The Sunagakure Support Mission (砂隠れ支援任務, Sunagakure Shien Ninmu) spans from episodes 216 to 220 of the Naruto anime. This arc is preceded by the Menma Memory Search Mission and is the last arc in the original Naruto series but it is followed by the first arc of Naruto: Shippūden, the Kazekage Rescue Mission.
Kakashi is shown investigating the Takumi Village. His ninja dogs found that the village was deserted, and that the body of their founder was taken from its grave. Meanwhile, Sakura, Shikamaru and Naruto discussed the status report from Temari saying that she and her brothers are going to become involved in their village's new shinobi training program.
In Sunagakure, the three siblings were shown leading a combat training class. One of the students, a shy, quiet girl named Matsuri, was reluctant to use something that could hurt someone else, so Gaara taught her to use a defensive weapon, the jōhyō. They became friends.
After word reached Konoha that Gaara and his team needed help against a group of ninja called the Four Celestial Symbols Men from the Takumi Village who kidnapped Matsuri, Naruto joined the rest of the Konoha 11 (minus Tenten) under Shikamaru's command to help. Naruto was particularly glad he could finally pay Gaara back for helping them during Sasuke's defection. Quickly, Shikamaru formulated a strategy to best handle the situation and had Naruto pair up with Lee for main offensive assistance. The two arrived in time to save Gaara from Suiko, an opponent with chakra-absorbing armour after being struck by a Water Release: Water Dragon Bullet Technique. After Gaara recovered with help from Sakura's medical Ninjutsu, he took over for Naruto and Lee to finish off Suiko. Afterwards, Gaara went on ahead. He stopped just before going into the canyon, and was shown to be worried about Matsuri. Naruto followed soon after.
Naruto arrived in time to see Gaara facing off against the leader of the Four Celestial Symbols Men, Hōki, now armed with all the unique weapons of his allies. Unfortunately, Gaara was still too exhausted to properly fight back. Naruto quickly went to help Gaara. After Hoki shouted his anger towards the Five Great Shinobi Countries for overlooking his village's greatness as weapon makers and vowing to destroy them, he trapped Gaara in a giant iron sphere which began absorbing the chakra of Shukaku, the one-tailed demon inside Gaara. Doing so slowly began to make Gaara transform into Shukaku. Hōki then used that chakra and himself as a sacrifice to perform a resurrection technique with the intent of reviving the Takumi Village founder, Seimei. Quickly after emerging, Seimei reconfigured the weapons of Hōki as armour for himself. Seimei then began siphoning off Shukaku's chakra, making Naruto repeatedly try to break Gaara free.
Eventually, Gaara's transformation process proved too great for the prison to handle. While Seimei was looking forward to facing Shukaku, Gaara was able to suppress Shukaku and revert to normal, amazing Naruto and everyone else who appeared. While everyone else didn't understand why Gaara wouldn't take advantage of Shukaku's power, Kankurō explained that Gaara was determined to rely on his own power from now on. Gaara then used his remaining chakra to turn some of the canyon around them into sand and crushed Seimei, finally ending the battle and saving Matsuri. As everyone rushed to help Gaara who fainted shortly afterwards, Kankurō noted to Naruto how he finally found someone who he can relate to.
Later while Naruto was recovering at the village, Jiraiya showed up. After explaining how he had spent the past few months gathering information about the Akatsuki, he told Naruto he was finally ready to train him for the next two years. Gaara, Temari, Kankurō, and Matsuri left for Sunagakure.
After recovering and having one last bowl of ramen with Iruka, Naruto finally set off with Jiraiya to begin his training, vowing to become strong enough to free Sasuke from Orochimaru when he returned.
|#||Episode Title||Japanese Airdate||English Airdate|
|216||"The Targeted Shukaku"||11 January 2007||22 November 2009|
|217||"Sand Alliance With the Leaf Shinobi"||18 January 2007||22 November 2009|
|218||"Sealed Sand: The Counterattack!"||25 January 2007||29 November 2009|
|219||"The Ultimate Weapon Reborn"||1 February 2007||29 November 2009|
|220||"Departure "||8 February 2007||6 December 2009|