What's Naruto going to do after saving the village and earning the adoration of all its surviving residents? Take an episode off.
What They Say
The Leaf Village is left in ruins in the wake of Pain's assault on the village. While cleaning through the remains of Ninja Academy, Iruka finds an old pillar and recognizes it as a memoir from Naruto's early years at the academy.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The culmination of a large part of Naruto's story in the previous episode with him being fully loved and adored by the majority of the village is a huge point in the series and one that was treated well. While it contained a lot of flashbacks, it was the time for it to happen as it helped cement those feelings when you consider there are something like four hundred episodes or so since the start of it. Reinforcing how it used to be, since a lot of it happened quite a few years ago, works well. Following up an episode like that with something is almost damn near impossible in a way because it's not going to please a lot of people. If you give him a lot of downtime to unwind and think, people get bored. But you can't just shift into the next story that quickly either.
Enter the supporting cast who help to move things along. Two stories get told in this as we have a main one in the present and a flashback one that gives us a young Naruto. The one in the present is more of a lead-in as we see a group of ninja's heading to the Leaf Village that are four or five days out from it, hinting that something will be coming down the pike soon to get the ball rolling. The main story here however deals with Iruka as he and others spread out in the village to take stock of things and help out where needed. This has him landing near a tree that has special meaning to him from his past, which takes us back several years to see a young Naruto, complete with goggles no less, who gets into nothing but trouble. It's a reminder in a less than subtle way of just how far he has come over all these years.
The focus of the episode revolves on Iruka's first days as the new teacher for the kids where Naruto is the main problem in the class. While the other kids certainly have their moments and issues, coping with a Naruto prankster is something that Iruka isn't totally ready for, but the Hokage has asked him to take on this role. It's amusing in a way to see Naruto going through all of these pranks to get to Iruka, and you know why he's like that with all his issues growing up, but at the same time it can make you feel a little guilty perhaps for enjoying so many stories from the start of the original series as this is what that Naruto was like. And if you view him as childish and foolish in this episode, it can recast how you feel about those episodes.
As an episode to provide some downtime and basic humor, Naruto works fairly well here since it gives us a bit more perspective on his younger days with a fresh perspective after the last arc. It is the kind of episode that can easily annoy a large segment of Naruto fans, but then they also have to realize that this is what a lot of the show was like at times early on as well. Which is why I had a hard time watching a lot of it. It does have its moments, and some nice nods towards Sasuke and some other characters who become more important over time, but the focus on Iruka and Naruto themselves is welcome, especially as I've always liked Iruka for his ability to mostly handle the way Naruto is. This is an episode that's pretty much just there and you can take it or leave it, but you might find some nice insights from it depending on how you feel about the early part of the original series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.