Naruto and the gang are back, to tie up the tale of the undead hordes and move on to other things. Some of which give the distinct impression that we’ve been here before. On the downside, it’s not what you’d exactly call quality entertainment – but it has the advantage of being better than the last volume. Thank the maker for small mercies…
What They Say:
In the village Hidden in the Leaves, ninja reign supreme, and school is literally a battlefield. Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are teenage classmates and ninja in training, working together -sort of! – under the instruction of their teacher, Kakashi. Sasuke is training to win revenge…Sakura is training to win Sasuke…And Naruto, the class clown, insists that he ll become the greatest ninja in the land!
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 an wow value, even during the fight scenes. Dialogue is clear, though, and there are no obvious encoding defects.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, 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 a Leaf ninja in a serious 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)
The Leaf Village’s ninja fight off the revived zombie members of the Kohaku clan, brought back by the use of a resurrection jutsu. The four Guardian Ninjas, Seito, Tou, Nauma and Kitane, have also been revived – and while some of them aren’t happy about the situation they’ve found themselves in, it’s not possible for them to disobey the wishes of the resurrection jutsu’s controller. Asuma realizes that the village’s attackers are planning to use Limelight, a jutsu in which the four create a lightning blast that would easily be powerful enough to destroy the Leaf Village.
Later, Naruto delves back into the world of intense training after learning from Kakashi that his Rasengan is only an incomplete technique – its creator, the Fourth Hokage himself, had intended it for him to be something far more powerful, but never got the chance to develop it that far before he was killed, but now Kakashi’s convinced that Naruto has developed enough talent to finish the job – and the prospect of becoming ever more stronger is one that Naruto can never let pass him by. Meanwhil, Yugito Nii, who bears inside her the chakra of the Two-Tailed Beast, has been pursued and captured by the Akatsuki. Unwilling to let that sort of power fall into the wrong hands again, Asuma and Team Shikamaru are sent to retrieve her…
First up is the conclusion of the arc that started at the Fire Temple and lost me while the gang were busy chasing high-speed coffins through the countryside. My ability to suspend disbelief has limits, and that particular sight pushed me past the point where I was able to do that. From the point where this volume carries on, we’re at least done with chasing coffins and have moved on to dealing with a situation that sees that gang more dealing with the Zombie Apocalype than anything. And that’s just my sort of territory, at least for the start. It’s not too long, though, before the dark secret behind Sora’s abilties is revealed – like Naruto, he’s endowed with the chakra of the Nine-Tailed Fox; like Naruto, under times of danger, the chakra is inclined to assert itself and subsume his personality (as happened to Naruto during his standoff with Orochimaru and Sasuke); like Naruto, the show insists on spending multiple episodes having Sora stand there fighting off (or not) the effect of the chakra. There are several problems with this: it wasn’t that long ago that we had a very similar story arc; Sora hasn’t been around long enough for me to remotely care about Bad Things happen to him; it lasts two episodes longer (at least) than it really needs to; and the whole thing kicks off another round of I Must Get Stronger! angsting from Naruto.
As arcs go, it’s pretty poor, then; while the first episode in the set carries hope with it that it’s improved from last volume, that hope doesn’t last long. That accounts for six of the twelve episode in the volume, too, so that flushing sound you hear is half the set going down the tubes. Moving quickly onwards.
The second arc goes off on two separate strands: Naruto stays at home in the Leaf Village to work on his abilities, and another Junchiruki is targetted by the Akatsuki. Naruto’s need for more training comes from the trouble he had helping Sora while he was under the influence of the Nine-Tailed Fox’s chakra – fair enough. The thing with his training, though, is that typically he’s trying to master one technique, but takes about 5 episodes to do it – with us poor viewers having to sit through it all. With this session involving yet more explanation of the different chakra types and how you’re meant to manipulate / change them (concepts that I’m still convinced were pulled out of nowhere at the last moment), it’s a bit of a blessing, then, that there’s some breakup provided, both by the presence of Kakashi and Yamato to keep his training in line, and by the other half of the arc, which sees Shikamaru and his team sent in pursuit of the latest of the Jinchuruki to be targetted by the Akatsuki.
There’s a certain amount of deja vu here – Yugito, the host of the Two-Tailed Beast, is not the first of the Junchiruki that the Akatsuki have tracked down, and the series could quite easily have gone down the “rinse, repeat” path with how her story was handled. Obviously, there’s going to be a huge battle for the arc to work through (and that’s underway by the end of the set), but there’s enough different in how the non-fighting stuff is handled to keep it interesting. The pursuit is also handled by Shikamaru and his team, who we haven’t seen in a while and who make a nice change from the usual Team Kakashi fare, so that’s something else that helps keep the interest level high. The two main prongs of the arc are also interspersed with a few appearances by Sakura and Sai which also help to break things up quite well.
Something original? Not a bit of it, and Naruto has been running for long enough that I’ll be surprised if it does something genuinely different again – diminishing returns set in a long time ago. It’s an improvement over the last volume, with the new arc thankfully demanding less in the suspension of disbelief department – but it’s still someway short of Naruto‘s best. Middle-of-the-road mediocrity.
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: July 11th, 2011
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 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.