It's back to the past again when Leaf and Sand first started working together.
What They Say:
Gaara, recalling a past mission carried out with the Leaf's Team 7, points out that the Leaf Village has Naruto with them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Similar to previous episodes, Naruto: Shippuden opens up with a good piece as we see what's going on from an outside point of view with regards to the Leaf Village. With the Sand Village and Gaara talking about how they can help out with what needs to happen with the rebuilding, there's concern about whether it's enough to take hold as there is no Hokage there with Tsunade out of commission still. Without that leadership and focal point, there's the general belief that the Leaf Village won't be able to handle what they have to deal with and that things can get pretty splintered and problematic as various factions try and take hold. But within this mindset, Gaara is convinced that things will turn out okay because Naruto is there and his lengthy experience with him paints a very distinct picture.
The flashback story for this episode takes us back to one of the early adventures that Naruto had with Gaara after the two had met, so it maybe sort of kind of fits into past events in some way. Having long been away from this episodes, and I believe Gaara was introduced in a movie, I can't say for certain. Suffice to say that Naruto has no real friendship with Gaara at this point and is practically ready to attack him upon seeing him when they find out that he's their contact for this joint mission. The mission itself is fairly fluffy with some nice bits of action as you have another group of ninjas who have an issue with Gaara and see it as a good time to try and score some points there and cause a bit of trouble. It doesn't impact much of anything in the present, but like most of the flashback stories, it works to try and establish more of Naruto's past in contrast to where he is now in his life.
There's so little to say about these Naruto filler episodes in general but it's a huge tease as we do get some very useful and interesting nuggets as the bookends to them. The view of what's going on with the Leaf Village from the outside and the gradual push to highlight many of Naruto's early experiences after seeing him achieve so much seems to go two ways. One is to paint him as someone who was very childish when he was a child and grew up, but don't forget what he was like. The other is to show us that he has truly grown and become a man and these varied experiences will help him as the next Hokage, something he's wanted to be since he was a child. Naruto's certainly moving down that path, but I wonder if they push him in that direction too soon if it will throw the show completely off balance.
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles