This new feature for the Anime Chronicle known as ‘First Impressions’ is where we will, as the name implies, give you our first impressions on a particular subject. This will range from an anime series, to music from Japan, manga and who knows what else. We will also try to keep them as spoiler free as possible for you. Expect this new feature to appear frequently on the site. We kick things off with the new Naruto Spin-off program currently airing on Crunchyroll.
The world of Naruto is vast. With nearly 500 episodes and counting in the anime we’ve followed the quests of the young boy dreaming to be acknowledged by his peers, seen him grow through the many trials and tribulations that affected not only him on a personal level but others around him as well. Now we embark on a new engagement in the world of Naruto in the form of a spin-off series that sees the very popular supporting character, Rock Lee, come to the forefront in ‘Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals’.
The premise of this twelve episode series is simple. Set in Konaha, the village hidden in the leaves, we follow Rock Lee and the random occurrences that are lying in wait for him. But in a twist from the norm this is a more lighthearted affair. This series is not a continuation of the Naruto Shippuden anime, more a chance to explore a variety of unique situations pertaining to Lee & others in a comedic manner. The episodes are also not confined to one standalone story either. In fact each episode is divided into two short stories with an overall theme that greatly aids the concept of it being a fun spin-off show.
A question that would arise instantly from potential new viewers is “do you need to be familiar with the Naruto universe in order to enjoy this show?” The answer, I’m happy to report, is no. While playing off many details that have been established within Naruto & Naruto Shippuden, the program does a great job of introducing each character in a short, concise and very direct way so you are able to appreciate their relationships with each other & their roles in the franchise. An example being in the second episode where a story centres around both Naruto & Lee’s feelings for Sakura, who you are given a clear & simple introduction to. You are also made aware of her role from the main series & her relationship pertaining to both.
The design of the series is a complete dichotomy from the regular anime as everyone is “super deformed” or “chibi”. Meaning they are drawn in a way to make them resemble children. Features that highlight this style of design include a smaller body and oversized heads. This really adds to the whole feel of the show. The program could be described as being aimed more at children, but this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment that can be had by an adult (including me). The comedy elements at first did seem quite over the top, but as the inaugural episode progressed I came to appreciate this and relish over how simple & amusing the comedy can be. From the range of slapstick humour included, to random skits that occur emphasising a point, even Lee attempting to mimick another character’s trademark move including Naruto’s Rassengan & Neji’s Byakugan, the latter of which had me in stitches with the laughter created (and I’m not shy of saying that either).
The subject matter within the first three episodes provides great insight into how diverse this series will be. From focusing on Lee’s inability to use any Ninjustu techniques – a fact that was established back in the early days of Naruto, to having feelings for Sakura & the lengths both Lee & Naruto will go to make sure she finds out. Even how the long standing trio of Lee, Neji & Tenten fair as a team when little situations created from their distinct personalities come to the forefront. It’s a chance to explore a range of scenarios that may have come into a long time viewer’s mind & is a chance for newer viewers to see a wide range of character exploration from the outset in a unique and very welcoming way.
In conclusion Naruto Spin-off: Rock and His Ninja Pals is a fun, light hearted, change from the norm when it comes to the Naruto universe. Viewers should come to watching this not expecting dramatic battles relating to and/or affecting the regular story continuity. Instead expecting short stories that will provide laughs, exploration of certain characters in ways that you don’t readily expect and overall a fun time while watching it.
The series is airing weekly over at Crunchyroll now.
– Jeremy Graves