Even the greatest of ninja can't escape their pasts in this epic Naruto Shippuden fight
Even if you've never watched Naruto Shippuden, Kakashi vs Obito is still a very cool battle.
The animation is fluid and fast, but the character models remain on point and relatively controlled, adding impact to every landed hit and creating suspense out of every charge and reversal. The choreography is tight, well-paced and relentless, eschewing melodramatic excess. The rising orchestral music (anime shorthand for "Y'all are probably gonna cry about this") might seem like a bit much, but it never overpowers the action and it quickly becomes a natural part of the sequence. And the flashbacks interspersed throughout perfectly convey tragedy while also helping to blend the brawl into a mix of muscle memory and intense rage.
So yeah, it's a very cool fight, even if you have no idea what a "Kakashi" is and you're just scrolling through YouTube looking for dope anime fights to watch while you're on the toilet. But of course, if you're a fan of Naruto Shippuden, then the fight probably means much, much more.
One major theme of Shippuden (and the Naruto franchise in general) is that the past is hard to escape from. The things you regret will come back to haunt you and those that you hold dear. This is evident, not just in the many villains returning to seek vengeance and the many heroes that have deeply complicated histories and relationships, but in how many times someone is defeated ... only to not really be defeated. They find a new way to come back or their spirit gets a new vessel to inhabit or they show up in some kind of new vision and while it might leave a viewer saying "Orochimaru survived THAT?!?" it all serves a greater purpose — no matter how hard you try, you're never really done with your past. It'll probably always be a part of you.
When we first meet Kakashi, he's there to keep an eye on Naruto and Sasuke and also hopefully teach Team 7 to just get along for once. His seemingly lackadaisical attitude hides a past that is full of trauma and despair, one that he probably wants to hide from his new ninja apprentices because it's hard to fully explain "So I had a ninja friend and another ninja friend and one of those ninja friends was a lot like Naruto and the other was super swell, too, but then that first ninja friend got mad at me for abandoning our other ninja friend even though I thought it was a good idea at the time and then I abandoned that first ninja friend as that seemed like a good idea at the time, too, and then that second ninja friend impaled herself on my powers and died because she had a monster stored inside of her and that first ninja friend got piiiiiiissed and if he comes back, he'll probably help start a war. Got that? Cool! Now try to grab these bells!"
Now, all of this might sound like complicated anime backstory, but it's kinda relatable. Think about every time you wonder why the government doesn't do some obviously helpful thing, only to learn that, like, a bunch of dudes passed the Can Never Do The Obviously Helpful Thing Act of 1974. For better or for worse, so many things we experience are built off the stuff that people have done before. And in Naruto, the main motif among the politics of the leaders of the Hidden Leaf Village is that they're all trying to stay one step ahead of something that lurks in their backstories — something they're not sure the next generation of ninja can handle, even though they inevitably have to.
And that's why Kakashi vs Obito is so powerful, because it's a straight-ahead attempt at reckoning with your traumas and the relationships that you've seen destroyed. It's the theme of being unable to hide who you are (and who you once were) distilled into hand-to-hand combat. The lack of dialogue in the clip above is a stylistic choice for sure, but it also hints to how personal the duel is. There are no outside voices, no cheerleading, and no reactions. It's just two men confronting each other, trying to reckon with the things they've both done.
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Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!
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