After a brief reprieve, Naruto Shippūden returns to form this week—“form” in this case meaning “drawing out the last couple volumes of the source for as long as humanly possible.” Still, I"m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt, as this is one of the rare opportunities for its anime-original content to improve upon the parent manga"s canon. I was never thrilled about Team 7"s most powerful antagonist being a personality-less god-like entity who lacked a proper backstory. While this latest installment failed to surpass my expectations, it does a decent job of filling us in on Kaguya"s past.

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The episode opens with Kaguya arriving on Earth, roughly a thousand years before the events of the series. Soon after, the celestial maiden is taken as a concubine by Tenji, the young ruler of the Land of Sou, a small feudal country. When asked why she came to Earth, Kaguya reveals that her goal is the protection of the Divine Tree, which appeared outside the Land of Sou a millennium prior to her arrival. Throughout the episode, tensions flare between the Land of Sou and the Land of Ka, a country with superior military strength that"s just itching for an excuse to invade Sou. Intent on avoiding a war his country can"t win, Tenji decrees that any Sou citizen who harms a Ka soldier will be immediately executed. However, this doesn"t stop Suzaku, one of Ka"s top commanders, from invading Tenji"s palace under the cover of night with the intent of abducting Kaguya. Never one to go quietly, Kaguya uses her ill-defined powers to reduce Suzaku"s men to a pile of mush.

The Land of Ka"s military brass are so cartoonishly evil, it"s almost comical. For example, Suzaku"s insatiable lust for Kaguya is so over-the-top that any possible menace the character was meant to exude is lost amidst his ever-present sexual predator vibe. Before even laying eyes on her, this guy was raring to make her his consort. Luckily for him, Tenji is an ineffectual idiot who"s willing to do just about anything to pacify his enemies. I understand that he"s trying to be practical, but instead of even trying to formulate a plan to fight the Land of Ka, he enforces an unfair one-strike policy on his own citizens.

Upon learning that Kaguya dispatched his soldiers, Genbu, the head of Ka"s military, insists that Tenji execute her. Despite the fact that she"s carrying his children (which he might not know, but even so), Tenji relents and sends a battalion of his men to track her down and finish her off, giving way to a harrowing chase. Kaguya"s beloved attendant, Aino, dies trying to tell their pursuers about Kaguya"s pregnancy. Devastated by Tenji"s betrayal, Kaguya reaches the Divine Tree, takes a bite of the Chakra Fruit, and sets a slightly subdued version of the Infinite Tsukuyomi into motion. As everyone in the vicinity falls prey to the technique, Kaguya vows to never again trust humans. Of course, I"d feel a lot worse for her if I thought Tenji was someone worth getting upset over.

This was an interesting episode on a number of levels. In addition to delving into Kaguya"s past, we get an extended glimpse of what the show"s world was like before the advent of ninjutsu. Seeing battles fought with swords, bows, and other feudal weapons almost made me feel like I was watching a completely different series. Unfortunately, it seems like Kaguya"s pre-Earth origins will continue to remain a mystery. Although I"m not really sure there"s a need to pry into them, the show may as well go whole hog now that we"re back in filler mode.

As far as anime-original material goes, episode 460 is on the low end of good. A look into Kaguya"s past isn"t entirely inappropriate at this juncture, although I feel like this portion of her tale would have benefited from having one more episode dedicated to it. At the very least, this would have given us a better understanding of the one-off supporting characters and their respective motivations. Why was Tenji so intent on avoiding war that he"d sacrifice his own subjects and lover without a second thought? How did Aino and Kaguya—and for that matter, Tenji and Kaguya—grow to care for each other so much? Although these questions will never be answered, I"m looking forward to seeing what developments the births of Hagoromo and Hamura bring about.

Rating: B

Naruto Shippūden is currently streaming onCrunchyroll.

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Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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