The plot is abuzz with filler as our heroes develop new abilities, confront new villains, and sample the Curry of Life!
Welcome to the Great Crunchyroll Naruto Rewatch! I'm Paul Chapman, and I'll be your host this week as we make our way through all 220 episodes of the original Naruto. Last week, we broke out of Ninja Jail with baka-brothers Fujin and Raijin and witnessed Mizuki unveiling his public fursona in Episodes 141 - 147. This week, we continue with a bug hunt of epic proportions and a mission to free a mining town from the predations of a clan of maniacal murderers in episodes 148 - 154.
It's a week of strong openings and questionable conclusions as we continue to wade hip-deep through the filler arcs, where the animators did their own thing while giving Masashi Kishimoto and the Naruto manga a chance to catch up. We saw some cool character development and interesting villains, but can the series keep up the pace, or will our hopes go splat like a bug on a windshield?
Two of our valiant shinobi are currently off on their own secret missions, but let's see what the rest of the Crunchyroll Features team thought of this week's episodes!
One of my objections to the last batch of filler was that the writers didn't give Naruto and company any clues for tracking down Orochimaru and Sasuke, so the plot felt like it was just fluttering about. These episodes give the group a smaller goal that ties to the larger one. Does the hunt for the Bikochu feel more substantial as a result, or is it still filler all the way down?
Kevin: It’s definitely filler, and filler with an unsatisfying resolution at that, but my main complaint was the same as in the previous batch. I wish that the bigger plot wasn’t being shoved into the filler arcs. Since the plot isn’t going to advance until Shippuden, we know that any arc dealing with gathering information about Orochimaru and Sasuke will end in failure. Just take out Orochimaru, have the mission be from some generic client and change nothing else. Suddenly the filler arcs can have actual tension, since we don’t know how they will turn out.
Carolyn: I hated this arc so much. I would go back to Land of Tea in a heartbeat. The whole thing felt very contrived, sort of pointless, and I could have done without the ending completely.
Joseph: I was okay with this filler for the most part, and I kind of liked learning about the Great Bug Wars of the past. The end gag rendered it totally pointless and made it the absolute definition of filler, though, so I shan’t be fooled again.
Danni: I mostly liked the bug-catching arc, but they’re dooming all these filler arcs to pointlessness by trying to tie them all to finding Sasuke. The mission failing because Naruto farted completely undercut what had been a great set of episodes.
Noelle: 100% still filler. This was definitely weird, because it felt like we were getting something that’s still filler but relatively substantial, but nope, it threw that tone out the window. I wish they’d commit to the something if they’re going a particular route.
Jared: It’s still filler, but at least it kind of went in a different direction than look at what Orochimaru’s done this time. It probably would’ve been a fine arc if the end of it didn’t happen, but at the same time you can’t give them an overpowered item like a bug that can find Sasuke in the midst of the filler.
Although they can't progress the main story, filler arcs can give more screen time to supporting characters, such as Shino and Hinata. How do you feel about Shino's leadership in hunting the Bikochu compared to Shikamaru's leadership in the Sasuke retrieval mission? Does seeing a wide range of personality types and strategies appeal to you, or does it drive you buggy?
Kevin: Shino’s never been one of my favorite characters, so I’m tepid on him as a leader, especially since his leadership style is mostly to let people do whatever, until they do something wrong and he orders them to stop. Shikamaru might not have given all of the details, but both the characters and audience could tell that all of his plans were well thought out. In general though, I quite like seeing more development for the minor characters, even if I don’t necessarily like the characters themselves. It’s exactly what I asked for last week!
Carolyn: I felt like overall the leadership was pretty directionless. But that’s very likely because the mission itself had no direction. I do like seeing other characters fleshed out more, though.
Joseph: Shino feels like the kind of person who doesn’t communicate orders well but still expects everyone to know exactly what to do and how to stay in line. I’m not a big fan of him as a character, but I like his powers. I much preferred seeing more of Hinata.
Danni: Let’s just say Shino needs to work on his communication a bit. I am glad that we’re getting to see more characters in action through the filler, especially Hinata. She basically got the development Sakura didn’t get in the earlier filler.
Noelle: I think it’s good to showcase different types of leadership, because for the most part, Shikamaru did things pretty well. Shino, by comparison, is much less effective, and I think we needed that contrast. Not everything has to, or should, go smoothly. Also, isn’t everyone like… 13 or so? Having efficient leadership skills that young is pretty rare.
Jared: I’m glad we’re seeing a bunch of the other characters get some time to shine as the filler becomes Naruto’s journeys with his pals. I kind of liked Shino’s leadership in regards to Naruto because he was just straightforward with him and direct in a way that tried to find a way to make him think more rationally than just going full speed at all times. I wouldn’t say he’s a great leader, but he seemed to know how to reign in Naruto at times which is effective.
Aside from her duel with Neji during the Chunin Exams, Hinata hasn't done much that is buzz-worthy yet. How do you feel about Hinata's treatment here? Does her dedication to training and her progress in mastering new Jutsu skills counterbalance her being kidnapped and taken hostage by bees?
Kevin: Hinata is one of the characters that always seems to be kind of weak, at least compared to the people around her, but then either through willpower or a new technique shows how awesome she can be. The kidnapping didn’t even bother me much, since it fed directly into her development for the arc and led directly to her saving the rest of the team.
Carolyn: I don’t mind the bees! Bring on the bees! But I hate the fact that yet another girl on this show is trying to better herself to impress and/or keep up with a boy.
Joseph: BEEEEES! I thought Hinata was handled decently here, though I can see what Carolyn means by her motivation. I did like the fact that she broke herself free from captivity.
Danni: I don’t mind her getting kidnapped considering she gets free entirely of her own ability and single-handedly saves the day. Now she just needs to learn how to fight bees by doing sick revolver tricks.
Noelle: Like everyone said, I didn’t mind her being kidnapped because she takes action instead of being helpless. The end result may be clunky, but that’s because Kishimoto’s source material leaves a gap between some characters, so some ‘catch-up’ will unfortunately happen.
Jared: I’m glad she was able to get some time to show off her improvement and cool new skills since she’s been MIA basically since the Chunin Exams. Although, like others have said, her reasoning of wanting Naruto to just look in her direction is a bummer.
Last week we discussed how cartoonish Mizuki felt and how his backstory didn't need to be linked to Orochimaru. This week we've got two new sets of villains: a group of insect-master shinobi who want to restore their fallen clan's glory, and a group of gold-hungry, cackling psychopaths who bury people alive for fun and profit. What's your take on these new villains? Are either of them the bee's knees?
Kevin: The bee villains could’ve been pretty good, but the arc felt much more like it was Hinata’s story. The clan rivalry was mostly good window dressing, and the main plot had the problem I mentioned earlier where Naruto needed to fail so that he didn’t accidentally find Sasuke too early. The other group were obviously just pure evil, but I was completely fine with that. Especially in filler arcs, the writing can get away with the occasional “evil for evil’s sake” type of villain. Then we learned about Ranmaru the bag child, and my interest plummeted.
Carolyn: Man, I loved the creepy as heck funeral cult villains. There was some very, very accurate emotional abuse going on there, “I remember those good times” when referencing the villager’s loyalty. Messed up stuff.
Joseph: Shotgunning all of this filler at once is kind of like rushing to complete all the side quests in a game before taking on the final boss. It’s cool to see the expanded world but you know at the end of the day you’re just running bread and milk errands for everyone. Thematically, I’m more into the funeral cult villains. I didn’t really think they lived up to their potential, but the whole living funeral thing was cool. Honestly, I was just glad to see some villains that weren’t driven by Orochimaru’s vile promises for once.
Danni: While I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re good villains, the bee clan at least had understandable motives instead of an unquenchable thirst for blood and hunger for Frosted Flakes like Mizuki there at the end. Raiga though...oof. I’ll admit, I’m very into the whole funeral cult thing. It feels like a setup that would fit well in the dark and absurdly humorous world of Golden Kamuy. Then they revealed Ranmaru to the world and their backstory felt so wooden and nonsensical that if you told me it was written by an AI that had been forced to watch the Zabuza arc 10,000 times and told to recreate it I would believe you.
Noelle: I don’t think they’re exactly good villains, but they are a touch different than what we’re used to seeing so far. If everyone’s motivations ended up being the same (i.e. power or Orochimaru), things would start to get dry pretty fast. Some variety is good, even if the end results are debatable.
Jared: I thought the bee group was probably the best we’ve seen thus far throughout the filler. Their backstory felt like you could’ve seen them in the non-filler as just one off villains rather than some of the others we’ve seen. Raiga and Ranmaru were just super weird in a good way. It kind of broke down when it basically just decided to parallel Haku’s story from the beginning, but having Naruto and pals try and stop a weird funeral cult is kind of wild in a way I wasn’t expecting.
The scenario with Raiga and Ranmaru directly references the earlier story arc with Zabusa and Haku. Do you expect the conclusion of this arc to evoke similar emotions, or are the writers just droning on about their previous work?
Kevin: I expect that they are trying to pay homage and hoping to pull off another emotional scene, but I highly doubt that it’ll work. Zabuza was a mercenary who took in a child with special powers as something to train into a tool to fight for him, and Haku was an orphan dying in the snow who grew attached to the first person to actually aid him. We got to know them via a few scenes spread throughout the arc. Raiga is a psychopath who buries people alive because he thinks funerals are great who picked up a child because the child somehow knew about his past, and Ranmaru has a poorly defined sickness and even more poorly defined powers that seem to give him something close to omnipotence. We learned about Ranmaru as he exposed his backstory to the team, and we will likely finish this arc next week. It’s not impossible to illicit the same kind of emotional response as Zabuza dying next to Haku, but it’ll be really difficult since Raiga and Ranmaru simply don’t have as much character development as the original pair, and don’t have as much time to develop their relationship.
Carolyn: Zabuza was undoubtedly abusive but had some kind of attachment to Haku. Raiga does not have any attachment to Ranmaru. Raiga only cares that Ranmaru is obedient. The second that changes, it’s all over.
Joseph: I appreciate the callback but I don’t expect much of a payoff. Actually, ever since Naruto’s fart finale I’m just going to go into these arcs knowing the conclusions will be dissatisfying. Naruto at this moment is very Saturday morning cartoon, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not where I’m going to go for emotional highs and lows until it’s back on track.
Danni: This isn’t even close to approaching the emotional heights of that arc with Haku and Zabuza. I’m still struggling to make sense of the whole Raiga/Ranmaru situation. This kid is just totally fine with Raiga killing his entire village, somehow knows everything about Raiga, and on top of that just...lives inside a sleeping bag? It felt like I was trying to watch that episode with a raging fever.
Noelle: It was an attempted copy, but it didn’t work. It’s hard to pull off good emotional payoffs with filler, but especially so if the core is missing from the material. Zabuza and Haku mutually cared about each other, which is why the ending felt so heart-wrenching, whereas Raiga and Ranmaru just feel kind of there? Different emotional setups won’t work in the same kind of payout.
Jared: I’d say it’s more of them being like hey look at this thing we did before, remember that?! We’ve certainly already seen it happen before in the filler and I doubt this will be the end of it, but it definitely doesn’t hit the same emotional points that the Zabuza and Haku portion did. If anything, it made me remember how good that was and miss that the show probably isn’t going to be able to pull off that kind of writing until Shippuden.
And finally, what are your high points and low points for the series this week? Bee serious.
Kevin: High - Hinata’s new Gentle Fist style. I’ve always liked Hinata and wished that she was able to be awesome more regularly, so having a major focus of the arc be on her was already a good start for me. Then showing her constantly training and occasionally hinting at her having some kind of new technique was great to show her seriously trying to improve. The culmination of her creating her own variant of Neji’s Rotation and then being able to adapt it to be either defensive or offensive looked silly, but the effects were amazing. My only complaint is that since this is filler, I don’t think it ever comes back, and I wish that it got more development.
Low - Ranmaru. I was going along with the arc until Ranmaru’s reveal. Sure, the villains were outright evil, but I’m okay with that as long as they’re consistent. Ranmaru doesn’t break that consistency, but everything about him makes no sense. If he’s always in that house and has no one else, how has he fed himself? What exactly is his sickness? Are his powers full on jutsu, Kekkei Genkai or something else entirely? What even are his specific powers? An entire flashback dedicated to giving Ranmaru’s backstory somehow raised more questions than it answered.
(Dis)Honorable Mention - Lee referring to his notebook to learn about the Hidden Mist Jutsu. My issue with this isn’t this specific moment, but rather thinking back to the beginning of the show versus now in relation to jutsu. Early on, Kakashi reprimanded Naruto for casting a jutsu in plain sight where his enemy could figure out what he was planning and counter it. Now, we have entire strings of hand signs out in the open (in the previous week’s arc), and so much down time that people can go research what jutsu they’re under before being attacked!
Carolyn: High point: These bug puns. Thank you, Paul. Low point: A tie between that stupid, stupid fart and Hinata dedicating herself to her ninjutsu to impress her dad and Naruto. Have goals, ladies!
Joseph: High point: It’s a tie between Hinata’s development and living burials, which I’m a sucker for. Low point: Gotta be the end of the bug hunt. I love a good fart gag but Naruto has never had one and this was the worst. Fart in my face once, shame on you. Fart in my face twice, shame on me.
Danni: High point is easily the direction in episode 151. All of this filler has come with many more downsides than upsides, but we’re beginning to get some episodes with their own standalone flair to them. I imagine that working on original arcs rather than adapting manga chapters maybe grants the team with a little more creative freedom in their cuts and storyboards. The low point was Naruto farting on the bug. Like, dude, you just messed up your best chance of finding Sasuke. How are you not devastated by that?
Noelle: High point, I think is Hinata starting to work on her own merit. Canon didn’t spend a lot of time with her, but here we can see that she is trying, she is just as determined as she is in the Chunin Exams, she just needs some time to shine. Low point, the fart ending. Really? Really?
Jared: High point would be Hinata defeating bugs and getting to show off her new technique. Also the return of the goodest of boys Rock Lee and him fighting while unconscious was a good goof. Low point would easily be the fart gag that ended the Bikochu arc. Just a bad way overall to end what could’ve been a serviceable plot point.
Bowls of Ramen: 2 bowls, 3 cups
“I'm Gonna be Hokage!”: 0
Shadow Clones Created: 45
Total so far:
Bowls of Ramen: 49 bowls, 6 cups
“I'm Gonna be Hokage!”: 52
Shadow Clones Created: 548
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 June 21st, KEVIN MATYI will push onward into what the fillers have to offer.
- June 28th, JOSEPH LUSTER brings us to the Land of Birds!
- July 5th, DANNI WILMOTH gets nautical in the Land of the Seas!
CATCH UP ON THE REWATCH!
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 148-154? 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!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.
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