Back into the main story, and a vast improvement courtesy of the confrontation between Sasuke and Naruto, the battle between Sasuke and Danzo, and the entire of Naruto continuing to mature as it concludes as you want more…
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 is Naruto.
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release – 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 good quality (though some episodes are clearly animated far better than others) and no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing or when pausing, so no problems with watching the whole release through.
Set on a black background, with an enraged Naruto firing up a Wind Rasengan 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 extras we get is on the 2nd disc are some storyboards done in pencil style untranslated, production art in both pencil and colour art (mostly of Killer Bees group) and the trailers of Shippuden and the Shippuden movie, which are on every release and never fully understood as…well, you’re watching Shippuden anyway so why a trailer on the show you are watching?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Naruto is one of those shows that you can tell where the effort goes in, when it switches from filler to main story – it really shows. Good characterization with much better animation is a good sign, and with plenty of surprises in the Pain arc, we get more as Sasuke looks set to get his revenge on the Leaf for what they did to Itachi, but first gets a mini reunion with Team 7…
It flows well taking it bit by bit. First of all, we get the return of Killer Bee, as the Akatsuki’s plan of taking all the tailed beasts continues with Kisame fighting Killer Bee in what turns out to not only be a great battle, but settles on a great cliffhanger when you realize just how organized and intelligent the Akatsuki can be, and this is easily the best I’ve seen out of Kisame in terms of a fighter and a schemer, combined with just how off the wall Killer Bee is. In the meantime, Sakura actually plays a pivotal role in this arc as first she tries to pretend that she isn’t interested in Sasuke anymore and ‘confesses’ to Naruto, but this again shows how much Naruto has developed and that he sees right through her…which in turns leads her to travelling with Kiba, Sai and Lee…and she plans to actually kill Sasuke herself when she manages to knock them out with a smoke drug…
Meanwhile the potential Hokage Danzo, confronts Sasuke whilst Madara watches on. Danzo himself hasn’t won many favours as a character considering his role in the past and how he acts as a Hokage, but we do get a beautiful battle between Sasuke and him, where it is hard to root for either consider what they have both done, but seeing Danzo’s style of fighting (having multiple Sharingan attached to him which he has stole) makes Sasuke even more infuriated yet he still makes a note of what is going on, as aided by Karin, he is able to realize how Danzo keeps seemingly reviving which leads to a race against time as their respective jutsu (Danzo using a forbidden one to make himself more powerful yet every time he uses it, one of his eyes closes weakening him). This leads however to Sasuke using Karin to his own end and almost killing her when Danzo uses her as a shield, as the last ditch attempts are no good as Sasuke ends up killing Danzo, whilst Killer Bee seems to have beheaded Kisame….
Karin as a character as well has had a mixed reaction, her creepy reactions to Sasuke haven’t helped, but the way she was treated feels like they are going to have a real hard job redeeming Sasuke in terms of that potential good that Sakura and Naruto see in him. Sakura herself also is not exactly a fan favourite either, but it was good to see her getting in the mix, tricking more powerful ninja, and then seemingly trying to join Sasuke’s side just so Naruto doesn’t have the burden of killing his former teammate and friend.
This leads to the inevitable confrontation with Naruto and Sasuke, and it works really powerfully. First of all, there are some flashback sequences of their early episodes showcasing their growing up and bonding as friends and rivals, up until their separation during Orochimaru’s takeover. We also get his thoughts after losing Jiraiya and some surprisingly mature ideologies from Naruto as he sees Sasuke’s idea of losing bonds, and the fact Naruto and him have more in common…yet are so different at the same time. Despite everything, Naruto still seems to consider Sasuke as a friend.
These feelings become full circle when Naruto saves Sakura from certain death, as he and Kakashi both get to Sasuke. Kakashi still sees Sasuke as a threat but you can tell he seems to want to give Naruto the choice of doing things his way. The thoughts of both Kakashi and Naruto as they see what Sasuke has become, and the hatred of initially his brother has now turned to the Leaf Village, and the poison within him has affected him worse. Yet Naruto still wishes to see the bonds that they had in Team 7, whilst Sasuke continues to say Team 7 are dead to him. It is a clash of wits, and whilst the battle does get postponed, it does make you wonder how it will all end – and in terms of that at least with this arc, the storytelling was done right.
Lastly, we do get how good a chess master Kisame is with his plan to infiltrate Killer Bee…literally. The fact Bees’ chakra was too good for his sword, using a combination of that to his advantage and the shape-shifting Zetsu, they trick Killer Bee into thinking that he has killed Kisame – where in fact he is now inside his sword the Samehada…whilst the Feudal Lords agree to prepare for war as Naruto returns to the village calling all his friends…leaving the arc on a cliffhanger as we prepare for what is going to happen next.
We can see that the war is coming soon from the Akatsuki to the Hidden Leaf – Madara has a hook in Sasuke and now he cannot see anything but revenge. Madara has been a real shadow in this arc, not seemingly doing much but in fact has been doing plenty. He disposed many of the minions of Danzo, as well as narrating what was going on, recognizing techniques and keeping the audience involved, as well as basically reaffirming his role as the antagonist beneath the antagonist. It is a diabolical sensei/student relationship as Madara continues to subtly egg Sasuke on, and from his conversations with Naruto it looks like it has worked, yet the fact Naruto hasn’t given up himself is a good sign.
Naruto continues to impress me in his own character development. Whilst he has never lost his goofy nature (showcased in him getting away and facing Yamato’s wrath, and his reaction to Sakura accidentally poisoning him), he is more focused, intelligent in his own way, yet still focusing on his beliefs, his dream whilst not forgotten, has been put on hold as he knows if he can’t help a friend, how can he a Hokage? He obviously still believes in Sasuke despite everything and what I like here is the fact he isn’t pushy, he knows he will have to fight him, but he has his ideas on how to stop him, and we are just waiting for that moment.
The fights as mentioned were superb – Bee vs. Kisame, and Danzo vs. Sasuke were both well animated and fought – the techniques Danzo used (with Madara helping the audience) and set up well for the future. Even Karin had her moments, specializing in the techniques and as a potential sympathy character as she has been captured by Kakashi’s group, but at the same time seems to have totally rejected Sasuke. A brief flashback on how she met him keeps to the fact whilst she was definitely a bit…odd, now she has been betrayed I hope that they do something with this character and not forget plot lines involving the side female characters again (mumbles about a certain love confession which hasn’t been addressed…)…
The only real negatives I have about this arc was the fact that it didn’t really make you understand and take a side involved when the fights were happening. Neither Danzo or Sasuke you really would want to take a side for, Killer Bee seems to be a neutral and is a fan-favourite mainly for how over the top he was, Kisame whilst a really great strategy is still playing for the villains, Sakura whilst an actual good plan was still rather dumb in terms of trying to trick her teammates, and the fact the plan to defend from war went through almost as an afterthought. One character I haven’t mentioned is Gaara, who actually gets in a few good moments convincing other Kages, and having a good talk with Naruto which may have helped Naruto’s decision when battling Sasuke…it just wasn’t enough there sadly. With a cast this big a lot of the characters are going to get the shaft obviously, and whilst they did their best here, there was still a case of ‘not enough’ in terms of the characters links with the war and Naruto in particular, though that could easily change depending on the next arc.
This is one of the better Naruto collections I’ve had – this and the Pain arc were both really good, and whilst I prefer the Pain arc a bit more, this has good potential and a great return after a filler season. Naruto does work well as a series for me when the story advances and this is a prime example. I understand because of the length of the series that it can’t overtake the manga (as is the case of many long shounen series like Bleach and One Piece) that it has to do filler arcs, but the quality is so shocking at times that you just wish sometimes they take a break and then animate. It doesn’t work that way though, so just enjoy once the story arcs are ready because they are slowly making me a fan…
Naruto Shippuden continues to surprise me in the fact when the show is good, it is really good. Some intense battles, great character development, an arc showcasing the villains and a lot of heart and intelligence makes this one a strong arc so far. Whilst there are a few niggles here and there, overall it is hard to fault this collection, especially as Naruto himself really stands out in how much he has developed over the years. Very recommended for Naruto fans, and even casual fans this arc maybe just for you.
Content Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 7th, 2014
Running Time: 300 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.