Secret moves and secret agendas abound as the Chunin exams end!
Come one and come all to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! I'm Nicole Mejias, 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 57-63, and we continue this week with episodes 64-70.
So the Chunin exam finally comes to a close in an explosive way, as Sasuke and Gaara face off! This was quite the rollercoaster batch of episodes, with the debut of Sasuke's Chidori attack, the hints about Sasuke's true abilities to power up, Gaara's real strength, and then... the exam ends with the attack of Sand on Leaf. It seems like Orochimaru felt Gaara going out of control was the perfect time to hatch his plan, and now everything is in chaos. As we finish up for this batch, we start getting some truly confusing resurrection powers utilized to give us 2 on 1 Hokage fighting action! Seems like things are only going to heat up after this week's batch!
Alright, let's get the ball rolling and on to what the Crunchyroll Features team thought of this week's episodes!
This week's episode sees the Chunin exam come to a somewhat unsatisfying ending as the true plan of the Sand Village unfolds. I remember my first time around that I wanted to see the exam actually complete, but how do you all feel about this sudden interruption?
Joseph: I didn’t mind it at all, it made the story less predictable and kept the pace up rather than transitioning into your usual post-tournament downtime. I really enjoyed the tournament but I can’t say I care who would have won.
Carolyn: I have to agree, I thought it was nice to see a bigger world/threat/issue than just the controlled, one-on-one fights.
Danni: I love a good tournament arc, so it’s a bit of a shame this one only lasted a few matches. That being said, the new developments are pretty cool. I’m looking forward to where it goes from here if a war does indeed break out.
Kevin: It makes for a bit more dramatic turn, since on first viewing it seems like we’re about to go into another short tournament to finish the arc, but then a war starts. In terms of personal feelings, I could go either way. I appreciate the story not following the exact beats that the audience expects, but I also like tournaments, so wanted to see how the fights progressed.
David: Stopping powerlevel defining tournaments early isn’t exactly new—looking at you, Saint Seiya—but in this case the seeds for the attack have been sown as early as the forest arc, so it’s hard to complain. If anything it would be disappointing if nothing had come of that.
Paul: I welcome the swerve. Sure, in part it feels like Kishimoto got bored with the whole tournament fighting arc, but I love the idea that there's a huge, precarious world out there filled with fragile alliances and ninja skullduggery of which the main characters, in their youthful innocence, are only experiencing a tiny taste.
Kara: I don’t think I’d call this ending unsatisfying, really. I mean, everyone got slapped in the face before the Round 3 preliminaries with the fact that the exams are largely politically motivated, and we’ve known the Sand Village was up to something the whole time. I feel like finishing everything out by the book and handing out Chunin diplomas or whatever would be more disappointing after all that setup.
Noelle: Tournament arcs are such a staple that they almost feel expected for the genre—so anything that tosses it up is something that I’d welcome. 1v1 fights are fun, but after a while, I think I’d lose the patience to sit through the whole thing.
Jared: I think this was fine the tournament during the opening round. It’s certainly something that doesn’t blindside you as it’s abundantly clear something’s going to happen, but it’s a neat way to play with your expectations.
Sasuke is back the spotlight this week during his face off against Gaara, and wow, it’s definitely quite the impressive fight! What are your thoughts on Sasuke vs Gaara after all the build up for Gaara and Naruto?
Joseph: I love how unhinged Gaara is, especially after we learned more about him during his backstory last week. It’s kind of dull that Gaara essentially turtles on defense the entire time, but I like the moment where it hints once again at his monstrous transformation. Even though I said I didn’t need to see the tournament fully play out, I would have liked to have seen where this fight went if it were allowed to continue.
Carolyn: I just felt so bad for Rock Lee the whole time. Those were his moves! But Gaara freaking out and losing his mind over a little blood is part of why I liked him so much on first watch. He’s almost uncomfortably weird.
Danni: I dunno, I thought it was pretty underwhelming. It seemed more like a teaser for an approaching REAL battle between them than anything.
Kevin: Sasuke versus Gaara is one of the fights that I remember most from when I watched the show as a kid. Sasuke pulling out new techniques, showing how much more powerful he’s become, all of it stuck in my head. Watching it again… it’s not as good as I thought. They renamed Raikiri to Chidori for no real reason, and Sasuke managed to reach Lee levels of Taijutsu in a month (and also offscreen), when Lee himself is supposed to be a genius at martial arts, and it took him years to get that far.
Nate: They actually get into this—the Raikiri (Lightning Blade) is Kakashi's version of the original technique, Chidori (Thousand Birds).
David: As others mentioned, this is the first real example of classic shonen action powercreep; Gai and Kakashi point out in no uncertain terms that Sasuke has matched Rock Lee’s physical prowess within a month, and Rock himself even admits this. There’s also only one good bit of animation before the whole thing goes wrong. Overall it’s important but kind of disappointing even if you’re a Sasuke fan.
Paul: I don't currently have any opinions on Sasuke vs. Gaara, since that fight it still on-going, but I do wonder where exactly the story is going with that bit about Gaara momentarily transforming into the Tetsuo-blob from the end of Akira.
Kara: This was my semi-regular reminder that Gaara is a walking horror movie. Gotta agree with Carolyn, I feel sorry for Rock Lee watching Sasuke out there using his moves. Nothing against ludicrous power-ups. Just Sasuke taking a level in awesome, while awesome, feels kind of sour when viewed through the lens of Lee’s story. I’m starting to understand why Naruto is so cranky about Sasuke in his periphery constantly.
Noelle: Sasuke was always going to get his power-up, that was inevitable, but it feels kind of… eh. Probably because we didn’t really see Sasuke work to get these power-ups much, so it doesn’t really feel earned that he’d suddenly become more powerful, especially enough to copy Lee. Sure, Sasuke’s the co-protagonist of the series, but it doesn’t feel as much of a thrilling fight from his end. Gaara is now full-blown horror and I love it.
Jared: It was kind of weird since they build this up to be Sasuke being the returning hero to vanquish Gaara, but since he’s been out of the picture since his fightin the prelims, the real build had been more Naruto/Gaara. Probably doesn’t help that there’s no real conclusion here. Sasuke certainly gets his moments of showing he’s truly back and more formidable than ever and Gaara looks even more unhinged, but it certainly didn’t have the same feel that a Naruto/Gaara match would have had.
This is the first time we see the Chidori in action, showing off how much Sasuke really does seem to be ahead of Naruto in terms of skill. How’d you all feel seeing this signature attack for the first time?
Joseph: They do a good job of making it clear how powerful Sasuke has come in such a short period of time. I dig that they made it seem as if he spent the whole time mastering genjutsu before busting out his awesome new move.
Carolyn: Agreed. It gives some justification for his almost rockstar status amongst his classmates. But also goes to show that hard work and determination are key factors.
Danni: It was cool seeing a physical manifestation of chakra just obliterating anything near it, but it still bums me out that Naruto doesn’t get to be the protagonist of his own show.
Kevin: Sasuke running down the wall, ball of lightning in hand, is one of the most iconic moments in anime for me. It stuck in my imagination for years after seeing it for the first time. My only issue with it is that Guy and Kakashi try to explain away the name change, and it doesn’t really make sense why the technique has two names.
Paul: Having never watched Naruto before, and having only ever absorbed bits and pieces of it through cultural osmosis over the years, I'm ashamed to admit that when I kept hearing people say “Chidori”, I assumed that it was the name of a kunoichi. I think the technique is cooler when Kakashi uses it, personally.
Kara: Despite my aforementioned feeling for Lee, I gotta admit the Chidori looked pretty rad. And yeah, I kind of thought Chidori was a person and not a move, but I’m looking forward to seeing it used later.
Noelle: There’s no questioning it, Chidori looks awesome!
Jared: It makes sense he would inherit a devastating attack like that, plus it’s a cool looking attack to boot.
This segment of the show really gets to let Shikamaru shine a bit, with him fighting Temari and also fighting the faceless Sound Ninja. Shikamaru was always a favorite of mine, and I know some of you like him too, so how do you feel after seeing him get some serious action?
Joseph: I love Shikamaru’s attitude, and I appreciate how differently his fight ends up playing out compared to the rest of the tournament. With that in mind, his real highlight is episode 70 in the classic trope of staying behind to give your teammates a chance to escape. The resolution of that scene is fantastic.
Carolyn: I love him! He’s basically a genius mastermind who hates that he’s so capable and it’s great. I agree that his stepping up in the actual battle is where he really shines this time around. My favorite bit would actually have to be his very, very detailed plans for how he expects the rest of his life/future to turn out. The boy has brains and strategy, to say the least.
Danni: He has such a bad attitude, and I love it. It was great finally seeing him thinking five steps ahead of everyone else around him. I hope he eventually figures out some kind of finisher for when he has someone trapped in shadow paralysis.
Kevin: Seeing Shikamaru actually fight is a bit odd. I love seeing him in action, but he is most at home as a tactician. In his first fight, he gave up because he was running low on chakra, and in the second fight he needed his teacher to save him because he ran out of chakra. He is a brilliant strategist, but don’t force him to actually fight people himself.
David: Honestly, I don’t think the show does a great job of convincing me of Shikamaru’s character. We don’t know a whole lot about him before this, which is fine, but then he ‘defeats’ Temari mostly because she forgets a tunnel can also have a shadow in it. Then later Sakura is impressed when he stays behind to stall the enemies because he has never been “this reliable of a character before” as she puts it, but most of what we’ve seen from him has been a subverting of that so far, which doesn’t work when I wasn’t convinced of the original concept in the first place. So overall I’m less impressed than I remember being before.
Paul: I like the cerebral aspects to Shikamaru's fighting style, but I could do without the low-grade sexism of him complaining about how he keeps getting matched up against girls. The women in this universe are clearly as dangerous as the men, and a shuriken will kill you just as dead regardless of the gender of the person who throws it. Get over yourself, Cloud Boy.
Kara: It’s funny because Shikamaru annoyed me so much early on for being Captain Haaa Mendokusaaaai. Not that that’s not a mood. I do appreciate that the show played me (and Shikamaru’s classmates) for a fool with that, though. It never occurred to me that he might consider things boring because he’s already five steps ahead of everyone else. As much as I appreciate his tactics, I do kind of hope he gets his ass handed to him by a kunoichi before long.
Noelle: I really think that Shikamaru’s real time to shine comes later, but here we get a fairly good idea what he’s about. He’s smart, his fighting style is unconventional and that makes him rely more on tactics as opposed to brute strength. That being said, even though he’s up against Temari who is more along the lines of overpowering her opponents, this fight isn’t that bad.
Jared: I was kind of surprised just how much they put him over in these episodes. He certainly has a different style and attitude which is a refreshing change from everyone being rather serious about what they do. Although if he really wants to commit to the tranquilo lifestyle, he needs to be more cool and collected than just bored.
I remember my first time around not really understanding the resurrection jutsu in this show, and I won’t spoil things but it comes up again later. If it’s so easy to bring people back from the dead, why don’t people do it more often? Both the First and Second Hokage seem totally fine until Orochimaru controls them. What are your thoughts on this life and death power that we see here for the first time?
Joseph: I don’t recall how it’s used later in the series, but regardless of what it hints at this is just a cool way to heighten Orochimaru’s showdown against the Third Hokage and make him seem even nastier as a villain.
Carolyn: I don’t remember a lot in advance either, it’s been so long since I last watched the show. That’s why this is so much fun!
Danni: I...don’t really get it. I expected them to be zombies, but they seem totally unaffected. How are they supposed to be a threat when they’re friends with the guy they were summoned to defeat?
Kevin: I’m pretty sure that it’s not used more often because it’s a Forbidden Jutsu, like the Mass Shadow Clone jutsu, it’s just probably forbidden due to ethical issues. Seeing Resurrection for the first time, it doesn’t have as much impact as I would’ve expected. If Orochimaru brought back Zabuza, the audience would have a much stronger personal connection and we could measure a previous antagonist’s power against the Third Hokage’s. Instead, he summoned the First and Second Hokage, who are definitely better choices for Resurrection targets, but there are two problems. First, the audience has no idea who they are initially, so we aren’t as invested in the fight. Second, how did Orochimaru get their bodies? Shouldn’t they be under the tightest security the village can muster?
David: It’s currently confusing and weird and as far as I remember it only gets more confusing and weird.
Paul: I'm still of the opinion that Summoning style Ninjutsu techniques (and by extension, Resurrection techniques) don't actually summon a real, individual person or animal. Instead, I think they involve Chakra taking physical form, and that the resulting manifestation is shaped by the will of the summoner. I don't think that's literally Zombie Hokage 1 and Zombie Hokage 2 we see in Episode 70, but rather it's the idea of these Hokage colored and called into being by Orochimaru's memories, biases, and desires.
Kara: I have so many questions about the resurrection jutsu, mainly regarding the summoned people’s loyalties and the entire ethics of it. Granted, ethics in the world of Naruto are pretty screwy already. But the can of worms the show has opened up just by saying this can be done is big and squirmy and terrible. I hope they go into it more.
Noelle: Not going to lie, still kind of iffy on the Resurrection thing. Half zombies, half mind control, I suppose? I do think that revival is by no means easy, but Orochimaru lives for breaking out taboo jutsu anyway.
Jared: Gonna agree with some of the others and say it’s kind of confusing what’s actually happening. My thoughts were that they were able to come back but couldn’t disobey orders from Orochimaru? Whether it’s actually them or not, I’m not sure and I’d assume this isn’t done more often is because it’s a high level technique or forbidden.
And as always, what were the high and low points of this week’s batch of episodes?
Joseph: Low point: gosh, I actually really liked this section of episodes through and through. I guess, while I didn’t mind the tournament itself ending, the low point was cutting the fight between Gaara and Sasuke short. The high point was Pakkun and his SOFT AND SUPPLE PAWS.
Carolyn: High point is definitely Shikamaru taking charge and running through his already planned out future in his head. I don’t think I had a definite low point this week, but I laughed a lot at Sasuke’s James Bond-like introduction of himself at the exam. Does that count?
Danni: Can’t really think of any standout low points. I think the high point for me was finally getting to see the Third Hokage in action.
Kevin: High - Shikamaru’s thinking stance. Seeing him just take a moment to clear his mind, think of a plan, then start acting actually impacted my so much as a kid that it is seriously something I still do. Clasp my hands together in some kind of fake hand sign to focus my thinking to break out of my current mentality. Low - As simple as the moment is, my lowest point was when Kabuto knocked out Kiba. Sure, Kiba’s out, but Akamaru should still be conscious and making a ton of noise that would alert at least the crowd, meaning that Kabuto wouldn’t be able to cast the genjutsu that starts the war.
David: High point despite everything is Sasuke just bodying Gaara. Extremely satisfying and smooth to watch. Low point is Rock realizing how underpowered he is in the face of Sasuke, not necessarily because of the power level issues there, but just because no one is there to comfort him for it all.
Paul: Although I bagged on him earlier, my high point was Shikamaru pretending to be put to sleep by the hypnosis Genjutsu in order to avoid getting dragged into the bigger conflict, because he's just that much of a lazy ass at heart. My low point was probably the English translations for some of the episode titles. “Hit it or Quit it” and “Late to the Show, but Ready to Go” in particular rub me the wrong way, bruh.
Kara: High point is the existence of Pakkun. I love this good boy and his squishy paw pads. Low point is, again, having to watch Rock Lee watch Sasuke. Which is less a “the show did bad” low point like previous weeks, and more an “I feel sad about this” low point.
Noelle: High point, Sasuke vs Gaara, especially with Gaara freaking out over finally bleeding again. Low point, Rock Lee feeling bad because Sasuke powercreeped him, give Lee a break.
Jared: I really liked the Third Hokage taking off his hat to reveal an even cooler hat. Low point was my boy Rock Lee getting real sad about being overtaken by Sasuke.
How about a little bonus question? Since the Chunin exam ends and is more or less never referenced again, who do you think would have won had it gone to an actual conclusion?
Joseph: Knowing this show, probably Sasuke. Then they’d do the whole thing again later Dragon Ball style so Naruto could win.
Carolyn: It seems almost impossible, from a writing standpoint, that Gaara could win, though he’s so powerful that seems to be the logical choice. It’s too soon for Naruto to take it. So, I think Sasuke is the only real option, here.
Danni: No one. The proctor would try to stop Gaara from killing Sasuke, leading Gaara to kill everyone there rendering the entire exam null.
Kevin: I can’t imagine Shino defeating Temari, since she can blow any flying insects away and can fly to get away from any remaining ground insects, so she would advance to the finals. I could see Sasuke versus Gaara going either way (provided he don’t allow stuff Garaa reveals in the next set or two of episodes), but Naruto wouldn’t be a match for either of them, so whoever won that fight would advance. If Temari fought Gaara, she’d probably forfeit before the match even started. If she fought Sasuke, he could probably overwhelm her with speed alone. So unless shounen tropes intervened in the tournament to give Naruto a way to the finals, I suspect that either Sasuke or Gaara would win, depending on who won in the first round.
David: If Gaara’s powers had been allowed to completely come out—in other words, the tournament not interrupted—then Gaara would have completely obliterated Sasuke. Squashed him. He would be dust. Gaara would not only win but Sasuke would be dead.
Paul: Definitely Sasuke. Not only is he a prodigy, he's also got that whole legacy thing going for him as the last-remaining (non-evil) scion of the Uchiha clan. Whether he actually deserves to win it is another matter...
Kara: If things actually went as power levels and fighting styles seem to dictate they would, Gaara, nearly to the death. Considering how Naruto goes, Sasuke with one last-ditch, low-powered jutsu he learned in the first season.
Noelle: At this point in time, it would probably be either Sasuke or Gaara. Provided that Gaara doesn’t go berserk of course, Gaara would probably outmatch Sasuke. If Sasuke activates the power of plot armor, he’d likely make it to the top. Sorry, Naruto.
Jared: Probably the winner of Sasuke/Gaara, although with how everyone was incredibly drained after their first matches, I wonder if by the finals it’d just become a stamina battle and technique wouldn’t be as much of a factor.
"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! Watch Naruto today!
Here's our upcoming schedule:
- Next week, on MARCH 29th, DANIEL DOCKERY returns as the Third Hokage springs into action in EPISODES 71-77!
- Then, on APRIL 5TH, CAYLA COATS stops by just in time to introduce us to a mysterious new shinobi in EPISODES 78-84!
- And on APRIL 12th, NOELLE OGAWA elaborates further in the antics of the mysterious shinobi in EPISODES 85-91!
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 64-70? Let us know in the comments! Don't forget, we're also accepting questions and comments for next week, so don't be shy and feel free to ask away!
Nicole is a features and a social video script writer for Crunchyroll. Known for punching dudes in Yakuza games on her Twitch channel while professing her love for Majima. She also has a blog, Figuratively Speaking. Follow her on Twitter: @ellyberries
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