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|"The Next Step"|
|(次なる段階, Tsuginaru Suteppu)|
|Previous||"The Old Monk's Prayer"|
|Episode||Naruto: Shippūden #76 (Watch Online)|
|Arc||Akatsuki Suppression Mission|
|Manga||Naruto Chapter #320, Naruto Chapter #321, Naruto Chapter #322|
|Japanese||September 25, 2008|
|English||April 16, 2011|
Kakashi shows Naruto his Rasengan, and the latter is surprised that Kakashi is able to do so, as he thought of it has his own unique technique (as Jiraiya, the only other person believed to know it, does not use it as much). Kakashi tells Naruto that the Rasengan is the most perfect example of Shape Transformation, and that if he were to combine his wind chakra with the Rasengan, he would create his own technique. Naruto, however, is stuck on the fact that Kakashi is able to create a Rasengan with one hand while he requires a shadow clone in order to perform it. Kakashi then shows Naruto his Chidori, a perfect example of both shape and nature transformation, as Kakashi combines his chakra with his Lightning Release affinity. Naruto believes Kakashi is showing off, but Kakashi explains that he created the Chidori because he could not add his lightning nature to the Rasengan. He goes on to state that his sensei, the Fourth Hokage, had created the Rasengan with the sole intention of combining it with his own chakra nature but was unable to do so. Naruto realises that the Rasengan is an incomplete technique, and Kakashi tells Naruto that he believes that he is the only shinobi capable of surpassing the Fourth and thus believes that Naruto will succeed in combining both shape and nature transformations.
As Asuma's team heads towards the Land of Fire Bounty Station, Shikamaru remarks that Asuma has not lit a cigarette in two days and that the last time he did so was when his father, the Third Hokage, died. Shikamaru asks what the relationship between him and Chiriku was, and Asuma tells him that their relationship was akin to that of Shikamaru and Chōji's. However, he does add that Chiriku is not the reason that he has stopped smoking.
Hidan and Kakuzu arrive at the bounty station, where Kakuzu presents Chiriku to Zangei, the bounty exchange master. Zangei confirms the authenticity of the corpse and presents Kakuzu with 30 million ryo while the complaining Hidan decides to go outside. Kakuzu alerts Zangei that he will not be returning for quite some time as he is headed towards Konoha to locate a jinchūriki. Zangei tells Kakuzu that he does not think that Hidan is a suitable partner for Kakuzu, as he believes his face is unlucky. Kakuzu tells him that while Hidan does not care about money unlike them, he is the perfect partner for him. He further explains that he has killed all of his former partners in the past due to the fact they they provoked him and awakened his killing intent; however, Hidan is unkillable, which makes him the only partner to work with.
Back in the clearing, Naruto uses his Multiple Shadow Clone Technique in an attempt to form the Rasengan and combine his wind nature with it. He finds himself unable to do so and dispels the clones, but not wanting to give up, tries again. As he attempts to force the wind chakra to combine with the Rasengan, he instantly taps into Nine-Tailed Fox's chakra, which causes his Rasengan to explode and send the shadow clones flying. Naruto transforms into his Version 1 mode, but Yamato is able to use his Wood Release: Foo Dog Heads technique to suppress the chakra, knocking Naruto out. Yamato tells Kakashi that they must stop the training, but Kakashi alerts him that Naruto must continue, and that his success depends on Yamato's ability to suppress the fox whenever it attempts to come out.
Asuma and his team arrive at the bounty station and wait in the shadows; Hidan, who is sitting outside, remarks how his clothes reek of the smell of rotting corpses and urine. He then notices the presence of someone behind him and turns around.