At least there's no bloody ostrich in this episode. That makes it better than last week by a wide margin.
What They Say:
After accidentally finishing off Lee's last special youth drink, Naruto asks Guy to make more, only to learn one of its key ingredients, the Jofuku Flower, is out of stock. Naruto is determined to get the Jofuku Flower for Lee's sake.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The episode prior to this with the ostrich ninja, which I think managed to surpass the cooking filler episode from the first series by a fair amount, was the kind of episode that was practically waving the flag of surrender in saying, 'Skip this show until we get back to the real show.' While I can understand why some folks would find it fun, it's the kind of filler piece that completely alienates a lot of long time fans and does nothing helpful to the reputation of the series. Naruto has certainly gotten rather intense for awhile now and that's helped to elevate it, but by going the route it has for the fillers, for as long as it has, only reminds people of how low the whole franchise can actually go.
This episode takes us back again to a younger and more orange clad Naruto when Sasuke hadn't flown the coop yet. Thankfully, it also takes us to a bit more of an interesting time as it deals with Rock Lee when he was injured and working to get himself fully healed and back on track. The tie to the present with him understanding some of the pain that Sakura is going through in dealing with Tsunade is small at best, but it launches us into this story where we see Lee struggling with his situation. He's doing his best but is trying to get Guy's help in going the final distance which requires a particular ingredient that Guy doesn't have. Naruto being the helpful sort that he is sometimes and wanting to see Lee back in the game, he decides to go and find it.
The episode is essentially a walk in the park of predictability once it gets going and you can guess most of the things that will help with Naruto along the way to find the ingredient with Sakura and Ino by his side. What makes it at least a little amusing and fun to watch is that Naruto dons something we haven't seen in an age with his Rock Lee costume. It looks extra goofy on him with the way he's designed. Rock may not be the most attractive of characters, but he certainly fits the outfit well enough. Naruto looks even more slender and lanky this way which doesn't work for him in comparison to his somewhat baggier orange uniform. All this does is to make him look even younger than he is.
Shippuden continues to test the patience of many of its die hard fans, especially after the highs that we had going into the fall season. This episode feels much better than most of what we've seen so far since it is largely treated seriously and has a fairly decent if predictable story involving the hunt for a needed medicinal flower. What helps save it is that it ties directly to a previous explored event to some degree and showcases Naruto in a fun way that works. His personality hasn't changed in a lot of ways and this shows it. Unfortunately, the ties to the present are very minimal unlike some of the previous episodes which showed what was going on in a way that teased right and kept you interested. This one is almost all about the past and by virtue of not having an ostrich, it works better than the worst we've seen so far in this show after last week. It's not a redeeming episode by any stretch, but it reminds that they can do decent filler episodes without insulting the audience so cruelly.
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.