Taking a bit more of a serious tone, Naruto tells an earlier tale involving Jiraiya.
What They Say:
Jiraiya takes Naruto to a village in the hopes of teaching him how to counter the Sharingan's genjutsu attack.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Considering the options available to a series of this nature and the scope of what's involved, as well as the passage of time, there's a lot of really good stories that can be told when you need to break from directly adapting the manga. The lack of such stories has been the most difficult thing in dealing with these filler episode since they have so much potential that's being wasted. Stories of ostrich ninjas only adds insult to injury. So when we get an episode that takes us back to the earliest time when Naruto learns of the Akatsuki and Jiraiya offers to teach him how to deal with the special genjutsu he'll have to face, interest rises considerably.
With Naruto having lost Sasuke and being frustrated with himself over it, the need to learn more skills and attacks is paramount, so having both him and Jiraiya go and train makes perfect sense. It's an interesting period for Naruto as he's got some serious issues going on because of Sasuke and there's a lot of pain there under the surface, some of which we see a little bit, but he's also still in the light and silly mode that's so regular for him. For Jiraiya, it's also a time when he has to feel somewhat nostalgic as he trained the Fourth Hokage and we know now about the lineage involved there. To teach the son of the Fourth Hokage, who has such a challenge ahead of him because of the Nine-Tails, has to mean a lot to Jiraiya and it explains so much of why he's taken to him and spends as much time with him as he does. When he's not chasing women at least.
The episode does eventually put the pair up against a small village that's going through its own problems and we see things going rather badly with some ninjas who are taking advantage of it and abusing their position. They're not Leaf ninjas of course, but they're intent on controlling and ruling a small village so they have little to do. It's a typical story at this stage about thugs who want to be big fish in a little pond because if they actually went to a bigger pond, they'd be crushed handily. Much like they're crushing the villagers and have taken over there. There's no surprises here or in that there are those that will accept being ruled like this because it's easier than trying to fight back.
Naruto still deals with the younger character that I have a hard time liking because it's prior to his journey that turned him into a more serious person. A few years out in the wilds with Jiraiya will man anyone up. This episode does deal with some predictable material when it comes to a village being overrun by thugs (aren't almost all villages dealing with that in this series) and there's nothing particularly exemplary about it, but it is the kind of basic good writing and storytelling that Naruto needs for inventory stories rather than completely goofy stories. One offs are good, but a dozen in a row is kicking your audience in the crotch and then making sure they come back for more. This episode starts something a bit more entertaining and you don't feel like gouging your eyes out. That's a big success for a Naruto filler episode.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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