Review for Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 10 (2 Discs)
Are you in the mood for a little Naruto? I don’t know about you, but for an unmitigated consumer of anime, Manga Entertainment have the pace of their Naruto releases pretty much right. A new collection always seems to turn up just when I start missing the annoying little orange loudmouth. Of course for dedicated fans of Naruto, having to wait three or four months for the next batch may feel excessive, but I like forgetting the previous collection completely before starting the new.
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 returned 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.
Previously on Naruto Shippuden, Goku had just made it to Namek, while Frieza was about to learn the secret of the Dragon Ball... no that’s not it. What do you expect with one instalment of Naruto every three or four months, while we get over thirty episodes of Dragon Ball Z every month? Actually this will be even harder to remember, as we’ve just completed two volumes of filler, with a non-canonical 3-Tails arc interrupting the manga storyline. So last year... Asuma had been killed by the Akatsuki, and Naruto interrupted his training to help Shikamaru chase down those responsible. Meanwhile the fated day for Orochimaru and his protégé (next vessel) Sasuke approached...
This time we get fourteen episodes across two discs. Remember the original Naruto, 13 episode collections on 3 discs?
113. The Serpent’s Pupil
114. Eye of the Hawk
115. Zabuza’s Blade
116. Guardian of the Iron Wall
117. Jugo of the Northern Hideout
Sasuke’s plans are coming to fruition. In his search for revenge against his brother Itachi, he’s been training with the villainous Orochimaru, and his next step will be to gather a team strong enough to help him on his quest. Suigetsu has been heavily experimented on by Orochimaru, and his abilities with water are formidable, as is his abrasive personality. It will take some persuading to get him on side. There will be less persuading required for the overseer of one of Orochimaru’s experimental facilities, Karin, whose ability to sense chakra is very useful. She hates Suigetsu, but is sweet on Sasuke. The final member of this would be team would be Jugo, the original bearer of the curse mark, and whose split personality will be difficult to handle. Of course none of this may mean a thing, as time has run out for Orochimaru, and he needs to take possession of Sasuke’s body now.
119. Kakashi Chronicles ~ Boy’s Life on the Battlefield ~ Part 1
120. Kakashi Chronicles ~ Boy’s Life on the Battlefield ~ Part 2
The tale of how Kakashi gained his Sharingan. Years before, during the Third Great Ninja War, Kakashi was newly promoted to Jonin, and he was a stiff, by the book ninja, more interested in obeying the letter of the law than making allowances for human failings. He was part of a team led by the man who would become fourth Hokage, and with Obito Uchiha, and a medical ninja named Rin, they were a successful team. But all that would change, as would Kakashi’s outlook on life, when he was assigned his first mission as leader.
122. The Hunt
Things are getting really complicated. The Hidden Leaf village has learned of Orochimaru’s defeat, and realise that this would be the best time to retrieve Sasuke. Finding him won’t be easy, but his objective remains clear. He wants vengeance against his brother Itachi, so Kakashi puts together a force of two teams, Naruto, Sakura and Sai, as well as Hinata, Kiba and Shino, as well as Yamata, and their twofold mission is to find and capture a member of Akatsuki, so that they can find out where Itachi is, and there they will wait for Sasuke, or if possible find and detain Sasuke directly. For Sasuke and his Hebi group, their objective is simple, find and kill Itachi Uchiha. Meanwhile Akatsuki is still hunting tailed-beasts, and have decided to leave the nine-tailed fox demon for last. But finding and capturing Naruto can happen at any time, and the last thing they need is Sasuke’s Hebi group messing things up for them. They’re also on the lookout for Sasuke in order to defeat him as well. It’s only a matter of time before these three groups clash, and the first eruption comes when Sasuke runs into Deidara of the Akatsuki. Meanwhile, Jiraiya has learned some more about Akatsuki.
Naruto Shippuden is now presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. We’ve now gone back to the NTSC-PAL conversion; certainly the blended frames evident of such are apparent once more as is the 4% longer running time. However the image is just as sharp and clear as the previous volumes, with little of the softness of a standards conversion. Shippuden’s animation and its character designs are sharper and crisper than those in the first Naruto series. It’s certainly more detailed while the colours are a little more muted.
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. 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, with the episode chapter breaks in place. Several of the episodes end in a brief animated Naruto comedy skit.
The extras are on disc 2, 11 line art images in a Production Art Gallery.
If there has been one thing sorely missing from Naruto Shippuden, it’s been the key character of Sasuke Uchiha. Sure, he’s been the eventual goal of Naruto, the desire to rescue his friend from the dark clutches of Orochimaru, no matter how little he wants to be rescued, and somehow redeem his dark desire for vengeance. But other than a few glimpses of a taciturn Sasuke in deep training in the background, while Orochimaru plotted in the foreground, there hasn’t been a lot of the character to appreciate. That all changes in collection 10 of Naruto Shippuden, as he once again takes centre stage, and becomes a tangible driving force in the story.
It begins with the confrontation that we’ve all been waiting for, and which I’m afraid turns out to be something of an anticlimax, Orochimaru versus Sasuke. Part of this is due to Orochimaru’s condition, on the verge of oblivion, weak, and desperate for a new body. Much of it is down to the lower production values at this point in the series, and the animation doesn’t really do the story justice at this point. It’s all over in a brief, two episodes, and what follows is a rather pedestrian recruitment drive, as Sasuke goes wandering looking for allies in his mission against Itachi. We get four episodes in the remainder of this arc, introducing each of the new characters that will make up Sasuke’s team Hebi, and putting them together to set forth on their quest.
Then all of a sudden we get thrown back a couple of decades to the Third Ninja War, and the story of how Kakashi got his Sharingan. I briefly thought this was an odd place to put filler, but it’s actually a canon manga side story, and it’s a really good one. We get to meet the fourth Hokage, who at this point was the leader of Kakashi’s team, and we get a short, sweet, action-packed and briskly animated story of Kakashi’s past. It’s entertaining and enlightening, doing much to add to his character, and as I found out through a couple of spoilers, turns out to be essential back-story for the Naruto series yet to come.
The peach of this collection comes in the six episodes that conclude these discs. The story kicks into gear, with Akatsuki hell-bent on collecting the Tailed-Beasts, and stopping anyone who interferes, with Naruto and the Hidden Leaf ninja intent on foiling them and retrieving Sasuke, and with Sasuke hunting down Akatsuki to find and kill his brother Itachi. The storytelling sparkles, and the pace really gets going at this point, and we finally learn what Sasuke has been learning from Orochimaru when he runs into and has to face down Deidara of the Akatsuki. I’ve always liked Deidara, despite his freaky hands with mouths, and his lust for big explosions. His style, his manner, his tendency to agree with himself whenever he speaks makes him one of my favourite Naruto villains and his clash with Sasuke here is accomplished to a much better degree than the opening confrontation between Sasuke and Orochimaru.
While all this is happening, narrative is unfolding at an unprecedented pace for the Naruto anime. Blink and you’ll miss a vital bit of exposition, an unexpected revelation, a plot development that will have you reeling. We get to meet Akatsuki’s leader here, only to learn that he isn’t really the leader. The extremely body pierced Pain is assigned the direct mission of finding and capturing Naruto, which doesn’t bode well for the orange clad one. Deidara’s flighty and frivolous partner Tobi is revealed to be something much more than he appears to be. Naruto runs into Itachi, a meeting which unfolds in an unexpected, and unrevealed (in these episodes) way, a way that apparently changes how Naruto relates to his teammates, sowing seeds of mistrust. Jiraiya learns something of the leadership of Akatsuki, compelling him to take on a mission that is of such import and apparent danger that it has Tsunade getting drunk and remorseful. Other than the Deidara fight with Sasuke, not a lot happens in these six episodes, but so much is being set up for the future that it has the imagination working overtime, and sweetens the anticipation for the next volume.
The 10th Collection of Naruto Shippuden is one of the good ones. Sasuke’s back, baby! What’s more, the stakes just keep getting raised higher and higher.