It’s back to the beginning for awhile as the original series undergoes some seriously compressed but well done recapping.
What They Say:
A look back into the early years when Naruto and Sasuke first met and got to know each other.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the series as a whole doesn’t hit its tenth anniversary in anime form until October, Naruto: Shippuden is getting a bit of an early start to it here with some flashback style episodes for this month that goes back to the early days of the series and reminds us how everything came together in more “innocent” times. It’s something that definitely can throw you off of the energy that the series has been building towards recently, but at the same time it has been ten years since the anime started so spending some time looking back at the past in this way isn’t all that bad, especially after the storyline we had recently that explored the time prior to Naruto’s birth with how his parents came together and what they went through in order to bring him into the world.
Going back to the original series and giving us a compressed view of it isn’t that bad of an idea either since it can serve as a good launching on point, though I would be interested in seeing if they could do what Gundam did with its original TV series in this way with movies. With this being freshly animated though, we get a look at the first six episodes of the original series in this form in a way as we see Naruto struggling with his time as a young ninja wannabe while running up against Sasuke all the time. With a fresher coat of paint on it here, and widescreen high definition materials, it breathes a new life into it that surprised me. I really didn’t care for Naruto when it started, in either manga or anime form, but came to appreciate it much later on. The early episodes were always a struggle so getting it streamlined like this makes it kind of fun to take in again.
The show shifts about halfway through the episode to their first mission time under Kakashi as we get the trio together working as a group and a difficult one at that. There are obvious tensions in the air between them, with Sasuke coping with his family background issues that have long been explored and dealt with in the series over the years. But it’s somewhat cute to go back to when he and Naruto clashed and Sakura was just like a puppy dog in chasing after Sasuke. Watching them go through their last bit of training before the mission is fun as we see them doing the whole bell hunt thing again, something that still sticks in my mind after all these years, and it has a slicker approach to it in this form. Though it’s all predictable, the show moves quickly here and definitely keeps things engaging.
It’s easy to understand all the hate over this kind of filler material that’s coming into play and I certainly don’t dispute it. In fact, I’d love to see a “Hunter x Hunter” style redo of the original series to streamline things and utilize what we’ve learned since then in a tighter form. But what we get is this instead, a good bit of compression in a single episode that highlights the core relationships and motivations with fresh, new animation and a good sense of style and pacing. Some of it may be rushed and longtime fans can easily gloss over things, which makes it hard to understand how a new viewer might take it, but it’s something that’s certainly worth sharing and saying, “If you like this, watch more of the original series.” The execution and animation here is spot on and taking away the filler aspect leaves you with a decent little recap show of sorts.