The Leaf teams face off against Akatsuki members Hidan and Kakuzu, and take unexpected casualties when the pair turn out to be far stronger than expected. Which pushes Shikimaru to plan an attack that will ensure that the Leaf ninjas get their revenge…
What They Say:
Asuma and Shikamaru have to think on their feet as they face the mind-boggling jutsu of the Akatsuki pair Hidan and Kakuzu. At the last minute, the Akatsuki are called away, but not before dealing a fatal blow to a revered shinobi of the Leaf. The devastated ninja left behind can think only of revenge, but Tsunade is opposed to the scheme until an offer of help arrives from an unexpected source.
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 Kakashi 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 a set of TV promo spots, and that’s your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hidan has a dangerous ability that allows him to inflict injuries on others simply by inflicting injuries on himself, in the style of a walking, talking voodoo doll. Kakazu’s body is a web of threads that he can use in whatever fashion he wishes, which his ability to use the hearts of others in place of his own – he current has five of them – makes him damned hard to kill. Through a combination of their own abilities and the Leaf ninjas underestimating them, it’s Round One to the Akatsuki as Asuma is killed, forcing a retreat and a re-evaluation of how to deal with them. Shikimaru looked up to Asuma, and was involved in the battle in which he was killed – so he naturally feels the pain more than most, feeling that he bears the responsibility for his death. But he’s also the Leaf’s tactical genius, and once he’s able to work through his anguish at Asuma’s death, he’s able to come up with a plan to avenge his death. Naruto, meanwhile, has been working on perfecting the rasengan technique – no easy task, as even the Fourth Hokage who created the technique had been unable to get it to its perfected form. But he thinks he’s cracked it, and with his team assigned to support Shikimaru’s team in their revenge attack on Hidan and Kakazu, he’s got a chance to prove it in combat…
Eleven episodes, split neatly into two main battles with two episodes of mourning in between. And that’s really about it. If there’s anything that’s noticeable about this volume, it’s that it’s really Shikimaru Shippuden, as there’s really not a lot of Naruto or his team in it – he gets a few short scenes showing his progress working in the Rasengan, with Sai and Sakura popping up to watch him every so often, but it’s the tenth episode on the disc before he turns up for battle and really makes a contribution. Even the other members of Shikimaru’s team don’t get much of a look-in, as the tactical genius gets his turn in the spotlight.
How successful that is depends on how you look at it. Shikimaru is one of the more likeable characters in the show, with his just-doesn’t-care attitude and underplayed reactions to almost everything. It’s unusual to see him get worked up about anything, but Asuma’s death does the trick, and at least in how Shikimaru reacts and goes to work on the responsible Akatsuki this volume has some really good stuff.
On the other hand, death in anime often leads to a pet hate of mine, the unnecessarily-drawn-out death scene. If I’m ever dictator for a day, such things will be punishable by unnecessarily-drawn-out death, and this volume is a prime candidate for showing how not to do it. There’s a complete episode between Asuma taking his fatal blow, and finally breathing his last, which may be something of a record. If the intention is to help you feel the anguish that Shikimaru’s feeling, then marks for the effort in trying, but stretching the event out for so long ends up having the opposite effect: you just want it to be over and done with, so the show can move on to the next event.
And that just about covers the non-battle aspects of this volume. From there, we’re into nine episode of typically-Naruto battle scenes – bursts of action, occasional breaks while people stop and explain what they’re doing, and back to the action again.
If you’ve been watching Naruto for this long, you’ll know the deal by now – this is something where the series has long settled on its way of doing things, and you’ll know by now if you like its style or not. Hidan and Kakazu’s abilities do make for some interesting styles of combat, so no real complaints from me. Both good and bad parts along the way, but overall, par for the course for Naruto Shippuden.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitle, Original Japanese TV Commercials, Production Art
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 7th, 2011
Running Time: 275 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.