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Naruto: Shippuden DVD Set 23 Anime Review

13 min read

Naruto Set 23 CoverIn the midst of a war, a mini-movie arrives.

What They Say:
The Fourth Great Ninja War rages on, and danger comes from every angle. Old comrades and enemies have risen from the grave under the control of Kabuto to fight the Allied Forces. While some retain their calm, others must wrestle with their emotions. Naruto’s training has made him more powerful, but some believe his possession of the Nine Tails makes him a liability. Can the Allied Forces survive assassins and their reanimated friends to win the war?

Contains episodes 284-296.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012, 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.

Packaging:
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 as they climb over the rocks while trying to look cool but coming across in bad positions. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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)
As the Naruto: Shippuden series continues along, it’s in that phase where it can do some interesting things and actually does from time to time but ends up missing the mark more often than not. A lot of it is that it wants to spend time with the smaller characters and do individuals stories amid it while never feeling like they have any weight to it. This is something that really drags out the show because instead of having the big moments and really pushing forward it just gets drawn out. The fact that I’m currently watching the 420 range episodes and we’re still in the midst of this war, a few years later, makes it clear to me that I’ve been investing my time in the wrong show.

In a situation where I hate sounding like a broken record, the war between the Allied Shinobi Forces and the Akatsuki continues to be one of the dullest ever. Having started in on the simulcasts awhile ago, during the Pain attack on the Hidden Leaf Village, I have to admit I expected things to be a bit more interesting here. But instead we’ve had a series of drawn out and pointless side stories and little in the way of the main characters. When it does shift to the main characters, it’s either been nothing to take note of at all or some mildly decent action, such as what we’ve seen with Sai, Kakashi and Guy in the last couple of episodes in the previous set. But even that is just painfully simple.

We get some of that at the start here when the focus shifts to Omoi’s group of shinobi as they’re the latest to be attacked by one of the Seven Ninja Swordsmen. The use of this group has its own bit of potential since they’re powerful fighters, but they’re not characters that really resonate well and the people they’re generally coming across are third stringers, at least for me. They’re characters that have largely been unseen for quite a few episodes, which isn’t a bad thing to do overall, but it just reduces the impact. Especially when there are so many first and second string characters getting the shaft here with an overly long vacation. The show gives us a lot of action overall as Omoi and those he’s with try to make their way further along and deal with Ameyuri, but it’s all just that, action with no heart or connection.

One thing this set has going for it is the overly extended anniversary storyline that was created at the time. While these things may not always work well, one thing that helps with this extended arc is that it has a near theatrical quality to its animation. In essence, it’s set up as a side story here where we get this mini arc, entitled Power, that takes us back to before the war and at a time when everyone was in the village. But they’re not staying at the village, even though there’s a subplot going on with some grave robbing happening in the Hidden Leaf cemetery, which is drawing on most of the experienced shinobi there to deal with. Instead, we get Naruto, Sakura, Sai and Yamato sent off to deal with this new mission.

And it’s an interesting one that takes place in the village of Tonika, otherwise known as The Hole as it’s a beautiful oasis in a barren wasteland that’s down a whole level in a sense. Everyone there was massacred and it has an almost ghost town feeling about it as they try to get a feel for the area and discover clues. The place isn’t entirely empty though as a security force from the next town over is there, which some of them come across, while Naruto and Saki discover that Kabuto is there as well as Orochimaru used the special water that the place had for various reasons, which Kabuto does as well for his own series of strange experiments.

With Kabuto being revealed as the grave robber and showing off his acquisitions, it’s made clear how he intends to use the water for reanimation. Which sets off the rest of them to be overly emotional over it. While the show gives us some very, very good action and animation in the present as the fight unfolds, it also gives us some backstory as we see what happened to the village with those that attacked it, but sadly it’s done through the eyes of a pair of kids who are caught up in it. There is a reason for it but it’s just designed to tug at the heart strings too blatantly. Still, it does some good work here in the recent past to show how things went down and the way those few that survived managed to go and get help, bringing us back into the present again next time.

As it goes on, we get some time with Naruto and the others at the other village where they’re trying to get some information from the few that survived, namely the sensei and the group of kids. But they’re scared witless when they see Naruto and Sakura at the house simply because the headband symbol that they wear is the same as the ones who attacked the village. Which in itself is going to cause quite a few questions to be raised. But there has to be some tension before that to deal with as the sensei does his best to escape with the kids but invariably leads them to more trouble and danger than anything else for a bit.

That doesn’t go on for too long though before things get settled a bit and we have some quiet family time, which is pretty nicely done. Even when it shifts to a hot spring piece, it doesn’t feel like it’s being played just for the fanservice but rather a way to expand the bond between the characters. Though there’s little in the way of real action here because of it, these scenes go a long way towards making you feel comfortable with the characters and not finding them to be just quickly drawn in stereotypes. I mean, they’re not hugely detailed or anything, but like most filler we’re not just going from one scene to the next quickly in order to hit all the marks. We’re getting to know them in a relaxed setting in a really good way here while slowly but surely expanding the story.

Spending some time allowing Naruto and the others to befriend the kids and adults in the village and gaining some understanding of what their background is, it didn’t exactly have a strong episode. It did do what most features do at that stage and it also lead into some strong action setup at the end with Kabuto working things so that the Nine Tails is seemingly released, which is more than enough trouble to have on hand. Visually, it was striking, and no less so at the start here as the small sized Nine Tails is attacked by Guy and Lee as the rest of the Village shinobi deal with Kabuto and his resurrected soldiers.

The fight against the Nine Tails clone at the start lasts most of the first half and it’s visually fun and well done with a good sense of power. But something like that, as good as it is, can be controlled only so much, especially by someone like Kabuto. That leaves the town a chance to recover, not that Naruto is in great shape after all that has happened. This gives him some down time, and provides for some reflection on recent events in his own life as well, but mostly it’s just that part of the “movie” where it’s the calm before the storm. It works well in showcasing what Naruto has gone through when it gets there, touching on Sasuke and his father as well, while still keeping it all cemented in the present.

Not surprisingly, the finale goes for a good mix of action and drama, with most of the drama centered on the characters specific to this arc, such as the sensei and the kids, as they try to figure out how to stop the device that’s counting down. There’s some tense moments as the adults go on about what needs to be done and the cost of it all, but it gets additional tension due to the way that we see the battle unfolding outside as the powered-up clone is getting ever stronger out there, enough so that you can see a glimmer of panic in Kakashi’s eye over it all. The balance of the two sides works well as it shifts moer to what Naruto must done, giving it a kind of feeling that feels appropriately big yet not out of the realm of reality within the context of the series.

Similar to most of the movies though, as it goes on, it has a good flow and feel to it but you know that it doesn’t have any larger impact. The story with the supporting cast that’s new here is quite well done and it hits some good emotional keys throughout, especially when sacrifice truly enters the picture, and seeing it all play out against a more science fiction oriented backdrop is certainly intriguing. Naruto’s aspect works well, but it’s still not the main thrust of things even as the fight unfolds throughout the episode. It’s more psychological for him in a way, making clearer what’s going on with that internal struggle through a new angle, so it works well but still doesn’t resonate in the same way as what the adults are going through.

After an enjoyable break from the main series with the Power storyline, the final episode of this set gets back on track with this episode. And not surprisingly, it goes for a bit of camp at first with some Ninja News Network material that showcases the battles that have happened so far in a news show fashion, which is a bit awkward in general. I know the series often blends the modern with the old style that allows it to get away with things like this, but these aspects continue to be the most awkward for me, especially when it goofily goes and does a press conference for Sakura that focuses on her love life. It just provides far too much of a disconnect for me.

With the episode title essentially making it clear that Naruto enters the battle, it’s not something that really makes you expect a lot of Naruto fighting material. Just because he enters the fight, doesn’t mean he’ll fight a lot. We get a good bit of recap here across the board early on with the NNN aspects and some of what’s going on with the enemy, as they make it clear that they know that Naruto has gained new abilities and that it’ll likely make his fight with the White Zetsu inevitable at this point. What does come up through the time there with Madara and through what Sakura is doing with her research is to make it clear that things have fully been cultivated from the First Hokage and that the control of plants is now significant, and highly dangerous.

Which we see when Naruto starts dealing with the White Zetsu when he ends up on the battlefield with them as his attacks cause them to revert to just plants. Big plans, but plants nonetheless. And he’s able to strike at them fairly easily because of it, never mind the other things he brings into play while all literally fired up. While it’s a fun segment that gives us some Naruto time, it is fairly brief as the show goes more towards setting the sides once again when it comes to the larger war. There’s some decent moments to it as we see the scale of it all that each side has in different ways. Everything continues to work towards that building point, but not with enough material to really sustain it well.

In Summary:
The Naruto: Shippuden series is pretty damn frustrating overall and with the length of the war that’s going on it’s very easy to get dispirited by the whole endeavour. And about half of this set is pretty much like that with less than memorable material with Tsunade, Omai, Sai and others. What salvages this set in a big way is that we get a six episode long arc involving the anniversary story that tells a tale from before the war. This lets Naruto and the others play a strong role while tying into other things. Admittedly, the story itself is one that may not stand out all that strongly in a way and it really feels like a lot of the older Naruto movies when you get down to it. But after so much awful material that’s bland and uninteresting, it’s a very charming arc that feels like it works better than it should.

Features:
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 28th, 2015
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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