In the Village Hidden in the Leaves, Konohamaru's team has been promoted to genin and now goes on D-rank missions under Ebisu. Konohamaru's constant complaining reminds Iruka and the others of Naruto back in the day. Just then, a figure passes through the gates. It's an older Naruto, who has returned from a long training journey with Jiraiya. Naruto Uzumaki is back!
Jiraiya has completed his new novel, Make-out Tactics, much to Kakashi's delight. But Jiraiya has also brought top-secret news that the Akatsuki is on the move. Naruto and Sakura team up and challenge Kakashi to a survival challenge to show off their progress. In the Village Hidden in the Sand, Gaara is now the Kazekage, and it turns out some members of the Akatsuki have infiltrated the village.
Naruto's and Sakura's combined skills force Kakashi to use his Sharingan right off the bat. Naruto masterfully unleashes his jutsu one after another. And Sakura, though trained primarily as a medic ninja, employs deadly techniques taught her by Tsunade herself. Just outside the Sand Village, Deidara of the Akatsuki begins a super-secret operation to sneak into the village, with Gaara as his target.
Gaara is quick to detect Deidara's presence, and an aerial battle ensues with Deidara on his giant bird and Gaara atop sand. Sand jonin Yuri is actually an Akatsuki sleeper agent, and the Village Hidden in the Sand suffers great damage. Back at the Leaf Village, Naruto and Sakura continue their survival challenge and get a firsthand look at the amazing power of Kakashi the Copy Ninja. The battle is at a stalemate. Finally, the duo implement their ace in the hole.
Naruto and Sakura defeat Kakashi in the survival challenge. Tsunade assigns them to a three-man squad led by Kakashi, who tells them they are now his equals. In the Sand Village, Gaara and Deidara continue their fierce battle. As he watches the battle, Baki becomes concerned that Shukaku will materialize, but Kankuro scoffs at the idea. Kankuro is fully aware of the strong resolve that burns deep inside his younger brother.
In order to protect his village from Deidara's explosive clay, Gaara uses his chakra to create a giant sand shield. Luckily, the village is saved, but at great cost. Gaara is left vulnerable to attack, and has nothing left to counter a barrage of Deidara's traps. His Sand comrades' attempts to help prove futile, and in the end, Gaara falls into Deidara's hands.
Tsunade / Fifth Hokage
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Katsuyu / Koharu Utatane / Shima
Rambunctious ninja returns, slightly older, in anime sequel.
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