Naruto Shippuuden 173 Breakdown: A heart to heart talk…
Hello everyone, and welcome to another weekly Naruto anime breakdown. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately for me, I was away at the coast last weekend enjoying some sunshine with my family, with no decent internet connection to speak of beyond what you might find on a mobile phone, so I was unable to do the breakdown. Thankfully, however, Mandi was kind enough to step in and help me out, which I am very grateful for.
*Gives Mandi a cheesecake and a hug as a reward.* Don’t worry, it isn’t as dangerous as it looks. <_<
Now that I am back, with a mind that is even more akin to jelly than it was before (not edible jelly, mind you) I guess it is time to move along again, and what better way to come back from holiday, than to the sparkling gem that is this past week’s anime episode?
Hmmm… perhaps it is best not to try and think of an answer for that one. X__x
I think I can speak for many of us when I say that lately, the quality of the animation in the more recent episodes we have been watching has been somewhat underwhelming. This arc in particular definitely did not live up to many of our expectations and now that we are coming nearer towards the end of it, I think that sense of failure has left a bitter taste in our mouths when it comes to the anime as a whole.
It’s quite sad, how an entire series can lose credibility so quickly simply from its latest poor showing. It’s like an irremovable stain that scars it for as long as it exists, something that can make or break a viewers faith in a series altogether.
Inconsistent quality, odd character models and a static frame rate are a few of many factors that have all contributed to this feeling, as well as a poor or inconsistent pace and an overall odd transition from the manga to the colour frames we all used to enjoy. It has even come to the point, where I think some of us may have even considered giving up trying to watch the anime anymore.
And then, suddenly, we come to this. An episode that has somehow, finally managed to grasp my full attention again and rekindled my hope.
When I started watching this episode, I was actually quite surprised by the quality of the animation, and the production as a whole, from the start. Everything looked clear and crisp, with neatly drawn character models and vivid environmental backdrops. Emotion was carried across nicely through facial features and the subtle undertones of somber, yet dramatic music, and the dark grey textures that brought the world of Nagato’s past to life, created an almost somber ambience that spoke clearly of the plight in these children’s lives.
Even the near consistent sound of falling rain helped fuel this ambience and bring it to life, even during moments where the music wasn’t present at all.
It was almost too good to be true. I was actually waiting for something to go wrong, waiting for the quality to just suddenly drop and leave me feeling unsatisfied, but no such change ever transpired.
The quality was consistent throughout, which certainly is a pleasant change from what we have been experiencing lately. Hopefully, this is a result of negative feedback from Naruto fans, pushing the animation team into upping their game and hopefully, it is a change that remains consistent for some time to come.
The pace of the episode itself was suitable for the events transpiring at the time. The twenty odd minutes that passed didn’t feel particularly drawn out or exhausting, which is definitely a good thing, and the emotion and heart that filled each scene was enough to give the episode enough body to keep my eyes firmly glued to the screen.
Some might be a bit disappointed that there was no additional filler content, but what was there was definitely good and I am not sure if any additional content could have added to that in any meaningful way without feeling cheap. Every scene had a deep and profound impact and there wasn’t much that could have been done to really improve them without any risk of detracting from the focus at hand.
One emotion that hit me particularly hard, was an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Seeing how terrible war is and how adversely it changes the lives of those it effects is something we never really think of at most times, but is also something that never loses its impact when it becomes a prevalent theme. Seeing how dark the nature of human hearts can grow and how blind they become to the sufferings of others, really hit home for me the most. The world is indeed a cruel and unforgiving place if those who live within it cannot see past their own desires and how much suffering they cause others. It’s even worse when that suffering affects children who are barely able to scrape by on their own two feet, with no hope or guidance to speak of.
I think that is what makes Jiraiya, as a character, so special. He saw past the war and past the goals of his own village. He saw the plight of three children, suffering in a devastated land filled with poverty and imminent danger and instead of simply turning a blind eye, as so many others had, he chose to make a difference, no matter how small such efforts may have proven to be.
As Nagato continued to explain his past to Naruto and how Jiraiya came into his life, it was almost as though his entire personality had suddenly changed. He was no longer the cold and ruthless Pein, whose persona he had adopted so fully to achieve his goals. He was no longer the leader of Amegakure or Akatsuki, or even a hardened shinobi. He was simply a man, filled with grief and pain, filled with a lifetime’s worth of bitterness and resent and, most likely, many unshed tears he had promised himself would never fall from his eyes again.
In a way, this was simply his moment of weakness, his chance to let all of it out. Naruto had presented him an opportunity to be heard and understood and Nagato took hold of it with both hands. I think that in that moment, he may have even forgotten his goals to capture the very boy before him, the same boy who was now acting as his only outlet for all his thoughts, words and feelings. Perhaps it was Jiraiya’s part in both of their lives that formed that subtle connection that allowed Nagato to freely speak words he may have never even whispered in the presence of any other.
It brings me back to words that Nagato himself spoke before. Even if two people feel the same pain, it doesn’t mean they will ever understand one another. I find it surprising, then, that this subtle understanding is taking place, but when I think about the possible explanation to that puzzle, the answer is as enriching as one could ever hope for.
The simple answer is love. The love Jiraiya had for them both. That is where the connection starts and that is the single most pertinent factor that has allowed for this exchange to take place.
In love, comes understand and in understanding, comes forgiveness and ultimately peace.
Eventually, we come to the single moment in time that had changed Nagato’s persona forever, the one event that set him on a path of destruction.
The moment of Yahiko’s death.
I felt this scene was actually handled very well, both artistically and otherwise. It is a grim reminder of how even when we devote our lives to doing good, there will always be those who seek to undo those efforts and it paints a dark portrait of the human nature imbedded within many and one that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The aesthetic similarities between the wears that Yahiko, Nagato and the rest of their followers wear and the Akatsuki cloaks is also a nice touch for those who noticed it.
I was also pleased with the animation shown in the battle that followed, as Nagato unleashed his power in a devastating display that brought ruin to the armies of his enemies. Seeing his face twist and distort in anger and hatred, after witnessing his closest friend fall before him, I can only imagine the kind of emotions that would bring out of anyone, especially someone who has already lost so much.
One thing I cannot decipher for, however, is the actions of Hanzou himself. On the one hand, Hanzou appears to have a sense of honor and dignity when it comes to battle. This is shown most prominently when he spares the Sannin during his battle with them and in the way he acknowledges their strength, rather than simply killing them and getting rid of a possible, future threat.
Yet in this particular scene, he comes across as far more sinister than before, to the point where he is actually villainized in a way. He even went as far as using deceit and trickery to eliminate his foes and turn them against each other, a tactic that comes across as very cowardly for his persona.
So, the question is why did he go from the noble warrior to underhanded trickster? Was he fighting to preserve his village and his people, or just to further his own goals? Perhaps power finally corrupted his sense of honor or perhaps he was simply putting honor aside for the sake of ensuring the future of his own people.
Either way, it seems the man shall remain an enigma forever, and his motives, unfathomable to us, shall remain vague and unclear.
In the end, this episode was very satisfying, and a nice, fresh change from what we have come to expect so far. I hope the animation quality holds up consistently like this in all the episodes to come, but I guess only time will really tell if that is the case.
In any case, I decided to try something new this week in place of the usual caption contest. It will still be the same theme, but with a different execution.
Here is how it works…
Instead of just supplying you with a screen to come up with a caption for, this time around, all of you are welcome to supply any screen you like, along with a caption of your choice to suit that image.
I think it may sometimes be difficult to come up with an entry to specific images I might provide, but you may find something that harmonizes much better with your own sense of humor and that of others. The only limitation as to what screen you can choose is that must be sourced from the most current and relative anime episode in question during that weeks breakdown and not any other previous episodes, movies or manga. Simply paste the link to the screen in the comments, along with your caption and the winning entry will be posted at the end of next week’s breakdown.
This is largely experimental, so I am unsure of how successful it will be, but hopefully a lot of you will take part and have fun with it.
That’s all from me this week. I apologize for the lateness, but my internet was dead for some time. Here’s a preview of next weeks episode to keep your appetites wet until next time.
See you all soon!