Naruto EPISODE 133: “A Plea from a Friend” (NEWTYPE – August 2005)

dhmkjLo-_400x400This interview was originally published in the August issue of NEWTYPE, 2005. This interview has been translated by Twitter user @frog_kun © 2019 Wave Motion Cannon

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Newtype Shonen

Bringing shonen manga to life in anime form!

The first in a series highlighting incredible anime based on shonen manga! This issue uncovers the secrets behind Naruto, One Piece, and Beck!ntype_naruto133_01_waifu2x_art_noise1_scale_tta_1


Series Director: Hayato Date

Series Composer: Junki Takegami

Character Design: Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Recording Director: Chiharu Kamio

Animation Production: Studio Pierrot


Naruto Uzumaki: Junko Takeuchi; Sasuke Uchiha: Noriaki Sugiyama; Sakura Haruno: Chie Nakamura; Kakashi: Kazuhiko Inoue

STORY: Naruto, a dropout ninja from the village of Konoha, makes friends with Sasuke and Sakura. By battling against Orochimaru in order to protect the village, he grows as a person.

Article written by Kazushi Kojima
NEWTYPE – August 2005

EPISODE 133: “A Plea from a Friend”
(Airdate: May 4, 2005)


Script: Katsuyuki Sumisawa

Episode Director, Storyboard Artist, Animation Director, Key Animation:
Atsushi Wakabayashi

Key Animation: Norio Matsumoto, Atsuko Inoue, Matsutake Tokuyuki, Hirofumi Suzuki

2nd Key Animation: Yukimi Isozaki, Yoko Sugita, Sansai Onoki, Naomi Utsuno

Background Art: Shigenori Takada


Naruto gets into a heated battle with Sasuke in order to prevent him from going to Orochimaru!

Episode 133 of Naruto aired in May. Have you seen it?! This episode showed Naruto and Sasuke’s fight to death, featuring jaw-dropping action animation. It has been deemed a ‘classic’ episode among fans. The person behind this incredible episode was the episode director (enshutsu) Atsushi Wakabayashi. He’s the remarkable person who was in charge of episodes 30 and 71, which are legendary even for the Naruto series, which is renowned for its action. How were these detailed action scenes created? In an attempt to recreate the animation process on this magazine, we consulted the man himself.

The Secret Behind Naruto and Sasuke’s Epic Battle!

Through Animation, the Ultimate Action Scenes are Possible! Let’s Look at a ‘Classic’ Episode!

The image sketches are drawn beforehand. The broad ideas are sketched out, but only one small part actually gets used. It might seem like a waste at first glance, but these images are the foundation behind the incredible images onscreen!

Image Sketch

1) Gather the “Raw Ingredients” for the Action

The setting of the battle is drawn out in detail, including the edge of the valley. Incidentally, the image is based on Lake Mashu, which Wakabayashi visited on a trip to Hokkaido.

Wakabayashi begins by sketching the ideas for action scenes that come to his head. “The images are there in my head,” he says. “I just have to draw them out.” The mental images come from the films, manga, and photos he has seen in the past, as well as fighting techniques he has experienced himself. His influences are etched into how the characters move and respond to their surroundings. The sketches take up pages, enough to form a thick bundle.


2) Assemble the Drama

The storyboards form the essential blueprints for the drama. Wakabayashi says that the most essential aspect of creating the storyboards is flow. “For instance, if a character starts rolling, the storyboards have to show how the movements connect between frames. If they can do that, the movements feel as if they have flow, which makes them pleasant to look at. Otherwise, the movements will just look stilted.”

Norio Matsumoto worked on the scene where the Nine-tailed Fox’s power activates, causing Naruto to run like a beast, as well as the scene where Naruto launches his body like a missile.

Atsushi Wakabayashi was the animation director of Yu Yu Hakusho and Midori no Makibao. He worked on the character designs of various works like Flame of Recca and Microman: The Small Giant. He debuted as an episode director on episode 7 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002). Lately, he has been working on the storyboards for Otogi Zoshi and Koi Kaze.

I Want to Depict Drama through Action

Atsushi Wakabayashi

“This might be because I’ve worked on so many action scenes from shonen manga over the years, but I really enjoy them. I grew up on 70’s shonen manga like Ashita no Joe, you see. I think I have a thing for the straightforward honesty and hot-blooded passion in shonen stories. That was what I wanted to show with episode 133 as well. Naruto has been looked down upon by Sasuke for so long, but now he manages to overcome his hardships and defeat his opponent. When he wins, it’s an iconic moment of catharsis.”

“In order to achieve that, it was essential to depict Naruto and Sasuke’s emotions. I developed the story based entirely on what the characters were feeling, and then I thought of the actions to complement that. If I could capture their emotions thoroughly, then the action scenes were bound to flow naturally. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know how to do the action, and their movements would simply come out stiff. I think that the viewers are able to relate to the characters because the action scenes were drawn with the emotions in mind.”

The clone scene was “made almost entirely for Matsumoto-san’s benefit,” Wakabayashi says with a laugh. Matsumoto delivered a wonderful scene in return.

The action scene which even Wakabayashi says is amazing. The storyboards to the right show the part where Sasuke fends off Naruto. Notice how well Sasuke’s movements flow as he takes down Naruto!

Finally, the key animation turns the pile of sketches and storyboards into a tangible form. In the episode directed by Wakabayashi, Norio Matsumoto and Atsuko Inoue played essential roles for the key animation. “Matsumoto-san brings out the best of mother nature’s expressions, whether it’s rocks, fire, or water. Inoue-san is excellent at pouring emotion into the character acting and facial expressions. With the two of them working together, the movements had a strong sense of timing. I treasure their work because it leaves a visceral impact.”


3) Making the Pictures Move

Key Animation / Atsuko Inoue

Facial Expressions

Sasuke’s expression is drawn with exquisite care when his eyes turn to Sharingan. Incidentally, Inoue-san also handled the cut in episode 71 where Orochimaru breaks out into an evil grin.

Key Animation / Norio Matsumoto

The Water’s Expressions

In this cut, Naruto launches himself off the pillar in the water and kicks at Sasuke. The animation only lasts for a moment, but it perfectly captures how the kick seems to slice the water.

Other Episodes Directed By Wakabayashi

Episode 30: “The Sharingan Revived: Dragon-Flame Jutsu!”


Script: Mushi Kouhei

Episode Director, Storyboard Artist, Animation Director, Key Animation: Atsushi Wakabayashi

Key Animation: Norio Matsumoto, Atsuko Inoue

The epic battle between Sasuke and Orochimaru inside the forest! The highlight is the action scenes where Sasuke darts between the trees so quickly that he eludes the eyes. The setting is used to great effect here; you can taste the thrill through the production. Notice how Sasuke fills the space with a huge fire.

Episode 71: “An Unrivaled Match: Hokage Battle Royale!”


Script: Akatsuki Yamatoya

Episode Director, Storyboard Artist, Animation Director, Key Animation: Atsushi Wakabayashi

Key Animation: Norio Matsumoto, Atsuko Inoue

Wakabayashi’s favorite character in Naruto is the Third Hokage. He spoke about this episode with heavy emotion. The animators work their own jutsu on the Hokage and Orochimaru’s jutsu battle! The Third Hokage is said to be Konoha Village’s strongest ninja. The episode was widely discussed!

What episode will Wakabayashi direct next…?

Now then, what will Wakabayashi direct next…? Unfortunately, he has nothing planned at the moment. Still, you can look forward to seeing some more excellent action in Naruto!

One Comment

Add yours →

  1. I know this is a month old but I just wanted to leave a remark about how I’m surprised it wasn’t brought up why they made so much original animation for the fight. Like, why this fight instead of Sasuke vs Gaara for instance or why this much extra animation didn’t occur again until the Pain fight in Shippuden?(although I just remembered this interview was done before Shippuden had even started oops)
    Who decides when there’s extra scenes to a fight and does the studio need the permission of the author to do it? Also can they make a character do pretty much anything in a fight in the name of making these extra scenes? I’m wondering since there’s plenty of other shows that need “filler” but I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t mind some fights being longer as long as they were quality additions to the fight.

    Liked by 1 person

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