Late to the Party: Naruto Shippuden: Gaara and Sai Arcs

When I was in elementary school, Naruto was my favorite show. Now I’m not 100% why, but probably because it was often the only animated show featuring blood that aired while I was still awake. I have no idea how I had the patience for the show’s habit of making what should be a 3-minute scene into a whole episode. I persisted, watching basically every episode up to Sasuke leaving. Soon after, I just gave up on anime entirely for a couple of years since most of the ones I kept finding were….. cringe, to say the least

So now, in 2021, I’m back into anime thanks to shows like Jojo and Cowboy Bepop. I decided to give the follow-up series Shippuden a try, watching the Gaara and Sai arcs. So what did I think about it? I’m considering giving up on anime again.
The Naruto franchise tells the story of some loser kid with a demon sealed in his body that nearly wiped his village out. As the story progresses, he sheds the loser part and becomes a somewhat well-regarded ninja for his age thanks to him being too stupid to quit and new friends/mentors while also turning bitter antagonists into allies after some choice words. There’s an emo rival, a girl that the lead keeps creeping on, a girl that has a crush on the lead for some reason, the mysterious teacher who sucks at being a teacher, the wise leader whose sole weakness is his secret perviness, a demon kid who uses his demon for good after fighting the hero, the slacker who is secretly smarter than everyone else, etc. If a bot were to develop anime characters and their arcs, it would likely look like Naruto.

Shippuden picks up about 2 years after Naruto leaves with the one teacher that isn’t completely useless, Jiraiya, to train and he’s now back home just in time to help his village fight a secret organization of criminals that are trying to collect demons. This doesn’t sound like high art but it seems like it could be entertaining in its stupidity, but nope. Any time a character does something in a fight, a dozen characters are going “wow, he is so strong and smart” so 4 minutes can be taken. But in those big “emotional” moments such as when Naruto reveals to his allies, he has a demon in him, it is mostly ignored by the other characters. This could have been a great moment by doing something like having Sakura coming to terms that her friend is essentially a weapon of mass destruction. But the writers have no interest in that, they would rather spend 10 minutes showing how Naruto learned how to get out of an illusion while is trapped in one. When characters are fighting copies of themselves, do they come up with an idea like switching? No, they get the shit kicked out of them for 6 episodes until one of them screams “I know how to win…. we just need to get stronger” into the mic and all the characters suddenly are capable of defeating the mirrors. The show puts zero effort into hiding the fact it’s wasting your time and how lazy the writing is.

Ok, so the story sucks and the writers want to spend an hour repeating the same flashback throughout 1 arc, but what about the look? It’s pretty bad, especially considering that by the time the show was airing, the franchise was just raking in money. So often, scenes are just characters staying still and occasionally moving their mouths. When the action does kick in, it usually looks like everyone is stiffer than a pole. There were maybe 3 scenes where the team remembers “oh right, we have an animation budget”.

Now I could just continue to talk shit about this show, but it would either result in me pulling a Naruto and repeating the same point for 10 pages or require more effort than I’m willing to give this show. So I will sum up the point: this show represents almost every issue I have with anime.