I usually don’t write posts about individual episodes. I try to only write posts about narratives that I have completed. Or at least arcs of stories that I have completed. However I feel utterly compelled to write about my impressions of this week’s double episode of Naruto Shippuden, entitled “The Final Battle” and “Naruto & Sasuke”.
I followed the manga all the way to the end so I already knew how everything was going to go down. But Naruto the anime has (with the exception of the filler) always followed the manga so well that it has had the effect of keeping me interested in the anime even though am already aware of what will occur. Of all the anime that run concurrently with their parent manga, I think that Naruto and Naruto Shippuden have done well to work as compliments to the manga. I personally like watching the anime just to see how they will depict the action from the manga. Naruto and Naruto Shippuden do tremendous justice to the fights in the manga. I especially like how the anime depicted Itachi v Sasuke, Jiraiya v Pain, Sasuke v Danzo, The Team 7 reunion at the beginning of Shippuden , Team 10 and Kakashi v Kakuzu and Hiden and Sakura and Chiyo v Sasori. Those fight sequences really enhanced the story from the manga. I am not saying that they depicted the fights better than the manga but the way they depicted those fights served to enhance what was in the manga.
I am adding the final battle between Naruto and Sasuke to my list of fight sequences that were enhanced by the anime. The anime handled it masterfully. They were able to stay true to the emotion and intensity of the battle. And they gave a decided life to the jutsu used in the battle. The anime was also honest to the progression of the fight. We can all be honest about our two favorite characters in terms of their strengths as shinobi. Sasuke is considerably better at taijutsu than Naruto. Sasuke is also smoother and faster in his execution of skills and jutsu. On the other hand, Naruto’s strengths lie in his brute strength, endurance, pain tolerance and his knack for improvisation. He is a trickster turned fighter so he utilizes ingenuity and a great sense of timing to combat opponents. He is also great at combining multiple basic skills to catch his opponents off guard. Their final battle places all of this on display for the viewer.
The manga depicted this all as well but the manga moves through it really fast. And although you receive the impression that the fight is epic, you are left to imagine a lot of things on your own. Please don’t misunderstand. I love that about the manga. That is one of the great things about manga and comics as a medium. They primarily guide you while leaving your imagination to fill in the minor gaps left in by still pictures. I love that about manga and comic books. That is the reason they are so engaging and you end up having a deeply personal connection with the stories. Animation fills those gaps in more directly. That is what seems to be difficult for anime directors. They have to fill in those empty gaps that still images leave to the reader’s imagination. So the anime director is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have to follow the guide of the manga and also inject animated continuity to the scene that is able to match the manga reader’s imagined continuity. For me, the anime director for Shippuden hit it dead on the nail. What the anime provided is actually better than I imagined it in my own mind. For that reason, I loved the final battle as it was depicted in the anime.
What the director also did right was to strike the proper balance of history and flashbacks with the actual action. Some anime fights go far too heavy on backstory and end up destroying the smooth flow of fighting action in major battles. The director got it perfect here. There are enough flashbacks to convey how much of a culmination of history this battle was. There is enough history in the battle to impress the emotions of the Naruto and Sasuke upon the audience. The director must be given tremendous credit for providing all of that to the audience without bogging the action down with too many flashbacks.
The Final Battle as depicted in the anime is everything I wanted it to be. It gave me even more that I knew I wanted by adding a flow and continuity to the battle that maintained the character of Naruto and Sasuke, the historical significance of the battle in the Naruto Universe and the strong emotions present in the battle. These two episodes do the work of Masashi Kishimoto proud.