The side stories continue as Naruto must go through a Test of Courage in a dangerous forest.
What They Say
Naruto takes up his classmates' dare to venture into the forest and retrieve an item from the dead enemy ninja, unaware that the forest is still dangerous.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the side stories of Naruto's youth continue to be told, there are things that I do like about it. A lot of it comes in seeing some of the other characters, mainly the adults, and how they were at this stage with the future-history about them already written. With their arcs likely changed over the course of the manga being written, doing things like this allows them to be fleshed out a bit more and given some more background that helps to make them a richer character. The downside is that we continue to see Naruto at the young age which simply reminds me of why I disliked the show for so long, especially when he pulls out that awful Sexy Jutsu gimmick, something I can't remember seeing for an age now.
This episode keeps things on Naruto for a fair bit as he does his best to prove himself in the forest where he goes to grab something that will prove he was there. Unfortunately for him, there are some other ninjas in there that are fairly dangerous, enough so that even Kakashi has to get involved at one point to try and take them down before it gets worse. The group that's out there managed to figure out the patrol routine of the Leaf Village and Naruto's time out there caused it to be discovered. Thankfully, Naruto doesn't get to save that day and in fact is knocked out rather early on, allowing the real experienced ninjas to deal with it. This helps to reinforce that at this stage he still doesn't know a lot since he's not fully in the Academy and that he has such a long way to go to become who he is now. It also reinforces the way he feels about things since acts like this can still take him down as well.
The main thrust of this episode is to show just how similar Iruka and Naruto are as we see more of Iruka's youth as he realizes this himself. It's obviously not exactly the same, but there are enough similarities to it that it becomes a reason for Iruka to treat him a bit better, having experienced that kind of life himself. The past that these two share is admittedly nicely explored during these side stories, and something that was needed here after the lengthy fight with Pain. But we do get back to the present for a little bit as Iruka remembers the past and we see a shift to Sasuke and his group as well as the Akatsuki starting to make their moves again. The time in the Leaf village is the best though as the sense of danger is strong as they look out beyond the immediate destruction that they've faced, making it plain that there is more to come.
Naruto really burned me in the previous series with filler and side story episodes, making me much more wary of them than I would be otherwise with this franchise. The side stories here thankfully haven't been all that bad and have actually helped to fleshed out Iruka enough that he's a more accessible character in his relationship with Naruto. The conclusion of this piece is decent if understated but it helps to bring us back into the present, at least briefly, as we see that all the damage is still very much there but there is a lot of danger still to be had out there. It's a wonderful minute or two as we go to various sites, but since it's back to the side stories again next week, that's all it is, just a tease.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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