Naruto: Shippuden, TV Tokyo
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Caution: So! Many! Spoilers!
Naruto Shippuden (or "Naruto: Hurricane Chronicles") is the sequel series to Naruto. It picks up the story two and a half years after the end of the first series. While the English dub of "Naruto" had aired in the U.S. on Cartoon Network, dubbed eps of "Naruto Shippuden" aired on Disney XD (from 2009-11), in edited form. However, that network stopped airing the show after episode 97. I had stopped watching it on TV a few months before they stopped showing it, since I had lost access to the network. So at some point after that, I started watching subtitled episodes on Hulu (the show had been available on a few online platforms since 2008). In 2014, Cartoon Network's Toonami block started airing an uncut version of the dub from the beginning, but since I don't currently have access to that channel, either, I've continued watching the subbed version on Hulu. (So I'm pretty far ahead of what folks are watching on Toonami, but still way behind what's already aired in Japan, and what's currently available online.)
Anyway, I also want to mention that, as is often the case with anime, I have seen conflicting numbering of the show's seasons. I'm going to label my summaries of each season according to Wikipedia's numbering, but I'll also make note of Hulu's numbering. (In case you're wondering, Wikipedia lists episode 97 as being a ways into season five, while Hulu lists it as within season two.)
The first scene is a flashforward, with Naruto and Sakura confronting Sasuke. Things seem to go badly, but... then the story skips back to the day Naruto first returned to Konoha, after having spent the last two and a half years away, training with Jiraiya. Actually, we get to see Konohamaru, Moegi, and Udon, on a little D-ranked mission (chasing a runaway cat). The three of them are now Genin, studying under Ebisu. Konohamaru plans to become the Seventh Hokage (he assumes Naruto will eventually be the Sixth). Anyway, it's cool to see those kids growing up, doing the kind of stuff Squad 7 did at the start of the original series. So, the opening scene shows us that the series will be as dramatic as ever, while the second scene shows us it'll be as funny as ever, as well. Of course, we also soon get to see a touching and hilarious reunion between Sakura and Naruto. They meet up with Shikamaru and Temari, and Naruto learns that all his old friends have become Chunin. But because he hasn't been around to participate in the past two years' Chunin Exams, he's the only one who's still a Genin. In fact, Neji, Temari, and Kankuro have all become Jonin. (Shikamaru is still a Chunin, even though he was the first one to reach that level, back in the original series.) Later, while Tsunade, Shizune, and Jiraiya all look on, Kakashi evaluates Naruto and Sakura's new skills, in a test just like their very first one as Genin, a few years ago. Except this time, they don't have Sasuke with them... but the two of them are both much stronger than before, so it's more of a challenge for Kakashi. Anyway, it's cool to see these kids growing up, and to emphasize the point, we get to see flashbacks to the original series, which I found remarkably nostalgic. And at the end of the test, Tsunade announces that Naruto and Sakura will become squadmates with Kakashi, so he's not really their sensei anymore, but an equal. Though of course they still call him Kakashi-sensei (and the team is called "Team Kakashi")... and of course, he's a Jonin, so he technically outranks them.
Meanwhile, major events are transpiring elsewhere. Another thing Naruto has learned since returning home is that Gaara has become the new Kazekage of the Hidden Sand Village. And now, two members of the Akatsuki, Deidara and Sasori, are invading the Sand Village, planning to capture Gaara. We also find that Gaara has come to care greatly for his village and its people, and wants to be accepted by them, rather than just being seen as an ultimate weapon, and feared by everyone. (We learn this in a flashback; by the time he's Kazekage in the present, it seems he's gotten his wish.) After the Akatsuki abduct Gaara, Kankuro chases them, but is badly poisoned in a fight with Sasori. The Hidden Sand village had already sent a request for help to the Hidden Leaf village, and Team Kakashi is dispatched. By the time they get there, Gaara has been abducted, and Kakashi sends Pakkun out to find where he's been taken. Meanwhile, Sakura heals Kankuro, but he'll still be out of commission for awhile. After reporting back to Kakashi, Pakkun heads out to meet up with Team Guy- including Guy, Neji, Tenten, and Lee- who were en route from Hidden Leaf as backup for Team Kakashi. Both teams separately head toward the location where the Akatsuki have taken Gaara. Team Kakashi is joined by Lady Chiyo, one of the Hidden Sand's elders, a puppetmaster who happens to be the grandmother of Sasori. Temari wants to join them as well, but the village council assigns her to a group fortifying the village's defensive perimeter, in case other villages learn the Kazekage is gone, and plan an attack.
Meanwhile, Chiyo talks to Team Kakashi about the existence of nine different Tailed Beasts, each with a different number of tails. People who contain the power of these beasts, like Gaara and Naruto, are called Jinchuriki. All the Akatsuki are gathered, at least in astral projection form, to do something that will... um... do something to Gaara's One-Tailed Shukaku. At this point its not clear what their goal actually is, but the process is supposed to kill the Jinchuriki. Anyway, both teams finally show up at about the same time, but it's too late. The Akatsuki have finished... whatever they were doing. All leave except Deidara and Sasori, who stay behind to deal with Teams Kakashi and Guy. Guy's team ends up forced to fight clones of themselves, while Kakashi's team deals with the Akatsuki. Sakura and Lady Chiyo face off against Sasori, while Naruto and Kakashi chase Deidara.
By the end of the first season, the three separate battles are won, and Gaara is rescued, though Lady Chiyo sacrifices her life. Teams Kakashi and Guy return to the Hidden Leaf, though Kakashi himself will be out of commission for awhile. After defeating Sasori, Sakura had learned of a rendezvous to be held in ten days with a spy in Orochimaru's camp, who had been working for Sasori. After informing Lady Tsunade of this, the Hokage assigns Team Kakashi to try to make contact with the spy. However, Sakura and Naruto are without their team's leader, as well as already having been less one member, in Sasuke's absence. So, Tsunade appoints a temporary team leader called Captain Yamato (though I guess that's not his real name), and another team member, named Sai. But... there are a couple of village elders who don't want Naruto being sent on missions at all, being a Jinchuriki, since it would be dangerous for the Akatsuki to capture him. So a compromise is reached, by which the elders get to choose one of the team's new members (Sai). Actually, Sai was chosen by another advisor, an elder named Danzo Shimura, who had in the past created a black ops division called "the Foundation" (or "Root"), which no longer exists, supposedly, but they had once opposed the Third Hokage, I guess. So of course, Tsunade is suspicious of Sai, and chooses Yamato from among the ANBU (the village's regular black ops organization, which I don't think I ever mentioned in my review of the original series, though I probably should have).
Anyway. At the start of the season, Naruto gets to see a few more old friends again: Shino, Kiba and Akamaru, Hinata, Choji, and Ino. He also meets Sai, at first thinking him an attacker. They don't get along, so it's hard for Naruto to accept him as a new teammate. Over the course of the season, we get to know more about Sai, who does turn out to have a secret mission which is at odds with Team Kakashi's mission, though ultimately he'll change his mind and work with them (he wants to learn more about the bonds of friendship, which he'd once had with his now deceased brother, and he's intrigued by Naruto's bond with Sasuke). Anyway, they eventually encounter Orochimaru and Kabuto, and a bit later finally find Sasuke. So by the end of the season, the story has caught up to the first scene of season one. We also learn that Yamato is able to seal Naruto's Nine-Tails chakra, which is important, because Naruto can lose control and do lots of damage, even to his friends... even without releasing all nine tails; just four is a major problem. But when they finally face Sasuke, the team is no match for him, as his power had increased even more than theirs in the years since they saw him last. He says he no longer has a bond with Naruto, even if Naruto doesn't see it that way. Anyway, Orochimaru and Kabuto get Sasuke to leave with them, before he could kill any of Team Kakashi.
(This is where Hulu says season two begins.) Sai is still working with Team Kakashi, and Naruto and Sakura have finally accepted him. There is some comic relief in his efforts to learn social skills. Meanwhile, Kakashi is finally released from the hospital, and begins giving Naruto some advanced training, so that he'll hopefully be able to face not only Sasuke but the Akatsuki, who are still presumably interested in capturing him. (Yamato also stands by during the training to make sure the Nine-Tails chakra doesn't get released.) We learn that there are different types of chakra, and Naruto's is wind type (the same as Asuma's). Naruto also learns that Asuma is the son of the Third Hokage, and Konohamaru's uncle (which I was surprised he didn't know, but then it's possible I only knew it from stuff I read online, I don't know if it was ever revealed in the original anime). We also learn that Asuma is romantically involved with Kurenai. Anyway, Tsunade sends Asuma out on a mission with his former students on Squad 10, Ino, Choji, and Shikamaru, who I guess he hasn't worked with since they all became Chunin. She also assigns Team Kakashi on a mission, led by Captain Yamato. They begin working with a group of monks, most notably a boy named Sora, who doesn't get along with Naruto (though as usual for this series, he turns out to have a lot in common with Naruto). Meanwhile, Kakashi is sent to team up with Jiraiya and learn what they can about the Akatsuki. Naruto is upset that his training has been interrupted. But there is apparently a group that wants to start a war between the various lands, and put the Land of Fire in control of the whole world, I guess. But first they know they'll have to crush the Leaf Village.... Not sure what else to say about season 3, except of course there are plenty of battles, and the enemy wants to turn Sora to their side, a goal which is advanced upon the revelation of an incident in the past between Sora's father Kazuma, and Asuma (both of whom were members of the "Guardian Shinobi Twelve"). And we eventually learn a surprising and dangerous fact about Sora himself...
Of course, all of that is eventually resolved quite dramatically, and we move into season 4. The Two-Tails Jinchuriki is defeated by two members of the Akatsuki, Hidan and Kakuzu. They then begin seeking out their next target, while Tsunade sends out teams to search for the Akatsuki and stop them. Meanwhile, Naruto enters a new phase of his training. He must master his wind chakra and incorporate it into the Rasengan to create his own unique, fully formed jutsu, which even the Fourth Hokage failed to do. Elsewhere, Asuma's team (including Shikamaru and two other ninja) catch up with Hidan and Kakuzu, and engage them in battle. Asuma is ultimately killed by Hidan. Ino, Choji, and two other ninja then arrive, but they can't defeat the enemy. However, before the Akatsuki can do any more damage, they're called away by their allies. The Akatsuki leader reveals the purpose of collecting and sealing all the Jinchuriki, but... I won't get into that. Meanwhile, the Leaf ninja return home, where there is a funeral for Asuma, and we see flashbacks to Asuma's mentorial relationship with Shikamaru. Later, Team 10 (Shikamaru, Choji, and Ino) heads out with Kakashi as its leader, to hunt down Hidan and Kakuzu. Tsunade says Team 7 (Naruto, Sakura, Sai, and Yamato) will serve as backup later, if Naruto can complete his new jutsu. After Team 10 catches up to the Akatsuki, Shikamaru eventually realizes he must separate the two of them, and forces Hidan away from Kakuzu. In the nearby forest, he battles Asuma's killer on his own, while his teammates remain behind to fight Kakuzu, whose true powers are revealed. Things don't go very well for Team 10, but in the end, Team 7 shows up, and Naruto reveals his new jutsu, Rasen-Shuriken, which he uses to defeat Kakuzu.
We learn that the Rasen-Shuriken jutsu does so much damage to Naruto's own body that it would be potentially fatal to him if he ever used it again. Meanwhile, Orochimaru and Kabuto enact their new plan, to obtain the Three-Tails beast (which the Akatsuki also want). So the Hidden Leaf ninja have to try to stop anyone from obtaining it. Of course, this is dangerous for everyone not just because of all the ninja fighting each other, but also because the Three-Tails itself is exremely powerful, and obviously doesn't want to be caught. Anyway, there's a woman named Guren, a crystal-style jutsu user, who is working for Orochimaru. (It's in the middle of this story arc that Disney XD stopped airing the show.) Guren heads up a team of five ninja that have been culled from a sort of battle royale Orochimaru had held with a much larger number of ninja; those who survived got to work for him. (I'm feeling lazy, so I'm not going to name all the ninja who worked under Guren's command. I'm also not going to specify all the different Leaf ninja who had to fight them, while others tried to seal the Three-Tails before Guren's team could capture it.) There's really not too much I want to say about this season. Naruto learns a new jutsu (with the help of his summoned toad friends). Also at one point he meets a young boy named Yukimaru, who has a power to control the Three-Tails, which Orochimaru wanted to use to capture the beast. So his plan was for Guren to develop a strong maternal bond with the boy. Which is both tragic and ironic, for a reason I won't spoil. Anyway, when Naruto meets Yukimaru, he tells him that the "place to return to" is where someone is thinking of you. Because Yukimaru basically doesn't have a home. And Guren becomes the place for him to return to, though Naruto doesn't find that out until later, which upsets him terribly, because naturally he doesn't want a servant of Orochimaru's to be allowed to use Yukimaru as a tool. But ultimately... Guren's personality, at least in regard to Yukimaru, softens considerably. While all the main action is going on, a recently inducted (and rather goofy) member of the Akatsuki, named Tobi, observes everything, and later reports what he's seen to Deidara.
(This is where Hulu says season three begins.) It's about time for Orochimaru to implement his reanimation jutsu, and take over Sasuke's body. But instead, Sasuke manages to defeat him and absorb Orochimaru's powers, himself. Sasuke then begins assembling a team (called "Hebi") to help him in his ultimate goal of killing his brother Itachi. First he releases a prisoner of Orochimaru's named Suigetsu Hozuki, who agrees to help him in exchange for Sasuke's help in obtaining the sword once wielded by Zabuza Momochi. Next Sasuke recruits a woman named Karin, who had worked at one of Orochimaru's hideouts. They then continue to another hideout, where they free a prisoner named Jugo. Each of them has a power that Sasuke requires for his plan (and actually, it was based on Jugo's power that Orochimaru had created the curse mark he had used to control Sasuke and several other ninja). Jugo's own curse mark sometimes overtakes him and makes him crazy. I should say that Karin can't stand Suigetsu, but she has a major crush on Sasuke. And I don't know what else to say about any of them.
Meanwhile, there are occasional flashback episodes to important events in the past, so we can learn more about some familiar characters, as well as about characters we've never met, such as Minato Namikaze (who was the Fourth Hokage, and also Naruto's father). In the present, the Akatsuki continue their efforts to capture more Tailed Beasts, while also learning of Orochimaru's death and the fact that Sasuke is seeking Itachi. And Tsunade sends out a couple of teams to look for Sasuke. Eventually there's a battle between Sasuke and Deidara, with Tobi offering a bit of support to his partner. Sasuke ultimately wins, and Deidara dies. Later, Tsunade sends Jiraiya on a mission to learn about the leader of the Akatsuki, a man named Pain, who is in the Hidden Rain Village (where outsiders are not welcome). There are also flashbacks to when Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru were younger, and still a team. And we learn a bit about Jiraiya's destiny, which involves him someday training a ninja who would one day save the world. His search for this unknown student leads him to train a trio of war orphans... which of course becomes important to the story in the present, but I don't want to say exactly how. However... it hurts to have to say... Jiraiya is killed by Pain. Though he does learn something important, and sends a toad to deliver the information to Tsunade.
Sasuke finally finds Itachi, and they have a major battle spanning a few episodes. In the end, Sasuke barely defeats Itachi, and kills him (though Sasuke is pretty close to death, himself). Tobi then nurses Sasuke back to health, and reveals some shocking information about Itachi... and about himself. Tobi is actually Madara Uchiha, who should have been long dead. He was the leader of the Uchiha clan when the Hidden Leaf Village was founded several decades ago. I don't want to get into all the history that he reveals to Sasuke, but it gives Sasuke reason to hate the Hidden Leaf. So he renames his team "Taka," whose new goal is to destroy the village. But first, they team up with the Akatsuki (of which Madara is the leader... or um... honestly, it's totally confusing to me whether their leader is Madara or Pain). Oh, and incidentally I wanted to mention that Suigetsu has a rivalry with Kisame, whose sword he wants to take if he can defeat him... though now they have to be allies. Anyway, Madara assigns Taka to capture the Eight-Tails Jinchuriki, a man called Killer Bee. And the Hidden Leaf teams that were looking for Sasuke finally lose his trail, so they reluctantly return home.
Yamato leads Team 7 on a mission to protect a young woman named Hotaru, who is the keeper of her clan's devastating forbidden jutsu. She is also protected by a young man named Utakata, a rogue ninja whom she wants to become her teacher, but he repeatedly refuses to do so. He has his own tragic backstory, which I don't want to get into. Nor do I want to say much about this whole story arc, even though I did like it well enough. But there are a bunch of people who want to use Hotaru as a weapon, and others who want to capture Utakata because of something he did in the past. We also learn that he is a Jinchuriki, with the Six-Tails beast sealed inside him. In the end, Hotaru's enemies are defeated, but later, Pain captures Utakata.
When Team 7 returns to the Hidden Leaf, they learn of Jiraiya's death, which of course greatly upsets Naruto. Meanwhile, there are a couple of different sources of information various members of the village have to try to decode to learn more about Pain. And an elder toad named Fukasaku, who had once taught Jiraiya to use Sage Mode jutsu, begins training Naruto (who both Jiraiya and Fukasaku believed to be the student and savior that the prophecy spoke of). And the Akatsuki learn that the Jinchuriki Sasuke's team had captured was just a clone, so they start a search for the real Killer Bee. And while all this is going on, Pain (who actually uses the bodies of six deceased ninja) and another member of the Akatsuki named Konan launch an all-out attack on Konoha, causing unspeakable destruction (and deaths, including Kakashi and Shizune). We also learn that at some point, Naruto had taught Konohamaru to use both Shadow Clones and Rasengan. Meanwhile, Danzo makes preparations to take over the village, expecting Tsunade to be unable to oppose him in the aftermath of Pain's attack. Finally, Naruto and a group of toads return to the village to fight Pain. And because of his latest training, he can now use Rasen-Shuriken without harming himself. However, Pain eventually captures him, and explains that Naruto's death will bring peace to the world. It's some crazy pseudo-philosophical rant about the Akatsuki's plan to use the power of the Tailed Beasts as a deterrent against war (which sounds to me a lot like nuclear weapons, IRL). Meanwhile, Fukasaku tries to trap Pain in a genjutsu, but is killed before he can do so. And then, Hinata tries to save Naruto from Pain. We see flashbacks to when she was younger, and how she came to care about him. And in the present, she finally confesses her love for him. Then Pain injures her pretty severely, which enrages Naruto so much that he breaks the seal Yamato had placed on the Nine-Tails chakra, and transforms into Kyubi.
(This is where Hulu says season four begins.) There's an amazingly epic battle between Pain and Kyubi (which releases six of its nine tails). Pain uses his most powerful jutsu to trap Kyubi inside a giant ball of rocks in the sky, and in Kyubi's struggle to escape, its eighth tail is released. We then see a scene inside Naruto's mind, in which Kyubi tries to convince him to completely free him by releasing the seal Minato (the Fourth Hokage) had used to trap Kyubi inside Naruto when he was a baby. But just as he's about to do so, a sort of chakra-based manifestation of Minato appears to explain some things to Naruto. (Before the real Minato had died, he had included this manifestation of himself in the jutsu he used to seal Kyubi, and set it to activate if the eighth tail were ever released.) He reveals to Naruto that he is his father (a secret I find it pretty incredible that Naruto hadn't learned before now). Naruto has understandably mixed feelings, including a great deal of anger and confusion over all that he's suffered because of what his father had done to him. But Minato explains why he sealed Kyubi inside Naruto, and says that a member of the Akatsuki (who Naruto realizes is Tobi) had masterminded Kyubi's attack on Konoha sixteen years ago, and he was now using Pain for the same purpose. Minato also tells Naruto that even though he has no idea how to create a peaceful world, he (like Jiraiya) believes Naruto is capable of finding an answer to that problem. He restores the seal on Kyubi with the last of his chakra, and vanishes, leaving Naruto to finish the battle against Pain as himself, rather than as the Nine-Tails. And I shall say more as I continue catching up on the series....
Anyway, I love this series at least as much as I did the old show. As always, the opening and closing theme songs are all very cool. The action is awesome. The drama is awesome (even if sometimes gut-wrenching). And... I don't know what else to say, except that I look forward to seeing how it all turns out.
There are also a few movies. The only one I've seen so far is Naruto Shippuden the Movie. And there's a comical spin-off series called Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals.