Review for Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 32 (2 Discs)
Naruto and its follow-up Naruto Shippuden have been hit and miss for me. That’s the nature of long running shonen anime. There are moments, brief, rare moments that I thought it one of the best things to come from Japan. There are long stretches of the series that I have enjoyed thoroughly, and by the same token there are stretches of the series that I haven’t enjoyed, even been bored to sleep by. This is the first time that I have been bored merely by contemplating the thought of watching more Naruto Shippuden. Naruto Shippuden Collection 32 is all filler, and by this point in the series, so close to the conclusion, the idea of delaying the finale becomes more and more anathema. But who knows? Maybe collection 32 of Naruto Shippuden will turn out to be good.
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 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.
The fourth Ninja War is on hold again as we pause for more filler. The New Chunin Exams hold sway across the next 14 episodes...
402. Escape vs. Pursuit
403. Unwavering Gutsiness
404. Tenten’s Troubles
405. Imprisoned Pair
406. The Place Where I Belong
407. The Yamanaka Clan: Secret Ninjutsu
408. The Cursed Puppet
409. Their Backs
410. The Hidden Plot Set Into Motion
411. The Targeted Tailed Beast
412. Neji’s Judgment
413. Hopes Entrusted to the Future
414. On the Brink of Death
415. The Two Mangekyo
Naruto Shippuden is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen in progressively encoded NTSC; no more PAL speed-up. The image is clear and sharp, and the progressive playback allows for smooth animation. 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 volume levels are a little low, but the theme songs are subtitled.
The extras haven’t changed much, the same static menus, with 5 Storyboard images, and 7 Production Art images all on disc 2, but this time Madman have delivered a different variety of trailers with their authoring. Following an antipiracy thank you, you can see trailers for One Piece Film Gold, Steins;Gate the Movie, Dragon Ball Super Part 1, and One Punch Man.
The Naruto Shippuden DVDs screwed up my maths. I said in my previous review that this volume was going to be all filler. But I didn’t take into account that last volume the episode count went up by one to fourteen per release, that’s shifted everything by two at this point, and it means that the final two episodes in this collection are canon material, mostly. It’s bad news for frugal fans who were only investing in the canon episodes, as it means that they can’t simply skip a release, although it keeps the tills ringing at Manga/Madman.
What can I say about Naruto Shippuden at this point, that I haven’t already said, or indeed have been saying for the last 10 or so reviews? The canon material is diluted by the filler, to the point that the filler is actually preferable, and thankfully for Naruto Shippuden, its filler is of watchable quality at least. It doesn’t go completely off the rails as the filler for the first Naruto series was apt to do.
We get the conclusion of the New Chunin exams here, and leaving behind some of the trivial silliness of the first half, there are some decent stories, looking at how Naruto’s example has inspired the Hidden Leaf Genin to succeed, whether its Kiba’s rivalry, or Neji’s admiration, or more importantly Sakura’s determination to no longer be protected by Naruto and Sasuke. While there’s no little rivalry between the ninja teams out in the desert, competing for the Heaven and Earth scrolls in the 2nd Exam, you also see some of Gaara’s hopes for the next generation of ninja coming to pass as well, as there’s no little co-operation as well. That’s most evident in the conclusion to the arc, where the faction in the Sand village opposed to Gaara as Kazekage go into action, although the epilogue does get a little bittersweet, foreshadowing the Ninja War.
The downside to this filler arc is the quality of the animation. The hearts of the animators just aren’t in it, and that’s despite the story actually offering something of interest at this point. So when you’re hoping for a big action sequence and some well choreographed ninja combat, the show tends to look cheap and cheerful.
Then we get two episodes of canon at the end of the collection, or rather one and a half episodes of canon, as they pause in the middle of an action sequence for a quick flashback to Obito and Kakashi’s youth and another short stretch of filler. I have to say that Naruto Shippuden just isn’t fun anymore. It’s no sane way to watch a story unfold, getting a couple of episodes of material before cutting away to another long stretch of filler. The main story is so wafer thin and diluted at this point that there is no satisfaction to be had in watching it. It’s well animated certainly, the story does move forward, and even in this one and half episodes, there are ‘moments’ that will enthral and delight any committed Naruto fan. Or at least they would if the filler surrounding it didn’t rob it of context.
The only way I can see Naruto Shippuden actually entertaining in the way that it’s meant to, is if you re-watch it down the line, carefully skipping all the filler and sticking to the canon material alone, a Naruto Kai for want of a better descriptive. But as I asked in my previous review, will you ever be motivated to watch all of this again?