The Sasuke Recovery Mission (サスケ奪回任務, Sasuke Dakkai Ninmu), known as the Sasuke Uchiha Recovery (うちはサスケ奪回, Uchiha Sasuke Dakkai) and the Valley of the End (終末の谷, Shūmatsu no Tani) in the anime, is an arc from Part I of the series. This arc sees the attempt to stop Sasuke Uchiha from defecting to Orochimaru. It spans through volumes 20-27, or more specifically, covers chapters 172 to 238 of the manga and episodes 107 to 135 of the Naruto anime. In the manga, this arc is preceded by the Search for Tsunade and followed by Kakashi Gaiden. In the anime, it is preceded by the Land of Tea Escort Mission and is followed by the Land of Rice Fields Investigation Mission.
Lust for Power
Naruto's influence on Sasuke, though profound, was powerless to prevent Sasuke from leaving his village and friends to receive training from Orochimaru. Sasuke's decision to leave was the result of a chain of events that rekindled his hatred for his brother and desire to avenge his clan. To do so, he must claim a great amount of power, which became the centre of his entire life. Humiliated by Itachi's declaration that he was disappointingly weak, and aware of the fact that Naruto might be his superior, Sasuke challenged Naruto to a fight after Naruto returned to Konoha. They engaged in a heated duel on the rooftop of the hospital, where Naruto told Sasuke that he had never considered himself inferior to Sasuke. Kakashi Hatake leapt in to stop the fight just when Naruto and Sasuke were about to use their Rasengan and Chidori on each other, deflecting both their attacks into adjacent water towers. While Sasuke's Chidori made a larger dent on the front of the tower than Naruto's Rasengan, Sasuke was shocked to find that the back of Naruto's water tank had been completely blown out by the power of his Rasengan. Sasuke realised he might have lost the fight and received major injuries if Kakashi hadn't stopped the fight. This only made Sasuke even angrier that Naruto was getting stronger by the day, and could actually be able to defeat him in battle.
Ever since the Chūnin Exams and the fight against Gaara of the Sand Waterfall, Sasuke had felt that Naruto had been improving immensely. Naruto only wanted recognition from Sasuke, recognition that he really had got stronger. However, Sasuke would never recognise Naruto, because, by doing so, he would also have to admit that he was weaker than him. Despite a lecture from Kakashi about the pointlessness of revenge, the appearance of Orochimaru's Sound Four, with an offer of greater powers, and yet another humiliating pummelling, tipped Sasuke over the edge. Sasuke went to leave the village that night, but was disrupted by Sakura, who then tried to convince him to not leave Konoha.
During this conversation, a crying and desperate Sakura confessed her love to Sasuke, and begged him not to leave the village, but he rejected her. Once she realised that he was going to leave either way, she offered to go with him to help him enact his revenge, which he refused. As a last resort, Sakura threatened to scream and alert the village guards if Sasuke left, and finally, having hit a nerve, Sasuke moved from several feet in front of Sakura to directly behind her in a flash of speed. He sincerely thanks her for everything she had done for him thus far, before knocking her unconscious and laying her on a nearby bench, and then leaving the village.
Chōji vs. Jirōbō
A five-man squad was gathered by Shikamaru, including himself, Kiba, Naruto, Chōji, and Neji. Naruto also recommended Shino, however Shino was on a special mission with his father at the time. Sakura arrives just before they're leaving and explains to while crying that she failed to stop Sasuke, and asks Naruto, who she believes to be the only one capable of doing so, to do it as a once in a lifetime request. Naruto makes her a lifetime promise to her to bring Sasuke back to the village. They easily caught up to the Sound Four, who were escorting Sasuke to Orochimaru. Strategies were not used; rather, the team split up. The same happened on the part of the Sound Four: they dropped people one by one, and Chōji ended up fighting Jirōbō by himself. Using two of the secret pills of the Akimichi clan, Chōji was able to increase his chakra enough to keep from being defeated. In the end, he had to consume the red pepper pill, which increased his chakra a hundredfold but left him in an extremely critical condition, usually resulting in death. Taking the pill slimmed down his body, as the excess calories were converted into butterfly wings of chakra. After getting his revenge on Jirōbō for eating the last chip and for calling him fat, Chōji put all his chakra and power into his fist, and killed Jirōbō for insulting his best friend, Shikamaru.
Neji vs. Kidōmaru
Next, Neji ended up fighting Kidōmaru. Kidōmaru had trouble at short-range, since Neji's Byakugan and Gentle Fist were too powerful to penetrate. Kidōmaru ended up fighting from long-range, but the battle was locked in a stalemate, until Kidōmaru discovered a weakness of the Byakugan: it has a blind spot behind Neji's first thoracic vertebrae. Knowing that he would be hit in this area, Neji intentionally allowed Kidōmaru hit him with a powerful arrow, to which Kidōmaru had affixed a chakra string to ensure accuracy. However, Neji used the chakra string to use his Gentle Fist to damage Kidōmaru's internal organs. Neji then caught up with Kidōmaru, and used his 8 Trigrams to close Kidōmaru's tenketsu (chakra points); Kidōmaru died shortly after. Neji was left in a critical state after the fight.
Kiba and Akamaru vs. Sakon and Ukon/Shikamaru vs. Tayuya
Shikamaru was matched up with Tayuya, while Kiba and Akamaru were with Sakon and Ukon. Kiba and Akamaru did an amazing tag team on Sakon, but Sakon split with Ukon right before Kiba and Akamaru could lay a devastating blow. Sakon and Ukon activated their Cursed Seal to Level Two, which made them far too powerful for Kiba and Akamaru to cope with. Meanwhile, Shikamaru, despite all his prowess at forming strategies, simply couldn't kill Tayuya because of her sheer force. He managed to use his Shadow Imitation Technique on her three summons, but she quickly dispelled them both. Then he caught her in his Shadow Imitation Technique, then his Shadow–Neck Binding Technique, while, at the same time, Akamaru had got injured, with Kiba refusing to leave him. Without Akamaru to do their combination attacks, however, Kiba and Akamaru were forced to retreat (Kiba was forced to stab himself in order to escape), and Shikamaru, for the first time, couldn't come up with any ideas to defeat Tayuya, and was forced to keep his Shadow–Neck Binding Technique on her. Finally, Shikamaru and Kiba were ready to accept their deaths. However, before the finishing strikes could be executed, the Sand ninja arrived to help.
The Sand Arrives
Right before Shikamaru and Kiba were about to die, they were aided by Temari and Kankurō respectively, who had been ordered to help the Konoha ninja. Kankurō's puppets were unaffected by Sakon and Ukon's ability to fuse with cells. When Sakon arrived, he attempted to do the same thing he had almost done with Kiba, but Kankurō turned out to be his new puppet, Kuroari, to injure Sakon, forcing them to fuse back and Ukon to take over. Kankurō then trapped Sakon and Ukon inside his puppet Kuroari. Kankurō then used Karasu to stab them through holes in Kuroari, and used Karasu and Kuroari to do a devastating and deadly combo, Black Secret Technique Machine One Shot, thus killing the brothers. Meanwhile, since Tayuya used sound to attack, Temari's wind was a natural enemy. Temari used her Sickle Weasel Technique, which blew away Tayuya and cut her flute in half. Shikamaru used this time to tell Temari about Tayuya's strategies. After a while, Tayuya fixed her flute, and was ready to kill Shikamaru and Temari, but Temari used her Summoning Technique and used the Summoning: Quick Beheading Dance, which was able to kill Tayuya by destroying an entire tract of the forest, in which the sliced debris crushed the latter.
Rock Lee and Gaara vs. Kimimaro
Last, Kimimaro, who was stronger than all of the Sound Four combined, came to aid the escort mission. At first, he was faced with Naruto, but even Naruto's massive amounts of shadow clones proved to be no match for Kimimaro, whose taijutsu skills were more than a match for Naruto's superior numbers. Naruto even used the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox's chakra, but was still losing. During the fight, Sasuke emerged from the coffin, which caused Naruto to return to normal and begin wondering why Sasuke was with the Sound Four. Naruto began urging Sasuke to return home with him, stating how everyone was worried about Sasuke. Unfortunately, Sasuke, who had fallen deeper into darkness, responded by cackling madly before fleeing with Naruto calling Sasuke's name. Kimimaro attempted to kill Naruto, but was stopped by Rock Lee, allowing Naruto to chase after Sasuke while Lee fought Kimimaro.
Both Lee and Kimimaro were taijutsu experts, but, since Lee had only recently recovered from his surgery, he was not in top shape. Lee drank some sake that he thought was medicine and became intoxicated, and began fighting with the Drunken Fist style. With this added unpredictability, Lee gained an upper hand against Kimimaro. However, he clearly had no idea what he was doing, who he was fighting, and why he felt so drunk. After a while, Kimimaro was forced to do his Dance of the Camellia, but Rock Lee then appeared to be virtually invincible, and laid a devastating blow to Kimimaro. Seeing that there was no chance of him defeating Lee in his present state, Kimimaro used his Cursed Seal Level One and overpowered Lee, manifesting his horrific ability to manipulate his bones at will. Not only this, but Lee began to sober up. Lee would have been killed if Gaara had not arrived in time and used his sand to protect Lee.
For obvious reasons, Kimimaro was at a disadvantage, since Gaara was capable of blocking all physical attacks, and Kimimaro could only use physical attacks. However, like the Sound Four, Kimimaro was able to get past Gaara's defence and offence by sheer force. Kimimaro's bones were so tough that they simply forced their way through Gaara's sand. Even Sand Waterfall Funeral and other crushing forces couldn't bring down Kimimaro, as he created a film of bone beneath his skin to protect himself. Kimimaro would have defeated and killed Gaara with his last attack, but, just before Kimimaro could finish Gaara, his terminal illness ended his life.
Naruto vs. Sasuke
Naruto caught up with Sasuke and they began battling. Sasuke's Cursed Seal of Heaven, which had been powered up by a pill given to him by the Sound Four (this was why he was in the coffin), gave Sasuke inhuman strength, which he used to reduce Naruto to almost rag-doll levels. Meanwhile, Sasuke recalled his experiences with Itachi and his parents up to the point of the Uchiha Clan Downfall. It was in these memories that the Mangekyō Sharingan, and how Itachi obtained it (by killing his best friend, Shisui Uchiha) was revealed; it was also revealed that Itachi had encouraged Sasuke to gain the Mangekyō Sharingan, which he claimed to be the only way he could exact revenge on Itachi, by any means necessary, and this became Sasuke's motivation for killing Naruto, who he claimed to be his best friend.
Back in Konoha, Kakashi Hatake, brought up to speed on the situation, summoned his ninken, including Pakkun, to track down Naruto and Sasuke. Meanwhile, Naruto and Sasuke unleashed the Rasengan and Chidori respectively, causing each other to fly backwards. Activating his Cursed Seal, Sasuke used his enhanced speed and strength to overcome Naruto and strike him with a Chidori. Naruto managed to block the attack, but Sasuke, still intent on killing Naruto, tried to strangle Naruto, only to have himself thrown aside by a Nine-Tails-powered opponent.
With his enhanced abilities, Naruto was able to easily overwhelm Sasuke all the while trying to reason with him, only to have Sasuke ultimately reject his efforts. Despite this, Sasuke finally admitted they were fighting as equals. In this moment, Sasuke's Sharingan finally matured, enabling him to predict Naruto's movements and once again turn the tables. Upset by Naruto's persistence, Sasuke knocked him unconscious with Peregrine Falcon Drop. The Nine-Tails, probably to save itself, gave Naruto even more of its chakra, creating, for the first time, Naruto's one-tailed transformation, complete with the demon fox cloak that surrounds him. With one arm of the cloak, Naruto unleashed powerful short and long-range attacks, which Sasuke, even with his Sharingan, was unable to keep up with.
Feeling he had no choice, Sasuke increased his Cursed Seal of Heaven to Level Two, once again evening the playing field. Both Sasuke and Naruto realised the cost of their respective abilities at that point, but both decided that they had no other choice. Sasuke revealed that the location of their fight was the Valley of the End, and, determined to end the battle, forced the use of a third Chidori. Naruto created, using one hand, and the demon fox cloak's chakra as a shell, the Demon Fox Rasengan. Sasuke's Chidori, after a moment, warped into the Flapping Chidori. The two ninja collided their attacks; Sasuke, planning to punch Naruto in the heart, deliberately missed, and targeted the gut instead, while Naruto, referring to one of Sasuke's insults, scratched his forehead protector. A black dome of energy formed around them, which eventually dissipated, revealing the two ninja as their current forms, and then as their younger selves, who held hands and smiled at each other. When the dust settled, Sasuke was revealed to be victorious.
Sasuke pondered whether or not to kill an unconscious Naruto, but decided to leave him alive in the end. Kakashi and Pakkun arrived; disappointed they were too late, Kakashi took Naruto back to Konoha. At the same time, Sasuke decided to gain the power to kill Itachi his own way, through Orochimaru, as he walked off to Otogakure. It was then revealed that Akatsuki member, Zetsu, had been watching the fight the whole time.
As Kakashi took Naruto back to Konoha, several medical-nin appeared to update him on the situation, and to take care of Naruto "and Sasuke", which Kakashi deemed unnecessary for obvious reasons in both cases. Neji and Chōji both underwent intensive medical treatment; both were successfully healed thanks to the Nara clan's medical tome, Tsunade's medical prowess and Shizune and a team of medical-nin. Kiba and Akamaru were also healed from their moderate injuries, under the care of Hana Inuzuka, his elder sister. Shikamaru, with only his finger injured, decided to end his ninja career, as he put his team's life in danger, and his mission failed regardless, but Shikaku convinced him to persevere. Sasuke was shown walking with Orochimaru and Kabuto in one of Orochimaru's lairs.
Shikamaru paid Naruto a visit in his room, while Sakura decided to visit Naruto "and Sasuke", only to be severely disappointed by Naruto's failure to bring Sasuke back, as she overheard Naruto and Shikamaru's conversation. Naruto, however, declared his promise to keep to his original promise, to which Sakura gratefully responded. After her visit to Naruto, Sakura, realising how useless she had been in keeping Sasuke in Konoha, requested for Tsunade to take her on as her apprentice, to which Tsunade consented. Naruto's next visitor was Jiraiya, who revealed that Orochimaru had already taken a body before Sasuke arrived (so he had to wait another three years to take another body) and tried to convince Naruto to give up on Sasuke, based on his similar experience with Orochimaru. Naruto, however, refused to quit his efforts. Jiraiya, who figured it pointless to change Naruto's mind, decided to train Naruto for two and a half years, to prepare Naruto for the Akatsuki, which Naruto readily accepted. Akatsuki convenes and decide to hasten their plans.
In the anime, Naruto was forced to remain in Konoha for a few months before setting out with Jiraiya. In the manga, he left as soon as he got out of the hospital. Sakura also asked to become Tsunade's apprentice at the time of Naruto's departure in the manga, while in the anime it was after a mission with Naruto and Jiraiya that happened shortly after Sasuke's departure.
|#||English title||WSJ release date||Volume number|
|172||"Homecoming"||23 June 2003||20|
|173||"Those Suffering"||30 June 2003||20|
|174||"Feelings, Each One…!"||7 July 2003||20|
|175||"Naruto vs. Sasuke!!"||14 July 2003||20|
|176||"They Who are Called Rivals"||21 July 2003||20|
|177||"The Oto Four"||28 July 2003||20|
|178||"Oto's Invitation…!!"||4 August 2003||20|
|179||"Don't Forget…!!"||11 August 2003||20|
|180||"It's a Promise!!"||18 August 2003||20|
|181||"The Beginning of the Battle…!!"||25 August 2003||21|
|182||"Assemble!!"||8 September 2003||21|
|183||"The Promise of a Lifetime"||15 September 2003||21|
|184||"Oto vs. Konoha!!"||22 September 2003||21|
|185||"Pursue Oto…!!"||29 September 2003||21|
|186||"The Strategy… Failed?!"||6 October 2003||21|
|187||"Begging for One's Life…!!"||13 October 2003||21|
|188||"The Shinobi of Konohagakure…!!"||27 October 2003||21|
|189||"The Power of Faith…!!"||3 November 2003||21|
|190||"Unforgivable!!"||10 November 2003||21|
|191||"Comrades…!!"||17 November 2003||22|
|192||"The Plan…!!"||24 November 2003||22|
|193||"Game Over"||1 December 2003||22|
|194||"Sounding Out"||8 December 2003||22|
|195||"The Way to Capture…!!"||1 January 2004||22|
|196||"The Number One Strongest Enemy!!"||8 January 2004||22|
|197||"Prepared to Die!!"||15 January 2004||22|
|198||"Reincarnation…!!"||22 January 2004||22|
|199||"Desire…!!"||29 January 2004||22|
|200||"Just as Planned…!!"||2 February 2004||23|
|201||"Not as Planned…!!"||9 February 2004||23|
|202||"Three Wishes!!"||16 February 2004||23|
|203||"Sakon's Secret"||23 February 2004||23|
|204||"Ukon's Ability"||1 March 2004||23|
|205||"Kiba's Determination!!"||8 March 2004||23|
|206||"Trouble…!!"||15 March 2004||23|
|207||"Playing Without Rook and Bishop"||22 March 2004||23|
|208||"The First Move was a Fake-Out!!"||29 March 2004||23|
|209||"Supporter, Calling On!!"||5 April 2004||24|
|210||"Lee's Secret!! "||12 April 2004||24|
|211||"Unorthodox…!!"||19 April 2004||24|
|212||"Crisis, Crisis, Crisis!!"||26 April 2004||24|
|213||"A Great Debt…!!"||10 May 2004||24|
|214||"Step Aside for a Moment…!!"||24 May 2004||24|
|215||"Gaara of the Sand Waterfall "||31 May 2004||24|
|216||"Spear and Shield…!!"||7 June 2004||24|
|217||"For the Sake of Those Precious"||14 June 2004||24|
|218||"Konoha Comrades!!"||21 June 2004||25|
|219||"Future and Past"||28 June 2004||25|
|220||"Itachi and Sasuke, Brothers "||5 July 2004||25|
|221||"The Too Distant Elder Brother"||12 July 2004||25|
|222||"Itachi's Doubt"||19 July 2004||25|
|223||"Sasuke and his Father"||26 July 2004||25|
|224||"That Day…!!"||2 August 2004||25|
|225||"Within Darkness…!!"||16 August 2004||25|
|226||"Close Friend…!!"||23 August 2004||25|
|227||"Chidori vs. Rasengan!!"||6 September 2004||26|
|228||"Kakashi's Premonition"||13 September 2004||26|
|229||"The Bond…!!"||20 September 2004||26|
|230||"The Time of Awakening!!"||27 September 2004||26|
|231||"Special Powers!!"||4 October 2004||26|
|232||"The Valley of the End "||11 October 2004||26|
|233||"The Worst Ending…!!"||18 October 2004||26|
|234||"The Day of Parting…!!"||25 October 2004||26|
|235||"Mission Failed…!!"||1 November 2004||26|
|236||"The Promise that Couldn't be Kept"||8 November 2004||27|
|237||"Idiot…!!"||15 November 2004||27|
|238||"The Day of Departure!!"||22 November 2004||27|
|#||Episode Title||Japanese Airdate||English Airdate|
|107||"The Battle Begins: Naruto vs. Sasuke"||3 November 2004||6 October 2007|
|108||"Bitter Rivals and Broken Bonds"||10 November 2004||13 October 2007|
|109||"Oto's Invitation"||17 November 2004||20 October 2007|
|110||"Formation! The Sasuke Recovery Team"||24 November 2004||27 October 2007|
|111||"Sound vs. Leaf"||24 November 2004||27 October 2007|
|112||"Squad Mutiny: Everything Falls Apart!"||1 December 2004||3 November 2007|
|113||"Full Throttle Power! Chōji, Ablaze!"||8 December 2004||3 November 2007|
|114||"Good-bye Old Friend…! I'll Always Believe in You!"||15 December 2004||10 November 2007|
|115||"Your Opponent is Me!"||22 December 2004||10 November 2007|
|116||"360 Degrees of Vision: The Byakugan's Blind Spot"||5 January 2005||24 November 2007|
|117||"Losing is Not an Option!"||5 January 2005||24 November 2007|
|118||"The Vessel Arrives Too Late"||12 January 2005||1 December 2007|
|119||"Miscalculation: A New Enemy Appears!"||19 January 2005||1 December 2007|
|120||"Roar and Howl! The Ultimate Tag-Team!"||2 February 2005||8 December 2007|
|121||"To Each His Own Battle"||9 February 2005||8 December 2007|
|122||"Fakeout: Shikamaru's Comeback!"||16 February 2005||15 December 2007|
|123||"The Leaf's Handsome Devil!"||23 February 2005||15 December 2007|
|124||"The Beast Within"||2 March 2005||22 December 2007|
|125||"The Sand Shinobi: Allies of the Leaf"||9 March 2005||22 December 2007|
|126||"Showdown: Gaara vs. Kimimaro"||16 March 2005||29 December 2007|
|127||"Vengeful Strike! The Bracken Dance!"||30 March 2005||29 December 2007|
|128||"A Cry on Deaf Ears"||30 March 2005||5 January 2008|
|129||"Brothers: Distance Among the Uchiha"||6 April 2005||5 January 2008|
|130||"Father and Son, the Broken Crest"||13 April 2005||12 January 2008|
|131||"The Secrets of the Mangekyō Sharingan"||20 April 2005||12 January 2008|
|132||"For a Friend…"||27 April 2005||19 January 2008|
|133||"A Plea from a Friend"||4 May 2005||19 January 2008|
|134||"The End of Tears"||11 May 2005||26 January 2008|
|135||"The Promise That Could Not Be Kept"||18 May 2005||26 January 2008|