I will say up front that I liked Naruto. I enjoyed much of the pre-filler original series. I want to still like Naruto. However Shippuden seems to have lost its way a bit, or rather has yet to find its way. 26 episodes jam packed with 5 episodes worth of plot and another 5 of fighting. The rest of the time? Slow zooms, slow pans, pregnant pauses and establish shots.
Naruto is big business now and making it cheaply helps the profit margin. The fan base will for the most part not turn away despite the drop in animation content, quality and I might add ninja spirit. They stretch the content out so much that it has become like Dragon Ball Z with fights lasting half a season. That is okay for DBZ which is built on such a format, but not for Naruto.
Not for a world so rich in characters and lore. Most of which you do not get to see in the long awaited return of these 26 episode. It has been years since Naruto left his village to train. Where are the characters now that he has returned? What are they doing? We get a few fleeting seconds to catch up with some popular couple characters and burn three episodes chasing a bad guy. Literally running after him. Not catching him, not fighting him.
Sometimes the few fights they have occur simultaneously. They go on for so long you begin to lose the rhythm. Participants fight, pose and have long inner monologues for episode after episode. You leave every episode hanging and unsatisfied. It would have been far more frustrating if if did not have the whole season at my disposal to watch. Now I know why I did so.
Finally, the bad guys just seem uber powerful. In the past great power has usually come at some sort of cost. However right now Orochimaru and the bad guy group the Akatsuki are so powerful that they as a group could walk into any country and take it over. The combined power of the Akatsuki seems staggering. The good guys are one step behind and generally the losers the entire season. That is a long time to be on the wrong end.
Television shows usually treat their fans to highs and lows, victories and defeats in the course of an episode or two. The time line of Shippuden has been stretched so far that there is no longer any expectation of that. Without that expectation viewers may not be disappointed, but the show is poorer for it.
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