There's a deep, dastardly plot in the making.
Welcome back to THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! Noelle Ogawa here, and I'm your host as we run through the latest group of episodes of Naruto! We're still deep in filler territory, but this time we're in for a longer, much more concentrated story. There's a bit of a break from the "comedy" that we've gotten used to in terms of filler, and we're moving onto something that feels a lot different than usual: The threat is more along the lines of long-term espionage, something echoing the spy work of real-life ninjas.
The village is in danger from a famed ninja who's been on the Anbu watchlist for quite some time. He has a plan brewing, one that's years in the making, and he's ready to execute it. The village is on high alert, and it's up to the gang of genin to save the day. And this time, the whole group is here!
So let's see what everyone thought!
This is the first time we’ve had a major filler arc that focused more on long-term espionage VS a large military threat. Do you think they’ve handled the differences well?
Paul: Aside from some clunky writing (“Oh, look, it's the never-before-seen grandpa character that Naruto is good friends with!”) and some scenes that required everyone to act like blockheads in order to advance the plot, I enjoyed the Genno Infiltration arc. It had ninjas being sneaky, it emphasized the teamwork of all 11 of the main Genin characters, and despite it being filler, Genno's plot grew into a convincing threat that challenged three generations of Leaf Villagers.
Kevin: I’ll get more into it in my highs and lows, but in short: mostly yes. I really like the different style of enemy and flow of the arc, and especially liked how many backups Genno had planned. Then the ending happened.
Jared: I think there’s certainly some flaws in this arc, but it was fun to see how everyone handled the dual threats happening at the same time. There was enough mystery and intrigue scattered throughout with the idea of a full scale assault and/or fighting an enemy who’s already within the borders. There’s a great shot of Guy waiting for news on if they’re about to be invaded which really captures a deep feeling of dread and anxiety.
Joseph: This was one of the best filler arcs of late. The ending was just shy of Naruto farting into the camera, but the rest of it really brought everyone together, and I liked the fact that it was all set in the village.
Danni: As far as I’m concerned, it was the best filler arc in the show so far. I found the whole thing riveting. The show never quite tipped its hand as to what Genno was up to, and Genno was a great adversary for the group. His methods were some of the most ninja-like we’ve seen from anyone, and his motives were incredibly sympathetic: Old soldier trying to complete his lifelong mission despite its futility is really interesting as is. Throwing in that late twist about his son manages to make it heartbreaking as well. Really stellar group of episodes here.
Kara: I really enjoyed this arc a lot. There were a few minor issues I had with the underpinning of it all (the uncertainty of Genno’s character was essential to the story, but some of it didn’t scan as tidily even accounting for him being undercover), but overall it felt really well thought out with genuine stakes and a chance for lots of characters to do what they do best. Also I kind of love that the main flaw in Genno’s plan stemmed from taking Naruto complaining about his buddies at face value - guess he’s never seen the show before.
Carolyn: I wasn’t a super big fan of the ending, I thought that was pretty cheesy and basically undid everything that happened before it. But overall, I enjoy seeing a different sort of threat and the opportunity to break up all the fighting.
Unlike a lot of the filler, here the whole genin squad (and Shikamaru) are all working together. How do you think that was handled? Is there anyone you wanted to see more of?
Paul: My only complaint is that the older, more experienced ninja took too long to realize that certain elements of Genno's plans were straight out of the “Sneaky Dude Playbook”. Tricks such as faking one's own death or traps that are actually diversions must be commonplace in a world populated by shinobi, so characters like Tsunade should be more cautious before committing all of the village's fighting forces to a mission based on incomplete intel, although I guess the point is that the Fifth Hokage is still inexperienced and impulsive.
Kevin: The actual squad was probably the weakest part for me. People didn’t really bounce off of each other, and they were just kind of walking around for the most part, not even having especially interesting conversations or thinking about potential backup plans like Shikamaru eventually realized. I didn’t really get a sense of urgency outside of when the kids were about to accidentally blow up the entire village.
Jared: Everyone played their roles accordingly in the younger group which led to some interesting groups that had to work together. Unlike the other filler arcs that are just Naruto and 2-3 others, it gave everyone something to do and made them useful. Like Paul said, the older group was kind of left to dry in terms of somehow not seeing what was truly happening, so that could have been handled better.
Joseph: The division of capabilities was all pretty straightforward, but they handled it decently for the most part. Like Paul said, the hardest hurdle to jump was the fact that all the Genin somehow figured this out faster than the higher ups. I know it has to be that way, but it made Tsunade and the rest appear a little dimwitted.
Danni: I enjoyed seeing all of them working together. It felt like a natural culmination of all their different combinations in the filler thus far. We’ve seen them all work together in various small groups, so it made sense they’d be familiar enough with one another to be able to work together as one big group.
Kara: I liked seeing so many of them utilized. I also liked seeing Naruto’s Clone Jutsu used for something besides “literally whatever needs doing,” and the occasional reminders that our ninja kids are actually surprisingly good at what they do. It’s one thing for a random chucklehead to get knocked out by Rock Lee, but to have a master ninja genuinely impressed by Hinata’s Byakugan is pretty cool.
Carolyn: After going through almost the whole series, the Chunin exams are still my favorite arc. Anything that brings everyone back together is great in my book. I liked seeing all the characters in one place and I think everyone’s strengths were mostly catered to appropriately.
Someone you thought you were decently close to, such a neighbor or coworker, turns out to be a spy. How do you think you’d react? What would you do?
Paul: I'd dump them like a bad habit. That may sound cold, but someone I thought I knew was recently outed as a sexual predator, and I cut them out of my life and took steps to knock the pegs out of the platform that I'd unwittingly helped them build. If I found out someone I loved was plotting to destroy my entire community, I'd show them no mercy.
Kevin: Depends on if I know that they know that I know. If I think I can still act without them knowing I’m trying to stop them, I’ll probably call the authorities to get someone to act who actually has counter espionage training. If I know that I’m busted and may be putting people in danger by going through with plan A, I’ll probably just not do anything at all, since at least then I’m not making the situation worse. If the spy is about to actively harm people and I’m the only one who can do anything… honestly that’d probably be an in-the-moment decision. I’d like to think that I’d try to stop them, but I also know that my default is either of the two other plans, so jumping into action isn’t something that I’d naturally do.
Jared: I’d probably be very disappointed and sad, but at the same time, I’d have to cut them out of my life if they’re being distrustful. Although, I’d also be confused on why a spy is trying to get close to me in the first place.
Joseph: Depends on what kind of spy work they’re doing. If it seems cool, pays well, and doesn’t hurt anyone, I’d like to see what kind of cut I could get out of it. I’m kidding, of course… unless I’m not?
Danni: I’d start Googling “How to check your house for bugs. No, not that kind. The other one. The spy one.”
Kara: Like Paul, I not long ago had to drop someone hard - not a sexual predator, but a very abusive and underhanded person. It’s not entirely the same as the spy scenario, but there's a lot of similarities, with the main one being coming to terms with the fact that this person and I had never actually been friends and I was only ever a means to an end. I actually hurt for Naruto in this arc because of exactly that (although his version had a mitigating twist at the end). All you can really do is drop everything and, if at all possible, warn anyone else who might be affected.
Carolyn: Are they a good spy or a bad spy?
On the other hand, let’s say you were a ninja spy sent to infiltrate the village. How would you go about your mission? What would you do?
Paul: I'd try to take a page out of Genno's book. He was an excellent spy, and he fit in so well that he deceived an entire village of seasoned ninja not once but twice. Leaf Village only caught on to his schemes because he deliberately tipped his hand. So I'd keep my head low, perform my cover job in a slightly below average fashion, and be pleasantly mediocre in my social interactions, so as not to draw attention to myself.
Kevin: Depends on the time scale. If I have infinite time, I’d honestly probably do what Genno did: Just keep coming back to the village multiple times to set up traps and backups until I have a ridiculously convoluted web of plans that is almost impossible to counter in its entirety. If I have a limited amount of time, then it becomes more relevant to know what my exact mission is, whether I’m infiltrating to kill a target, steal a document, destroy the village, or something else.
Jared: Genno had the right ideas in that you’ve got to be sneaky, conniving, and also be able to blend in to the point that no one’s going to miss you if you suddenly leave. You want to be able to do whatever side job that you have to do at a level that’s essentially the equivalent of a C-. Passable, but you’re not excelling. After that, it’s about getting out without anyone raising a stink about it.
Joseph: I loved Genno’s ability to be lowkey. I feel like I could totally blend into the background for a bit, but I also like attention too much to keep it up for long, and I’d probably spill the beans too soon and fail.
Danni: I can’t count the number of times at work I’ve just been going about my business like normal and a coworker beside me turns around and jumps because they had no idea I was there. I seem to naturally just have no presence wherever I go, so honestly I could probably just walk in and take whatever I need without anyone noticing.
Kara: I’m gonna be real, I’d fail. I suck at lying and sneaking around. You know that bit in Into the Spider-Verse where Miles plays too dumb? That’s me. Don’t hire me as a spy; I’ll stay back at my village and do paperwork.
Carolyn: If you act fairly stand-offish and antisocial most people just leave you alone. So, I would do that and then do my spy thing.
Genno admits that the main reason why he went about his plan is because he felt he needed to fulfill his mission before he dies. Regardless of the morality of this choice, do you sympathize with his thought process?
Paul: I don't agree with his goals, but I understand where Genno is coming from, and that aspect of his motivation added a spicy bit of generational conflict to a story that was already brimming with subterfuge. They also made it clear that Genno wasn't really trying to destroy Leaf Village so much as he was re-enacting a “treasure hunt” in memory of his deceased son, although I'm not sure if that particular bit of characterization was necessary.
Kevin: I sympathize with it insofar as that’s something that makes sense for an actual ninja. Even if it’s decades later, you still have a mission to fulfill. Genno’s also one of the best ninja we’ve seen in the entire show, so it makes sense that out of everyone, he’d be the one to follow through with that ideal. As an actual action, I can’t say that I agree with it. Much like any grudge, letting it fester for decades on end is admirable from one angle, but pitiable or childish from most others.
Jared: He was a ninja to the end. I wouldn’t say I sympathize with his entire thought process, even if it was somewhat of a ruse. If he’d really been trying to harbor all of that ill will for so long, I’d consider that to be just unhealthy.
Joseph: I don’t know that I buy the fact that the charges he left behind would only deal superficial damage to the plateau, but yeah, I can sympathize with wanting to see the fruits of your labor before you pass on.
Danni: An old ninja caught in the existential crisis of dying before his now futile lifelong goal can be completed? Hell yeah! A devoted soldier having to come to terms with the reality that his nation has either changed or no longer exists feels like a conflict straight out of Metal Gear Solid. I love it.
Kara: At first I wasn’t feeling it. But then I remembered ninja in this universe give literally everything to their profession. It’s the thing that’s always kind of freaked me out the most about the whole series, that level of devotion to the point of body modification, self-harm, or destroying any chances for any other roles in your life. So in that context, in the context of Naruto, I can absolutely understand feeling that need.
Carolyn: A treasure hunt was his goal, though. Could he not have done that some other way without putting an entire village on edge? I thought the ending didn’t quite make sense, to be honest.
We get another recap episode, with the top 5 fights so far. Do you agree with the choices? If not, what would your top 5 be?
Paul: The fights between the Leaf Village Genin and Orochimaru's disciples were over-represented. I don't know if I have a Top 5 exactly, but I wish Sasuke vs. Orochimaru in the Forest of Death, Rock Lee vs. Gaara during the Chunin Exams, and the Third Hokage vs. Orochimaru had made the list.
Kevin: I find it interesting that the top 5 fights basically boil down to the Sasuke Retrieval arc minus Tayuya and Kimimaro. Personally, I think that speaks volumes to how good the arc was and why it is still remembered so fondly, although I probably would’ve swapped Kiba’s fight out for Gaara vs. Lee.
Jared: I think the top 5 were surprising to say the least, and that’s also the nicest thing I can say about it. Off the top of my head, I’d probably go with Lee vs. Gaara (how on Earth did this not make it?!), Naruto vs. Sasuke (Valley of the End), Naruto vs. Gaara, Hinata vs. Neji, and maybe Third Hokage vs. Orochimaru. I’m sure parts of that would change, but the first three would probably be a lock.
Joseph: We’ve watched four or five years of Naruto in the past eight months. I don’t even remember who fought what at this point. Most of the fight choices were fine, but I’d be lying if I said I paid full attention to this episode.
Danni: The Sasuke Retrieval arc was way too represented. I can’t say I care much for any of those fights outside of Naruto vs. Sasuke in the Final Valley. Throw in Naruto vs. Neji, Rock Lee vs. Gaara, Sasuke vs. Orochimaru, and maybe Drunken Master Rock Lee for fun.
Kara: This should have just been 23 minutes of Lee dropping his weights. I was actually a little annoyed at this episode because it felt like the writers finally throwing stacks of papers in the air and admitting they had nothing. And then tacking cross Sasuke on the end.
Carolyn: Rock Lee, Rock Lee, Rock Lee. I would have my boy Lee against Gaara no question. And Shikamaru’s Chunin exam fight has always been a huge favorite of mine, so that would be in there, too.
Lastly, what were your highs and lows this week?
Paul: My high point was seeing Leaf Village pull together to thwart Genno's schemes. That was the Patlabor 2 of filler arcs. My low point was the recap episode, which I mostly fast-forwarded through, if I'm being entirely honest. The bit with Jiraiya, Orochimaru, and Sasuke teleconferencing into the awards show struck me as especially bizarre.
Kevin: Both related to the Genno arc:
High - The basic plot of the arc. For the past few weeks, it’s mostly been comedy and our main characters being idiots. For these episodes, they got to trace the steps of a master planner, Naruto had an emotional connection to the villain, there were obvious breadcrumbs that actually paid out well, and generally the arc was pretty well written and different from what we’ve seen.
Low - Then the ending happened, and the show tried to make us feel bad for a terrorist who tried to destroy the village because he was just trying to be remembered and he lost his son in the conflict that had originally given him his mission. No, show, you cannot tell me that he’s a good person. His last actions were to literally destroy the village. And I know that a lot of the bombs were defective because he met Naruto (who looks like his son for no reason) and he wanted to go on a treasure hunt, but that’s not good character writing. That’s just really convenient and takes out all of the tension of the rest of the plot, since now the audience knows that there’s no actual danger.
Jared: High point would be the Genno arc, as I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Given how much we’ve had to slog through with filler, it’s nice when it’s actually decent. Low point would be the recap episode because their top five is bad and also it’s just strange how they just willingly break kayfabe in it. You could probably do some interesting things by playing with the idea that these are characters being played in a show, but it doesn’t really hit that mark here.
Joseph: High - The Genno arc was surprisingly satisfying and made me forget how bad the past couple weeks have been. Low - I have a feeling the magic haunted painting arc that started after won’t be as cool as I’d like it to be. I LOVE SPOOKY PAINTINGS THAT COME TO LIFE.
Danni: It’s hard to choose a single high point from the Genno Arc so let’s just go with the whole thing: I loved it a lot. Low point goes to the recap episode, since only one of my favorite fights actually made it in there.
Kara: High point is the beginning of this Yakumo arc, both because my girl Kurenai is back and because this looks like some fun horror. Yakumo’s weird face reflected in Kurenai/Naruto’s eye actually got me. (I am sure I will regret this whole sentiment before long.) Low point was the recap. I actually yelled at the screen when the whole Orochimaru thing started, which is double bad since I’m sure the intent was to hype the audience up.
Carolyn: I have to agree with Kara, as anything horror is a plus for me, even if it falls flat. And recap episodes are never interesting to me. I might also add Naruto screaming at Genno that he will never understand as long as he lives and he’s going to “live a long time!!!” That was pretty great.
Here’s our upcoming schedule:
-Next week, DANIEL DOCKERY goes through some haunts!
-On August 16th, NICOLE MEJIAS finishes up a mission!
-And finally, on August 23rd, CAYLA COATS wraps up the Rewatch in its entirety!
CATCH UP ON THE REWATCH!
Thank you for joining us for the GREAT CRUNCHYROLL NARUTO REWATCH! See you next time!
Have anything to say about this batch of episodes? Let us know in the comments! We're accepting questions and comments for next week, so ask away!