Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MSCR: Naruto Shippuden

I have previously blogged about the awesomeness/ incomprehensibility of anime. There's always at least one crucial element that completely defies all logic. A young boy finds an old board game, only to be possessed by the spirit of an Edo-era grand master. The classic super-human alien baby (a la Superman and isn't that weird enough already?) also has a monkey tail. Girl meets boy... by falling down a well into an alternate dimension. Oh, and the boy's a half-demon samurai.
Those are all actual shows. For serious.

In the anime series Naruto, however, there isn't one odd central element. There are, like, five.
1. The setting is feudal Japan, only there's electricity and running water and other technological advances. No explanation is ever given for this.
2. The characters are adolescent ninjas, who can channel the body's energy (chakra) into superhuman abilities. This is sometimes determined by heredity, sometimes achieved by just working really really hard.
3. The title character, Uzumaki Naruto, is an orphan who has been used by his village leaders to contain the spirit of a powerful nine-tailed demon fox. Sometimes he has conversations with it.
4. There are many other people who have been used as vessels for various other demons. One of them is a sociopath from a neighboring village who becomes a good guy when Naruto kicks his ass.
5. Naruto has a best frenemy named Sasuke, who is the constant focus of all his considerable energy. Sasuke runs off, leaving Naruto to pine for three years.

Sasuke on left, Naruto on right.
It's moments like these when I'm not entirely sure this show isn't shonen-ai.

That's just the first 220 episodes. After that, in the sequel Naruto Shippuden, shit starts to get really weird. And the funny thing is - it's a fighting show. Most of the episodes are spent entirely on battle scenes. The sheer amount of WTFery they cram into the remaining minutes is truly remarkable.

What makes this show good is that it plays by its own rules. People are constantly unveiling ninja skillz that should be impossible (even in this impossible world), but on further explanation actually aren't. There's a lot of exposition of 'this is how I just kicked your ass,' which drags the action down, sometimes to an interminable snail's-pace. Somehow, though, the intricate world is compelling enough to keep my attention. Also, the vague hope that one day Naruto and Sasuke might make out (again).

Accidental smooch!

Naruto was originally available via Bit Torrent for the dedicated few. I think it got picked up by Cartoon Network at some point, but it was the inferior, dubbed version (when it comes to anime, sub-titled versions are almost always better). Naruto Shippuden (sub-titled!) is licensed by Hulu, and an episode goes up every Thursday, on a seven-day delay from when episodes air in Japan.


Maggie Cats said...

All I can say is WTF.

Monkey Sri said...

All I can say is, you're welcome.