Filler season of Naruto is always the ones you dread, and sadly this is one of the poorer sets of recent years – there are some nice flashbacks to some old familiar faces and a few decent one off stories, but combined with some of the not so good stuff, it definitely screams filler season.
What They Say :
After Pain’s attack, the Leaf Ninja set about rebuilding their village. Naruto and Sakura are thrilled to be reunited with Tazuna and his grandson Inari from the Land of Waves, who have come to help. While the restoration proceeds, the Leaf Ninja and their friends reflect on past events that influenced the village and helped gain allies like the Sand.
Plus, we get a glimpse back into Naruto’s training journey with Jiraiya, and join the original Team 7 on a mission when Sasuke was still with them!
Contains episodes 180-192.
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release (which I felt was odd as there have been 5.1 releases previously) is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video. The video is again of a decent quality, and some clearer animation when it came to many of the flashback sequences meant this was a surprisingly good visual release for a filler season. No noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing or when pausing, so no problems with watching the whole release through, although there was some pause slowdown very briefly on episodes 183 and 184.
Set on a black background, with a cheerful Naruto on the left, it is a very standard menu with the selections Play All, Episodes and Set Up on the first disc, with Extras available on the 2nd disc. The menus are very basic, and function fine in selection both from the main menu and from watching the show, but nothing interesting.
The only main extras of note was a selection of storyboards from the show, showing a lot of the rough drawings – sadly as it is purely in written Japanese and no translation of the notes, it surmounts to just several rough sketches just in storyboard form. We also get trailers from the Naruto Shippuden movie and (again oddly) the Naruto Shippuden show itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a series as large as Naruto, it is inevitable that the anime does catch up with the source material. So to help pad out the releases of the canon stuff, a lot of these large shounen series resort to what is known as ‘filler’ episodes, to give time for them to fall behind the story to animate. Unfortunately, this does result in filler seasons at times, with almost all of the big series (Bleach, One Piece, Fairy Tail) guilty of this, and Naruto is no exception. Occasionally, there may be either an episode which does sync in with the canon, or just a real good episode focusing on one of the more popular side characters which at least make it bearable, but this arc sadly is not one of them. There are a few moments which give the viewer a fond memory of nostalgia, but otherwise it is definitely one of the poorer sets.
The first episode actually does have a fond memory as we get a flashback to Naruto’s first ever mission during the Zabusa arc, as Tazuna and Inari have paid a visit to the village to help out. Unfortunately, the reason for it is basically just because Naruto lost a ramen coupon and goes back to the Great Naruto Bridge…only to find some of the ninjas who were still there after being knocked out have recovered and still wish to take it over. So whilst there is a fond flashback for Inari, it is just for one episode and for a silly reason…which doesn’t help when the next episode is basically about a ninja ostrich.
And there is a SECOND episode later about the same ostrich. Who can now talk.
To say this did hurt my brain is an understatement.
I can see what they are trying to say in some of this episodes – the aforementioned ostrich episode is basically Naruto convincing a man to not go to the dark side, or indeed help him out with revenge lessons as only Naruto can, and I won’t lie and say some of the moments did make me laugh, but at other times you wonder if some of the ideas to fill out the episodes were really approved by higher ups.
Other episodes do have good moments that save the release from being totally skippable. Two episodes I enjoyed were ones focusing on Gaara and Neji just after they had turned good after their respective fights with Naruto. The Gaara one focuses on that Naruto was the first person to totally trust him during a mission with others from the Sand village who are still wary about him, and Gaara now is worrying about his friend. I’ve always been a fan of Gaara and it was nice that he reappeared despite everything after his own issues with the Akatsuki. The Neji episode which was the last one on the set happens literally just after Hiashi has a talk with him as she sees the way of the family. During the confusion of Orochimaru’s attack, Hinata gets kidnapped whilst she was still unconscious during Kabuto’s healing, and Neji, Tenten and Kiba go to try and save her from some high ranking Cloud Ninjas. Kiba is still quite untrusting of Neji not realizing what just happened so this was basically Neji’s redemption, and as he points out, though Naruto wasn’t in the story, it was because of Naruto he was able to redeem himself. I also enjoyed a Tenten stand alone episode where she goes to visit a master which is set in present time to help boost their defences – not sure if this will affect canon, but it was nice to see a Tenten episode and see her kick a little butt because she’s one, if not the most underused characters of the original Konoha core.
The one really good part was a double episode involving a flashback with Naruto and Jiriaya, where after the sadness of Jiriaya’s death, seeing the two almost act like grandson and grandfather as old friends as well as comrades during a mission is really nice to see – they counter some rebels in the Hidden Rain village, help a young boy make his own decisions about something he doesn’t like, and actually has some bearing on the plot in terms of Naruto learning how to repel genjitsu. This actually felt like a side-story of the main series rather than something I knew was filler, and considering what we know of Naruto’s father, it was actually quite sweet seeing Jiriaya’s thoughts about what he thinks of Naruto.
Sadly, whilst half of it is decent or good, the rest as mentioned, is very pointless. There is a flashback episode to finding an ingredient for Rock Lee when he was still injured, which basically just is an episode of Sakura, Ino and Naruto not really getting along, which just seemed to be just an excuse to put Naruto back in the Rock Lee outfit. There is a Kakashi episode where a rebel woman appears to be his girlfriend, which doesn’t go anywhere and ends very abruptly. And then there is the giant cat episode…which I’m certain was just so to put Sasuke in cat ears. Yes, there was a few moments about how Sasuke and Itachi and how they used to be, but to say it is the definition of padding is an understatement.
It’s hard to say if the good outweighs the bad, as very little will affect the main storyline. For a few trips to nostalgia, and the occasion decent character episode, you may feel that it should add to your collection, but if there is definitely a skippable Box Set for Naruto Shippuden, this is it.
The definition of a filler arc, Naruto Shippuden Box Set 15 has very little to actually recommended if you wish to continue the story. It avoids complete D territory by having a few decent focus character episodes (the Tenten one was O.K, the Gaara/Neji ones were good, and the Jiriaya/Naruto double episode was actually story level good) but the rest is either average, pointless or just plain bad. There are some comedy elements to some of these episodes, but some of them, particularly the ones with animals, verged on parodying how stupid they were. The flashbacks have some nostalgia value from the Chunin arc and even the very first arc, but otherwise there is not much to recommend outside of diehard Naruto fans. For completists only, as otherwise this arc can be easily skipped.
Content Grade: C-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 9th, 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.