What They Say:
The Fourth Great Ninja War has begun and even the strongest fight to survive! The quest for power and struggle for control leads many heroes down hard roads. Sasuke’s revelation of Naruto’s potential and defeat in combat lead him to consider the path of Orochimaru. While Naruto continues to master the power within under the watchful eye of Killer Bee, the Allied Shinobi Forces confront Madara and Kabuto’s army of Reanimated Shinobi and White Zetsu. Can the alliance hold long enough to stop the army?
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 as usual of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing or when pausing, so no problems with watching the whole release through, with a lot of great battle animation showcased to offset basically a few flashback episodes.
Disc 2 seems to have been encoded in a R4 (Australian) format – a lot of releases in the UK are offset by Madman who do a lot of the R4 discs, but this is the first time I’ve actually encountered a disc where the format does not match the actual country (UK is R2, ironically the same as Japan). This is a HUGE problem as on my PS3 it doesn’t recognize multi regions and had to watch the 2nd disc for reviewing purposes on my PC (so less quality) – now it appears that Manga has caught the mistake looking at the Amazon reviews and have withdrawn it for the time being though whether this is the case for any of the retail shops I don’t know sadly. However, a rare oversight as it is, it is still huge as the majority of the UK will not have multi-regional sets and buying this when half the set doesn’t work is a huge issue. Hopefully, this is a one off and they know the mistake but because of that, this is a rare low grade for the simple fact that you can’t watch half of it.
Set on a black background, we have a shot of Naruto on disc 1, and of the Kyuubey on disc 2, 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 are the same as always – trailers for Shippuden and the first movie for some reason. This is very grating considering there is still the Road to Ninja movie due to come out and Naruto The Last so something different would not go amiss…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shippuden continues into the Great War arc with not much of Naruto but instead a lot of pretty much everybody else. The trouble is that a lot of the focuses are on fairly new characters or ones that haven’t had much focus on even as a series as long as this. So our favourites from the original season or ones we’ve grew with in Shippuden are not involved as much so whilst the action is good, the care we have for the cast involved isn’t as committed and it does feel more dragging than usual.
This is highlighted with the first three episodes which are basically filler in a different way. They tell the story of Naruto and Sasuke and how things became how they are – showing clips of how Orochimaru found Sasuke, the hate Sasuke had for Itachi, him learning the Chidori, his jealousy when Naruto defeated Gaara, and an abridged version of the Sound 4 arc leading to Sasuke defeating Naruto and leaving Orochimaru. Granted it could be a way to remind people of why this happened but at the same time most fans if they have stuck this far will know so it feels more of a filler than a flashback.
Fortunately, the story returns quickly as Kabuto has brought back a lot of old familiar faces with his undead army – not just Akatsuki members, but people right from the initial arcs like Zabuza and Haku, giving some good nostalgia. Gaara gives a speech to stop dissent in the crowd, Kankuro leads his commando unit but the Undead group begin to attack (Anko) and capture lesser members of the group. One of them ends up being controlled by Sasori’s puppet strings and being injected with one of Deidara’s bombs obviously bringing these characters back into fluctuation, and also a rematch between Kankuro and Sasori considering Sasori easily defeated him before. It does add some story for Sai as well as his brother Shin is one of the returned zombies, and the fact that the undead characters seem to want to be defeated – this could be interested considering who else has been resurrected and seeing Kabutos’ resurrection jutsu in action you can see why…
With this undead army (Kabuto actually does explain why he can’t resurrect certain people like the first Hokages) combined with the white Zetsus navigating underground, Sai is attacked by Zabuza and Haku but is helped by Kakashi’s group, again referencing the past. I also enjoy Zabuza and Haku actively against this because of Zabuza wishing that Haku was in heaven and he not so…yet they are back together against their will. Combined with Kabuto resurrecting all the seven ninja swordsmen of the Mist, Kakashi has his work cut out for him (with some nice flashback sequences involving Naruto and Haku, here the flashbacks work) and Gaara seeing his father also being resurrected by Kabuto means there is a lot of cluster grudge matches going on, including Neji’s father and Hiashi’s (Hinata’s father/Neji’s uncle)brother Hizashi setting up even more potential. The problem is, there are so many characters resurrected and so many others being used in the fight, you actually don’t remember who half the cast is because they’ve only been prominent in a few episodes, flashbacks, etc in a show over 200 episodes long. It does feel like too much is going on at times, and considering Naruto and Sasuke are barely in it, it screams set up. (To its credit, there is a moment where they explain about the various power levels of Shinobi and they resurrect one at a near unheard level known as a Kekkei Tota shinobi so they do link in as best as they can, and try to make the viewer interested in the ones brought back like the golden brothers but there is only so much they can do…).
Because of this, there are a lot of episodes with battles that you are interested in because of the animation and technique, but the actual characters you don’t really care about, whether it is whoever is fighting or who the enemy is are only introduced briefly perhaps as a big bad type character ready for Naruto to deal with – granted most of the groups do handle it as well, and the return of the Ino-Shika-Cho trio right at the end to face up against Asuma and Dan (Tsunade’s lover) at least gives some tension ready to set up for the end, and things like Haku/Zabusa vs. Kakashi also gives some great nostalgia feeling for those who followed the series – but aside from that, there is not too much invested in the matches as we wait for Naruto to fully learn from Killer Bee. For example, whilst Hiashi does feel guilt for what happened to his brother, you get the feeling you’d be more invested if Neji had to fight against his father. Kankoru vs. Sasori makes sense as well, but the hope of Gaara vs. Deidara seems to be on hold as Gaara looks set to take on his father, which whilst we know about their history, not as invested in his father compared to Deidara.
The main hope is the fact that this is building up for some pretty epic clashes and certain other characters being brought back (*coughs ITACHI coughs*) because of Kabuto’s technique, and what happened when they died. Considering Haku and Zabuza definitely being more like their characters before they died, and considering what happened before Itachi died, there is definite set up. Plus Asuma vs. Shikamaru screams tearjerker to me when you consider that Azuma’s child has been born and Shikamaru has been a surrogate dad…
The battles are excellent if you can just enjoy the visual aspect – lots of techniques and there is some explanation of some of the characters as well so you can understand the threat and powers they bring to the table. Just the issue of people you barely know or don’t know at all feels like all this is being rushed with loads and loads of characters on the screen. It does feel like we’re just waiting for Naruto to show up at times, and whilst there are plenty of scenarios ready, it really feels dragging even though this is not a filler arc, it has been the first time Naruto in a while has made me feel like the main story is dragging too much, especially when fan favourites like Rock Lee and Hinata are basically on the side lines – hopefully the Ino-Shika-Cho trio will bring us more interest in the next set.
Not saying the arc is bad – the amount of action and the way it moves is excellent, and with moments with Sai, Kakashi and the reactions to family and old enemies combined with how the resurrected feel about it, there is a lot of surprise there and gives interest to how Kabuto is controlling them – which also leads to some huge potential. Unfortunately, at the moment they’ve given us a lot of characters brought back, and very few the viewer really cares about, which is why this arc does feel very dragging along. Hopefully if certain other characters return and once Naruto/Sasuke come back, this should be sorted out but for the moment, it is a definite thing that was noticeable.
Naruto Shippuden gets straight into the thick of it with the Great War, with way too many ninjas and Zetsus being brought into the fight – making it worse that very few characters involved have had enough screen time to really be cared about despite the emotional issues some of the main cast would have (Sai) – with a lot of battles rushed and setting up things, it feels both rushed and dragged along, despite a few good moments and nostalgia being brought up. That said, the set up is there for this to be really good, we just need to get through the rest first….
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B (Second disc however R4 so unplayable unless you have a multi-regional player – discs have been returned so hopefully sorted soon)
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 10th, 2015
Running Time: 325 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System. (Disc 2 reviewed on PC with VLC Player)