The fights may be a bit cyclical, but they’re hugely important.
What They Say:
Madara has declared war on the shinobi world! The Kage unite to form the Allied Shinobi Forces with the Raikage as their leader. While the villages prepare for battle, Sakura forms a team to go after Sasuke, secretly planning to take him out herself! But Sasuke has his own plans, and his confrontation with Danzo confirms the truth about the destruction of the Uchiha Clan. Where once he plotted revenge against his brother, Sasuke now turns his anger toward the Leaf Village, and only one person has any chance of changing his mind Naruto!
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.
The package that we get here with the single sized keepcase that holds the two discs inside of it. The look of the release is pretty good as it features Naruto looking all serious against a simple brownish burgunday 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 bottom where it’s part of the faux wood themed letterboxing that ties it together nicely. The central portion contains the animation clips from the show that play through nicely and easily as it sets the mood about as you’d expect.. 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 clocks in at two minutes and shows us some animated fun with a few of the characters in the booth. 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 the irregular nature in which I get in Naruto: Shippuden DVD sets, it could be pretty difficult to work with the flow of the show. The last set I saw was the fourteenth set as we were mired in the big Pain arc with all that it entailed. With this set, events have moved on and thankfully I’ve seen it all before through the simulcasts and it’s easy to segue into a set like this even though it’s been some time. It’s also interesting to go back to pieces like this since the current episodes have connections to it as well, giving the present day episodes an interesting relevance while watching this. The show is one that is playing with very large scale character arcs that are introduced in a somewhat scattershot way that pulling it all together can be difficult. Which is why I hope someone puts together a chronological version of the series someday.
With this arc of episodes, there’s a lot of material going on but it’s also spread a bit thin in some ways as the focus is heavily on the action. And rightly so considering the events that are going on. While we have some side material involving Killer Bee that will factor in later as we see him fighting against one of the Akatsuki that is using him to infiltrate and gather information, the important background story that’s going on is the slow but steady march to war. Madara has orchestrated many things and his push towards war, which Sasuke has only heightened after his attack on the Five Kage summit, is making it more real. The Five Kage have put Raikage in charge of things and they’re rallying around that, knowing what’s to come and the importance in being unified. That has them going to the Feudal Lords in order to gain their approval, which is amusing because we get so little on the “normal” world and just focusing on the shinobi villages that it’s easy to forget that there is more out there in this very underserved area of the world. It’s the last piece needed to put the known world on a war footing in order to deal with the Akatsuki as the threat they represent is made clear.
One of the other good additional pieces that comes into play early on here is Sakura’s confronting of Naruto as she tries to get him to stop going after Sasuke as she can no longer bear the way he’s putting it all on himself. She’s seen the things it’s done to him and how far he’s going, and she can’t help but to feel responsible for it since she asked him to years ago. But what she doesn’t realize is that Naruto is doing it for a far deeper reason, one that is explored later in the set, as we get some good flashback material to when the two men were young boys and each struggling with their acceptance, or lack thereof, in the village. While Naruto has always viewed Sasuke as a rival, it was because he wanted to be like him and to be friends with him and thought this was the only way with how his young mind could process it. The two obviously had a rivalry over the years, but that core foundation of it all is what’s driving him and Sakura’s request, even to the point where she claims to no longer like Sasuke but likes Naruto instead, isn’t enough to to impact him. If anything, he finds what she’s saying to be the worst thing since she’s Sasuke’s friend as well and should be going the distance.
Of course, part of the reason why she’s saying this is to get him to stop going after Sasuke as she intends to do that herself along with her team – for a bit – so she can stop Sasuke herself. It’s an interesting approach on her part since she wants all of this to end since it’s causing so much pain and suffering, especially with how she sees Naruto taking so much onto himself. I do like that she’s trying to be more proactive, especially after seeing what Naruto went through with Pain and the way he’s viewed as such a hero in the village now, but her approach is one that is built on deceit and that won’t work well within the ranks. It’s not a surprise that as she and her team head off, made up of those we’ve known for years that truly understand Naruto, that she tries to render them unconscious so she can go after Sasuke herself since she doesn’t want anyone to be involved in this. I like Sakura a lot and I like the changes she started to go through in becoming a medical ninja, and based on the long and tumultuous history between her and the two young men, her actions make a certain sad sense.
Of course, while all of this is going on, Significant Events are going on elsewhere. With Danzo realizing the threat that Sasuke is after the events at the Five Kage summit, the two of them have been engaged in quite the fight in one of those locations that makes for a big and cinematic feel – while also calling back to the last time Naruto and Sasuke had an epic fight. The fight between Sasuke and Danzo is one of the best of the series since it has so many layers to it. Danzo has acquired so much through his killing of the Uchiha that it presents him with some intriguing abilities and attacks that makes him deadly dangerous and confident, but not ridiculously so. He knows he’s up against someone just as dangerous and with nothing to lose, which only adds to it. Danzo’s attacks are certainly different than what we’ve seen before since he has the replaced arm that he’s kept hidden for so long and has a specific number of attacks and timing that has to fall into place. Sussing that out is half the fun here as Sasuke goes overboard with his power and showmanship of it all, but he’s also given some keen insight from Karin along the way that helps. All while Madara watches on from the side, not in partnership with Sasuke but knowing they walk similar paths overall and that Sasuke can be useful.
That fight covers several episodes since it’s going through so many aspects of how the fight plays out, but while this would normally frustrate me, we’re watching two real power players at work that have a longstanding grudge to be dealt with. It has a solid sense of power and importance to it that works just right. And it ends up blending into the follow-up fight, which has Sakura making her attack, Naruto stepping in to save the day and Kakashi starting to feel like he’s unable to keep up with the immensity of the power being used here. If only he knew… Bringing some of these key players into events works well since it puts Sasuke back into contact with them after being away for so long, years in fact when you get down to it, so a dark and ominous meeting like this works really well to cement that everyone is in a very different place. So much of it is focused on the fact that Naruto will do everything he can to bring Sasuke back, but for everyone but Naruto, they finally understand just how committed Sasuke is to what he’s trying to do and how different he is. The simple fact that he tried delivering a killing blow on Sakura alone proves that.
While there’s a lot of really good action material with Danzo and Sasuke and then some fantastic material with Sasuke and Naruto that calls back to their last fight, we also start getting more of some of the larger war aspects that are falling into place. These small areas are setting the stage for what’s to come, including the fallout of what’s happening in the Leaf village after the revelation that Danzo is no more and the kind of shift that comes from that, including the fact that as acting Hokage that was set to become the real thing, there’s not a power vacuum that has to be dealt with. A lot of fallout is dealt with and we get some hints of what’s to come with what Madara has in store with Danzo’s body and what it contains, as well as what Sasuke wants next in order to achieve his shared goal of destroying the Leaf village and all it represents. Sasuke has completely gone to one side and Naruto’s understanding of that at this point is dealt with well.
Naruto: Shippuden is a series that definitely has mood swings in a way where it works through some fantastic material and then has to swing low into some less than enjoyable material with the filler. This set brings us a lot of the Very Good material that changes the game in significant ways. Danzo and Sasuke’s fight dominates the first disc while Sasuke and Naruto dominates the second, both of which play out very differently but with important ramifications for the long term. I’ve never been a huge Sasuke fan and never got his ranking in all the polls during the early years, but with him making a return to the series after a relatively long absence, he has some great episodes here while the march to war plays out in the background. Definitely one of the more important collection of episodes here.
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 14th, 2014
Running Time: 325
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.