Where were you when Rock Lee dropped his weights?
Me? I was screaming at the television as Naruto rolled on the Toonami block. The year was 2006 and the chunin exams were in full swing. This was the part of Naruto where things started getting more interesting and intricate. Before this point, Masashi Kishimoto was still exploring how to build the world of Naruto. If you ever rewatch this section of the series (aka pre-Shippuden), if feels pretty evident Kishimoto didn’t think he’d make it that far. The Zabuza saga was what gave us a look into the world of the ninja outside she shiny happy Leaf Village we’ve seen. But, in the first ten episodes we were forced to see long winded speeches, flashbacks to things that happened in episode one, and a lot of yelling on Naruto’s part.
The chunin exams is where it all changed.
Kishimoto oped up the Naruto world to focus on other characters in the graduating class. Of course Team 7 still got a lot of attention, but at least we saw the Rookie 9 in action during the Forest of Death episodes. And during all this, we’re introduced to Rock Lee. At first it’s hard to take him seriously; he has a major crush on Sakura for crying out loud! But, watching him take Sasuke down several notches gave us a little hope that we would see more of his skills. In a world where it’s established that yeah Taijutsu is important but everyone uses flashy Ninjutsu, it’s refreshing to get a ninja that can ONLY use Taijutsu. And boy, does Rock Lee use it.
We didn’t know how great he was until the moment was upon us.
Lee had a few hiccups before his iconic fight. Trying to help Sakura when faced with the Sound Village team left our poor Taijutsu baby beat up and tired. But, the preliminary exams gave us his time to shine. The screen read “Rock Lee vs. Gaara” and no one was ready. Gaara had already been shown as a murderous ninja without a care for human life, so no one was sure how the fight would go. Lee even started off struggling because Gaara sand acted on it’s own and wouldn’t let Lee get close. After much contemplation, the moment of truth happened; Might Guy gave Lee permission to lose the weights. From then on, both the characters and us as viewers were SHOOK.
Where did this speed come from?
What we didn’t expect was to discover Lee was greatly holding back. The weights he used trained him to be stronger and much, much faster. Even Gaara couldn’t keep up with him. His sand hard a difficult time forming fast enough to defend from Lee’s blows, and eventually Lee landed the first hit Gaara’s had.
We all know how this ends. Gaara is fed up and gives his all in capturing Lee with his sand. Crushing Lee’s arm and leg was devastating, even more so when Lee still attempted to fight despite his condition. Luckily thanks to Lady Tsunade later on, Lee continues being the great ninja he always dreamt of being. But one thing is for certain, this fight will always stick with us.
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