After news of Bleach getting the axe and that a Naruto spin-off series would replace its timeslot, this ignited a feud between the rivaling shonen fandoms. Directed by Masahiko Murata, Studio Pierre’s Rock Lee no Seishun Full-Power Ninden (also known as Naruto SD) finally premiered in April (2012) three years after its manga debut. This major shuffle on mainstream television must have meant there was major confidence in the show. But was Naruto SD a success? Ctrl+GeekGirl (also known as a Narutard) finds out!
Naruto SD revolves around the daily life and training of Konoha’s Rock Lee, the village’s eccentric ninja who cannot use ninjutsu skills at all. Now this show isn’t your average spin-off series. The ‘SD’ in Naruto SD means ‘super deformed’ and yes, all characters in this show are animated to be super deformed-looking. From Naruto to Gaara to members of Akatsuki, they’re chibi, cute and very ‘animefied’. Because the audience is so used to the original art, this cutesy art direction immediately grabs our attention, and we begin to wonder what other surprises the anime will have in store for us…
We know you’re probably asking yourself: “In what world is Rock Lee the main protagonist of his own show?” While it’s no secret that fans would rather prefer a Kakashi or Sasuke spin-off series, it’s perfectly understandable as to why Rock Lee won the leading role in the end. Not only is Rock Lee an incredibly hardworking character who never gives up, but his outlandish character is beyond our comprehension. With Gai-Sensei, Neji and Tenten by his side, you’d know any adventure with Lee and his friends would be one hysterical journey.
Since we don’t often go on adventures with Team Gai, it was invigoratingly different to see them in the limelight as these characters have always taken a backseat in the original series. But hark, they are not the characters we thought they would be. Tenten is very cynical, sarcastic, and often throws comical punchlines at every turn of an episode. Neji is always trying to protect Hinata from Naruto and is often forced by Rock Lee to cross-dress in girly outfits. And Rock Lee…? Well, being Rock Lee, of course.
You can already tell Naruto SD has no particular plot focus but its impulsive randomness doesn’t disconcert fans at all. Impressing its audience with its slapstick humour and highly-comical mini-skits, Naruto SD often emphasises the characters’ ambitions and ideas in a bizarre, satirical manner that will make you “WTF…LOL” every time. In fact, if it wasn’t for voice-actor Toru Okawa as the witty omniscient narrator who constantly pokes fun at the characters and plotlines, the show would not have triumphed successfully as it did.
Disregarding the mixed response amongst viewers, fans of the popular Shonen series should not deny Naruto SD’s efforts of providing fantastic fanservice. Naruto SD clearly knows what the audience wants, and it has gone to great lengths to humour its audience.
Whether it is Sasuke returning to Konoha, or the boys dressed in dapper suits, or Hinata trying to catch Naruto’s eye, it is entertainment that will amuse you indefinitely. Even the final battle at the end of the series was the real deal — talk about top-notch animation and teasing humour that will have you speechless! In addition to this, Naruto SD also retains the original voice actors for all of its characters in the show, and as a result, Naruto SD further becomes a perfect and authentic fanservice product for its fans.
And of course, a series wouldn’t be right without a villain. Who else but Orochimaru? Yes, Rock Lee’s enemy in the series is Orochimaru, and once again, Orochimaru is up to no good as he is still strongly determined to destroy Konoha for once and all. However, it’s not his usual evil schemes. We’re talking about going incognito as foreign tourists and placing boogey justus on everyone. With Rock Lee and his friends in the way, will Orochimaru claim victory? You will have to see yourself!
Verdict: Rock Lee no Seishun Full-Power Ninden (Naruto SD) is a highly enjoyable series that will have you entertained with its ridiculous comedic spin-off content. While you would think Naruto SD would be a standard 24-25 episodes series, the fact that it continuously aired for one year and finally ending on its 51st episode…ultimately indicates something about the Naruto fandom and the show itself.
It has been one long journey with Rock Lee and his friends, and although some plotlines were repetitive, it was a shame that the show had to end. You can never watch these characters the same way ever again, and it is remarkably sad to see them living their normal lives again in Naruto Shippuuden. What will happen to Team Gai’s weekly razzle dazzle from now on? But alas, we must bid goodbye to Naruto SD for it is one of the best parody spin-off series that could ever accompany an original series. Bravo!