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 245-257.
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 2011, 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, especially with the kind of awkward designs we do get for the characters here. Deidara is in the lead, and he does at least appear in this set for a little bit, while we get a few others here and even Naruto along the side. This one goes for a forest green background which lets the character artwork stand out, but they just look too washed out or overexposed in general. 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 green with a shot of guy and Kisame facing off 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.There’s also a brief art gallery this time around and another inclusion of omake outtakes from the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The slow but steady progress of Naruto: Shippuden continues and it is amusing, saddening and maddening at the same time that as I watch this set, which brings us through episode 257, I’m also watching the simulcast in the 380’s and we’re still in the middle of the actual war itself. That’s a lot of material between the two points in time and there are a lot of interesting areas, but it’s also just so drawn out that it’s easy to forget sometimes that this war has been in this stage for so very, very long. That said, this set is one of the more important sets of episodes since it covers a lot of background material that’s critical to understanding how certain events played out in the past, which also factors into what Naruto is doing in the present.
By bringing him to this living island in order for him to train, it also serves a double purpose of keeping him out of the way, which is what the awfully long and simply awful sea travel arc we had was about. Now that he’s been on the island with Killer Bee a bit, we’re starting to see him mastering things in a good way. Killer Bee has come a long way in dealing with Eight Tails and Naruto knows he must do the same with Nine Tails, though the relationship between the two is vastly different. Seeing how Naruto does this, first by excising the darkness in his heart and then figuring out how to confront Nine-Tails directly by freeing him from his seal and both bonding and mastering him, has a lot of great moments of tension about it.
What really sells this portion of events, even if it does slow things down dramatically, is that when Naruto is in this place confronting Nine-Tails with his chakra, he gets some additional help from his mother of all people. With her having imbued part of herself into the seal, breaking the seal has let her out so she can communicate with him a little bit and help him in putting Nine-Tails in his place. Nine-Tails is a bit secondary here in a way as we get her relating to Naruto the tail of his birth and the precautions that were taken to ensure that Kushina, she who was the container for Nine-Tails beforehand with her own intriguing history and village. It also goes into how things went south so fast when Madara showed up when the seal was at its weakest and threw everything into chaos. Chaos that, in turn, lead to the thing that dominated the series at the start and put Naruto’s life in a bad place with Nine-Tails everyone in the village for so long. Naruto was certainly a problem child while young, for obvious reasons, but a lot of it is built on things he had no control over due to the death of his parents, one of which was the Fourth Hokage.
All this background material is quite good and it works into the control that Naruto begins to exercise over Nine-Tails as the two are slowly but surely starting to come to a compromise on how they’re going to handle each other. He has a very different relationship with him than his mother did, but there’s also the factor that Nine-Tails has been sealed for so very long that when he gets even a moment of being freed, it’s like a spring being cut loose in a very big way. Unfortunately, while things do progress here, we also get the situation moved into an area where events with the Akatsuki have them coming towards the island to capture him, as Kabuto is trying to insert himself into that group and curry some favor with them, and that has Yamato and the others looking for busywork for him in order to keep Naruto from going outside of the island and discovering what’s going on there. That, in itself, is a really awkward and cringe worthy sequence with him trying to set up an Animal Unit for the coming war.
Action does figure into the set well overall, partially with the extended fight that comes up as Kisame is revealed while inside the protected island and that has a number of them trying to stop him while coping with the weirdness of his powers. We also get some time on the outside of there as the Tsuchikaze does his best to take down Kabuto and Deidara, but runs into his own issues there. There’s some decent stuff overall, but it’s more about spinning the wheels a little bit with some of it since it doesn’t result in any big changes but sets a few other things slowly into motion. There’s also a good bit of growing movement as we see what’s going on with the allied shinobi forces as they’re starting to do more of their planning and putting things into motion, which includes integrating the villages by strengths rather than segregating them, and introducing the larger unit leaders which is made up of some solidly established characters that make a lot of sense.
Though a lot of the background material is focused on Naruto, and I really did enjoy the time with Kushina and Minato that makes them out to be quite the adorable couple, we also get more Akatsuki background material. With Madara really making it clear that he has larger goals for the group and it’s becoming clearer that he’s using them, that brings in some stuff with Konan as she’s not going to stay there long after trying to take him out – with 600 billion paper bombs of course. While that has some beautiful scenes, especially with the locations used for it, we also get a good bit of background time spent with when Jiraiya worked in training Nagato, Konan and Yahiko and the bonds they shared. Now that she knows Naruto is carrying forward with the dreams of the two young men she grew up with, she can’t quite do what she was doing before and is starting to search for her own path. It’s a good sequence of events overall and it has some great visuals to it.
While I’m frustrated by the larger picture of the series here, seeing how long it’s taking to get to things, there are some great arcs within it. This set is definitely one that has some strong material in forging the bonds in a greater way, expanding more of what we know of the past when it comes to Naruto and his family and the depth of connections and bonds between others that are coming into focus. With the war getting closer and closer and things like the White Zetsu starting to appear within the realm of the Akatsuki and what Kabuto is up to, you can see things being laid out well. For me, it’s the family aspect that really works well here, both for Naruto and for the self made family of Konan, Yahiko and Nagato. This set does a lot of heavy lifting, and some problematic things as well with filler-ish material, but it largely does things right and leave sme pleased.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles,Production Credits, Storyboards, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
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.