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Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1 (2 Discs) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000130568
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 13/6/2010 13:49
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    Review for Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1 (2 Discs)

    8 / 10


    It's here! The new series of Naruto has begun, with the incomprehensible Shippuden suffix. Answers on a postcard will be duly ignored. If you asked me two volumes of filler ago, I would have said that if I never saw any more Naruto, it would be too soon. But a decent final volume of filler actually reminded me of why this show has insinuated itself into my good graces, and I was also reminded of how intriguing the manga storyline was. I want to know what happens in the search for Sasuke, and I want to know how the Akatsuki group relates to the main storyline. Naruto at its manga best is pretty compelling stuff, and with the first volume of Shippuden taking us right back to that main story, I was actually looking forward to a Naruto release for the first time in years. Besides, this is where Naruto goes all widescreen. Or so I thought. It turns out that it isn't until episode 54-odd that our screens will be filled by black and orange ninja (Naruto has a new costume now that he's three years older and taller). Until then we still have black bars on either side. For those of you keeping count, at the time of writing, Naruto Shippuden is up to episode 164 in Japanese broadcasts, so we have plenty of catching up to do.

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    15 years previously, the Hidden Leaf village was plagued by the Nine-Tailed fox demon. The Fourth Hokage ninja sacrificed his life to defeat the menace, and sealed up the spirit in the body of a newborn child. That orphan grew up as Naruto Uzumaki, a mischievous prankster with great ambition. He wants to be the strongest ninja of them all and be granted the title Hokage, leader of the Hidden Leaf village. In the first Naruto series, we followed him on his training as a ninja, tutored by Kakashi, and partnered with his ideal girl Sakura, and his archrival Sasuke. Of course Sakura was sweet on Sasuke, which didn't help, but slowly the three became firm friends.

    The dark clouds of ambition tore that friendship apart though, but it wasn't Naruto's ambition. It was Sasuke's, sole survivor of the Uchiha clan, slaughtered by his brother Itachi. He grew up wanting revenge on Itachi, and wanting to gain in power and strength as quickly as possible. Sasuke gave into the temptation for easy power, offered by the renegade ninja Orochimaru, when Orochimaru infiltrated the village during the Chunin exams, and assassinated the Third Hokage. Sasuke left to join Orochimaru, and Naruto swore to get him back. For the last two and half years, Naruto has been in training with the sage Jiraiya, and he's now returning to the village, empowered and ready to rescue his friend. But Orochimaru and Sasuke haven't been resting easy either, while the Akatsuki group of renegade ninja, of whom Sasuke's brother Itachi is a member, have been accelerating their plans, and top of the list is obtaining the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon, the one that is currently sealed up in Naruto.

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    Manga Entertainment present the first 13 episodes of Naruto Shippuden spread across 2 discs, 7 episodes on disc 1, and 6 episodes on disc 2.

    1. Homecoming
    2. The Akatsuki Makes Its Move
    3. The Results Of Training
    4. The Jinchuriki of the Sand
    It's a somewhat understated homecoming for Naruto. He may be taller, and more skilled, but in some ways he's completely the same, as becomes apparent when he runs into Sakura again. But after 2½ years training, Sakura's punch is best avoided as well. The village hasn't changed much either, except for the fifth Hokage Tsunade's face carved into the mountain. The timing is auspicious, as Jiraiya tells Kakashi, the Akatsuki group are making their move, and the Leaf Village must be prepared. The first preparation is to see how much Naruto has learnt. It's time for a test; both he and Sakura will have to face a skilled opponent to see how much they have learned over the last couple of years. The test is a familiar one too. But Jiraiya was right. Time has run out, and Akatsuki are indeed making their move. But they're going after the Sand Village. Two of Akatsuki's number, Lord Sasori and Deidara are infiltrating the Sand Village even now, pursuing a very specific mission, and against them, even Gaara won't be enough of a defence.

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    5. The Kazekage Stands Tall
    6. Mission Cleared
    7. Run, Kankuro
    8. Team Kakashi, Deployed
    Gaara is a changed individual, from the psychopathic Genin that wreaked such havoc during the Chunin tests. In fact, he's achieved everything that Naruto has ever dreamed of, acceptance, appreciation, and he's now leading the Sand Village as Kazekage. He's also the target of Deidara and Lord Sasori. Deidara's ability to mould clay, infuse it with chakra, and create explosive creatures is a major challenge for even the sand-wielder Gaara, and though he puts up a valiant defence of the village, Deidara and Sasori soon capture him. Meanwhile in the Leaf Village, Team Kakashi is born. No longer teacher and students, Kakashi, Naruto and Sakura will work together as equals to complete their missions, and Kakashi is learning pretty quickly that they aren't the two cute kids that he once mentored. Naruto's a little down in the dumps though, even though he's eating his first bowl of Ichiraku ramen in over two years. Of all his friends, he's the only one who is still only a Genin. But as Gaara's friend Kankuro pursues Gaara's kidnappers, a request for help from the Sand is wending its way to the Leaf Village.

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    9. The Jinchuriki's Tears
    10. Sealing Jutsu: Nine Phantom Dragons
    11. The Medical Ninja's Student
    12. The Retired Granny's Determination
    13. A Meeting With Destiny
    Even as Team Kakashi make their way to the Sand Village, events move ahead apace. Kankuro catches up to Gaara's kidnappers, only to learn the identity of Lord Sasori changes things completely. He's utterly outclassed in battle against him, and falls, poisoned. It's a development that forces Baki to call on the advice of the Elder Siblings, one of whom knows Lord Sasori very well. He's her grandson. When Naruto and the others arrive at the Sand Village, they will have their work cut out for them. It will be down to Sakura to try and save Kankuro's life with her newly acquired medical ninja skills, and Kakashi will have to use his beast summoning jutsu to track down where Akatsuki have taken Gaara. On top of that the Leaf ninja will have to accommodate Granny Chiyo, who insists on accompanying the team to rescue Gaara, and who keeps bad mouthing Tsunade, and wants to kill Kakashi because she mistakes him for his father. And time is running out. They have just three days before Akatsuki complete the ritual they are performing on Gaara, and two members of Akatsuki are ready and waiting for the Leaf Ninja. Naruto wasn't expecting it this soon, but he's about to have a rematch with Itachi.

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    Naruto Shippuden gets a 4:3 regular transfer that is clear and sharp throughout. There are some minor compression artefacts that are only really noticeable during freeze frame, and as you would expect, it's an NTSC-PAL conversion. Shippuden's animation, and its character designs are sharper and crisper than Naruto's. It's certainly more detailed than the first series, and the colours are a mite more muted. At this stage of the game, it's clear that the animators' love is being poured into the project, and while it is still limited and simpler than shorter run animations, it's still no slouch to look at. There are a few flashbacks to Naruto for you to compare and contrast, and the difference is striking.

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    The DD 2.0 English and Japanese stereo is more than adequate in recreating the original experience, and given a little Prologic magic does offer a pleasant ambience and some discrete action. Yasuhara Takanashi takes over the music reins from Toshiro Masuda, and the result is if anything even less memorable than the music from the first series. But it works well enough in driving the action, and it doesn't get overbearing. The rap song opening certainly works in kicking off the new series with the right triumphant mood. Once again, I only sampled the English dub and found it acceptable if unspectacular. It certainly isn't the worst I have heard, but some of the actors don't seem particularly suited to the characters.


    The discs get static menus, and it is so good, and useful to see that the chapter breaks have been restored. Of course that happens when there is a good theme song and opening animation that I don't want to skip. Each episode ends in a brief animated Naruto comedy skit.

    The extras are on disc 2, 15 line art images in a Production Art Gallery, and trailers for the forthcoming Naruto Shippuden movie, as well as the original Naruto series.

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    After some eighty-odd episodes straight of filler material, I had completely forgotten how gripping the Naruto story could be. So it was something of a revelation when I watched Naruto Shippuden's first instalment, and my grin of appreciation kept growing the further I got into the set, until the concluding episode left with a cliff-hanger that was as exciting as it was infuriating. I'll have the second volume now please. It's so refreshing after all these months to see the story advance, characters develop, and more of the back-story filled in. It's also refreshing to see animators invested in their work, making it look as good as possible, and with inventive and imaginative action sequences making the most of ninja abilities. I felt as entertained watching this as I was during the Chunin Exam arc, and that was quite some while ago.

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    We start with a Flash Forward, to give viewers a taster of what is to come, and remind them of what the show is all about, Naruto finding and redeeming Sasuke. We get a ten-minute sequence at the start of the first episode, looking ahead several chapters (and probably some eighty-odd anime episodes) to the moment where Naruto and Sasuke encounter each other again, and we get a preview of just which way their confrontation will go. It certainly looks an interesting prospect, but before we get to the good bit, it comes back in time to Naruto's return to the Leaf Village, after years of training up a mountain somewhere.

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    It's a lot like the start of the first Naruto series, in that the focus is more on re-establishing the characters and the story, and it keeps things in the Leaf Village light and humorous at this point. We first encounter Konohamaru, grandson of the Third Hokage, and he's a young Genin now, where Naruto was three years previously, and it's funny to see how he has taken on the mantle of village prankster. Naruto's grown, vertically at least, and while he is still hotheaded, impulsive, a little mischievous, bone-headed, and oblivious (earning the ire of Sakura even at their first meeting after two and a half years), a smidgen of maturity has snuck in there as well. Also, Sakura is a lot more confident, stronger, and skilled, and as we meet the other former Genin, we see how they have changed as well. Some like Rock Lee, haven't changed that much, others like Neji are a lot more comfortable in their own skin, indicating how their encounters with Naruto have changed them for the better.

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    The main arc for Naruto in the first four episodes is basically a reminder of who the characters are, and a restatement of the mission. It does this by revisiting the first test that Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke had to take, trying to get the bells from Kakashi. This time it's just Sakura and Naruto taking the test, to show the Fifth Hokage just how much they have grown as ninja. But as well as showing their growth, it's a poignant reminder of how they used to be, and the third part of the triangle that is now missing. You may be wondering where all the serious and cool action is that I mentioned. Well that happens in the Sand Village, in a story thread that alternates with Naruto's homecoming. Gaara, the psychopathic Sand ninja has grown more than all the others over the intervening years. He was the parallel to Naruto at the end of the Chunin exam, shunned by his people for the beast that lay within him, but trained as a weapon regardless. He is what Naruto so easily could have become if he didn't have the mentorship of Iruka, or the friendship of Sakura and Sasuke.

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    After Naruto beat some sense into him, it changed Gaara's outlook on the world, enough that he came to the rescue of the Leaf ninja during the rescue Sasuke arc, and over the years he has found a place in his own people's hearts as well, enough that he is now Kazekage, leader of the Sand Village, achieving the position that Naruto dreams of holding in the Leaf Village. But at the start of this series, his position, and the Sand Village comes under threat from Akatsuki. Naruto's return also brought with it the news that Akatsuki was making their move, although their plans remain clouded beyond trying to obtain the Nine-Tailed Fox that is sealed within Naruto. It seems that their attack on the Sand Village is the first move in a new attempt. Two new characters, the explosive clay moulding Deidara (with creepy looking mouths in the palms of his hands), and the scorpion-like trap-layer Sasori attack the Sand Village, and the two of them alone are enough to put the Sand Village on the back foot, and enough to have the Sand ninjas send for help from the Leaf. That doesn't stop them from achieving their aims and capturing Gaara, and taking him back with them to their lair.

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    It's here where we learn just what Akatsuki is after, that Naruto's Nine-Tailed Fox Demon isn't unique, that these demons have a sinister history among ninja, and Akatsuki is trying to collect them all. It also explains just why Gaara and Naruto have so much in common. It's a race against time to save Gaara before Akatsuki can accomplish their aims, and once Tsunade realises the gravity of the situation, she sends Gai's team with Neji, Rock and Tenten after Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi. But Akatsuki are ready for them, bringing us to a most anticipated rematch, bringing a tingle to Naruto fans just 12 episodes into the first season of Shippuden. Back when Naruto and Jiraiya went searching for Tsunade to become the Fifth Hokage, was when Akatsuki first made a play for Naruto, sending Kisame and Itachi to the Leaf Village to track him down, and confrontations aplenty ensued with the Leaf Jonin. At the end of this first instalment of Shippuden, we have Gai's team confronted with the shark faced Kisame, although with Gai clueless about the identity of his foe, this is more of the comedic side of things. We do get to see how Rock Lee, Neji and Tenten have improved as ninja though.

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    Far more tense is the reunion taking place elsewhere, when Naruto, Kakashi, Sakura and Granny Chiyo run into Itachi. When last Kakashi encountered Itachi, it was a battle of Sharingan versus Sharingan, one that left Kakashi trapped in a hypnotic world of torment that only Tsunade could break. Also, with Itachi wanting to capture Naruto, and Naruto knowing what Itachi did to Sasuke, there's a second aspect of a potential rematch that adds to the anticipation. Far more interesting is Sakura's reaction. She hasn't met Itachi before, but she knows that Sasuke wants vengeance upon him, and that Itachi is the reason why Sasuke left the Leaf Village and joined up with Orochimaru. I get the feeling that Sakura wants to kill Itachi, and the way she looks at him, it's obvious the fuse to a powder keg has been lit. Of course there's very little action at this point; if Naruto is good at one thing, it's at building up tension, and by the end of the disc, there's a distinct need to have the subsequent volume right now. I for one can't wait to see what happens next.

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    The first volume of Naruto Shippuden arrives, and it's a timely reminder of why we started to watch this ongoing shonen epic in the first place. For the better part of three hours, it was like the filler had never happened. Of course at this point in time, only Naruto fans need apply, but there's no disappointment to be had with this return to form.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    I was actually interested to see how you'd rate Shippuden, having followed your Naruto reviews from the start.

    In all actuality, Shippuden is cripplingly, painstakingly slow-paced for the first fifty or so episodes (before filler kicks in and they can move faster afterward- ironically, right around the time they go widescreen/ HD- great way to start it, that), moving at around half the speed in terms of manga coverage per episode than the original series did pre-filler.

    That said, despite the slow pacing, it's much less noticeable when you can marathon them in these 13-episode sets. Perhaps it's why even I enjoyed them a lot more subsequent times around, when I wasn't being drip-fed one horrendously-paced episode a week. The episodes are certainly mroe enjoyable in chunks. Still, fun fact? The Kakashi bell exercise was a single chapter in the manga.
    posted by Mahzes on 24/6/2010 09:05
    Watching it in 13-episode chunks certainly helps, and it doesn't hurt either that the Leaf Village and Sand Village arcs are interleaved, (there's even a neat segue between a cracked china cup in the Leaf Village, and Gaara's sand shield cracking in the Sand Village). It keeps the story ticking along and interesting. But the biggest draw has to be that it's not filler.
    posted by Jitendar Canth on 24/6/2010 17:32
    Yeah, it does help that they alternate between what's going on in the leaf and the sand- it conveniently helps them cover up how slowly they're actually moving as they're able to keep changing scenes in order to keep your attention. Like I said, it's certainly still more eventful than your average Dragonball episode, thankfully. And again, being able to marathon the episodes at leisure makes them easily bearable, which is nice.

    The cup/ shield cracking was in the manga too, although the anime did add the scene with the egg cracking on the floor.
    posted by Mahzes on 24/6/2010 20:21