|Sasuke Recovery Team|
|Sasuke Recovery Team (サスケ奪回チーム, Sasuke Dakkai Chīmu)|
|Manga||Volume #21, Naruto Chapter #182|
|Anime||Naruto Episode #110|
|Movie||Naruto Shippūden the Movie: The Will of Fire|
|Game||Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3|
|OVA||Naruto Shippūden: UNSG anime cutscenes|
|Appears in||Anime, Manga, Game, Movie|
Although Konohagakure emerges victorious from the Konoha Crush, the village suffers numerous causalities during the failed invasion. In order to keep up its previous mission-load and thereby avoid appearing weak, most of Konoha's chūnin and jōnin are given increased workloads that take them away from the village, leaving Konoha itself greatly understaffed. For this reason, when Konoha is made aware that Sasuke Uchiha has joined forces with Orochimaru, the Fifth Hokage is unable to assign the personnel appropriate to the mission's A-rank nature. Her only option is Shikamaru Nara - only recently promoted to chūnin - and whatever genin he can assemble in half-an-hour.
The Hokage recommends Naruto Uzumaki to Shikamaru. Shikamaru also insists on recruiting Chōji Akimichi over Naruto's protests. When Naruto recommends Shino Aburame, Kiba Inuzuka appears and explains that Shino is away on a mission; Kiba and his partner, Akamaru, volunteer in Shino's place. Rock Lee overhears about the mission and, unable to accompany them himself, recommends Neji Hyūga. Sakura Haruno approaches the team as they leave Konoha, but Shikamaru declines her assistance, explaining that her own attempts to convince Sasuke to stay failed the night before and that the only remaining option is use of force — a task Sakura is unsuited for.
To follow Sasuke's trail, Shikamaru devises a travel formation to take special advantage of each member's unique skill-set in the case of an ambush:
- Kiba and Akamaru would lead the group, tracking Sasuke's scent and using their familiarity with the Land of Fire's terrain to spot booby traps. Both look straight ahead.
- Shikamaru would follow behind Kiba, quickly providing orders as the situation calls for it. He also looks ahead, but with a wider range than Kiba and Akamaru.
- Naruto would be in the middle, ready to react to any threats with his shadow clones. He watches the left.
- Chōji, the physically strongest, would deliver the final blow during any surprise attacks. He watches the right.
- Neji takes the rear, watching their backs and any other blind-spots in their formation using his Byakugan.
The Recovery Team finds Sasuke's escorts, the Sound Four, resting after an encounter with the Konoha Special Mission Platoon. As they approach the Sound Four's location, they narrowly avoid several booby traps and setting off a security measure meant to detect intruders. Shikamaru devises a plan where they deliberately alert the Sound Four to their presence, lowering their guard by appearing incompetent. While the Sound Four apprehends them, Kiba detonates a smoke bomb, allowing Shikamaru to capture the four with his Shadow Imitation Technique. The plan works, but Shikamaru did not account for the presence of Ukon: Ukon attacks Shikamaru, forcing him to release the others and enabling Jirōbō to imprison them.
The Recovery Team is able to escape from Jirōbō's prison. Jirōbō, who stayed behind to make sure the rest of the Sound Four wouldn't be followed, blocks all their attempts to give chase. Chōji volunteers to fight Jirōbō so that the others can go on ahead and, after they're gone, eventually succeeds in killing Jirōbō, but he's too exhausted by the fight to rejoin the team. When the others catch up with the remaining Sound Four they try to get close by impersonating Jirōbō, but the ruse is discovered and they are captured by Kidōmaru's webbing. Neji is uniquely able to neutralise Kidōmaru's webs, so he volunteers to deal with him while the others continue the pursuit. Before they go, Neji warns that their team will probably continue needing to be split up like this. Neji, like Chōji, eventually kills Kidōmaru and, like Chōji, cannot rejoin the team afterwards because of injuries he sustained.
The rest of the Recovery Team is able to overtake and block the progress of Tayuya, Sakon, and Ukon. Naruto and Shikamaru are able to secure the coffin that Sasuke is being transported in, but Kiba and Akamaru and Sakon and Ukon are separated from their teams. Naruto attempts to escape with Sasuke while Shikamaru deals with Tayuya, but Sasuke is taken from him by Kimimaro, another of Orochimaru's subordinates. Naruto goes after him, but Sasuke emerges from the coffin soon afterwards and begins travelling towards Orochimaru alone. Naruto cannot follow until Rock Lee arrives to help, keeping Kimimaro distracted. Despite brief successes in their respective fights, Kiba, Shikamaru, and Lee are nearly killed by their opponents, saved only by the timely arrival of the Three Sand Siblings, whose backup was requested by the Hokage. Kankurō kills Sakon and Ukon, Temari kills Tayuya, and Gaara keeps Kimimaro at bay until he dies of a preexisting illness.
Naruto follows Sasuke to the Valley of the End, the border point between the Lands of Fire and Sound. When he can't convince Sasuke to return to Konoha, the two engage in combat. In the end, Naruto is unwilling to kill Sasuke and loses consciousness. Sasuke, despite several attempts during the battle to kill Naruto, spares him and continues on to Orochimaru. His progress is slow due to fatigue from the battle, but he eventually reaches his destination, rendering the Recovery Team's mission a failure.
The Hokage eventually sends Konoha's Medic Corps after the Recovery Team to provide aid to its members. Chōji, left near-death from his use of the Three Coloured Pills, is cured by the Hokage with help from the Nara clan's medicinal research. Neji, despite severe injuries, is fully healed due to constant care with the Healing Resuscitation Regeneration Technique. Kiba and Akamaru are treated by Hana Inuzuka; though both will have long recovery periods, neither has life-threatening injuries. Shikamaru, whose only injury was a self-inflicted dislocated finger, contemplates giving up the shinobi life because of how disastrous the mission went, but is convinced to use it as a learning experience instead by his father.
Naruto is recovered by Kakashi Hatake; Kakashi considers following Sasuke, but Naruto needs his attention and a rainstorm masks Sasuke's scent anyway. Once he's better, Naruto opts to leave Konoha to train with Jiraiya, intent on improving his abilities enough to bring Sasuke home.
- Even though he was away from the village at the time and couldn't possibly have helped, Shino Aburame remains bitter even years later that he wasn't invited to join the team. He believes Sasuke would have been stopped had he been present.
- Naruto chapter 394, page 17
- Naruto chapter 395, page 5