The return of Naruto brings us a strong conclusion to the Itachi death arc, the end gives us a good beginning as Naruto discovers about Jiriaya…everything else in the middle is going to make you look at the clock in the corner seeing how long there is left…
What They Say :
At the Akatsuki hideout, a weakened Sasuke hears the history of the Uchiha Clan from Madara and learns of Itachi’s true intentions. Meanwhile, Kakashi and Naruto, having lost the trail, must abandon their mission to capture Itachi and find Sasuke. The team is heading back to the village when an urgent assignment comes in from Tsunade that will lead them on a perilous journey to protect a young woman!
The Review :
Set in both English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo/Mono, the sound quality is decent at best – it did require though to raise the volume from my standard settings after being so used to 5.1 and some excellent Japanese stereo set ups. There were no issues with the sound directly in terms of timing and linking with subtitles, no slowdown with the audio or visual aspect so there is no stop in flow which is good. Visually, the show stands up well – it is colourful, no issues with animation meshing during pausing, but with a long show like Naruto, at times the art in certain sagas/scenes is much lower quality than others and it is rather noticeable at times overall.
A 2 disc release, the menu has the same image of Sage Naruto looking menacing on a black and green background with the selections in white on the lower side, with the selections play all, episodes, set up and on the second disc, extras. The episode select is nice as it is easy to navigate with obvious labels and pictures (but no scene select) and is straight-forward and easy to navigate, from both main menu and during the show. Nothing spectacular but nothing bad either.
The only extras were on the second disc, with production art which you could navigate by scrolling to the left and right of the Akatsuki, Sasuke, Madara/Tobi, some of the tails and young Sasuke, and a couple of trailers for Naruto Shippuden: The Movie and for Naruto Shippuden itself (odd considering you are watching the show…)
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After being on hiatus for a while, Naruto returns with the 12th set as I take over the Naruto reviews from Bryan. Now this usually surprises people but I actually don’t mind Naruto – I’d put it third behind One Piece and DBZ in my fave of the big shounen jump style fighting series – at times it’s really dull, but at times it’s absolutely fantastic. This release basically hits both of them at the same time – it starts and finishes well, but the middle sadly is one of the main problems with any long series, to fill in the blanks when it catches up to the original source, which Naruto has been majorly guilty over in the years it has run.
From where it left off, we have Madara revealing the truth behind Itachi’s reasoning behind the deaths of the Uchiha family and how Sasuke fitted in. This is a wonderful told story basically on how Itachi was basically forced into killing his family after working as a mole for the Hidden Leaf, but he refused to kill his little brother. This makes all the situations between himself and Sasuke from beginning to end actually make a lot of sense – and even more interestingly now that Itachi is dead and Sasuke’s revenge apparently complete, this throws Sasuke for a loop causing him to collapse in tears. His new goal in honour of his brother? Destroy Konoha.
From this, him and his group (now named Taka) join forces with the remaining Akatsuki to capture the remaining tails – introducing us to the Eight-Tails warrior Killer Bee – Naruto shines with action sequences and this is no exception as Taka is mostly outclassed by this hilarious rapping guy but has incredibly fighting skills and chakra control which forces Sasuke to use his Amaterasu which combined with the efforts of Karin, Suigetsu and Jugo managed to defeat him and take him back to the Akatsuki, unaware that his capture has already been brought to the attention of his pupils…
This however leads to a big gap in quality, both animation and story wise, as we get to a segment which I don’t recall in the original manga (I’m 90% certain it’s a filler arc, if someone can correct me please do) about another tails warrior named Utakata, protecting a young woman named Hotaru, who seek the aid of the Hidden Leaf Village as they want to protect a hidden jutsu – Utakata however leaves Hotaru in the care of Naruto, Yamato and company whilst he tries to almost go on a suicide solo mission to protect the secrets – whilst Hotaru returns to her village with Naruto suspicious there is something wrong with how the village seems to treat her.
Utakata and Hotaru reunite after some skirmishes and Team 7 do now stay with them as they try to return to their original village – there is some history with Utakata and his former master and what happened between them as well as the hints that he is one of the tails, but it is told so rushed that it is really hard to get invested in this characters despite being one big arc in itself. It takes a while to realize that the forbidden jutsu is on Hotaru itself which finally does link in everything and why they were separated, but despite being the major plot point, it’s revealed and disregarded just as quickly. The main villain Shiranami, is basically just a bandit leader seeking the jutsu’s for him and knowing that Hotaru is used as a vessel to release the jutsu. It leads to a predictable battle between Naruto and Shiranami, and at the end when all is well…Pain shows up to kill Utakata and seal the tails…making this arc feel incredibly pointless, and just a set up so Pain can return and also return us to the original arc. This was really not needed in one respect if all it was doing was set up to collect another tails and get ready for the capture of Naruto, but if it is filler, it was necessary to make sure it didn’t overtake the original source material. It just wasn’t done very well and didn’t make me interested in any of the characters, either from the main cast or the filler cast.
Naruto filler arcs don’t really work most of the time – occasionally if the filler arc focuses on one of the more popular side characters (usually the ones involving Rock Lee, Shikamaru or Hinata) and rolls with it, it can actually be decent entertainment – this felt really unnecessary, you didn’t care for anyone there and you could tell it was just there for padding. Fortunately, the last two episodes of the arc suggest we are heading back into the story so we should get some good episodes in the future. Basically, whilst Sasuke heals from his fight with Killer Bee, Naruto reminisces himself about some words (and power) that Itachi shared with him before Itachi fought Sasuke. This suggests that there is more to come with Itachi’s connection with both Naruto and Sasuke, but then he is summoned to Tsunade’s office where he is told of the tragic news that his master, Jiriaya was killed in a battle with Pain. This is actually quite touching, both as Naruto initially refusing to believe it, and then taking the pain on his own, whilst Tsunade remembers him, near tears of her own. This is rare to see Tsunade break out like this and for such a tough woman, to see the affection she had for her former teammate is really surprising and rather well done. Jiriaya left a clue behind on one of his frog summons, so with the help of herself, Shizune and Shikamaru, they try to decipher it (and also briefly remind us of Shikamaru’s helping with Kurenai after the death of Asuma – credit for keeping plots in the centre). Shikamaru convinces Naruto to cheer up and help out, which again reminds me of the fact the two were actually decent comrades back when they were younger, and nice that those hints never forget.
This seems to set up both Pain and Sasuke maybe attacking the hidden leaf, and with the clue that Jiraiya left behind, it does set up some interesting possibilities. I really like how Naruto comes across in this arc through his flashbacks with Jiriaya, that despite his oddities, he loves the ‘pervy-sage’ and remembers his teaching fondly, but also remembers not to let go of himself, as he still holds to the fact he can bring Sasuke back to the good side. Unfortunately, there are only 5 episodes of the 13 which focus on plot, as the other 8 are the mini-arc/filler of another tails, which means as far as story development and interest, it only held up for me at the beginning and the end. Also, very little focus during the filler arc meant that we only got our development in characters like Naruto in the final two episodes, and Sasuke in the first three. Sasuke’s realization of what Itachi really was to him is really well done and the potential for the next release I am looking forward to, it’s just I could have just skipped 8 episodes of 13 and got the same enjoyment, and for me, that isn’t really worth the money.
Naruto has its ups and downs with me as a series, and this release is a perfect example of both. The end of the Itachi/Sasuke arc and the beginning of the aftermath of Jiriaya’s death are both entertaining, intriguing and make you wonder what is going to happen, with Naruto and Sasuke’s characters both going through changes and making you more interested in them. Unfortunately, the arc in the middle serves no purpose bar re-introducing Pain which could have been done so much easier, and whilst I understand why it has to be done, it doesn’t really justify paying for it when the majority of the contest is just not interesting. If you need to continue the story, see if it goes down in price unless you really need to complete it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening And Ending
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 18th March 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.