Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Best of Naruto Shippuden - Updated!

So a number of years ago, I released a series of posts listing my picks for the Top 5 various things in the Naruto anime, including the Top 5 Best Openings, Top 5 Best Endings, and Top 5 Best Episodes. But the anime was still ongoing at the time of all of these postings, so I knew that I would eventually have to update all of those lists. And seeing as how the anime has finally concluded, I suppose now's the time for me to actually go back and revise those lists.

However, I'm not sure I really want to actually re-do the lists entirely, as at least in certain instances, it would mostly stay the same, with me just adding an entry or two to it, and that feels just a little pointless. So instead, I'll use this opportunity to highlight my favorites from all of those categories that have released since the time of my original lists being posted, and include a handful of runner ups that I feel are worth a mention as well.

So then, without further ado, let's start off with my pick for the Best New Naruto Shippuden Opening...

Best New Naruto Shippuden Opening

Naruto Shippuden Opening 16 - Silhouette

I just really dig everything about this opening. The song is super catchy, and the imagery showing the various evolutions all of the characters have undergone is really neat to see play out. It starts off by showing a quick collage of footage from prior episodes, which shows us right off the bat the theme of this opening, that being to show us the stages that all lead to this moment. And then we see Obito burst onto the scene, just casually walking into battle as, in the corner, we see the various transformations his characters has experienced through his life, before repeating this with Madara, our two big bads.

I just love this imagery so much, the casual walks with the armies and beasts waiting in the background is almost haunting in its execution, as we see a glimpse of all of the steps that lead to this pivotal moment, almost like a reflection on one's life in the calm before the storm really hits. But then in contrast, while the two villains' evolutions are shown in the corner of the screen in a calmer manner, we see as Naruto evolves right on the field itself, carrying his past right into battle with him, as he rushes in to contend with them in his desperate attempt to finally put an end to their scheme.

Then the action showcase is just really entertaining, and maintains a high level of energy to match the music, as we see Madara squaring off in a lightning fast skirmish with Sasuke, before Naruto and Sasuke come together to take on Obito in his Juubi state, all leading to the moment when Obito sees he really is one against the world. And the tree growing above the army is almost like a dark cloud being cast on the world, as the battle rages on.

Everything about this opening really just came together and clicked in a way that it doesn't always do with other openings, which often feel a bit unfocused. And honestly, if I were to place this among my rankings compared to those that made it in my original list, this would probably place at either the #2 or #3 spot. It's upbeat, energetic, and features the sort of really stunning and awesome imagery that'll stick with you and have you putting it on repeat over and over again. Definitely not one you'll skip just to jump straight to the episode.

Honorable Mention:
Naruto Shippuden Opening 15 - Guren

Best New Naruto Shippuden Ending

Naruto Shippuden Ending 22 - Full

Not only is this my pick for favorite ending since the posting of my previous list, this is my favorite Naruto ending period. This ending just takes an already tragic character in Obito and makes it feel all the more terrible what happened to him, and what really made him the terrible person that he's become. And at the end, after the ghost of Rin walks through him, and you see the screen start to shake a bit, it's like you can feel the sheer weight of all the pain and torment that has been motivating him for so long, as he raises that monster behind him, a signifier of the monster that he's become. Just such a perfectly wrapped package that tells a full story, through both its visuals and its music, of a man whose been taken on such a dark path, and one of the most effective endings in this regard that I've seen.

Honorable Mentions:
Naruto Shippuden Ending 27 - Black Night Town
Naruto Shippuden Ending 29 - Flame
Naruto Shippuden Ending 33 - Kotoba no Iranai Yakusoku

Best New Naruto Shippuden Episode

Naruto Shippuden 478 - The Unison Sign

This is the episode the follows the final epic encounter between Naruto and Sasuke. And this episode is quite possibly the most emotionally stirring episode in the entire series.

Now out of context, this picture doesn't mean too much. But basically, what we see here is the sheer weight that Sasuke has been holding onto for so many years finally being let off his shoulders in a single moment of relief. He's finally come to terms with all of his misdeeds, he's finally accepted who he is, what he's done, and what he's become. But more importantly, he's finally accepted Naruto, and has accepted all that Naruto has striven to achieve, and how far he's gone to save him from the darkness. He's finally let Naruto's light shine into his life, and that's what we see in this image, is the sheer emotional relief of it all, a culmination of everything that had preceded it, all leading to this moment, as the sun rises into the sky on a brand new day, and Sasuke can finally put his past demons behind him and become a new man. A better man.

Now, take all of the emotion of that single panel, and stretch that over the course of an entire episode, and that's what we get with this treat of a finale. We see as Sasuke slips in and out of consciousness, and as his dream-state intertwines with Naruto's, and the two witness each others lives from a more personal perspective than they've ever experienced before. Sasuke not only sees with his own eyes just how far Naruto has come, but he experiences all of the emotional turmoil he's had to endure all the while, and how he's used this turmoil to only further motivate him to get even stronger, so that he can achieve his goals and finally save his friend.

And after all of the fighting, all of the kicking and punching and outlandishly flashy maneuvers that the two have exchanged, it's these moments flashing before Sasuke's eyes that really hit him the hardest. And even with the two lying on their backs, unable to move, Naruto is still motivated to keep fighting, even when Sasuke just wants to quit. And he sees this unyielding determination in Naruto, and finally sees the light inside of him that has been illuminating his path. And so, he concedes. And for the first time in possibly his entire life, Sasuke is finally overcome with a true, genuine sense of peace. And that's what's shown in that image above, and is also what we experience right along with Sasuke all throughout this episode.

This is a prime example of an episode that takes the source material and really expands upon it in a way that truly elevates the material to a whole other level. Most of the time when they do this, it's to expand upon some of the more notable fights, to make them even bigger and more stylish than their manga counterparts. But in this instance, it was the emotion that they expanded upon, and they did so in a big way, so much that the episode was treated as a standout special in the series, complete with an a unique ending and a post-credits stinger, to really drive the point home and end things on as high a note as possible, as the two bond in their first shared moment of true friendship since they were children.

There's very few episodes that I've gone back to rewatch multiple times, but this is one of those rare instances. And every time I have, this one has gotten just as big an emotional response out of me as ever, and has driven me near to tears. You can't fake that level of emotion. But despite the series mostly becoming a mess by this point, they definitely pulled it together when it really counted with this one.

Honorable Mentions:
Naruto Shippuden 246-249 - The Kyuubi Attack
Naruto Shippuden 322 - Madara Uchiha
Naruto Shippuden 375 - Kakashi vs. Obito

So there you are. And now, having finally updated all of these posts in one go, I can't help but feel a sense of relief of my own, like I can finally put this series behind me. Again, if you're interested in seeing my full original lists, you can check them out at the following links:

Top 5 Naruto Openings
Top 5 Naruto Endings
Top 5 Naruto Episodes

But of course, with the Boruto series having just begun, who knows, I may still have to return to these old lists and make another update again yet. But we'll get there when we get there, and for now, I'm satisfied finally saying a fond farewell to a series that I've been following for such a long time.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

These movies actually made my "best of year" lists...

So every year when I get around to forming my list of favorite movies I saw that year, there's always inevitably at least one particularly conspicuous entry that leaves people scratching their heads. In fact, I have a friend who likes to point these entries out to me each year, and I've as such come to find them amongst my favorite and most interesting additions to my lists. And so now, I wanted to share with you the movies that likely stood out the most in this regard over the years that I've been doing these end of year "best of" lists.

Granted, I don't really have too much new to say about most of these movies that I haven't already said before at some point, and in a number of instances, it's been years since I've last revisited them, so they're not exactly the freshest in mind at the moment. However, I do still hold fond memories of my experiences with all of them, and the ones that I have revisited, I still found enjoyment out of them, despite their negative reputation or any inherent flaws with the movies.

So then, let's get to the list, which will be presented in alphabetical order. But first, a few honorable mentions, consisting of movies that had all received an honorable nod from the year that I had originally made mention of them in the first place.

Honorable Mentions

The Expendables
2010, Honorable Mention

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
2012, Honorable Mention

White House Down
2013, Honorable Mention

And now without any further ado, onto the main list, where I'll also be including the original placement where each movie landed on that year's particular list...

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
2016, #6

The Counselor
2013, #4

Need For Speed
2014, #5

Resident Evil: Retribution
2012, #10

San Andreas
2015, #8

Sucker Punch
2011, #1
Best of Decade So Far, #5

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
2009, #8

So there you have it. And like I already said, I don't really have much else to add, except that I'll be interested to see what other such peculiar movies will manage to hit me in just the right way and find themselves on future lists in the years to come.