Rock Lee gets a bit tipsy and the Sand Siblings are back in a brand new way!
Welcome back 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 113-119, where Shikamaru’s newly assembled team faced off against the Sound Four and we saw Choji and Neji fight for their lives against two very tough opponents.
This week we keep the rewatch moving with Episodes 120-126 which saw FOUR big returns from Rock Lee and the Sand Siblings of Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro who are now on the side of Leaf Village. Naruto’s very angry and sends a bunch of shadow clones to fight against some body horror while Kiba and Shikamaru have their own fights against the rest of the Sound Four. How will these big returns help out the remaining members of Shikamaru’s squad and are they able to break free to find a way to get to Sasuke while he continues to be carried in his box?
It’s been nice that both times I’ve hosted the rewatch, we’ve got to see Rock Lee come in and do something cool, even if this time his return might have been a tad rushed. Plus, seeing the Sand Siblings return was perhaps the biggest shock I’ve gotten from this show so far. So, what did the other members of the Crunchyroll Features team think of Shikamaru, Kiba, and Naruto’s fights or the four big returns? How about what they think about what will happen with next week’s big main event showdown between Naruto and Sasuke?
Let's check in with the Crunchyroll Features team and see what they thought about this week's batch of episodes.
We start off these episodes with Kiba taking on Sakon & Ukon while Shikamaru has his hands full with Tayuya and her flute solos. How did you feel about these two fights after the ones we just saw with Choji and Neji? Were they too similar in nature or did they do enough to be different?
Paul: While I appreciate that Kiba was willing to straight up shank himself in order to stab his enemy, I could have done with less strategic ninja peeing on the part of Akamaru. Likewise, while I enjoyed Shikamaru's intense planning, once again his strategy ultimately proves inadequate in the face of raw power and he has to rely on someone else saving his bacon at the last minute. For me, Choji and Neji's fights were more engaging, even if all of these fights are treading similar ground.
Kevin: Choji’s fight is in a different category for me, since it is the culmination of his characterization to that point. None of the other fights have been treated with the same weight as Choji finally giving it his all. For the other fights, they’re narratively similar to each other, but all manage to stand apart by having different mechanics and narratives. Kiba’s constantly on the run, Shikamaru’s hiding and plotting while Neji was being attacked from all angles constantly.
Carolyn: I agree. I did like seeing Shikamaru at a loss for what to do for a hot minute. But it seemed like overall, last week’s fights were a lot more intense and were intercut with character growth and Choji and Neji’s friends learning their strengths. That was definitely more compelling for me.
Danni: It felt a lot less compelling watching these fights, honestly. A lot less actually happened. Seeing Shikamaru plot fifteen steps ahead is always cool in action, but the lead up to it was a lot of him running around. Kiba’s fight was mostly canned footage reminiscing about how much he loves his dog. It’s sweet, but come on. Who doesn’t love dogs.
Joseph: The constant back and forth between these fights was fun but made each episode feel the same. Out of the main showdowns I dug the first half of Shikamaru’s the most, but it lost me a little when it became a long-form shadow hug-out.
David: I think this is the start of where the huge power imbalances in this show start to get in the way of the fights being satisfying. Like Paul mentioned, it really doesn’t matter how well-planned a strategy is when the enemy’s power is so overwhelmingly strong you need someone like Temari to bail you out with a single swing of her fan.
Noelle: Definitely agree with the rest here, Shikamaru at a loss of what to do when being brute-forced by an enemy is pretty interesting to see. Wits can absolutely help you in a pinch, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. I think the fights all do cover different things—they have similarities, but they’re different enough to not feel like complete repeats. I did think that last week’s was much more action-heavy though.
Kara: I really like both Kiba and Shikamaru, so I was ready for some epic action with these two in the vein of last week. I didn’t mind the Akamaru reminiscing all that much because Dogs Are Just That Good, but I do feel like they kind of got the short end of the stick. I do, however, appreciate Shikamaru memorizing Tayuya’s hand movements to account for his lack of musical knowledge.
Naruto slightly gives into the Nine Tails side and we see that side of him pop out again. However, it doesn’t really seem to bother Kimimaro as he just plays his own version of Dynasty Warriors with Naruto’s clones. Should Naruto have implemented a different strategy here or was he too blinded by rage to come up with anything different?
Paul: Perhaps it's my penchant for all things lycanthropic, but I keep hoping they'll do more with Naruto and his partial fox transformations. Instead we got four or five episodes of Naruto tossing Shadow Clones at a guy who made short work of them with a bone-sword (ewwwwww!), and that is not terribly dramatic staging for a duel to the death. I didn't gather that Naruto was supposed to be blinded by rage; it just felt like they were stalling for time.
Kevin: He was probably too blind to think clearly, but he also isn’t the kind of character to come up with much of a plan. Outside of the Shadow Clone Shuriken jutsu from the Zabuza fight, his strategies pretty much all come down to “make clones, punch the enemy a lot,” with the new addition of “make clones, use Rasengan.”
Carolyn: I honestly just could not get over the little “pew” sound every time a clone was taken out.
Danni: The first time we saw Beast mode Naruto was against Haku, and in that fight he actually fought like a feral beast. It was rad, and the fact that nothing of the sort has happened since has been an utter disappointment.
Joseph: Naruto has proven in the past that he can have one or two really clever ideas so his reliance on Shadow Clones is kind of disappointing. I could give it a pass as a way to test an enemy before facing them, but he doesn’t seem to come up with much beyond it when facing these stronger characters.
David: He probably could have come up with a more interesting plan, but honestly I’m not even sure what he could have done in that situation 1-on-1, especially once we see what Kimimaro can do against Lee and Gaara later.
Noelle: He’s blinded by rage, but I didn’t think that it was too jarring. Naruto can be creative, but strategy definitely isn’t one of his stronger points. It’s hard to think clearly when you’re running on mostly instinct.
Kara: I really like the Shadow Clones when they’re used as a basis for something else—like I’ve said before, I think it’s such a good metaphor for more mundane differences in learning styles in the real world. I hesitate to say he “should have done more” or “could have done better” because I sure as heck can’t think of what he should have done.
Rock Lee makes his return to help Naruto out in his fight with Kimimaro and debuts a new fighting style by accidentally getting hammered. What did you think of his new drunken style? Do you think the speed of his recovery back into fighting shape matches up with him being able to fight at all given the last time we saw him he wanted to just climb stairs?
Paul: Drunken Boxing is probably my favorite cinematic kung fu style, and I liked that the animation got a little loosey-goosey to go along with Lee's inebriated state, but it's really hard to pull off that martial arts style within the constraints of TV anime production. What we got was a little bit Jackie Chan, a little bit Bruce Lee, and a little bit of “The Sleeping Wizard” from John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry. As for Lee's recovery, it was a lot of build-up for very little pay-off. After all of that business about having a nearly 50/50 chance to live or die, Lee has the surgery off-screen, and he's mostly fine afterwards!
Kevin: I would find Drunken Fist way more entertaining if it was in basically any other part of the narrative. Seeing Lee not being allowed to climb stairs earlier the same day really doesn’t work well with how fluidly he fights, especially before becoming drunk. If he can still do a modified Leaf Hurricane, I’m not sure why Tsunade was holding him back. That being said, Guy’s cutaways to the restaurant when Lee went out of control still got me to laugh a little, so clearly something is working correctly.
Carolyn: Rock Lee! It is weird that he’s OK already. But I don’t care. Give me more Rock Lee. Rock Lee all day every day. Honestly, not sure I care for drunk Rock Lee. It’s a new version of him, that’s for sure. But I like goofy, socially awkward, good boy Rock Lee.
Danni: It REALLY bothered me when he showed up out of nowhere, but then we got an awesomely animated taijutsu battle. Then we got to see freaking Drunken Fist Rock Lee and I forgave any and all plot contrivances that had led up to that moment. It was stupid and cool in all the best ways. Now I really wanna watch Drunken Master.
Joseph: I thought the whole point was that he wasn’t okay but was there anyway. Getting drunk was a good way to mitigate any potential issues with fighting stiffly and injuring himself further. I would have rather they planted the seed for this earlier, though. It would have been more satisfying if we had seen his restaurant destruction as a goof in a previous episode rather than Guy shoehorning the whole alcohol issue in right before this went down.
With that said, I still love Rock Lee and enjoyed his fight! The animation wasn’t quite capable of handling drunken style fighting, and I wish he didn’t sober up so quickly, but it did the trick.
David: I really don’t mind how quick the turnover was from when we last saw him and now, because the journey from his fight with Gaara to his recovery took way too long in the first place; we’re just making up for lost time, really. Also, taijutsu is the coolest stuff in Naruto, so I’ll take any excuse to see two ninja really duking it out.
Noelle: Drunken fist is such a classic martial arts cinema thing, and I am always here for that. It’s a great and fun battle! As for his turnover time, it is pretty fast all things considering, but it doesn’t matter to me- we get more Lee. Enough said.
Kara: As soon as I saw we were getting Drunken Fist action, I could not have been happier. That was freaking awesome. My thought going into this week was that I wouldn’t mind his ridiculously speedy recovery provided it was in aid of getting to see something really cool. That’s kind of how it worked out, so I’m happy.
This set of episodes is return-palooza as we also get the return of the Sand trio of Gaara, Temari, and Kankuro. They’re also now babyfaces having transitioned from being heels by aligning with the Leaf village. This return was perhaps the biggest shock I’ve had so far in watching Naruto, but what did you think of how their return was handled? Should we consider them true allies or more in the vein of mercenaries who will go help anyone for the right price?
Paul: This was another big reveal that was spoiled for me because I had to scroll through the list of episodes to find where I'd left off last week, and the episode titles and thumbnails give away that the Sand Siblings are back and antagonistic to the Sound Five. I wish I hadn't known that going in. As for their loyalties, they seem fine so far, and Gaara especially seems to have absorbed the lessons that Naruto lovingly walloped into him. Do I spot the first sparks of romance between Shikamaru and Temari?
Kevin: I have no idea how to answer, and that’s probably my biggest problem with these episodes. We never got a scene with Tsunade debating whether to send help, or a cutaway to what the Sand Ninja were doing, or anything else that would’ve hinted at them returning in any way, then they just show up as full on allies. If they were mercenaries, that would actually make MORE sense and would be an interesting plot point, since whether to tell their village how weak the Leaf is at the moment would serve as a character moment for them, testing whether they were truly just in it for the money or if they were truly becoming allies.
Carolyn: It was very strange to me to see Gaara and Rock Lee fighting together like everything is hunky dory after Gaara broke Rock Lee and then returned to try to kill him while he was stuck in the HOSPITAL.
Danni: I definitely spoiled myself on this by scrolling ahead to see what episode to stop on, but their appearance was still one of the coolest things in this batch. It also just makes sense to me. They’re soldiers acting on orders. Yesterday’s enemy can be today’s ally. Interestingly, Gaara of all people seems to feel the most sympathy for the Hidden Village shinobi now. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Joseph: I loved it. I knew it was coming but they each had such cool entrances I didn’t care!
David: They are some of my favorite characters, so I was happy they showed up—I’d completely forgotten they were in this arc, actually. However, they also represent the power disparity I mentioned in an earlier question, so it’s a double-edged sword. Lee shows up and kicks butt, but when whatever he can do is basically immediately rendered moot by Gaara’s powers, it’s kind of disheartening.
Noelle: What can I say but the power of friendship. I like the sand siblings a lot, so I was just really happy when they reappeared. They do appear at extremely convenient times, which can feel a little anticlimactic, but I’m glad they’re around. Gaara! I missed you, Gaara.
Kara: I’m divided. On the one hand, I’m not a big fan of badasses being saved from certain doom by badasses who arrived slightly later. On the other, I’m all about getting to see these sand kiddos as allies. Also, Gaara’s got a sort of Season 3 Zuko vibe going on (or maybe Season 3 Zuko had a Sasuke Recovery Mission Arc Gaara vibe going on).
We are building toward Naruto vs. Sasuke happening for real next week. For you first time watchers, what are you expecting from this fight and for those who have watched, has the build matched what you remember?
Paul: If I were writing the show, I would have Naruto suffer his first serious defeat by having him be unable to convince or conquer Sasuke. This would force Naruto into a deep moment of introspection and require him to examine what it truly means for him to follow his own “Ninja Way” in his efforts to become the next Hokage. I have no idea how it will actually play out, though.
Kevin: Having watched before, I actually thought that the Sound Ninja Four stuff went by more quickly. I seriously thought that we were going to end this week at the climax of Naruto vs. Sasuke. Instead, I hope you like Kiba bleeding to death, Shikamaru sitting in a tree, and Naruto running through trees, because you’re going to keep cutting from one of those options to one of the others for the majority of the runtime, with the occasional reminder that Lee’s somehow not killing himself by fighting.
Carolyn: I thought the hospital roof fight came about inorganically. “You must fight me!” This time it does feel like there’s much more of a reason for a showdown. Sasuke’s gone rogue!
Danni: I’m expecting some real cool-looking animation from this fight, some flashbacks, and a whole lot of “SAAAAASUKEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
Joseph: I know what to expect from reading the manga but it’s been just long enough for me to not be totally sure I remember it correctly, so I’m excited! I do know how it shakes out, but that’s fine. This is going to be another good batch.
David: It feels like it’s happening sooner than I remember, but in a good way?
Kara: I’ll be shocked if Naruto bests Sasuke right away. There’s just too much going on here for it to be one and done. Plus, so much of his motivation has been about how he stacks up against Sasuke, I feel like beating him in this state would settle the score way too easily. I could be wrong, obviously. I’ve been wrong before.
Finally, what were your high points and low points for these episodes?
Paul: My high point is Gaara using his sand to gently cradle Lee and protect him from harm, which was a very satisfying reversal of what happened when last they met and also a welcome evolution of Gaara's character. My low point is the sheer incredulity I felt when I realized that Sakon and Ukon were slain by a glorified game of Pop-Up Pirate(TM). Talk about going out like a complete chump!
Kevin: High: The Sand Ninja assisting the Leaf. Why they’re there is a complete mystery, but I loved seeing them absolutely dominate the Sound Four/Five. Most people already know that the Naruto franchise pretty much drops its ninja credibility over time in favor of insane power scaling and everyone basically being a wizard, and we’re starting to see the power creep get to the point of changing the landscape. The kid in me loves the sheer wanton destruction, so I have fun with this kind of escalation. Low: Lee fighting. As a Lee fan, I love seeing him back in action flying all over the place with crazy Taijutsu. Narratively though, he’s what, a day out of major surgery? The simpler motivation of just wanting to climb stairs would’ve been a great story to progress over time. There are 100 episodes left, every 10 episodes just give a scene with Lee to show noticeable progress from the last time we’ve seen him.
Carolyn: I actually loved Kiba promising to protect his perfect doggie in the future. That’s my high point. Good boy doggo saving the day and good boy Kiba wanting to do right by his pupper. Low point, sadly, probably drunk Rock Lee. Just because I love him as he is and there is no reason for him to change and I completely agree that his struggle is more compelling than this goofy arc.
Danni: High point is easily Drunken Fist-style Rock Lee. It’s the dumbest plot contrivance used for the best purpose: turning Rock Lee into a drunk badass. It’s so transparent that it’s laudable, and the resulting fight just looked real good. Low point was the complete drag watching Kiba and Shikamaru fight was. I watched every episode hoping the Sand shinobi would just show up already.
Joseph: I, too, love drunk Lee, no matter how stupid it may be. That’s my high point along with the story about his restaurant destruction. For my low point, it would have to be Naruto basically gawking as Kimimaro musou-style thrashes his clones. Such a dull way to kill time and a little too on brand for our tactics-adverse ninja boy.
David: My high point is also drunk Lee, with the best part being when he ‘wakes up’ and realizes he was drunk because he has a headache and an injury he doesn’t recall having before. Low point is, also, the Naruto fight, simply for being the only downright boring segment this week.
Noelle: Gaara and Rock Lee teamup still makes me so hyped, even after all this time. Some things don’t let you down! The Naruto clone musou segment felt a little dull- I don’t recall feeling that when reading the manga, but I definitely felt it here.
Kara: High point was the Black Ant. Oh my God. Kankuro’s puppet skills have always been super creepy to me, but dang. It was quick, efficient, and absolutely horrifying. Low point was Akamaru’s aerial pee ballets. He’s a good boy and I love him but you’re gonna put someone’s eye out.
Nothing new this week!
Total so far:
Bowls of Ramen: 42 bowls, 3 cups
“I'm Gonna be Hokage!”: 52
Shadow Clones Created: 352
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!
CATCH UP ON THE REWATCH!
Here's our upcoming schedule:
- May 24th, NICOLE MEJIAS plays referee for Naruto vs. Sasuke, Round 2!
- May 31st, NOELLE OGAWA will start us off on a journey back into the land of filler.
- June 7th, DAVID LYNN keeps us going as we get even deeper into filler.
Thank you for joining us for the Great Crunchyroll Naruto Rewatch! Have a great weekend, and we'll see you all next time!
Have anything to say about our thoughts on Episodes 120-126? 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!