What They Say:
The fifth set follows Naruto, who is troubled by nightmares after his second failed attempt to bring Sasuke home. Kakashi, recovering in the hospital, suggests a new training regimen for Naruto that puts him in touch with his wind chakra nature.
Here we go, with the latest volume of Naruto Shippuden to brighten our days. Or not, as the case may be. On the plus side for most fans, this is a proper arc volume, with no real filler – but for me, that’s almost a disadvantage…
Audio is provided in English and Japanese 2.0 versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. The audio is serviceable rather than impressive – there’s decent use made of directionality but nothing that has any wow value, even during the fight scenes. Dialogue is clear, though, and there are no obvious encoding defects.
Video is presented in its original aspect – which for part of the set is 1.33:1 full-frame aspect, before switching to 1.78:1 widescreen aspect for the remainder – and looks pretty damn good – although given the profile of the show that’s hardly surprising. There’s some good detail in the backgrounds, while the animation is smooth, colours are bright and animation smooth. There are no obvious problems with the encode.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu for both discs is a static affair, with Naruto in an action pose against a dark background with the opening theme playing. Options are provided for Play All, Setup, and Episodes for scene selection. An option for Extras is added to disc two. There are no transition animations – a pet hate of mine – so it’s all quick and easy to use.
You get a gallery of production artwork, and that’s your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Just as Sasuke is about to execute a powerful jutsu to finish the team, Orochimaru and Kabuto appear and stop him. Orochimaru and Kabuto convince Sasuke to withdraw with them, leaving a weeping Naruto, who is distraught at his failure to bring Sasuke back to the Leaf. Once back in the village, the team reports to Tsunade about the results of the mission, leaving her greatly angered over Danzo’s treachery of leaking classified information about the village’s Anbu Black Ops team to Orochimaru. Sai, meanwhile, asks Danzo to allow him to remain longer with Team Kakashi, a request that Danzo reluctantly agrees to – it seems that Sai has come to see the other members of Team Kakashi as his friends.
Later, Naruto, Sakura, Sai and Yamato head out for the Fire Temple on their new mission. When the other group they were supposed to meet with fails to show up at the rendezvous point, the team gets separated while looking for them, and Naruto stumbles upon one of the four hidden tombs that they’d been assigned to protect. There, he meets one of the monks-in-training from the Fire Temple, Sora, and believing each other to be one of “the bad guys”, battle is briefly joined. Once the misunderstanding is resolved, the monks and Team Kakashi complete their journey to the Fire Temple – which Naruto instantly recognizes from his nightmares…
I’ve probably covered this before, but it’s no great secret that I’m far more of a fan of Naruto filler episodes that probably any “true” fan of the series. They have more of a sense of fun about them, they’re short and to-the-point when it comes to battle, and they have an endpoint. That last bit can’t be understated, in my opinion – when you get to the main story arc in Naruto, there’s too much of the feeling that, no matter how epic the scale of the battle (and Naruto’s face-off against Orochimaru does get rather epic), there’s very little point to them – the bad guys will always retreat before they’re killed, the good guys will return home empty-handed once more, and Naruto will diver into another bout of depression over his failure to rescue his non-friend who really doesn’t want rescued anyway. I don’t see much of a point to that.
Gripe over. For this review, anyway. What we get this time around is the necessary tying-up of loose ends as the battle against Orochimaru and Sasuke comes to an end – a process that sees Sai more closely tied to the gang, which is actually quite good to see – and the beginning of a new quest that could hold the fate of the Leaf Village in its hands. Sai has come along greatly as a character since he was first introduced, with a lot of back-story having been revealed to turn him for a character of pure evil into someone who’s beginning to realise that Danzo’s been playing him for a fool and who’s now doing his best to fit in with the “real” world he hadn’t been allowed to see for so long. Most of his appearances here have a comic-relief feel to them, as his efforts to act normally around the others fail horribly and land him in no end of trouble, repeatedly, but hey, I like Naruto when it has a sense of humour, and Sai’s scenes work for me. More, please.
Away from that, though, we’re less successful. The retreat of Orochimaru and Sasuke was expected enough to be be depressing when it came (sometimes I hate being right), and while the new Fire Temple story introduces a few new people to the mix, the lead newbie, trainee monk Sora, fits a role that I’ve come to hate over the years: the overbearing person who does his damndest to be obnoxious and who refuses to accept that the help the Leaf ninjas are offering is required. I’ve seen the type so many times in Naruto over the years that I could almost write his story in advance – and sure enough, the revelations that are supposed to help us feel sorry for him and sympathetic towards his plight soon come. Yawn.
Some of the scenes around the Fire Temple story are also so far towards the silly end of the scale that it’s hard to take them remotely seriously – show me a set of coffins high-tailing it through the forest at high speed, and I will lose all hope of seeing anything sensible, and that’s what we get here.
Add in the now-routine extra training for Naruto, and warnings about his use of his inner demon; and a few little story aspects that seem to have been pulled out of nowhere just for this arc (how come no-one’s thought to mention different chakra types and resulting fighting styles until now?), and the eye-roll factor was high with this one.
I have a real love-hate relationship with Naruto. That I’m still bothering to watch and review it says that I do find some things of merit with it – I cannot tell a lie – and there are times when I really do enjoy the series. There are a few volumes with 4-star ratings to prove this. This isn’t one of those volumes, though, as it sticks to the routine and doesn’t really try to be as good as the series can be. Disappointing, this time around.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Production Art
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 16 May 2011
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 / 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.