From a pervy ninja kid to a grown-up pervy ninja!
I was able to watch the first three episodes of Naruto Shippuden last night. This is the Second Stage of the ninja-themed action-fantasy series, set about five years after the end of the last 'real' storyline of the title. When I mean 'real', I mean based on the original manga story on which Naruto is based- from episode 120 or so onwards, the anime diverges into dreaded 'filler' storylines and sidequests that really have little or nothing to do with the main plotlines. Fillers usually occur when the anime catches up to the manga version, so to give the manga time to finish, the animators go on their own paths... which is not always good. Particularly horrible filler episodes were resposible for the downfall of the Rurouni Kenshin anime (Black Knights... Feng Shui Assassins... Agh...), and could have also brought down even this mega-popular series.
I mean, delving into stuff like the backstories and experiences of the other ninja characters in Naruto isn't half bad, really- but when Naruto and company start fighting Ninja Cooks out to get his favorite Noodle Kiosk Chef, it's really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Well anyway, after the original Naruto anime reached episode 220, the Naruto Shippuden series finally started, getting back onto the real nitty-gritty of the main plot.
Set several years after Sasuke Uchiha left Konoha Village to train with the evil Orochimaru, Shippuden sees a grown-up Naruto Uzumaki coming home after a prolonged training period with legendary Sannin, Jiraiya. In his absence, the other Gennin have not been idle. Sakura Haruno particularly has become a force to be reckoned with, not only having superior medical talents but the monstrous strength of her teacher, legendary Sannin and current Konoha Hokage, Tsunade. Everyone else has also been promoted to Chunnin, or even Jounin rank... leaving poor Naruto the only one who is still a lowly Gennin. To get them ready, Sakura and Naruto are immediately sent into a challenging test of skill... and they'll need all their new powers in the trials ahead. Far away, in the Village of the Sand, the evil Akatsuki are already moving, seeking to capture the Tailed Beasts to use for their own purposes... and their first target is Gaara of the Desert...
Watching Shippuden was a mixed bag- I love this world and the characters, and the story and action is tops. There's even a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor as the Shippuden characters occasionally interact with their younger, original series versions during chapter breaks. However, the animation of the episodes is a bit disappointing- in fact, it's downright embarrassing at parts and nowhere near the quality of the original series. Also- another thing that is consistent with the original series- it looks like the action is going to be dragged out as always. In the first three episodes, little really happens. It really gets you pumped to watch the next installment, but darn- I wish they were able to squeeze in more in each episode. Oh well.
As I said, I'm neck-deep into Naruto already, and thankfully I haven't really watched many fillers to get tired of this title. This will hopefully make up for in innovative action and cool plots and characters where it is lacking right now in animation quality.
Now to get back to my ninja training...