After all these years, I still love watching Naruto. I’ll place it on hiatus every now and then, but it still is, and always will be, one of my biggest favourites. This past weekend marked the end of my latest break from Shippuuden, but already, here I am again; writing away. I couldn’t let this feeling pass without trying to convey it, this sense of being an anime fan and seeing something so great it can’t be contained by just me alone; I have to share it with you.
Naruto always does this to me. For every multi-episode, slow fight, there are these special moments for when they bring out the big guns. It’s usually only for one episode, but it’s obvious when it’s going to happen because the characters take on more stylised look and the animation becomes fluid and expressive, more akin to watching a Studio Ghibli feature. It happens for episode 82, but for once, and delightfully so, it’s not about the action. This is probably the quietest episode of Naruto I’ve ever seen, but also, probably the best.
The plot is basic (and contains a big spoiler, for those worried about such things). Shikamaru is trying to cope with the death of his dear teacher, Asuma. All the colour is drained from Konoha’s usually lively hustle and bustle, dialogue is sparse and strained. The death of a friend isn’t something that one takes lightly. Shikamaru just wants to be alone.
Most of what’s so great about this episode simply has to be seen. It’s beautifully animated, but it’s real impact is emotional. I have to mention this one scene in particular: seeing his son sitting alone, Shikamaru’s father challenges him to a game of shogi. For around five minutes, they just sit and play in a room surrounded by beautiful paintings, for a while barely even uttering a word to each other. The camera angle never changes, the room is lit only by moon light, but their body language, every subtle movement, portrays so much; it ends with Shikamaru collapsing in tears.
I would suggest that more than just fans of Naruto should make an effort to see this episode. It can be, and should be, adored without context; rarely is a feeling so powerful captured in film, let alone in a series like Naruto.