Demonic Fish Monster? I hardly know her!
Welcome to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! I’m Danni Wilmoth and I’ll be your host this week as we barrel on through all 220 episodes of the original Naruto anime adaptation. After last week’s spooky search for a g-g-g-g-g-ghost in the Land of Birds arc for episodes 162-168, it’s time to flesh out some backstories and meet some less than savory side characters along the way in episodes 169-175.
This time around we’re going a little bit back to basics with another Orochimaru-centric filler arc in the Land of Seas, but with a few things that make it stand out from the rest in a pretty positive way! Instead of another ultimately fruitless search for Sasuke, we get to meet back up with Anko -- Chunin Exam proctor and Orochimaru’s former student -- to learn a bit more about her and what it was like to be under Orochimaru’s command (hint: it’s not great.)
Additionally, we get an after school special about the dangers of having money as well as an introduction to a new arc about, well, searching for a bunch of money. But before we can see how that arc plays out, we first need to dive in and see what the rest of the Crunchyroll Features team thought about this latest batch of Naruto filler goodness!
Like Randy Owen used to say, you can’t keep a good power-hungry snake man down. Orochimaru is BACK...sort of...These first few episodes were kind of a return to form with the central conflict revolving around Orochimaru’s former associates, only this time more out of chance than a search for Sasuke. How did you feel about Orochimaru’s inclusion in this arc compared to in previous filler arcs?
Joseph: I actually thought it was really cool to see Orochimaru more in the light of someone who used to be a teacher. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see the impact of his evil on former disciples like Anko, so it was nice to have a slightly different perspective on the sinister snake boi.
Carolyn: I didn’t hate it. It was fine to step away from him for a bit. And it’s fine for him to be back for a spell. Seems like a natural way to sort of steer the story back to Sasuke. And to be honest, I really, really liked this arc, filler or not.
Paul: Orochimaru's inclusion in the Land of the Sea story arc works better than in some previous filler arcs specifically because they used it as a means of fleshing out Anko's backstory. Amnesia can be a narrative crutch, but the horror imagery and the self-affirming conclusion were a strong combination, and it was striking to see how Orochimaru's influence still looms large over her.
Jared: I think having that long of a break between him being in an arc really helped here. We get a good look at some of the really messed up stuff he’d been doing even when he was still technically with the Leaf, which I think helped make it feel less like filler and more in the style of the earlier arcs.
Kevin: Despite my previous grievances with the filler arcs seeming to need to put Orochimaru in everything, I felt like he actually added something this time, rather than being shoehorned in, since he added to Anko’s development. So I liked him being here, probably because it’s not related to the actual mission, but instead is just a coincidence.
Kara: As much as I grouse about all evil roads leading back to Orochimaru, I kinda liked this. I also like looking at more reminders of the fact that people didn’t always consider Orochimaru evil. There was a time when people trusted him—hell, the fact that he was a trusted teacher really drives home some of the emotion behind the Leaf Ninja dealing with him.
Noelle: I think this was fine, mostly because instead of focusing more on the puppeteering aspect of Orochimaru in the present, this focuses on how he used to be framed. He is still considered part of the Sannin, and once held a lot of respect in the village, and him betraying them all was a vital blow and not just a random ninja running away. I liked it.
Anko’s also back, y’all! She was an early favorite for me when we met her during the Chunin Exams, so it kind of bummed me out when the plot just kind of forgot about her. We also get to see more Ino and Shino in action with Naruto too. How did you feel about this group’s dynamic during these episodes?
Joseph: I thought their dynamic was a little stronger than it was in previous filler episodes, but I’ll admit I was glazing over a little once again during this arc. At this point we’re so far away from the actual story of Naruto that I forgot what it’s like. I like Anko being back, though.
Carolyn: I liked it. I was a fan of the arc and I was a fan of seeing an old character come back. We keep seeing all these new characters that we have to simultaneously learn the origins of and try to care for. I liked seeing the backstory to someone we already know. I felt like the dynamic was a bit of a return to form, as well. This felt like early Naruto to me.
Paul: Bringing back Anko opened up interesting dramatic opportunities, and the showrunners did a good job taking advantage of them. As much as I enjoy Naruto teaming up with supporting characters from other ninja squads, I had a hard time justifying the combo with Shino and Ino here. The three of them seem like the worst possible combination for a naval mission. Amphibious combat doesn't speak to any of their individual strengths.
Jared: I’d say the only downside to the group dynamic is they made Ino at times act too much like Sakura would, but other than that I thought it was good. Bringing Anko back in the way they did makes a ton of sense and should have been the case for a lot of other characters.
Kevin: Their first reaction was mine, as well. What possible team combination could result from this group? As it turns out, basically nothing, since they fight together, but don’t really work off of each other in any way. It’s not as though I dislike them as a team, there’s just not much material in terms of character dynamics or fighting styles to work off of. The most interesting moments for me were Ino commenting on Naruto’s boundless energy.
Kara: Anko’s back! She seemed really fun from the get-go, so I’m glad we’re revisiting her. Ino/Shino/Naruto was surprisingly effective, though I have to admit my favorite part of their team-up was when they were sailing away at the end, and they pan to Ino and Naruto in turn laughing and Shino’s just standing there like a stone-cold weirdo. A+
Noelle: I don’t think it exactly worked per se, but at least they’re trying out something different. If you have a massive cast of characters, then you might as well use them. The filler going this route, even through unconventional combinations of characters (especially since canon tends to keep the teams together), is still something worth exploring.
We’ve talked at length about how filler is usually “plot-proof,” meaning nothing that happens is allowed to forward the plot or alter any characterizations outside of what the source material planned for. So it came as a real surprise to me that the Land of Seas ended up completely reshaping Anko’s established role in the story. In “canon” she’s established as Orochimaru’s former pupil who was cast aside and feels inadequate for it. Now, thanks to this filler arc, she realizes she rejected him of her own volition, absolving herself of the burden that’s defined her so far. Do you think this is a positive development, or did the writers take too many liberties with the characters?
Joseph: I don’t recall if Anko is explored much further later, so it seemed like the writers were just able to slip this revelation in without pushing too many other important pieces in the process. I’m glad something positive came of the arc rather than it ending with Naruto farting and making everything that just happened completely pointless.
Carolyn: It’s a bit of a cheesy ending, but I thought it was different enough and actually does progress the story to a mild degree. Naruto and friends could at least have a new ally.
Paul: I'm not familiar with the manga canon and this is my first time watching the anime, so I can't comment on whether giving Anko a richer backstory feels like the writers are taking liberties. I'm glad that Anko is able to work through a past trauma in a positive way, and it was interesting to see her unconsciously mimicking some of her former teacher's mannerisms (sinister grins, licking her kunai, snake-themed Jutsu, etc.).
Jared: Not knowing the actual canon, if they don’t actually go into her backstory at all, I think they actually did a really good job of establishing what happened with her and showing someone that could cast aside Orochimaru’s charismatic ways. When the arc started I thought it was smart that they were going into her backstory since it was brought up very early on, but never really addressed again. Given what we’ve seen with some of the filler thus far, they could’ve easily messed this up, but in all honesty, they really brought their A game here.
Kevin: From what I remember of Shippuden, and knowing at least the early parts of Boruto, I might actually consider this the peak of her character. I quite like that they developed her further, and that they gave her younger self some agency in rejecting Orochimaru, even if it may end up contradicting some other character moments as a result. Basically I’m okay with retcons, provided that they result in better characters.
Kara: Like a lot of the others, I don’t know the manga. But in general, I am all about characters discovering agency in hurtful and abusive situations. It’s kind of hopeful and encouraging in a way—not all of Orochimaru’s evil is limited to weird ninja magic, and some of his behaviors exist in real-world toxic people. So I love seeing positive examples of taking charge and growing out of that in anime.
Noelle: From what I remember, Anko is barely touched upon in the manga and Shippuden, so sure, it’s fine that they manage to reframe her story here. Wouldn’t Kishimoto have to at least approve of these stories anyway? In terms of what was reframed, her original appearance had her more lost, as a victim wanting revenge, having her life stolen away from her. Trying to find the inner strength to regain that-- that’s pretty alright. It adds more depth to her, and I can’t say that’s a negative.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and so we were introduced to surely the absolute worst character who has and will ever appear in Naruto fiction: a (literal) snot-nosed trust fund brat whose name I forget but detest too much to go look up out of fear that I will once again lay eyes on his incorrigible countenance. We talk a lot about our favorites in these write-ups, but let’s get messy for a bit. Out of all the one-note side characters we’ve met so far on these adventures, which one do you utterly despise the most?
Joseph: Gosh, it might be this kid. This felt like some weird two-cent episode of Pokémon than a ninja action show, complete with our requisite moral at the end. The only thing I liked about him was the fact that his nose was so full of snot that the subtitles had him saying Darudo instead of Naruto.
Carolyn: Yeah, he’s pretty obnoxious. I honestly can’t say that I’ve truly hated most characters, otherwise.
Paul: Kunihisa is the worst kind of stock character, but even though the stereotypical rich kid with a chip on his shoulder feels like lazy writing, I can't work up the passion to despise him, because that would require devoting further energy to the definition of a throwaway character. He sucks, but at least Kunihisa didn't linger like Mizuki, who was poorly written in a way that dominated for several episodes and took the spotlight away from fun characters like Fujin and Raijin.
Jared: What a weird episode that was. Even with the way he’s designed, I wasn’t sure if they were trying to be borderline offensive or what. Like Paul says, it helps he really doesn’t stick around past this episode so I think that lessens the blow of him, but oof. Didn’t know we needed to have an after school special about the dangers of greed.
Kevin: Basically every character in the show, filler or not, has some kind of redeeming quality, even if it takes time to surface. And then there’s this kid.
Kara: I did not like this child. I am having an extremely hard time thinking of another filler character I dislike as much as his child.
Noelle: Dear god I hope we never see this kid again. Everyone else might not have clicked with me for various reasons, but this kid was one big nope.
It looks like we’ll have to wait until next time to see the end of the treasure-hunting arc, so let’s set up a fun exercise in the meantime. Put yourself in Tsunade’s shoes for a few moments. You need to put a three person team together to search for some buried treasure to pay off your extreme gambling debts. You have your pick of anyone in the village. There are three catches, though. One: the treasure map is vague and there are probably lots of traps protecting the treasure. Two: you have to make sure it isn’t a team smart enough to figure out you’re sending them on a completely self-serving mission. Three: one of them has to be Naruto. Now, who will be your mission leader, who will be their subordinate, and who will be Naruto?
Joseph: I’m gonna have to keep Kiba and Akamaru, because you just can’t kick a dog to the curb when you’re hunting for something. I’d probably go ahead and toss Ino in there as the leader, because she’d be smart about the mission but too annoyed at Naruto being Naruto to think about the true motive behind it. Naruto will be Naruto, naturally.
Carolyn: Gosh dangit, they can’t be smart? Can I say Shikamaru anyway because he likely wouldn’t care to tell anyone what’s going on? He would be 1,000 percent smart enough to figure out that vague map. Rock Lee is a good boy and would be loyal and do my bidding and trust that I have good reasons for this shady mission. Naruto will be the leader, Shikamaru will be his subordinate, and Rock Lee will be Naruto.
Paul: I hope that Tsunade isn't dumb enough to fall for a trick as blatantly obvious as a sinister dude showing up with a secret treasure map to a hidden cave full of fabulous wealth, so I suspect the real mission is to bust up this ring of face-stealing ninja. If the assignment weren't a set-up, I'd send Naruto, Neji, and Sakura. Neji would be the brains of the operation and he could search for danger with his Byakugan, Sakura would provide support and medical treatment if things turned pear-shaped, and Naruto would disarm traps by blundering into them face-first.
Jared: Man, the caveat of the team not being smart makes this tough. I think Rock Lee would be a lock in that case, since he’d just go with whatever if Guy told him it was good. I think I’d cast Shino as leader since we’ve seen him be able to keep Naruto in line at times, but also he could use his bugs to help search in the beginning. That, and you need a straight man to Naruto and Lee’s goofy antics.
Kevin: Team leader: Shizune. She already knows about Tsunade’s debts, so can keep quiet about the real reason for the mission, and is also a medical ninja, so fewer and less serious injuries should something go wrong. Naruto: Kiba. He’s good at tracking and knows the area, but is still a Naruto, so he won’t realize what’s going on (I’d send Sasuke as the Naruto due to his ninjutsu power and general competence while not caring enough to wonder about the purpose of the mission, but obviously he can’t really go at the moment). Subordinate: Realistically any combat specialist, but for the sake of team variety let’s go with Lee, since his insane strength could probably help with negating at least some traps, and the team doesn’t have much Taijutsu power yet.
Kara: I think there’s actually a lot of wiggle room with the “not smart” caveat. Between keeping Naruto in line and parsing the map, even the most solid team leader won’t have time to question what’s going on. I’m actually going to go with my fanfic filler team from before: Sakura, Rock Lee, and Naruto. Sakura can take point, Lee can be her subordinate because he’s resilient enough to handle any traps, and Naruto will be too busy swooning over Sakura-chyen to have a random mid-episode Wisdom roll crit success.
Noelle: Tough to say, but not being too smart would discount the obvious choices of Shikamaru and Sakura, so I’d say team leader would be post-character development Neji, who is calculating enough (and has earned Naruto’s respect at this point), to keep everyone together. It would help that he’s good in combat. For the traps, I’d say Tenten, because she’s a traps and weapons expert, and who better to get around those? Naruto for plot armor.
I can’t think of any snarky ways to ask that haven’t already been done already, so let’s just get to it. Highs and lows?
Joseph: My high was seeing Naruto using his shadow clones to play soccer with himself. Of course he’d use them for fun when he’s bored! The low was probably the snot-nosed brat episode. Throwaway Case Closed side character lookin’ turd.
Carolyn: I actually really liked seeing Anko learn by identifying with Naruto. We’ve seen him identify with the villains time and again and learn some lesson or other in the process. “I was almost just like them!” I like seeing the other side of the coin. I have a feeling lots of low points are going to be the same here, but yeah, the snot-nosed kid.
Paul: My high point was Anko recovering her memories and finding closure with that portion of her past as Orochimaru's student. Addressing past trauma with a healthy resolution that makes a character feel stronger and more in control of their life is always a positive, which is why my low-point is that Isaribi doesn't get a similar conclusion. She's an anime-original character from a filler arc, but couldn't we have a few seconds to confirm that she's got a happy, healthy future ahead of her? Will the townspeople finally accept Isaribi, or will they continue to abuse and mistreat her? Could she relocate to the Village Hidden in the Leaves instead? Give me something. I want to know that the fish girl is okay.
Jared: That first arc was just real good in a way I wasn’t expecting. I also enjoyed Naruto’s attempt at playing soccer by himself, but he’s gotta seperate those teams better! Can’t have everyone looking the same! Low point would probably be the rich kid episode. What a weird episode.
High - Naruto and Isaribi’s relationship throughout the Land of Sea arc. Sure, she ends up being another of the “oh, we’re similar,” situations, but early on Naruto can’t say how they’re similar, so she doesn’t believe him until he’s pushed to the point of showing the Kyuubi’s power.
Low - The kid who’s so annoying none of us are even bothering to look up his name.
Dishonorable mention - “Sorry, no more ferries today.” “How else can we possibly get to Mother Island?” YOU CAN WALK ON WATER!
Kara: High point is the return of Akamaru the Good Boy. Low point is existence of rich child. I don’t care if he learned the value of senseless beauty and hard work, I wish he’d sunk into that bottomless swamp.
Noelle: I really liked Anko, because we haven’t seen a lot of her, and what ended up being delivered was pretty satisfactory! I will always happily consume good development. Low point, that kid. I swear, that kid.
Bowls of Ramen: 0 + 1 uncountable scene
"I'm Gonna be Hokage!": 0
Shadow Clones Created: 22 + 1 variable scene
Total so far:
Bowls of Ramen: 171 bowls, 9 cups
"I'm Gonna be Hokage!": 55
Shadow Clones Created: 683
And that’s it for this week! Remember that you’re always welcome to watch along with the Rewatch, especially if you’ve never seen the original Naruto! Watch Naruto today!
Here’s our upcoming schedule:
- Next week, JARED CLEMONS leads us to the Hidden Village of Star!
- On July 19th, JOSEPH LUSTER is back to continue the Star Guard mission!
-And on July 26th, KARA DENNISON returns to guide us through the end of the Peddlers Escort Mission!
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 162-168? 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!
Danni Wilmoth is a Features and Social Videos writer for Crunchyroll and also co-hosts the video game podcast Indiecent. You can find more words from her on Twitter @NanamisEgg.
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