The battles over the Three-Tailed Beast continue, with Naruto’s concern for Yukimaru leading him to fight that little bit more determinedly than usual, while Guren’s parallel feelings have her beginning to wonder if following Orochimaru’s orders is really what she wants to be doing right now…
What They Say:
Orochimaru’s minion Guren will do anything to stop the Leaf ninja from sealing Three Tails, but the Leaf’s top shinobi will be tough to beat! While a sealing team tracks the location of the beast and its host, a guard team led by Kakashi and Naruto fends off attacks from Guren. But it’s no ordinary battle when Naruto finds himself fighting alongside his enemy in a most unusual location-inside the Three-Tailed Beast!
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 on 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 Boy Wonder himself takes pride of place on the main menus for this set, winding up his trademark rasengan and set against a black background. Options are provided for Play All, Setup, Episodes and on Disc 2 only Extras. All very familiar from previous volumes, and all quick and easy to use.
The usual production art gallery, and that’s your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Not that we get to see much of Orochimaru, of course – he keeps himself locked away in the safety of his hideout, as the rapidly-deteriorating condition of his current body means he can’t really do much anyway. With Sasuke earmarked as his next host, there’s a chance things could get interesting on the Orochimaru front in the not-to-distant future – but that’s for another time. Here, we’ve got Kabuto being the voice of Orochimaru, making sure that Guren and her men follow their orders: to use Yukimaru (and a likely-unhealthy dose of drugs) to gain control of the Three-Tailed Beast, which is otherwise without a Junchiruki. The beast is powerful, and with Orochimaru liking having power at his disposal, his interest in the beast is no great surprise.
But there are three things standing between him and the success of this particular plan: the Leaf teams, with Naruto’s particular interest in Yukimaru providing an added boost to his motivation; the presence of two of the Akatsuki, who are taking a close interest in what Orochimaru’s up to and looking for an opportunity to thwart him; and Guren’s own feelings for Yukimaru, which are growing ever more maternal over time and leading her to look for ways to get out of the job she’s been assigned to do. Put all that together, and you’ve got the recipe for a decent set of battles – and that’s what this volume serves up.
There are 12 episodes in the set, and normally my eyes would glaze over at the thought of a full set’s worth of battle scenes. This time around, though, “short and to-the-point” is the order of the day for the Leaf’s various confrontations – there are a lot of people involved in this arc, which translates to a need to work through all the battle combinations fairly quickly – there are no scenes that feel stretched to breaking point (a common problem with the series), and the pacing feels more like one of the spin-off movies than the TV series’ usual speed. All of which is for the good, as there’s little opportunity to get bored, even when by this stage in the series it’s usually fairly easy to predict the outcome of the battles in advance.
Downsides: I was fairly certain that one of the Akatsuki we see here had already met his demise (may just be my faulty memory), so it took a while to get used to having him around again. Yukimaru is one of those characters who should be more likeable than he is, but where he’s just so passive most of the time that it’s hard to connect to his character – and that in turn makes it hard to buy into how obsessed Naruto gets over ‘saving’ him, even though he’s got form with that sort of obsession, over Sasuke. Kabuto’s deviousness continues to be off the scale, but in an unappealing “I can never fail at my scheming” way that makes you wonder why he doesn’t just strike off on his own.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this volume. The first half of the arc (last volume) was one of the best Naruto releases I’ve seen in a while, and this half continues the good work, with a storykline that doesn’t get bogged down or waste too much time on irrelevancies, but just sticks to being entertaining. And that’s really what we’re all watching for, right? Once again, an easy recommendation.
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: June 4th, 2012
Running Time: 300 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-22 5.1 speaker system.