Naruto Shippuuden 177 Breakdown: Epic media references FTW!!!
*Takes a deep breath.*
Hello everyone and welcome to another weekly Naruto anime breakdown, with yet another similarly formal intro that never seems to change because I can never think of anything else to say.
This week, we continue our mini-filler saga into Naruto’s past, the first episode of which was actually quite endearing in its own way, but the real question is, will that charm remain consistently pleasant, or will this filler drop like so many others before it?
Fortunately, much to my delight, this episode managed to remain consistent with regards to pace and tempo relative to its predecessor, as well as the overall feel of this arc. It doesn’t have much in the way of action or excitement and it almost feels a bit somber in its presentation, but the story at the heart of it is involving and emotionally fulfilling nonetheless and it manages to absorb one’s attention like a dry sponge.
Whether you prefer this kind of temperamental approach to the anime’s story, or whether you simply want to move along with the more exciting cannon episodes to come, it’s definitely a nice reprieve from the battle-weary Pein arc either way you look at it, which is a feeling that is positively enhanced by the quality.
However, the real focus here is emotional in nature, which is a feeling that is delivered solidly through every scene. Witnessing the way Naruto is so coldly regarded by his peers and the adults of his village, even to the point where he is blatantly shoved aside or openly berated for no reason, really gives us a glimpse of the desperateness of his situation, as well has his feelings thereof. It also gives one a sense of hopeful anxiety, knowing that the only person who can save him from that isolation, is still battling with his own personal challenges, not the least of which is the death of his parents at the hands of the Kyuubi.
*Wonders if anyone will think I am weird because of my childhood cartoon preferences.*
Before this arc came up, I had always wondered, from reading the manga and watching the anime, whether or not Iruka ever held any animosity towards Naruto before they had grown closer together. Surely, after all, he would have some form of resentment for the container of the creature that took away his loved ones. It was a question that was never really explored before through any other mediums of this story, so I was intrigued to see some form of an answer in this episode, as heart-wrenching as it may have been.
After playing a prank on some of his fellow students in Konoha’s cemetery at midnight, Naruto has an encounter with his own teacher Iruka, who had come to investigate the disturbance. It is at this point, that Iruka questions his student about his actions, but what really caught my attention, was his demeanor and body language.
You could clearly see the amount of discontent in his eyes as he regarded Naruto thoughtfully and the way he began to squeeze the grip around his kunai, even though it was only for a fleeting moment, clearly spoke of the thoughts that must have flashed through his mind at the time.
Even if it was for only an instant, I believe that it is painfully clear that Iruka must have thought of killing Naruto right at that very moment. It would have been his way of taking away years worth of pain and grief when it came to the death of his parents. His way of letting go of the horrific feeling tearing away at his own heart.
It would have been his way of saving himself from that awful memory, so that there was no longer any curse to remind him of it.
I doubt he would have ever committed such an action in the end, mostly because his own sense of reasoning would have likely prevented such an outcome, but that doesn’t mean that he had never considered it.
Luckily, with some words of confusion from Naruto following his odd behavior, the young man quickly snapped out of his self-induced stupor, but even then, it did not help prevent the message being relayed through his own eyes, a message Naruto could read all to clearly. It was the very same message he read in all the eyes that had ever looked upon him with loathing and discontent, the message that told him he wasn’t wanted and that he was nothing more than a curse that no-one dared to love.
All he could do was run away.
One gripe I did have with this episode, despite everything else, was a single but severe inconsistency with regards to a particular subject represented in the manga itself.
*Spoiler alert for non manga readers.*
In the scene showed from the above screen, you see Iruka’s parents talking about how they, as a part of the advanced guard of Konoha, would have to go out and engage the Kyuubi before it came close to the village. They also mentioned, with great confidence, how they would not let it take one step into Konoha.
Now, that may have been consistent with the manga as it was a few chapters ago, especially given the vague details regarding the Kyuubi’s attack, but it no longer harmonizes with the real truths portrayed in the most recent chapters, where the Kyuubi’s attack on Konoha was relayed in detail by Uzumaki Kushina.
It’s hard to say that you are going to prevent the Nine-tails from taking one step into your village, when it was basically summoned right in the middle of it and Iruka’s interaction with his parents as a whole is largely different from how it was portrayed just recently in the manga. However, it does bring into question Kishi’s involvement in the anime development as a whole.
Does he advise the animation production team on details that may have helped avoid this inconsistency, or even just to help quality control overall, or do they simply exist as completely separate elements that are scarcely (if at all) interwoven? This particular instance suggests that the latter is more likely the case.
It wasn’t a really big deal and it hardly affects the story overall, but even still, it does somewhat stain this otherwise great episode, needlessly.
*Spoiler alert ended.*
Moving along, back to our real focus, we eventually arrive at a scene with a less than happy Iruka, trying to get his mind around his current predicament. After noticing Naruto’s absence from his class the next day following their less than pleasant encounter in the cemetery, the man tries to go and see the Hokage to terminate his status as Naruto’s homeroom teacher, only to be barred any chance of a meeting. After that, he decides to wander around Konoha for a while, when he has an unexpected meeting with none other than Hatake Kakashi.
It is at this point that Iruka is finally able express his concerns to a willing listener, including his feelings about the Kyuubi as well, despite his claim that he never blamed Naruto personally for the death of his parents.
I think, in a way, that Iruka was trying to distance himself from Naruto, not only to save himself from the heartache of having such a painful reminder of his suffering right in front of his very eyes each day, but also to protect his student as well. Iruka may have realized that he was also endangering Naruto’s life by being near him, especially when he considered his feelings of resentment towards the Kyuubi that Naruto contains.
However, after hearing Iruka’s story, as well as his fears that Naruto may never open up to him, Kakashi gives a few very important words of wisdom in response.
“You cannot open the mind of another unless you yourself have an open mind.”
I think the meaning was quite deep and clear and I also think that even Kakashi realized why the Sandaime gave the task of teaching Naruto to Iruka specifically. It was to heal not only Naruto, but Iruka as well. To take two broken souls who both needed to be fixed and to help them find what they needed in each other. He wanted them both to open up to one another, so that Naruto would no longer feel alone and isolated, while Iruka himself would finally be able to let go of years worth of heartache as well by understanding that Naruto wasn’t the monster that killed his parents and that he was a good kid.
Unfortunately, even despite Iruka’s renewed attempts to ‘hang in there’ and give it another chance, Naruto is now far less open to engaging with his teacher any longer, especially after their most recent encounter. You can easily tell that all Naruto really wants is a friend to open up to and he obviously felt that any hope of that bond forming with Iruka, had been broken completely. Instead, he tries to find that attention somewhere else, which unfortunately, leads him into an attempt to join the ‘wrong crowd’, as one would say.
Taking a dare from three of his less than amiable classmates, Naruto plunges headfirst into terrible danger in order to prove the value of his worth, simply to gain the acceptance of others. I think this theme is consistent with the real world as well, because when you really think about it, it isn’t too far removed from how peer pressure works in our society and its effects on the youth of today. I guess we all just want to feel accepted and loved, but sometimes we don’t feel like we fit in with anyone at all, even our own families, so we try our best to find that acceptance somewhere else, even if it means doing something we would have never considered before.
Things like taking drugs, smoking, acting out of character or even resorting to crime, can all come about as the result of a simple yearning for love and attention and the results can be just as tragic as well. The sad part is, these kinds of circumstances could be easily avoided, simply by us being aware of the plight of others, or by showing a willingness to understand those around us. After all, an open heart is just as important as an open mind…
This is where Shikamaru represents a different side to the spectrum. Unlike most of his other peers, he takes real notice of Naruto’s position and his treatment at the hands of his fellow villagers, even to the point of questioning his own father on the matter.
It is this attempt at understanding others that carries the real heart of everything I have just mentioned, as well as the hidden message of this story, and it is also the single greatest hope Naruto has now of being saved, given his current predicament. Standing up and speaking out, even if it means standing alone for someone else who is hated, is a very brave action and one worthy of commending.
If only there were more people in the world, who would tell us the value of our worth, so we didn’t have to feel that kind of heartache in the first place.
In any case, that’s it for this episode, but I hope you all enjoyed the breakdown, even though it was a bit long. I guess I just had a lot to say this time.
Here are last week’s caption contest winners.
Iruka: Become one of us Naruto. It feels wonderful.
Sakura: Wonderful Naruto, wonderful. *Evil smile.*
Iruka: Yes, I can stick my hands anywhere, I’m so awesome.
Sakura: If you wanna keep that hand, I’d advise you to move it
Ino: Actually, keep it there…I SAID KEEP IT THERE!
Pimp Iruka: taking pedophilia to the second level.
HIDDEN LEAF VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED! – Coming to a sleazy drive-in movie theater near you! That may not be butter on your popcorn!
KUCHIYOSE-NO-JUTSU! RISE GAMERA AND GODZILLA! …OH WTF IS THIS?!?
2nd) Prawlkage: (Yes, spamming captions does pay off sometimes. Lol. <_<)
Iruka deeply regretted being drunk when he signed his summoning contract…
Tenrai’s Rib Sword: TENTENTENTENTENTEN!!!!
Tenrai: Yes, you can eat again Prawl later, but first we need to give everyone this weeks caption contest screen.
(I should really give him a name now. O_o)
Well, that’s all from me this week. Next week’s episode looks like it may be the last of this filler and, probably, the most exciting as well. The answer as to how Naruto finally found his first real bond is waiting for us, it’s only a little bit longer before we finally have it.
See you all next time!