What They Say:
The rogue ninja Furido attempts to use the Lightning Style jutsu of the Guardian Shinobi to rain destruction on the Leaf village. The ninja are running out of chakra. Does Naruto have enough power to save the village? Then, the Akatsuki are working their way from one tailed beast host to another, and it’s only a matter of time until they get to Naruto!
Contains episodes 66-77.
The bilingual presentation for Naruto continues to be a solid affair as the two stereo tracks are encoded at 256kbps. The series is fairly standard television fare but it handles itself well and there’s a bit of an extra oomph to it at times with the generally full sounding mix. There are moments of good directionality but by and large it’s nothing all that exceptional. The best moments continue to really be the opening and closing sequences with the music but that’s also somewhat normal. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese track or from spot checking the English track.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for these TV episodes is presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The production values for the series continue to be quite good and the authoring side of the release brings a lot of that to light. Naruto has a lot of movement at times and it maintains a very strong look with no motion artifacts or break-up in general. Throughout the four episodes that are on this disc, there aren’t any real issues to be found at all. There are a few moments of some mild aliasing during a panning sequence and a bit of noise in some of the darker scenes here and there, but by and large this is a very solid looking release that covers a good range of settings without any discernible issues. Colors are nicely solid, bitrates are healthy with a number of good peaks and everything just feels very appealing. Fans of the show are likely to love how this looks.
While I had liked the slipcover with the thinpak cases inside of it, I do admit to liking the slimmed down package that we get here with the single sized keepcase that holds the three discs inside of it. Of course, packaging continuity has gone out the window for years now so it’s not something that I can get all that frustrated about anymore. The case is inside a very thin cardboard sleeve that has a more papery feel than a glossy one. This feel does work out for the artwork though as it has a dark image of Asuma with some very reddish hues to his face that gives it an intense look. The logo is done sideways along the top left with part of it wrapping around to the spine. The fully classic logo is included as well, in a gray scale, along the bottom right which gives it a little more definition. The back cover uses the shades of red overall with a large shot of one of the Akatsuki along the top half that looks quite serious while the summary and a breakdown of the discs features and extras are below it. With no technical grid, you have to go through the disc information bullet list to see what you get with the release. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are fairly basic as it has the basic and minimal menu navigation along one side while different pieces of character artwork populates the other side for each of the volumes. With the extras only on the third disc, there’s not much to the menus overall but they are quick and easy to navigate.. The music is spot on for something uplifting and energetic. Menu navigation is straightforward with a strip along the bottom and episode navigation isn’t bad as you can access the parts of each episode from one submenu. Everything loads quickly but the disc doesn’t read our players’ language presets as it defaults to English with no subtitles.
Viz runs with some of the standard extras they do across many of their series as we get a new voice actor omake pieces that lets some of the flubs see the light of day that are cute and essentially inoffensive. Additionally, there’s a new section of storyboards included here and some production art that helps to flesh it out nicely along with the English language credits.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Naruto: Shippuden continues to roll along pretty well, though events in this volume feel a bit more like it came out of the previous series rather than this one. Naruto’s quest to find and bring back Sasuke is still the overpowering motivation in his life and why he does a lot of what he does. Of course, as he goes out into the world to find him each time, finding a way to bring it into every mission to some extent, he ends up coming across other people that he needs to help and finds himself drawn to. All of these events bring him some good experiences though that do challenge him and forces him to grow, which he needs to do in order to deal with his inner demons and those that are working their grand scheme in acquiring all the Jinchuriki.
The opening part of this arc deals with a carryover from the previous set where Naruto, Asuma and Kakashi find themselves dealing with Kazuma’s manipulations of the young man named Sora along the outskirts of the Village of the Hidden Leaf. The destruction is growing, as the village always seems to take a certain amount of it, but it’s turning in a much more dangerous fashion. While Kazuma has made sure to turn Sora against Naruto, he has a larger plan for him as well which starts to become apparent. It’s an intriguing idea in that he intends to use Sora to become a receptacle for the Nine-Tails himself, though it’s unclear whether he really believes it will work or whether it’s just something creative and fun to do to pass the time.
Depending on where you are in the series, you can feel like the Nine-Tails side is being used too much, brought out too often, but it makes sense as the importance of it all is continually growing. Naruto’s ability to deal with his inner demon is a huge part of his growth and seeing it being absorbed into Sora, someone who definitely can’t fight back against it never mind control it, has him involved in a brief but really intense moment in his own mind as he tells the Nine-Tails to stay out of this and to let him handle it. The relationship between these two continues to be fascinating as he gains more of a position against it. Not control, but he’s able to exert himself more with what it can and can’t do, and that’s impressive considering the ways its run wild in the past.
Though the arc feels like it’s kind of a killing time piece that just shows the variety of the Akatsuki and the way that they all have their own methods even though they’re the part o the same group, what follows is a bit of idle time that’s decent and helps to move things along a bit. Naruto’s training is an area that has to continually work at, and it’s good to see that he spends some time doing so under Kakashi’s tutelage in order to learn a new jutsu. Much of what Naruto has grown with has been under the instruction of the Pervy Sage during his time away from the village, but a good deal of it has come from the battles he’s been through as well. So seeing time spent just trying to do something, working it through and understanding the history of it is a welcome change of pace.
The series does shift into the next storyline after some mild side story material on top of the training segments. What this leads to is an attack on a peaceful monk-like group of people that Asuma knows, the leader of which was one that he actually worked closely with when they were part of the Guardian Shinobi together. With this news, a small group goes to find out what’s happened, having learned that the man, Chiriku, has been killed and the bounty on his head is being collected by some of the Akatsuki who want to use that in order to fund some of their escapades. This being the start of the arc, it’s focused more on the secondary characters as the various other ninja teams step in to hunt down where the body may have ended up, but it focuses heavily on Asuma since it’s a very personal connection. There’s not enough to this story yet to get fully behind it, but it’s starting off fairly well since it’s dealing with characters that haven’t gotten a lot of screen time recently and is letting Asuma get fleshed out pretty well.
Naruto: Shippuden has a decent chunk of episodes here as it gives us a mix of serious and somewhat lighter material. The opening storyline involving Kazuma and Sora works well in show some of the lengths that various Akatsuki will go in order to achieve their goals, and the kind of creativity that they’ll bring to the table. It’s an interesting attempt that’s made using Sora, one that I hadn’t thought of before that would make for a creative way of acquiring their targets without having to deal heavily with them. Past that, the main thing that’s appealing here are the training segments involving Naruto as it shows him really working at things in his own way and the time spent focusing on Asuma as his past is slowly coming to light. The show is decent, but it lacks something extra to give it a more intense feeling to really captivate. What we have instead are decent episodes that moves things forward a little bit towards the next big moment.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Omake, Production Credits, Storyboards
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Running Time: 300
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.