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Naruto: Shippuden DVD Set 19 Anime Review

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Naruto Shippuden Set 19It’s a sea of filler that finally gives way to some main story material.

What They Say:
As the Leaf Village prepares for war, each shinobi and clan must contemplate the role they will play in the battles to come. While Naruto’s peers seek training from surprising sources, Naruto himself must confront both his biggest weakness and greatest strength: the Nine-Tailed Fox.

To reach optimum power, Naruto must learn to control the beast within him, so he seeks help from the one person who has mastered just that, Killer Bee! But the Jinchuriki of Eight Tails wants nothing to do with training Naruto!

Contains episodes 232-244.

The Review:
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 cover this time around again has a kind of simple art approach to it that doesn’t help sell it all that well, but it at least gives us our title character in his powered up fired up mode with Nine-Tails behind him roaring. Doing the background with a mixture of dark blues and purples, it comes across decently and has a lot of pop but the character artwork is weak. 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 purple shot of Madara 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 section of storyboards included here 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)
One of the longer runs of anime original work in the series overall run, Naruto: Shippuden for this set once again leaves you with the feeling that the boat is going nowhere. Thankfully, this set does bring us to the conclusion of the boat arc with the last two episodes, but we still get a lot of episodes involving the characters going through pointless standalone adventures. With some of these episodes, the characters at least gets off the damn boat and that helps more than you’d expect in a lot of ways. Some of those ocean voyage episodes were pretty mind numbing when you get down to it.

One of the episodes here has a situation come up on land that puts the group that’s protecting Naruto into the woods to go on a little adventure there. That keeps them moving in a different way than they have been and also, thank goodness, gets us past the whole Guy is puking gag that has been making us gag for the whole arc. Where this episode goes though does have its layer of amusement to it, but in the end it is another basic filler episode that in turn places less focus on Naruto and instead on new, pointless and empty characters.

Hurray for lazy writing.

With the group flitting through the forest, they end up coming across an oversized and powerful looking bandit who actually introduces himself as Naruto and intends to crush them. He’s even got the headband, in reverse, to prove it. That just strikes everyone as hilarious, except for Naruto of course who is thoroughly offended, and can’t believe his eyes. He’s able to take care of it all in short order and hand him off to someone that claims to be the authorities in the area, but it’s all part of a larger scam the two were playing there in order to build up their reputation. That capture in turn becomes something more problematic as they try to run the scam again and it forces them to ask for help from the real Naruto. There is an attempt to bring some real emotion and connection in between the newly introduced characters, but let’s be honest here. The chances of ever seeing them again outside of this episode or filler arc is pretty much zero. So it begs the question of, why care?

With events related to the upcoming war starting to come together a bit more in the background of the last few episodes, providing the only mildly interesting at best aspect of this dreadful filler run, this one puts us back in the Hidden Leaf village again for a bit as it focuses on some of the younger members there. The general focus is on that of Konohamaru and his two friends who are much like Naruto and others currently running around playing the big leagues were back in the day. They’re younger than when the series started for Naruto and the others, but through far too many flashback episodes to Little Naruto, we know that they’re pretty close in temperament and attitude, making it a substitute Little Naruto episode in effect, but not quite as annoying.

Though his friends are in it a bit and we get to see some other noteworthy characters such as Sakura, most of it is focused on Konohamaru and his desire to be more actively involved in the coming war and feeling utterly frustrated by it. It’s an understandable emotion when the safety of the village is on the line and coming from what had just happened with the whole thing being utterly devastated by Pain and that arc. It’s kept to a fairly personal level and he has a very good segment with his older sister in which he tries to show her through fighting with her in a very well animated sequence. It’s pretty much the only segment worth really watching here if you like the action in Naruto since it does it well and shows just what Konohamaru is capable of.

While reconstruction continues at the Hidden Leaf Village, everyone does have to take a break here and there so as to not overdo. Sai is getting that break himself there which has him walking through part of the ruined village and just taking things in. When he runs across some kids that reminds him of his friends, and Naruto and Sakura definitely qualify as friends now, he reminisces about some of these past events but also their meaning. The flashback aspect is almost a bit too strong, but I have to admit that I rather liked the added commentary to things as viewed by Sai since it helps to humanize him more as he watches so much pain and tragedy unfold amongst his friends and the village itself.

There isn’t a lot of depth to what goes on here overall, but we do get a better look at the bond that Sai now shares with the others, and with Naruto in particular as the two get into a decent fight during one of the sequences. It’s not exactly a slap on the back kind of friendship they have, but it is one where Sai has a much greater understanding of Naruto than he did when they first met, and when they fought over Sasuke and his place in the world when it comes to coming back to the village, which continues to be Naruto’s primary motivation. Going back through all of this in the flashbacks does work rather well since some of it happened a few years ago and is worth covering again since it has been awhile.

With so many arcs over the course of the series focusing on different characters over the years, there are some that are more memorable than others. Kiba tends to be one of them because of his furry associate, so having one set in the present during the reconstruction is rather welcome since he’s grown up to be a pretty rough around the edges character in some ways, almost stepping into punk territory. Which could be formidable if Akamaru wasn’t just an overgrown puppy rather than a dangerous looking beast. He certainly has its moments of course, but he’s a pretty lightening element when standing next to the grump and grim Kiba.

Kiba’s definitely got a bit of an attitude at this point as well since so many of the people in the village are just thrilled with Naruto after what he did in the fight against Pain. A lot of it goes back to their childhood though, as we see from the start, as there are plenty of memories of when they could all easily trounce Naruto and call it a day. But since then, Naruto has surpassed them all to an exceptional degree on multiple levels when you get down to it. And that’s hugely frustrating for someone like Kiba. It’s a motivator as well, but there are fundamental differences between the two that will keep Kiba from achieving it in the same way. He can be stronger in some ways over time, but not others. So this leads to the kinds of challenges that people can throw at him, such as Kakashi bringing in some of his summoning beasts in order to give him a real workthrough.

Naturally, there’s only so far he can go here but it’s mostly just a challenge to himself to step up to the plate and really start working to best Naruto rather than complain about it. We get a couple of good mini flashbacks to the past that shows what Naruto went through in his own childhood efforts to best Kiba, which is used as a new motivator for him since he comes to realize that it was a lot of effort back then that put Naruto on the path that he is now. While a lot of Naruto’s abilities truly are innate due to his real nature, there are things within Kiba as well that he realizes he can bring out, not the same, but only if he applies himself in the same way. It’s a pretty decent little story in this nature and avoids a lot of the garbage that most of the stories of the past few months have dealt with.

It’s been a long haul to get through the Season of Filler, but with the second to last episode in this set, Naruto has finally arrived at his destination and that means it’s time to get on with his highly classified S-Rank mission. With Tsunade talking about the importance of it now with others and that he’s key for achieving it, things are ratcheted up a bit as the show gets back on track with the manga storyline. Of course, everything has to start with a giant squid. Why a squid? Why not, as the ship and its crew come close to land only to discover that the massive beast is intent on taking them down. Amusingly, Naruto is more concerned about determining whether it’s a squid or octopus based on its number of tentacles, but that’s kind of missing the point.

What it does allow for is for Killer Bee to make a cool entrance as he slides in and saves the day when it comes to the giant beast. With Killer Bee being of focus for this upcoming arc, the show does a good job of showing off his skills a bit here and the island where he’s residing, a place where it’s pretty secure and he’s tamed a number of large beasts there in his efforts to control his Eight-Tails. With him and Naruto having a bond like this, it adds something welcome to them that can and should be explored over time, especially as the two are of very different ages and views of the world. And even more so for Naruto since control of his Nine-Tails still largely eludes him, which makes him want to know more about Killer Bee.

The episode does largely spend its time doing quiet things, getting everyone on the same page and dealing with some relaxed introductions and acclimating to the location. For Killer Bee, he’s just intent on enjoying his vacation since Raikage told him to come here and he’s doing just that, which leaves Naruto on his own to try and discover how he mastered his Eight-Tailed beast here. And a lot of what Naruto has to face is himself in all of this, which is pretty well done since he’s had a lot of things going on in the previous “real” arc of the series about what he holds inside himself. Forcing him to deal less with the Nine-Tails and more with himself is better at this point since it will give him what he needs to really master it and not let it control him.

Naruto’s arrival to where Killer Bee is taking what he considers a vacation has lead him to now trying to understand more about his own Tailed Beast. Discovering that Bee has been able to master his own through a curious bit of training applied on this very island has him wanting to get that information out of him, but as we’ve seen it’s something that Bee doesn’t even want to discuss for a variety of reasons. As can be easily imagined, it’s something that each of those like Naruto have to learn and master on their own. But there are hints of ways to do it, which has Naruto trying to understand the training method himself by going out and about to the island where he knows Bee did a lot of his training, particularly at the Waterfall of Truth.

What this last episode becomes is a bit of an infodump in a way as it has Bee’s trusted aid, Motoi, revealing things about Bee’s past. Because of how Bee and Naruto get along and their connection as Jinchuriki’s, he reveals some of what happened years ago when the Eight Tailed beast was attempted to be sealed and captured by the Raikage of the time. Having the beast out and about definitely makes for an interesting view of it since it’s so massive and the ninjas of the village do their best to take it down. Unlike Naruto’s, which tends to be rather fiery, this one has the whole massive bull thing going on with the face, horns and the heavy physical nature of it. While we’ve seen how Naruto’s was dealt with, there’s something really interesting about how they go about it here and sealed him in the urn at that time.

With the story focusing on the past and a young Motoi who has his first real meeting with Bee at that time when he was young as well, it works in good fashion to show the dark and angry Motoi who has lost his father dealing with a young man who was and still is living life in his own way. With the village aligned against him in so many ways, he still kept to his own way and that impacted Motoi in a lot of ways even as Bee was ostracized but kept on smiling for the most part. It’s a good bit of history for us on Bee but it also works well to show that Naruto wasn’t alone in the kind of life he had growing up since he was on the outside as well. Where Naruto worked hard to be a bother and try to make friends through agitation, Bee just went about life in his own way and left it at that until people came around when the stakes changed.

In Summary:
The anime original episodes of the Naruto: Shippuden series can be a mixed thing as we have encountered some really good ones along the way as well as some really awful ones. A lot of what we get here is just flat out uninteresting and bland. And, thankfully, not to the level of awfulness we saw in the original Naruto series with what those original episodes were like. There’s nothing memorable here or anything that makes a real impact on the greater story or involves us deeper into the characters than we already were. We might get an amusing nod or two to the past, such as with Guy and Kakashi, but for the most part it’s largely forgettable. When we do get to the end here with the shift back to the main story, which will focus on Naruto undergoing his super training to be prepared for what’s to come while also keeping him out of the way from the main battle for awhile, it definitely works better and feels like it’s moving towards a point, something tangible. We won’t get it anytime soon, but just having that feeling is a huge plus.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles,Production Credits, Storyboards, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Running Time: 325
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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