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I first witnessed this fight throughout August and September 2006, when the corresponding episodes of the English dub first aired on Toonami in the United States. It was my favorite fight of the Chūnin Exam preliminaries, as well as being one of the highlights of the Chūnin Exams as a whole, and even (in my opinion) of the entire series.
I am pretty sure that, when the match was announced, I immediately thought that Gaara would easily win. Kankurō and Temari had both won their matches, and Gaara was far more powerful than either of them; he had already proved himself to be an utter badass when he effortlessly killed those three guys from the Hidden Rain Village in the Forest of Death. Lee, meanwhile, had failed to defeat Dosu and Zaku back in the Forest of Death, and up to that point I had found him to be somewhat goofy, so I wasn't really expecting a close, drawn-out fight. However, when Lee removed his weights (skip to the 4:20 mark of the video) and began pretty much teleporting around, getting past Gaara's sand defenses and even managing to hit him a couple of times—which, according to Kankurō and Temari, had never been done before—I had a feeling then that this battle might actually turn out to be long and very exciting.
The real high point, of course, is when Lee opens the third, fourth, and fifth gates (skip to the 31:00 mark), and thereby becomes pretty much superhuman; it is a miracle that Gaara did not die from Lee's Hidden Lotus, and absolutely astonishing that he didn't even get knocked unconscious (never mind that his gourd changed to sand in order to cushion his impact into the ground—the blows he received from Lee mid-air should have knocked him out immediately, even with his Sand Armor).
By the end of the fight, I had learned about the Eight Gates (which I found to be a rather cool concept at the time), watched Rock Lee's backstory, and acquired a newfound appreciation for him; Rock Lee is now one of my favorite Naruto characters. It's a great shame that his arm and leg got seriously injured, and that we wouldn't see him in battle again until the Sasuke Retrieval Arc.
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This page last modified on 3 May 2021.