
Carolyn: Kind of touched on this earlier, but for me, what makes a Naruto fight is the emotion he puts behind it. He cares very much about those around him and that comes through in his performance.
Paul: I'm still not completely sold on Naruto as the protagonist. Comparing it to One Piece, I can think of probably a dozen moments where Luffy's heroism crystallizes the themes of the series, where we can see why so many people love and support him, and why he loves and supports so many people in return. I haven't yet experienced that same kind of “come to Jesus” moment with Naruto yet.
Joseph: Naruto is still kind of whiny, especially when he wants Jiraiya to watch over his training, but I like the way he’s developing and getting more time to come into his own as the protagonist.
David: Between his realized connection with Gaara and righteous anger with Neji’s story, I am actually coming to appreciate the sort of empathy that could make Naruto a good leader in the future - it already goes beyond him being able to Punch Good.
Kara: I think what recent episodes have done for me is contextualize what annoyed me about him originally. His actions and feelings make more sense, and we’re seeing that he actually has the motivation to back up his ambitions.
As always, what were the high and low points of this week’s batch?
Kevin: As odd as it might sound, Gaara telling Shikamaru and Naruto about his past is both the high and low point for me this week. I love the slow reveal about how similar Naruto and Gaara are, and the scene is effectively creepy, but at the same time Naruto is frozen with fear… which is something that he swore he would never let happen again and so is somewhat out of character for him.
Peter: As above, I wish Gaara had been a bit less transparent with his exposition dump. Maybe explaining his logic without also throwing out his entire life story. Could have done that in flashback without him explaining it so that we know even if others don’t. Just getting a bit of insight into Gaara’s perspective allowing Naruto to realize their connection would have made it even more impactful. My favorite moment was Naruto running into Hinata before the exam.
Noelle: High point would be the Gaara reveal. While its execution would be a low point technically, I’ve gotten so immune to shonen having lengthy flashbacks or exposition dumps that I’m more surprised when a series doesn’t do that.
Carolyn: Surprisingly, as much as I loved the creepy goth Gaara exposition, my high point was Sakura buying more flowers for Rock Lee because she thought the old ones would have wilted. When this show really wants to get emotional, they know how to do it right. Low point … honestly kind of getting burnt out on how many kids have marks and bad dads.
Paul: The high point for me was how they dug deeper into the behind-the-scenes politics with the secret schemes of the Kazekage, who is at odds with the peace-promoting plans of his daimyo. I really dig the ninja intrigue. The low point was all of the screen time they squandered on speculating about whether Sasuke had been murdered by Gaara prior to The Final Test. I don't think anyone was buying what they were trying to sell there.
Joseph: I wasn’t that high on the attempt at horror and suspense in the Gaara ep. The boarding and execution seemed kind of sloppy and haphazard. The high point was Naruto vs. Neji and the quote of the week was Kabuto behind the Anbu mask saying, "I'm not suspicious or anything."
David: Surprised no one has pointed out the almost entire episode spent on Naruto trying to get to the exam on time as a low point, because I was bored to tears. High point is Neji in the hospital after his fight.
Kara: Gotta agree on Naruto’s meeting with Hinata being the high point of the week. I like seeing them encourage each other, be it actively or passively. Low point is probably the drawn-out Sasuke non-mystery.
Alright, lightning round. You’re nine years old, and it’s time for recess. You and your friends are all about to play pretend as your favorite Naruto characters. Which one is nine year old you picking? Personally, I’m Shikamaru.
Kevin: Me nowadays would pick Shikamaru, pretty much no question. If I’m thinking back to when I was nine though, I’m pretty sure I would’ve picked Sasuke. Not because the girls all have crushes on him or because he’s “an Avenger” with a tragic backstory, I honestly just love all of the jutsus, especially finding interesting ways to combo them together, and he has access to more than most of the other Genin. I also remember that as a kid, the attack he’ll show off next week was one of my favorite techniques in the show, along with the Eight Inner Gates, which is why Lee is the only other person I might’ve gone for.
Peter: At 9 I’d definitely want to be Sasuke, at least in this point in the story. I think at that age fighting style would take precedence over any kind of characterization or narrative. If we hit Shippuden already though, 9-year-old Peter would prefer Sasori 100%.
Noelle: Young me preferred Gaara and one other character that hasn’t appeared yet and current me feels… the exact same way. My taste in characters has always been consistent, I guess!
Nate: Lee or Guy. I'd have paper bags filled with rocks so I could "drop the weights" and then run around faster.
Carolyn: Probably Gaara, as 9-year-old me. But now, most likely Shikamaru or Rock Lee.
Paul: Believe it or not, nine year old me would go with Sakura. As a kid, I generally identified with the girl characters in male-dominated cartoons, such as Princess Allura in Voltron and Arcee in the animated Transformers movie. What can I say? I like pink.
Joseph: I’d be Kankuro, running around shouting “PUPPET POWER!” at all my annoyed friends.
David: Back in the day I started growing my hair out just to be more like Sasuke, so definitely him.
Kara: Probably Kiba while trying to convince my childhood dog to be my Akamaru. I had a border collie, so it would either have gone perfectly or terribly.
"I'm gonna be Hokage!" count: 23
Bowls of ramen consumed: 29 bowls, 3 cups
Shadow Clones created: 258
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 22nd, the Chunin Exams give way to an even greater conflict in EPISODES 64-70 as NICOLE MEJIAS hosts!
-Then, on MARCH 29th, DANIEL DOCKERY returns as the Third Hokage springs into action in EPISODES 71-77!
-On APRIL 5th, CAYLA COATES stops by just in time to introduce us to a mysterious new shinobi in EPISODES 78-84!
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 thoughts on our thoughts on Episodes 57-63? Let us know in the comments below! We’re also accepting questions and comments for next week, so feel free to ask away!!!
Danni Wilmoth is a Features and Social Videos writer for Crunchyroll and also co-hosts the video game podcast Indiecent. You can find more words from her on Twitter @NanamisEgg.
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