What They Say:
Sasuke’s future hangs in the balance as Orochimaru prepares for reanimation. It’s been three years since Sasuke left the Leaf Village seeking the power Orochimaru promised him. Now it’s time to face his mentor. Who will master whom in the battle for their very existence?
Plus, take a step back in time to a turning point in the young Kakashi’s life, as he fights alongside his teammates under the guidance of the Fourth Hokage!
Contains episodes 113-126.
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 2009, 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 look of the release is pretty good as it features Naruto against a sunset styled background as he shields his eyes while his outfit is a bit more open than usual. With his serious expression and the additional bit of color through the use of a light, it has a very distinct feeling to it. The fully classic logo is included as well, in a gray scale, along the upper left which gives it a little more definition. The back cover uses the shades of oranges overall with a good group shot that deals with the Kakashi Chronicles storyline that looks great 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 and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Watching the Naruto: Shippuden DVD sets is a bit haphazard unfortunately as Viz Media doesn’t always send them out so we miss things along the way, such as the eighth and ninth sets. But a tenth set has come in and because we’ve been watching the simulcasts since episode 157 through the present, we can admittedly get through it easily enough since there have been flashbacks and continued explanations and exploration of events that have happened since then. This set in particular is definitely one of the better ones as it deals largely with Sasuke and the Akatsuki with what’s going on with them but also contains a two part “filler” storyline that deals with Kakashi’s past, which the packaging has given the impression is a separate work rather than just two episodes mid-set. Calling them bonus episodes is a little disingenuous I’d say.
What made this set particularly appealing in the first half of it prior to Kakashi’s story is that it focuses on Sasuke a lot as he’s being prepared more to become Orochimaru’s vessel. We know that Sasuke will take this only so far as he’s intent on just acquiring more power so that he can deal with his brother, but it’s a matter of whether he’s going to be strong enough to deal with Orochimaru. Thankfully, we do get a good bit more back story on Orochimaru, something that from my view has always been lacking. He’s been an excellent villain for the most part with how he handles himself and the creepy factor as well as the way he alienated both the Hidden Leaf Village and the Akatsuki by going his own path after taking advantage of both. What we get here is a better look at his past with the Hidden Leaf which helps to cement his connection there all the more.
But in the end, it comes down to the battle of wills between two men in the present. Orochimaru needs Sasuke because of the condition of his own body but that weakness and Sasuke’s own growth, which he’s kept measured so as to not overplay his hand, allows him to take advantage of the situation. Orochimaru’s long been confident because of what he’s gone through with his changes and he expected much the same to happen here. When it goes in a different way, largely because of the Sharingan, the shock is palpable and very enjoyable to watch as it puts him on the defensive. Sadly, it doesn’t really bring the character to an end, something that I do wish had happened because it would have made the whole thing more powerful. Orochimaru’s essence is something that becomes spread in two different ways; Sasuke has taken over much of it and suppresses it inside himself but as we learn later in this batch of episodes, Kabuto has taken on a good portion of him as well and is being taken over much more quickly as he changes.
The Hidden Leaf side of the story isn’t quite as strong here as it’s more reactionary but quite appropriate. With Sasuke now out in the world with the underlings he’s acquired with Suigetsu, Karin and Jugo, he’s causing some waves and news does hit the village that lets them know of Orochimaru’s supposed death. While Naruto sees that as a way for Sasuke to come home, it just points out his inability to really understand what Sasuke is after. It does represent a shift in how the village is handling things though as they opt to send out a small group to search for him and figure out what’s next for the young missing man they hope to bring back some day. That puts them on his trail in a more formal way but it’s not capitalized on that much. More so in that we see Sasuke and his group working together as he binds them to himself in rather strong ways that were enjoyable to watch. We also get a wonderful sequence towards the end here between Tsunade and Jiraiya that shows the depth of their relationship as he heads out on a mission and there are bits of dialogue about how the order of succession for Hokage should have gone and the past in general when it comes to Minato, Naruto’s mother and more.
What I wasn’t sure whether I’d like or not is the two part story involving Kakashi as he was brought into the role of a young captain for the group back in his formative years. Under the guidance of Minato, we see how badly the first mission goes when things take some turns for the worse as he deals with Obito Uchiha on his team, his own arrogant style and the things he struggles with in relation to his father. It’s much like we’ve seen with many young ninja in this series as they work to become more than just the new ninja that have gained position but there are some key moments to this for Kakashi that helps to flesh him out. Understanding more of his heritage is very important here but it also shows his strong ties to the Uchiha family with how he gained his Sharingan. And we get some good time with Minato as well. It may all be a bit forced with how much happens in two episodes, but it is exactly the kind of flashback/filler story material that I want when it comes to not dealing with the present day storyline.
Naruto: Shippuden hits a lot of very good material here across the board and while some of it may feel a bit stretched out, it’s definitely achieving a lot of things. There’s a shift in tone because of what Sasuke accomplishes here and how it changes the nature of things for not just the Hidden Leaf village but also for the Akatsuki as they’ve had a longstanding desire to eliminate Orochimaru for his slights against them. Sasuke has been kind of idled and sidelined for awhile since leaving the village, though there have been good moments, so to see him being proactive and working towards his goals here out in the world is a lot of fun, especially since it throws a lot of things into motion. Add that with some good material at the village, with the Akatsuki and with the two part Kakashi storyline and you have a very good batch of episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Omake, Production Credits, Storyboards
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 10th, 2012
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.