Review for Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 16 (2 Discs)
At the end of the last collection of episodes, I opined that I had enjoyed the boxset of filler, a nostalgic look at some of the adventures of Naruto past, before he had undergone training with Jiraiya, and back when mischief and impressing Sakura were foremost on his mind, but that I was ready for the show to get back to the main storyline now. I’ll let you into a little secret. The filler doesn’t end just yet with Naruto Shippuden, but at this point, and having seen the first three episodes in this collection, I’m perfectly okay with that.
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, we concluded the battle of the Hidden Leaf Village, and reached a crescendo in the storyline, with Naruto achieving one of his long held ambitions, and finally laying one of his past demons to rest. That was a good place for the animators to take a break and wait for some more manga source material to be created, and we launched into a series of short and stand-alone adventures set back during the original series, when Naruto was an all orange ninja, still pals with Sasuke, and where the heaviest thing that weighed on his mind was the next bowl of ramen.
The next thirteen episodes of Naruto are presented across two discs, and for this collection, the filler episode title translations have dropped the ‘Leaf History’ prefix.
193. The Man Who Died Twice
Coming back to the village one foggy day, Naruto gets lost and winds up tearing a seal off a rock in a ravine. The next morning he wakes up to a ghost sitting on his bed. But there’s a spy loose in the Hidden Leaf Village, and this ghost has unfinished business.
194. The Worst Three-Legged Race
Sakura fondly recalls a mission where Team Kakashi were sent to retrieve a stolen statue. Of course Sasuke and Naruto’s constant one-upmanship got them into trouble with an enemy who can wield chakra like glue, and they wound up stuck together at the hip, with Sakura captured by the thieves.
195. Team 10’s Teamwork
Bandits are raiding the village and stealing the farmers produce. Fortunately they have the Magnificent Eight to help them, Kakashi, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura, and Asuma, Choji, Shikamaru and Ino. The two jonin go ahead to try and scope out the enemy fortress, but circumstances pit the leader of the bandits against Shikamaru, in a battle of strategy.
196. Drive Towards Darkness
Sakura isn’t the only girl who Naruto promised to bring Sasuke back for. Back when their rivalry was reaching breaking point, Sasuke happened to rescue a young, spoilt princess. The next day, when Team 7 was assigned two missions and had to split up, with Kakashi and Sasuke tracking down criminals, Naruto and Sakura were assigned to escort Lady Naho, but she wouldn’t budge without Sasuke, her knight in shining armour. And so it was that Naruto had to do his best Sasuke impersonation, without annoying Sakura...
197. The Sixth Hokage Danzo
198. The Eve of the Five Kage Summit
199. Enter the Five Kage!
200. Naruto’s Plea
And we’re back with the main storyline, where in the aftermath of Pain’s attack, the village is in ruins, and Tsunade in a coma, the mysterious Danzo has finally stepped into the light and taken on the mantle of Hokage, seizing his chance to reshape the Leaf Village ninja in his own twisted image. When emissaries of the Raikage from the Village Hidden in Cloud arrive, demanding answers about the abduction of the Eight-Tails Jinchuriki Killer Bee at the hands of Sasuke and Sasuke’s apparent defection to Akatsuki, Danzo ignores Naruto’s loyalty to his friend and puts a death mark on Sasuke, and orders him hunted down. Naruto may be the hero of the hour, but Danzo has no intention of letting the Nine-Tails leave the village, and won’t be as lax as Tsunade. Naruto on the other hand decides to confront the Raikage directly, offer to help them recover Killer Bee, and ask for leniency towards Sasuke. That will be hard, as following Pain’s attack, the Five Kage are assembling for a summit meeting to discuss the threat from Akatsuki. And that’s where Sasuke has been diverted by Madara, still in debt to the Akatsuki following an apparent failure in apprehending the Eight-Tails, and fuelled by a desire for vengeance against Danzo, the man who pitted Itachi against his own clan to such bloody effect.
201. A Painful Decision
202. Racing Lightning
203. Sasuke’s Ninja Way
204. Power of the Five Kage
205. Declaration of War
A reality check is due Naruto and his friends when it comes to Sasuke. Shikamaru and the others realise that the time for rescuing him is past, that it will be their responsibility to hunt Sasuke down before any other village does simply to preserve the peace. Meanwhile Sai’s observation of humanity has revealed a certain truth to him, and breaking his promise to Naruto he actually confronts Sakura with the truth, and asks her to no longer burden Naruto with that promise. As for Naruto, for once the ebullient ninja is lost, rudderless, which is when Madara Uchiha appears, wishing to ‘talk’. But in the wider world, the five Kage summit is underway, the five leaders of the ninja villages jockeying for position and power in how to deal with Akatsuki, and despite the neutrality of the venue, all of them doing so in underhanded ways, particularly Danzo. And it’s Danzo that is Sasuke’s target, as he and his Team Taka sneak into the venue with assassination on their minds, aided by Madara and Zetsu of Akatsuki. But they don’t realise that they’ve been sold out as diversions, and soon the Raikage of the Cloud Village is on the warpath, thirsting for Sasuke’s blood.
Naruto Shippuden is now presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen in native PAL. The image is sharper, ghosting and blended frames are absent, and there’s an increase in resolution. Absent this time is the judder that plagued the first attempt to release Naruto Shippuden in PAL, and it may be down to these being the Japanese broadcast episodes, not the US versions with the edited English language credit sequences. 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 story comes across well, and the action sequences are impressively animated, while conforming to a long running anime budget.
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 and jacket pictures, with the episode chapter breaks in place.
The extras are on disc 2, 10 images in a Storyboard Gallery, 9 Tailed-Beast images in a Production Art gallery, and trailers for the second Naruto Shippuden movie as well as the Shippuden series.
Ooh, this is getting good again! This is the best Naruto Shippuden collection, since the last best Naruto Shippuden collection, simply because we get back to the main storyline once more. We have to contend with four episodes of filler first, but I don’t even begrudge those, as they maintain the quality of the filler of the previous batch of episodes, telling some interesting stories of pre-time skip Naruto. There are no runaway ostriches here either; it’s all entertaining and well-written stuff.
The first episode is a really well thought out ghost story, with Naruto having to help the spirit of a ninja who was betrayed by a foreign spy in the village, and who needs Naruto’s help in unmasking the culprit. There’s a bittersweet twist in the tale that makes it even more interesting. Then comes a couple of movie homage episodes, beginning with a Defiant Ones nod when a blatant Spiderman rip off glues Sasuke and Naruto together with some chakra webbing, and the two rivals have to up their teamwork to save Sakura. Then it’s time for the Magnificent Seven (or should that be Seven Samurai) nod, with farmers beleaguered by bandits calling in the ninja to help protect their harvest. The final episode of filler is a nicely written piece that reminds us of the dark path of vengeance that Sasuke has embarked upon, and Naruto’s desire to bring his friend back to the light.
It’s well-placed too, as when we restart the main storyline, Sasuke and his search for revenge will take centre-stage. The main story picks up as if there had been no filler, continuing with the dense narrative and, for Naruto, rapid pace. Politics rears its ugly head in the Hidden Leaf village when the dark ninja Danzo takes control and has himself declared Hokage, and he goes about manoeuvring events so that he can gain some measure of control over the other villages as well, as an alliance against the Akatsuki seems inevitable. As news continues to filter in to the Hidden Leaf village, of Sasuke’s actions and his apparent defection to Akatsuki, Naruto’s dream of somehow redeeming his friend slowly begins to crumble to dust, and even the recent hero of the battle of the village is unable to use the momentum of that notoriety to convince others to agree with him. This is particularly true of the Cloud Ninja, who appear seeking vengeance for their Jinchuriki Killer Bee.
Events move at a pace unwilling to wait for Naruto, as the Five Kage gather to debate these events and come up with a response. They do so in the neutral Land of Iron, which introduces another militant faction to this universe, the Samurai, who wield chakra through their swords. They are to moderate the meeting, but when you have five sneaky ninja leaders, and particularly the ambitious Danzo, their moderation means little. And into this high level meeting enters Sasuke. He was previously heading to the Leaf Village, having learned the truth about his brother Itachi, and swearing vengeance on those who had manipulated him. It was Danzo that had ordered the annihilation of the Uchiha, and when Madara interrupts his flight to tell him of the meeting in the Land of Fire, it’s an easy matter to convince him to change course. That he’s being manipulated by Madara Uchiha makes little difference.
This leads to the conclusion of this batch of episodes, as the Kage meeting is thrown into chaos, Danzo’s duplicitous nature revealed, and events transpire to Madara Uchiha’s design. What’s more, with his timetable hastened, and not all of the Tailed-Beasts captured by the Akatsuki, Madara’s dealing from a weakened position, he comes to the Kage’s table trying to make a deal, and in doing so reveals his ultimate goal, and it’s a chilling goal at that, making Sasuke’s search for vengeance seem petty and fleeting in comparison. Unsurprisingly, the results aren’t in his favour, and he winds up uniting four of the previously fractious Kage against him. We end this collection of episodes at a momentous point, as a Ninja World War Four is declared.
Someone pinch me. Not only is this collection of episodes brilliant, it somehow manages to convince that all the other Naruto episodes that have come before were this good too. The storytelling is spot-on, in terms of pace, character, and narrative. Each episode builds on the last, delivers in terms of action, and reveals aspects of the story that will make the committed Naruto fan just pause the disc for a minute, utter a “Wow!” of exclamation, and let the new revelation sink in. Each episode ups the ante just enough to make you want to keep watching, but never too much that you think it’s getting out of hand, and it all calls back to what has happened before. You get reminded of events that happened way back at the start of the original series, the penny drops, and you realise what the writers were intending, all those hundreds of episodes ago.
Naruto could get worse, after all the spectre of more filler is always there. It could get better, although I couldn’t conceive how at this point, but right now, Naruto Shippuden is flying. This is what fans got into the series for in the first place.
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