While Naruto undergoes some intense training, Pain launches a devastating attack on the Hidden Leaf Village.
What They Say:
Naruto and his friends successfully decipher the code Jiraiya left behind, but it’s not enough to solve the mystery of Pain. For Naruto, Jiraiya’s passing is more than enough to inspire him to follow Fukasaku to Mount Myoboku, where he begins his training in Sage Jutsu. But will the antsy Naruto ever be able to sit still long enough to achieve Sage Mode?
Back in the Leaf Village, disaster strikes when the Six Paths of Pain attack the village, and those dearest to Naruto are thrown into the chaos of battle!
Contains episodes 154-166.
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 2010, 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 episodes that are in this set, 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 Hinata against a simple purple background that lets her more mature looking character design really stand out well here. The fully classic logo is included as well, in a gray scale, along the upper right which gives it a little more definition. The back cover uses the shades of purple overall with an amateurish image of Pain here where his arm looks totally fan drawn 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 the lower left side while each main menu has a red background with different character artwork across all three discs. With the extras only on the third disc, there’s not much to the menus overall but they are quick and easy to navigate. 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 omake pieces that lets some of the more comical 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)
With this set of Naruto: Shippuden, I’ve ended up getting to the place where I started watching the simulcast of the series. When I first started watching the simulcast, the DVDs were around episode fifty or so and I was able to make the decent leap up to the 150+ episode range and manage most of the story without any significant issues. Now coming back to these episodes in collected form, at a time when I’m just about to hit episode 300 in the simulcast run, it’s reminding me just how much of this show that I’ve watched over the years. And just how good it can be at times. Coming into these episodes during the simulcast, I was impressed with the quality of it and what it was doing. Seeing it in marathon form just reinforces that.
The story picks up in a slightly awkward spot here as we’re past the death of Jiraiya and we have Naruto and several varied people of the village trying to decipher the meaning of some numbers on the safe frog Fukusaku’s back in order to understand what Jiriaiya’s hidden message is. There’s some quirky fun to it, which is needed considering recent events in the series, as it helps lighten the mood a bit just before things are about to get darker. While Naruto wasn’t expecting to be much help, he’s actually able to figure out the key to it and that leads to them getting a message that’s more mysterious than helpful, which doesn’t push them down any particular path. Knowing that Pain is going to be a serious problem though, they have to do something and the continued knowledge that Naruto may be the Child of Prophecy is certainly motivating people like Tsunade.
That motivation pays off as Fukusaku offers to train Naruto in the Sage arts so that he can fight back against Pain when they do come across each other. With Jiraiya having trained that way as well, and having been defeated by Pain, it’s a must-do for him since he has to be able to at least match if not surprise his idol and to do what’s necessary. I’ve never been a huge fan of the frog sages and the whole concept, but they do a good job here as Fukusaku takes him back to the sage frog’s hidden mountain to train him in the arts. Which is what a good part of the first few episodes here are, and scattered parts of the next several. Training episodes can be difficult to watch, but there’s certainly some new things done here that he has to cope with to learn these ways as the dangers are much higher, since he could turn irreversibly into a frog himself. It’s kind of hokey but it works well enough because it’s treated seriously.
What I really enjoyed about the time while Naruto trained, other than it making the frogs far more accessible than they were before, is that Pain doesn’t wait for Naruto to find him. He goes looking for Naruto and in the most obvious place; the Hidden Leaf Village. With the way his abilities work in having several forms working with him, they make a concentrated attack on the village in some creative ways at first to get things rolling, but it all turns quickly. In Pain’s favor. The village suffers a wide amount of destruction and seeing it get rolled so hard is truly surprising since most shows tend to not really do things like this. It’s a significant change, one that’s not played well past this set unfortunately, but it highlights the level that Pain will go to in order to get what he wants. It’s made even more disturbing as they start grabbing at people left and right and questioning them about Naruto’s whereabouts, at the cost of their lives.
While we do get a few episodes of this, complete with a mild Konohamaru side story as he gets involved in things to help out, it doesn’t take long for Naruto and some of the frog sages to return. I loved their surprise when they come back only to find in essence once large crater where the village once was and a group of Akatsuki under Pain’s control that wants him to come along in order to bring peace to the world. Pain’s story is only at the beginning of being told here with why he wants the Nine-Tails in order to achieve his larger goal and it is unfortunately the weak link in things here as his past, and that of his small nation that was crushed years ago, isn’t; given the full weight and depth it needs to resonate. It makes sense and you understand him, but it doesn’t make you connect with his motivation in a big way.
Thankfully, the fighting that goes on with this souped up Naruto with sage abilities is a whole lot of fun to watch since he’s got a lot of power and a lot of control as well that surprises those that are watching. But Pain is a whole other kind of Akatsuki than what he’s faced before and it provides a significant challenge, one that doesn’t come to resolution here. The physical side of things is what dominates and you really get a good feel for what Naruto is capable of now and just how intent he is to right things. What I really loved though is that while he does push and push and push, when he’s knocked down towards the end of this set, it’s Hinata that steps in. The flashback is a touch forced in terms of timing, but we are properly reminded of why she’s been drawn to him for so long and why she’s doing what she is now, in the name of spoken love, something that you can certainly understand being revealed in the heat of battle. Hinata has long been a favorite of mine and I loved her participation in this storyline as it felt like she really and truly has come into her own.
Naruto: Shippuden is a hugely uneven series when you look at it as a whole, but this set shows it at one of its best points. Naruto is undergoing training but it’s an interesting training changes perceptions of many things, including that of Naruto himself. It has some really cool scenes for him when he returns to the village, even if he is riding on a giant frog, and it leads to an intense fight that has some brutal results and even looks like it’s rough and raw. The village gets its day to shine here in terms of the people who live there and do their best to push back against the attack and to help those that can’t fight, but it’s the change to the village’s structure itself that made me really take notice of the series as it said that it was willing to make changes, even if they don’t last for too awful long or merit significant exploring after things have settled down a bit. This was the arc that made me stay with the series into the next large round of filler that’s to come in a few volumes. There’s a lot to like here and more to come in the next set.
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: January 29th, 2013
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.