I swear the opening bit of music to the episode made me felt like we were in for an episode of Seinfeld.
What They Say
Naruto spends his days competing with Sasuke, the academy's star student, only to screw up and be the laughingstock of the class. Due to the childhood trauma of losing his parents to the Nine-Tailed Fox, Iruka finds it difficult to interact with Naruto as his student.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Naruto having achieved a sense of true belonging in the Shippuden series after saving so many from Nagato and his attack on the village, we're now treated to several episodes reminding us exactly of hw shameful and hateful so many of these people were for years and years. Granted, we had some of that in the period when Naruto essentially came home after the fight as we saw flashbacks of everyone and how he was treated and gradually became a normal part of life there, but in these instances we're getting more of a look at how cruelly he was treated. Iruka's episode was decent in that it showed his change of approach in dealing with him, but you do have to wonder at the idea of having a great emotional high and then reminding everyone in "anime original" episodes that most of the Hidden Leaf villagers are mean and cruel dicks.
Iruka again is much the focus of this episode as we see him grappling with issues from his past when his parents died in an attack by the Nine-Tailed Fox and it's coloring his approach to dealing with Naruto. Not surprisingly, Naruto is starting to lash out more and more at those that are looking down at him with an almost cruel look and he has an obvious steadfast refusal to return to the academy, even though that's the place where he can actually earn some respect and gain position in the village. But children aren't exactly the strongest believers in reason so it's not a surprise that he's so conflicting with his emotions and what he really wants to do.
There is some appeal in seeing the very early stages of issues the characters have had, some of which wasn't clear the first time they met. Seeing what Iruka went through when he first had to take on Naruto is actually pretty decent, but it's just that it feels like the wrong time to show us Naruto at this phase of his life. The same can be said of the trials that he faces in dealing with Sasuke. The relationship between those two has been long, long established and there are no real surprises added here by going back to that rivalry and angst of childhood. While there are cute moments for L'il Naruto, it's not enough to salvage the episode. Similar to the previous episode, Naruto at this age is why I fell out of the original series so quickly.
In the world of Naruto filler, this certainly is not bad material at all. It's something that builds on what has come before and shows us a new way of looking at things. As a focus on Iruka and the attitudes of others that have grown up around Naruto, they do some nice stuff that I think would be a welcome episode any other time in the series. At this stage, after the arc that just happened, it feels contrary and almost mean to go and dig this up and remind us why Naruto had it so hard when so much of it was not his fault. Considering how other filler arcs for Naruto have gone, especially in the first series, it could have been oh so much worse. But the timing of it here is what has me disliking it, rather than the actual content itself, since it goes against everything that just happened.
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.