Naruto faces off against Pain in different forms, but really has to confront himself and his own past.
What They Say:
The attack on the Leaf Village intensifies, and Naruto’s transformation into the Nine-Tailed Fox reaches a critical level. With eight tails already emerged, Naruto makes a surprising discovery that changes everything. His confidence buoyed, Naruto seeks a face-to-face meeting with Nagato, the Pain responsible for the massive destruction in the village. Can one boy’s will alter destiny?
Contains episodes 167-179.
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 Naruto looking all serious against a simple silver and gray background that lets his 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 silver and gray overall with a shot of Jiraiya 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)
Naruto: Shippuden hit a surprising high in the previous set by taking a character that’s generally liked and making her the most human of them all with the emotional connection that was formed. Throwing Hinata into the midst of the battle against Pain and having it turn as it did wasn’t exactly a surprise considering the characters that have fallen so far, but it was executed with such simplicity and intensity that it was unlike anything we had seen before. And even with all the losses that Naruto has suffered, especially in this arc, seeing what happened to Hinata set him off completely and the best within has now gone completely out of control in a way that surpasses what we’ve seen before.
The Nine Tails (or rather, six tails to be precise) action here against Pain is strikingly beautiful in its execution and design. The series has taken an interesting approach to the character designs for the Pain puppets that’s reminding me a whole lot of Noein with its slightly angular and more fluid feeling. The way they look against the backgrounds adds a lot to that feeling since it’s done in a somewhat rough and earthy color palette that’s very striking when set against the way the Nine Tails looks with the vibrant reds and the new white aspect to it that adds a bit more mass. With the seals that are placed on him falling away, Naruto’s losing control more and more because of what’s happened and it’s becoming self fulfilling as the mere existence of Pain is driving him further to destruction.
The form that Naruto takes in this is extremely intriguing, though reminiscent of aspects of Bleach in a way, and it plays out well against Pain using much of his arsenal of powers to deal with him. Introducing the planetary devastation move in order to defeat him isn’t a surprise in that there’s some ultra big move to try and take down the beast, but its execution with the music, animation and pacing is so engaging and riveting that you can’t look away. Both Pain and Naruto are pushing their limits, albeit in different ways, With six of Naruto’s tails now unleashed, there’s an immense amount of power being used by him yet there’s still much more left inside. It’s a race for Pain to try and contain it so he can use it for himself and his goals of changing the world with a very interesting approach to subdue him.
Naruto’s journey into himself has revealed some interesting things as he’s confronting the Nine-Tails behind a barrier there. The creature is certainly disturbing in its violence that it wants to let loose, but the real fascination is how for the first nine minute of the episode, before the opening sequence, the show shifts to a very good conversation between the Fourth Hokage and Naruto. Revealing that Naruto is his son, the Hokage unleashes a wave of emotion inside Naruto as he lets loose with how he’s really feeling about everything. It’s a very good moment where you really realize the pressures that he’s under from others and himself about his abilities and how he’s grown up.
Having his father in front of him, even for a few moments to unburden himself, is very welcome. But at the same time, his father places other burdens on him as he explains why he sealed the Nine Tails inside of him and how neither he nor Jiraiya could figure out how to truly deal with it, thereby leaving it to Naruto to accomplish what they couldn’t. Naruto has an amusing impassioned response to it about how he’s not smart and not a good ninja, but it’s a moment of parental faith in how his father believes in him and that actually resonates with Naruto in a way that many other things haven’t before. What’s most interesting though is that the Fourth Hokage relates a bit of information from when the Nine-Tails attacked last some sixteen years ago in that there was something that was manipulating it into doing so, that there’s a power out there that’s large still that’s manipulating events.
The second half of the episode shifts us out of the place that Pain put Naruto and into the field of battle again as the two face off. Naruto’s a bit more on his game this time around though as he wants to know where the real Pain is after he pushes through a few of Pain’s attacks. The time spent with his father has breathed a new life into Naruto and he’s taking on Pain with a kind of calm confidence that wasn’t quite there before, especially after Hinata was attacked and he became very emotional. The battle between both of them gets to be pretty intense and it’s good to see Naruto continuing to come up with ways to surprise Pain, even some of them like the Shadow Clone angle has been used so many times before.
Naruto’s time spent inside himself where he learned more about the Fourth Hokage and his relation to him as well s delving into the why of the Nine-Tails being sealed inside him was one of those great revelatory episodes. Much gets answered that had been hinted at and touched on before while explaining other things that had never been given any serious explanation. While those who survived the onslaught on the village watched on, Naruto spent his time getting to know what he needed in order to take down Pain. The return to the outside world has him launching a full on attack on the Pain in front of him, but it also causes him to try and understand the pain that Nagato talked to him about.
All of this has him now wanting to stop everything that has happened from continuing on and he intends to find the real Pain, Nagato, and deal with it. It’s something that he again believes he has to do alone and heads off to do that, but he does have to answer some questions from others who are a bit more senior in the village. It turns to an interesting debate on how to move forward from an act like this, whether the real destruction of Pain and everything he has will atone for what’s been done to the village or whether words and some kind of other confrontation will be the way to go. Naruto’s at odds with the others about this, but his past with some of them has them giving him some leeway, such as how Shikaku remembers times from the past when someone like Shikamaru made it clear that Naruto will change everything someday.
The internalization we saw with Naruto meeting his father in his mind where the sealed Nine-Tails is an intriguing piece as it answered some questions that have been out there for quite awhile, at least to me. With Naruto in the same space as Nagato is now, with Konan there trying to make sure Nagato is alright, the two face off in a way that’s rather welcome for a series focused on ninjas and their outlandish abilities. They talk. Naruto’s matured enough at times to want to make an informed decision about things, something Nagato has now offered him, as his plans for the world are ones that involve a lot of hate and violence and a belief that it’s necessary to build a true peace. And Nagato wants to deal with Naruto enough to reveal his side of the story so Naruto can make a true and informed opinion.
Nagato’s childhood is certainly mired in violence and pain as his family was wrongly killed in front of him, believing that they were a full on ninja family involved in the war that the Hidden Leaf village was dealing with. Seeing his parents knifed in the chest in front of him and then to have the honest and emotional apologies from the ninjsa afterward when they realized they killed civilians is a brutal moment, but it all takes a strange turn when he cries out in pain and everything goes blank. Until he wakes up to find the ninjas dead in front of him as the rage and sadness awakened his power and killed them, though he was unaware that it was he that did it. Nagato’s journey begins because of this, as the village is now ruined and life there is essentially over. He becomes a young child who has to find his own way in the world after such a tragedy and it just builds in his own mind the pain he’s suffered.
Nagato’s life as a war orphan follows a traditional route, finding friends in people like Konan who also suffered and a boy named Yahiko who was always smiling and finding ways to survive, a strong contrast to Nagato’s sour demeanor. Yahiko dreams big, wanting to find a way to never be like this again and to not suffer, but it all takes the obvious and predictable terrible turn. Having escaped one war zone, they end up in another with a young Jiraiya and his team dealing with Hanzo. It’s the moment that turns Yahiko’s outward optimism to something darker where he wants to change the nation, and the world, so that what they experience never happens again. The moment changes him, but it’s also the moment that Nagato takes on Yahiko’s dream and begins down the harder path that has landed him where he is in the present. It’s all a fairly traditional story with no real surprises to it.
Stories from the past can be polarizing but the origin of Pain as a war orphan along with others has enough little nods and hooks to it to make it intriguing. Nagato’s journey after the destruction of his village ended up landing him right into Jiraiya’s presence again where he’s with Orochimaru and we see him yet again as a Leaf Ninja, a very cruel one in fact. Orochimaru’s past is a bit lost on me considering the way I’ve jumped around the show, but seeing him in this context is quite interesting and makes me want to know more. Jiraiya opts to take in the three orphans though and lives with them until he’s forced to start training them because of the problems they’re going to face growing up if they don’t know how to defend themselves or have the right kind of confidence in themselves.
That confidence goes in an interesting way as the trio work on a path that leads them to trying to create peace without force, but backed by such potential. Nagato grew up wanting to be able to protect the two that meant the world to him and the three trained hard, though all off screen, and we leap several years to them as young adults where they’ve managed to build a powerful group that is believed to what’s needed to help negotiate among the three warring nations a workable peace. It turns out to be a sham though as the group, led by Yahiko, is little more than a threat to those in power such as Hanzo and Danzo, which has them creating a trap through which they can crush Nagato and the others so they can continue on with their own plans.
That betrayal leads to the main sequence of action for this sub arc, which is certainly big in its design and scale as Nagato unleashes his powers and Hanzo and his side does as well. Nagato’s abilities continue to be the type that seems to defy reality at times in a way that others don’t feel like they do, but it gives everything a really epic feeling here even as it’s kept short and tense. The journey of Nagato from someone who wants to protect the two closest to him, to getting training to do so and a skewed understanding of how the world was once saved, leads him to unleashing all the pent up anger he’s had for so long, letting all the pain inside him out as others sacrifice themselves for him when he feels he should be the one doing that. His rebirth as a young man after a tragic loss is a hugely defining moment for him.
Naruto gives us a rather dialogue heavy piece when it comes to dealing with Pain after the last two have been detailing Nagato’s life and the challenges he faced both as a youth and as an adult trying to stave off the dangers facing his nation. Much of what’s happened is that Naruto wanted to hear his tale, to understand him, so he can decide what he thinks is proper for dealing with him. In a rather pleasant twist, at least for a series heavily focused on action and quick response by Naruto, he claims to understand Nagato and knows why he’s chosen the path he has. Not that he can accept it, but he understands the reality that Nagato has faced and why he’s on the path that he is on, even if Naruto doesn’t believe it’s the right one.
To try and shift his view even a little, the story that Naruto has is the one from Jiraiya of the Tale of the Gutsy Ninja. It’s an interesting experience as we see it related with Nagato to the younger days when he and his friends were under Jiraiya’s tutelage and how Jiraiya truly felt about them and their potential. As much as Nagato knew, there was always more he could not understand as a child and the scope of what it was that Jiraiya was trying to impart on him. It’s a properly emotional piece that plays out with flashbacks as well as a growing understanding with Nagato in the present, though it’s hard to see if he’d really make the change in the path that he’s on because of what’s in that novel.
Paralleling what Nagato has gone through with the pain that Naruto has faced isn’t a surprise, though each is most assuredly different yet still consumes them in different ways. What makes a difference is that Naruto did have people to turn to throughout, though he didn’t realize it for the longest time, and has taken up closely with them, especially with Jiraiya. For Nagato, he had loss from almost the start and never made those connections actually work for him when he did have the opportunity. The two are very similar in a lot of ways but made different choices and circumstances played out differently as it progressed. Naruto’s ability to believe in himself and others is what truly separates him from Nagato and those like him, a trait that few truly possess that can really change others.
The conclusion to the events between Naruto and Nagato itself is good as Nagato brings it all to an end in a way that puts the onus on Naruto to make the path for the future. It’s appropriately solemn and brings a bit of closure to things when it comes to Jiraiya as well. The whole arc has been difficult on Naruto and seeing it all finally take its toll is a welcome scene, with the right people greeting him along the way to bring him back to the village. It’s a time like this that realizing how much he has changed since the beginning has its impact, especially when they get back to the remains of the village and everyone is cheering for him. Though some of it should go towards Nagato as well who corrected what he did, which is where the cheapness of the episode comes in for me as stated earlier, but the overall impact for Naruto cannot be understated. After years of problems with everyone and slowly winning over a few key friends here and there, he’s now completely accepted there. It only took him saving everyone and bringing the dead back to life.
With so much build up over the storyline prior to this, Naruto really hit its stride in the Shippuden series by giving us an event that, like those talked about in the past, is a game changer. The destruction of Hidden Leaf by Pain and his followers was a beautiful series of moments when it came to the action and tension but also the emotion as they fought back as best they could. The tragedy that unfolded was singlehandedly the best section of the franchise I’ve seen. And trying to cap it off with Naruto and Nagato actually talking it out, with the context of the past brought into it and the similarities between them in what they really want to achieve, it was the moment when Naruto was ready to grow up and face hard things but also deal with it realistically. Well, as realistically as it could considering what the series is. This material does dominate the set, but there are other flashbacks and side stories as well, but they’re painfully weak in comparison. While I liked Ikura’s story, I hate going back to young Naruto after just getting this kind of larger material here and showing some real growth with him. They’re useful for what they are, but they continue to leave me feeling cold towards them. The rest of this set though is spot on.
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 23rd, 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.