With only a few more episodes left before the main story starts, we get a fairly Kakashi heavy episode.
What They Say:
A beautiful kunoichi spy named Hanare is captured for attempting to gather intel on the Hidden Leaf.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With word that Naruto is going to get back on track in just a few weeks, it makes going through the remaining filler stories a double edged sword. You know the good stuff is coming back soon and can hold onto that, but you may also find yourself struggling even more with them. Naruto can bring out since decent filler side stories here and there, and this one has a very different tone from what we've seen before. It's not played for laughs, though there are a few, and instead is kept to being serious which allows you to get sucked into it pretty easily.
The episode focuses on a spy named Hanare who has been nabbed while trying to get information on the Hidden Leaf Village. The interrogation and memory retrieval goes pretty well and we see where her village has survived over the years not by fighting but by espionage and it's her duty to be able to continue on that tradition to keep everyone safe. What's surprising is that when they do go back into her memories, they come across an image of Kakashi from years gone by. A need to know becomes paramount at this point and Kakashi is allowed to take her out into the village, since there isn't anything important out in public view to begin with, to try and ease her off her guard so they can figure out what she's really up to. And as they walk the streets, pretty much everyone thinks that Kakashi and Hanare are dating in some form.
There's plenty of cuteness to it as the kids watch on and think things are more than they are, but it's well balanced by the calmer scenes where Hanare talks about the past with Kakashi. Kakashi comes across as much the same in his youth as he does now, which is rather amusing but not surprising, though he shows more emotion overall when it's decided that she'll be traded for a spy of their own that was caught. Everything does naturally lead to a bigger scene where there's some really fun action to it and the characters all act in a serious way. It just lacks some needed emotional connection for it to work really well. That said, what we get here is leaps and bounds ahead of what we've seen since the end of the main arc and reminds us that filler stories can be done well.
Shippuden has had a really poor run as of late for obvious reasons but it's episodes like this that show that flashback episodes to Naruto's younger days can be done well. And that it doesn't need to rely on Naruto or the other young ninjas to be the central character. Kakashi and Hanare shine really well here, giving us a story that feels more honest and interesting than all the filler we've seen so far. It's the kind of story that you wish was done with at least two episodes of this caliber in order to build up the emotional connection better. And it even has some rather strong animation for it as well, both in character fluidity and background design. Combine all of that with a really appropriate soundtrack and Shippuden has a very good story here.
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.