Warning: post contains minor spoilers if you haven’t watched up to the most recent filler arc.
I sit in front of our home computer since we need to replace our wireless router. I type in “hulu.com/naruto-shippuden” and the familiar page comes up. Laptop in hand, Word document up, I click on episode 197, “The Sixth Hokage Danzo.” The episode delights me, since it means the several months of fillers have finally come to an end. But I’m also hesitant. Danzo. I’ve known since twenty episodes ago that he would be the next Hokage of the Hidden Leaf, but a small part of me hoped it was not true. I like Danzo even less than I liked Orochimaru. At least that snake guy was obvious about how evil he was.
Naruto’s mangaka did not ask my opinion, though, any more than the anime adaptors asked whether I wanted all those fillers. And since I persevered through the fillers, I’m not about to desert Naruto over a small matter like Danzo. The short intro advertisement ends, the Viz Media theme jumps and spins, and one of Sai’s ink rat drawings scurries across the screen. Naruto Shippuden returns.
The end credits roll as I grin. Yes, Naruto is back. Besides the obvious conflict with Danzo, the age old Sasuke problem seems ready to return to center stage. And of course, Uchida Madara and the Akatsuki still refuse to leave our heroes alone.
I proceed to watch the next two episodes. Again, it strikes me how much Naruto has grown up since episode one of the first series. Yet some things, such as his fierce loyalty and friendship, will never change. Despite evidence that Sasuke has continued to stray off the path, Naruto refuses to tell his friend’s weaknesses to those who hunger for revenge. When ninjas from the Hidden Cloud village require compensation for Sasuke’s crimes, Naruto offers himself as a punching bag. Out of the love of deep friendship, he accepts every punch the foreign ninja lands on his face. And when the beating ends, he still asks to accompany the Cloud ninjas to right the wrongs Sasuke committed.
I look forward to the next episode of Naruto Shippuden. Naruto’s maturity stands out clearly after the many filler episodes full of his more childish self. Yet the passion remains and adventure promises to continue. In fact, as I finally prepare to post this, I realize the next episode must already be on Hulu.com. I smile, remembering the thickening plot at the end of the last episode. With the fillers over, a certain spark returns to my Thursday, as does an agonizing decision: do I watch the episode immediately, teasing myself with twenty-two minutes of Naruto? Or do I wait at least a week and enjoy a fuller Naruto session? This internal conflict nearly matches the intensity of the conflict in the show itself. Have I the patience to wait? Alas! This week, at least, I haven’t the will, for my Naruto plot-starved mind recalls the taste of conspiracy, the hope of two groups colliding, and the promise of battle…
Naruto Shippuden returns.