We've finally reached the conclusion of our 220 episode journey!
Welcome back to the final edition of THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH. I'm your host this week, Daniel Dockery, and after 200+ of episodes of high stakes ninja battles, low stakes ninja filler, and medium stakes ninja fart jokes, we've come to the end of Naruto. Every week since the beginning of the year, we've watched seven episodes of the show and every week, we've come together to discuss our feelings on them. Whether we were basking in the wonderful glow of Rock Lee or begging to be done with another filler escort mission, we did it together. We're like a family that gathers on a weekly holiday to complain about Sasuke. That's truly a family that we should all aspire to have.
But it is now over, which means that it's time for reflection. It's time to look at the series as a whole and see what we liked most, what we got out of the whole experience, and what we want in the future. If this was a movie, "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" by Green Day would be playing as the school year ends. We'd all give each other hugs and cry a little bit and then Joe Luster (played by Miles Teller, probably) would say something like "Same time next week?" and we'd chuckle, because it's only kind of a joke. We'll be starting a few new series soon before we jump into Shippuden, and you'll just have to wait to find out what they are.
We're gonna START this week with the HIGHS and LOWS from the last few episodes:
Joseph: The high point for me was seeing this series of corny battles wrap up and finally, FINALLY send us packing toward Shippuden. The low point was... I just can't believe this filler story was the finale.
Kara: The high was the very end... seeing how far Naruto and everyone else have come both in their own skills and their estimations of each other. I think I mentioned before, but it's wild to realize we've gone from "tie Naruto to a post and make him skip lunch because he failed that hard" to his peers talking completely unsarcastically about trying to measure up to him. Low point was the fact that I couldn't focus when I realized this series was going out on a story where Naruto tries to teach Japanese Merlin the power of friendship or whatever.
Kevin: High - I actually kind of liked the last scene or two, where everyone realizes that Naruto's about to leave with Jiraiya, and Naruto stops for a ramen lunch with Iruka before heading out. It's a nice bit of counterpoint to the beginning of the series, showing how Naruto's succeeded in getting people to recognize and accept him.
Low - Gaara's basically out of chakra to the point that the enemy doesn't think he can even fight. Clearly that means he has just enough power left for three major attacks, the likes of which we've either never seen or would almost certainly exhaust him if he were at full strength. I guess this arc really is taking ideas from Shippuden, because willpower is apparently more of a factor in battle than actual physical limitations.
Dishonorable mention - Admittedly, I don't think anyone ever explicitly stated how Gaara's sand works, but I was always under the impression that Shukaku was in control, or at least powering it, rather that Gaara using his own chakra. Also, when I heard that the armor absorbed chakra, my first thought was that Lee was a great match, because Taijutsu doesn't use chakra. I guess I was wrong. Either that, or the people writing this last arc were making some assumptions about how Naruto works.
Carolyn: I would have to agree; watching everyone actually care about Naruto leaving was very sweet. He's spent so much time caring for his friends and feeling like an outcast and now he's found a family. That's a definite high point. My low point would be the fact that the final episodes weren't really about Naruto at all. They were about Gaara. Which, while I like Gaara, seems like a weird choice.
Jared: That last bit with Naruto leaving was real good. Seeing how everyone was reacting to him heading off with Jiraiya, although it's kind of funny that Jiraiya gives him the whole spiel about training and it takes him 80+ episodes for him to actually do it. There was also a small scene where I liked how Neji was basically trying to wingman for Hinata by having them stop training so she could see Naruto off. Low point would be just how bland the final villains were for this last arc.
Noelle: I'm with everyone else, Naruto leaving was definitely my high point. After all, this is his home, and he's leaving all he's familiar with in a bet to possibly get stronger. It isn't just hollow either, because he has people who will miss him and come see him off. It's very touching, especially considering how Naruto has always been framed as being alone. Low point... this last arc felt so dull? Surprising, considering I adore Gaara but I really wasn't feeling it.
Paul: My high point is the realization that Sakura's Medical Ninja training consists of using her Chakra to revive progressively larger and more expensive fish. My low point is related: Sakura and Ino have now both been relegated into roles as healers. I think Kara previously brought this up many, many episodes ago: that sort of power, while crucial, is a fundamentally reactive power rather than a pro-active power. I worry that going into Shippuden, the girls will still be playing second fiddle to the boys.
Danni: The high point for me was the final few scenes. Seeing Naruto say his goodbyes to the Leaf Village while everyone else vows to get stronger as well got me real excited for the impending timeskip. I really can't wait to see how much they've grown when Shippuden begins. The low point for me was how underwhelming the villains turned out to be. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish this arc had been longer so there could be more time to flesh out the Artisan Village and the Four Celestials. The inexplicably magical Voltron armor gets an honorary mention.
David: My low point is similar to last week: despite liking everyone involved in this arc, all the best parts mostly felt like the show nudging my shoulder and asking if I remember this cool stuff from forever ago. High point seems to be echoing most everyone else: finally saying goodbye before we come back to see how everyone has changed.
Welp, that's it, y'all. How are you feeling? Relieved that it's over? Ready for a break? Eager for Shippuden? Frantically writing Sasuke fan fiction?
Joseph: I'm somewhere in the middle. I'd say I'm eager for a little bit of a break, but I also desperately want to wash this taste out of my mouth with some sweet, sweet, main storyline action in Shippuden. I wanna watch Naruto get good again!
Kara: It's about the same for me. As excited as I am about Shippuden, that was a lot of filler and I need a few minutes.
Kevin: Honestly, I'm ready to go to start Shippuden. Throughout this rewatch, I kept remembering just how much changes between the two series. Naruto starts with actual ninja techniques and ends up with Naruto being accepted by the other genin and a selection of higher ups. Shippuden starts with Naruto trying to save a world leader, and (without spoiling too much) ends with fights to save the planet and a war that takes over 200 episodes.
Carolyn: I'm very happy to have a break in between Naruto episodes.
Jared: It's going to be real weird not having Naruto in my weekly schedule, but I think a break is going to be good. I'm pretty excited to get back to non-filler writing though.
Noelle: I have been in filler jail for so long, I'll take that break.
Paul: I'm ready to move on to Shippuden, and I've even added it to my queue. When I was in college, among my social circle, Naruto was held in low regard. People treated it as a series for babies, and being a Naruto fan was synonymous with having questionable (or at least very "basic") taste. I never thought I'd pick it up so many years later, or that I'd enjoy it as much as I have.
Danni: I'm not gonna lie, as soon as I finished episode 220, I considered secretly starting Shippuden right away anyway. It's been the light at the end of the filler tunnel for me for so long that I'm actually bummed I can't dive right into it just yet. I just bought my first Naruto t-shirt from the Crunchyroll Store, and now I have to wait to break it in until [redacted].
David: Despite the last few months of disappointing filler, the actual show up until the retrieval arc turned out to be some of the most fun I've had watching anime every week, so count me in with those who kind of wish we were just going straight into Shippuden.
What is one character that you desperately wish had been given more to do?
Joseph: I would have liked more Kakashi in these filler storylines. The fact that it was a shocker when he occasionally showed up speaks volumes. Instead it felt like we were getting the same or very similar teams on each mission.
Kara: Hinata. She got to do some awesome stuff, granted, but I'm so tired of her one line being "Naruto-kun..." I mean I know how they end up, and it's kind of a gateway spoiler for even knowing what Boruto is about. But considering her capabilities, it's a little annoying to see her constantly fall into the role of Girl Who Likes Naruto instead of that being, you know, just one of her things. Because it's okay to have a crush on a boy. It's okay to have an embarrassing crush on a boy. It happens. But I'd love that to be an aspect instead of a good chunk of her identity.
Kevin: Tenten, absolutely. She's a bit of an obvious choice, since most people know the joke about how little screen time she gets, but her abilities are legitimately interesting and could be extremely versatile, she's just not given any time to show off her prowess.
Carolyn: S A K U R A
Jared: Basically any of the girls. I don't know if the last bit with Ino was an actual tie-in to what happens in Shippuden, but to have her just do the same thing as Sakura really feels like a "hey we have no clue what to do with you" type moment.
Noelle: We all know that Kishimoto is really not good at writing women, but it just stands out so, so much with Sakura. She has a couple of moments and that's it, versus Naruto and Sasuke who are consistent all throughout. Give her something to do, it's not that hard. Please.
Paul: My first instinct is to say Kakashi, but I'll echo the others and say Sakura, and I'll add a little Hinata into the mix. I'd like to see them given a chance to shine, too. Sakura and Hinata have had a few iconic moments, but not to the same degree as Neji, Choji, and Kiba, who not only got dramatic death scenes but also got to survive their heroic sacrifices by pure plot fiat.
Danni: As much as I missed Kakashi in all this filler, I'm gonna have to go with Sakura as well. Despite being one of the three main characters, she's done next to nothing at all. Her main roles have been victim and healer, which are some really disappointing tropes to fall into when writing a female character.
David: It feels weird to say this since everyone including me loves him, but Rock Lee actually? After his big moment he gets relegated to a hospital bed with no discernible improvements made until suddenly he's ok now, I guess. I wish that were handled a little more gracefully.
Have any favorite moments from the series? Favorite fight scenes? Favorite quotes? What sticks out to you as the curtain (momentarily) closes on Naruto and His Amazing Friends?
Joseph: I miss the tournament arcs during exams. Those were really fun, and it was always exciting to see who would emerge victorious and how the animators would handle it. For sheer animated splendor, though, I have to go with the battles during the whole attack on Konohagakure village.
Kara: As messed up as their individual stories can be (especially Jiraiya), I really love the older generation. I like the feeling - not just the feeling, the fact - that the story didn't just magically begin with Naruto, and that there are several levels of information we're still unpacking. My favorite moments tended to touch on those multigenerational elements in some way.
Kevin: If I had to pick a single high point in the series, something that would be an exemplar of how good Naruto can be when it isn't bogged down by endless filler, I would probably go with Naruto's Rasengan training into the Kabuto fight. It shows off Naruto's dedication, ingenuity, and willingness to put himself in harm's way in a fight to save those he cares about, and also opens up the world more by revealing some of the history of the Leaf. It's not quite as emotional as some of the character deaths, like Zabuza and Haku or the Third Hokage, but it showcases some of the best aspects of the show in quick succession.
Carolyn: I think I'll always be partial to Rock Lee training outside the hospital. He's such a good boy.
Jared: I came into this knowing relatively little about the series and leave knowing that Rock Lee is the best boy. That fight against Gaara is just something else, even if that was one of things things I actually knew coming in. When this show is good, it's amazing, which is kinda hard to remember when you're locked in filler jail.
Noelle: I think overall, my impressions stayed fairly consistent from when I first watched it to now. I think I definitely enjoyed the Chunin arc more, since I thought it dragged when I was young, and I really appreciate Rock Lee. I can't believe I used to think Rock Lee was annoying, this kid rules.
Paul: My favorite moment is still the scene where, while training with Sakura and Sasuke under Kakashi, Naruto gets caught in a rope trap, escapes from it, then immediately gets caught in another rope trap. Another scene that really stuck with me was when Naruto and Sasuke teamed up against Zabuza and together they hide Naruto (disguised as a shuriken) in the shadow of another shuriken. Finally, a phrase that stuck with me is: "A ninja is one who endures." That phrase is the thesis statement for what defines heroes and villains in the world of Naruto.
Danni: The battle between Naruto and Sasuke in the Final Valley, for sure. Their relationship is the backbone of the entire show in my opinion, and that fight was an incredible turning point and moment of understanding between them. It also just looked really freaking cool.
David: The scene where Sakura tries one last time to stop Sasuke from leaving. It's sort of understated but there is a lot of emotional complexity going on there, down to her 'confession' hail mary that is completely ineffective. The show isn't usually great at writing women, or even emotions in general that aren't loud and clear, but that's definitely a place it got things right and sticks out to me even now.
I want you to sum up your experience with Naruto in three words.
Joseph: Always Craving Ramen.
Kara: My Queen Tsunade.
Kevin: Ninja wizard president.
Carolyn: I like Naruto?
Jared: So much ramen.
Noelle: Power of friendship.
Paul: Not Kid's Stuff.
Danni: Only just beginning.
David: Please less filler.
What advice would you give to someone that hasn't watched Naruto but plans to try?
Joseph: Don't be stubborn. Listen to what longtime fans say about the filler and don't bother with it. Don't feel the need to absorb every bad episode and just follow the main story through both this and Shippuden. Failing that, read the manga.
Kara: I know the main advice is "seriously, skip the filler," but my friend circles are made up of a lot of completionists and telling them to skip it would just make them watch it harder. So whatever. Honestly, even without the filler, Naruto has highs and lows. So I guess I'd say don't expect all 220 episodes to be fried gold, but enjoy it as a chill watch and just appreciate when those really solid stories come along.
Kevin: If they already want to start, my advice would be to binge the first season to get to the Zabuza arc. The earliest stuff is important, but not necessarily the most interesting. If I need to show them something to convince them to watch, then I'd probably recommend the Chunin Exams. Some of the details might be confusing, but it's some of the best self-contained storytelling in the show.
My general advice is honestly to go back and keep pace with the Rewatch if you want to watch the entire show. There are over 200 episodes, around half being filler, so you're not going to watch the entire show over a weekend. The Rewatch keeps a brisk pace that gets through all of the less interesting bits without going so quickly that you accidentally skip the emotional resonance of the better arcs. If they just want to watch those better arcs and skip the likes of Filler Jail, then watch from around the Genin Exam or Land of Waves arc to episode 130 or so (it'll be obvious when the filler starts).
Carolyn: Yeah, skip the filler. Watch until Sasuke leaves and call it a day.
Jared: You don't have to watch all of the filler. There's certainly a few arcs that if you wanted to check out as a buffer for Shippuden that would be fine, but going through it all isn't necessary. Although if you're liking things and get to the filler and want to keep going, who am I to stop you? I'm not your dad.
Noelle: It's a lot less compact compared to more modern shonen, but it's still got plenty of substance. Naruto, at the end of the day, is a good kid that's worth rooting for. Also, skip the filler, you won't miss anything.
Paul: When you're going through Filler Hell, keep going. A ninja is one who endures.
Danni: Just skip the filler. I'm saying this as someone who endured all of Dragon Ball without giving in to everyone telling me to skip certain batches of episodes. Skip the filler.
David: Don't watch too much at once! This show doesn't exactly have a reputation for solid emotional or thematic setpieces but I think that's because there is so much content people lose the details, so watch a little at a time and let it sit with you.
And before we depart from our journey, we have a question from a reader:
"What were some of your favorite Opening and Ending Theme Songs (or intros and outros, respectively)? Are there any bands/groups/artists you are now a fan of, but weren't previously, because their work was featured in Naruto?"
Kara: "GO!!!" by FLOW is absolutely my favorite opening. I envy everyone who gets to see them live at Crunchyroll Expo this year! As for endings, "Yellow Moon" by Akeboshi really hits me. I also liked "Wind," but this is the one that sent me looking for more music by him. "Parade" by CHABA is a close second, but that's mostly because it sounds like it's by The Killers.
Joe: I'm gonna go classic with Far Away as my favorite OP, and Wind as my favorite ED.
Noelle: Far Away is probably my top fave op because of how absolutely rad it is, but I'll be lying if GO!!! isn't the first thing I think of when I think of Naruto openings (fighting dreamers!). I'm also feeling Wind for my favorite ed, because it's very touching, but it's also so radically different compared to the rest of the endings? A top fave.
Jared: "GO!!!" and "Wind" are definitely top tier when it comes to openings and endings. I also actually went and purchased "Far Away" and "Pinocchio" so those would be up there too.
Kevin: Interesting that someone asked this actually. Since we're nearing Shippuden, I've been occasionally listening to all of the Shippuden themes together, and it is quite an experience to go through 500 episodes of content in a half an hour via song.
To the actual question, for openings my favorites are probable Far Away and GO!!!. Between the two, I'd probably have to go with Far Away as my favorite, because while I didn't know the artist when I first heard the song as a kid, it technically introduced me to Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and I don't think I've heard a song of theirs yet that I don't like.
For endings, to be honest I had to go back and relisten to literally all of the Naruto endings, because I seriously don't remember any of them. As a result, I guess the first ending, Wind, wins by default since it is the only one that I've actively sought out and listened to outside of the show. That being said, I actually found that I liked Mountain-A-Go Go-Two and Speed much more than I thought I would.
David: I really couldn't believe how good Wind is as it had somehow left my mind but now it's my favorite ED in original Naruto by far. GO!! is unsurprisingly my choice for OP both because it is very good and how much it represents the feeling of watching Naruto in general.
Ramen: 2 bowls
Ramen: 210 bowls, 20 cups
And that's all for the GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH. Once again, thank you for joining us and we hope you'll accompany our merry team on our next adventure!
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