What They Say:
The great ninja war continues in set 25 of Naruto Shippuden! Set 25 contains episodes 310-322 of Naruto: Shippuden.
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 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.
The package that we get here with the single sized keepcase that holds the two discs inside of it. The character artwork this time around goes for a simple single character piece on Rock Lee with a serious pose that looks decent. This one goes for an orange background which lets the character artwork stand out well enough and orange isn’t exactly a surprise with this series. 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 orange with a shot of Shikimaru looking intense 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)
Naruto: Shippuden rolls out thirteen more episodes with this set of the series and that means a whole lot of things to digest. Part of the problem with any long running series, regardless of whether it’s original or working off of existing material, is that it has to fill the time every now and then for a variety of reasons. Naruto in both series is beyond guilty of that to the point where in the current episodes I’m ready to walk away entirely after over a year’s worth of original episodes. Sometimes we also get lead-up pieces to other events, such as the Road to Ninja material in this set that served to guide us into the movie at the time. Watching that as a simulcast was frustrating since it would be a few years before we’d see the movie release here.
With the slow, slow advancement of the war overall, one of the things employed is something we’ve seen already in this recent batch of episodes. The use of a flashback after introducing an opponent for the gang to deal with. This time around, as Guy and Lee are making some minor progress, we’re introduced to Master Chen, a shinobi who died before Lee was born, at leas in Guy’s eyes, but as we see through a separate flashback, is someone that Lee and the others have encountered before. This makes the fight personal for both of them in different ways and one that has some potential minor impact as the reanimated Chen comes from a background of someone that participated in the Third Great Ninja War.
This brings the show back and forth as we see the time spent between Chen and the others a few years ago with younger Naruto and younger Lee, which has its charms at times but is mostly just more of the same. There are some build-ups with what’s going on as they deal with Chen as they found him years ago, but it keeps shifting to the present and getting all angsty instead of just moving forward with the flashback plot. With Lee doing his best to earn Chen’s respect and to get him to teach him what he wants to learn, it’s a long and hard battle of wills. But as we’ve seen over the years itself with Lee, it’s something that he’s certainly capable of doing by being as persistent as he can be to get what he wants that will help him achieve a new level of skill.
Naturally, all of what happened in the past comes back to the present as we see Lee and Guy go up against Chen, who has taken some enjoyment in being reanimated and has a significant amount of power to use at that. In a way, it feels like he’s even more powered than a lot of the other characters we’ve seen in awhile with what he brings to the table, and that helps to make for a better than average fight sequence in the second half as they go at it, simply because of the dragon style ability that he employs. There’s some nice emotional moments as it deals with the fallout from things, not unexpected based on the foundations laid here, and it brings a nice bit of closure to things for this particular story, though it won’t be a memorable one by any stretch.
Then we get a three-part story involving Yota, which basically has the gang in the present dealing with an event from their past that had their minds wiped after it was finished. Getting to see how they all got along at an early age and then had it wiped away so that Naruto could be the outcast again was just terrible because it would have changed his life dramatically had it not happened and we might have even had a better series out of it.
With the excruciating three part arc behind us, the show moves on to a whole different set of filler. The show moves painfully through these seasons of material in a way that obviously frustrates many, it’s certain that the general fan reaction to it is something that gets to the production team as well, but they seemingly have their hands tied and just end up going through the motions. With the fight going on in the present, we’re seeing that Kabuto is starting to run a bit low on the reanimated shinobi that he’s brought to his game so far, and that’s got him pulling out a few bodies that he didn’t think he’d have to resort to using at this point. That has the Allied Forces dealing with yet more varied personalities, some of which may have been seen before but are mostly just another array of self-important people that have no real connections to the present that have been established in previous episodes.
While that sets up things in the present, the show delves into the distant past once again as well as we see how Kabuto, working with Orochimaru, honed their skills and had connections to some of those that have been pulled out in the present to fight. Naturally, there are those within the Allied forces and the new reinforcements that have connections to those on the reanimated side. This even leads to an out of place bit of comedy where they charge at each other, realize who they are and that there’s family there, and start to catch up on events since their deaths. There’s even a bit of shaming going on in some ways as well, but also some moments of forgiveness on each side with what they’ve done. The end goal is still there that the reanimated shinobi must be sealed, but it’s just a strange and really out of place sequence as they just start talking.
The episode does some of the expected back and forth moments with past and present, including some decent ones with Kabuto as I always do enjoy seeing him when he was less creepy looking but knowing that he was going to go this route eventually. His plans have been in the works for ages going by what’s exposed in the series as a whole, and having some additional time with him and Orochimaru in the “good old days” has a certain flair to it. Of course, the episode goes only so far with what it does in terms of actual story since it’s playing with a few different things, but it definitely works better when it focuses on the past, and on Kabuto, than anywhere else.
Another anime original story that keeps Naruto at arms length focuses on other characters and that can be interesting from time to time. This one delves into Shino, a character that in some ways feels like he gets the short end of the stick more often than not. Shino’s been there since the start, but because of the way he carries himself and the appearance side of it with the sunglasses and often other parts of his outfit obscuring him, he’s been the type that’s been harder to connect with. There’s a natural distance that comes from those that hide themselves in this way, though they can exude a certain cool feeling that allows you to engage with them in other ways. Such is the case here as Shino ends up coming across Torune, one of those orchestrating events under Kabuto’s control.
Unlike some of the past filler stories where we’ve dealt with characters who haven’t had too much of a presence, Torune was previously seen in the show with his first appearance coming way back in episode 198. With his adopted relationship with Shino, the two certainly have a history with each other and we get a greater exploration of that here with the flashback side of things. Torune’s had some decent arcs in the manga and anime previously and while he’s not been instrumental in some ways, he’s definitely someone that has left an impression on Shino and how he operates. The two of them also have their ties to Danzo, which has caused enough problems along the way as well with how that particular elder operates.
That becomes part of the focus here as it goes back to a time with the Aburume clan and how Danzo approached them for particular missions with the ANBU. Danzo’s intention to draw in Shino is something that his father certainly disliked, and made obvious even as Danzo made it an order, but it’s Torune that actively steps into things which makes its own impression on Danzo. With the mix of the past, where we see more of the two young men and their relationship, and the fight in the present between them, the episode does a really good job of making a pretty engaging story. Part of this comes from how Torune was created to be unlike others in the series, more of a superhero in a sense because of his costume design, and that works well to let him stand out with a different kind of power, something that is made apparent with how he moves and how he and Shino fight.
One way to massage the material like this that we get is to try and tie it to the present while being able to do the original work. As the war rages on and as Kabuto reanimates more and more obscure people or those that never existed before, it’s shifted between a varying number of Hidden Leaf characters and a few others along the way. The latest one to get some screen time going up against the White Zetsu and a new enemy in particular is that of Killer Bee, who has just been joined by Motoi on orders from the Raikage in order to provide some assistance. And Killer Bee is the type that will always gladly hang around with others, whether he needs the assist or not. Motoi is one tha he gets along well with though and doesn’t take it as an insult that his father sent someone since they are in the middle of a war and people getting picked off individually is obviously a reality.
What Killer Bee gets to go up against is the former Juchinriki for the Eight Tails, which surprises both him and Motoi but also the Eight-Tails himself when he sees Fukai reanimated and ready for battle. This brings us a touch of background on what happened when Fukai lost his life and the things that surrounded that incident, much of which even Eight-Tails doesn’t seem to remember. The back story for Fukai is obviously thrown in a lot here and we get some decent bits just in the prologue sequence about how he and the Raikage struggled over the knowledge that Killer bee would be the one to take on the role after he dies and the kind of things that happen to those that do, the kind of outcast nature that they generally end up with.
The show has some good if kind of weird things to do in the present with how Fukai is still connected to Eight-Tails in a way and has some of his chakra, allowing for the two beasts to go at it in a kind of weird dance/battle. That makes for some decent bits as it goes on, but as is usual in these kinds of episodes, the majority of it takes place in the past where we see how Killer Bee and Fukai were years ago when he was much younger. The two obviously have a bond and it’s well played, showing the understanding that Fukai has of Killer Bee in general and what’s coming up in his life when it comes to Eight-Tails. It’s a decent bit of back story and thankfully Killer Bee doesn’t come across as badly here as he can, though there are moments where I’ll admit to wanting to smack him and his rapping.
Another episodes that manages to get some decent time focuses on Omoi and aspects of the war in the present that haven’t been dealt with too much. Focusing initially on some of the command structures of the war, including up to the top of the chain of command with the Raikage and Hokage, we learn how Omoi has apparently deserted in his post and may be going after a unit that has gone silent after requesting help, being that they were so far away from other troops that could help. This coincides with another supply unit that was in the area that has also gone missing, but that one is even more of a concern since it was made up of young kids as part of the Thundercloud unit, which is what set Omoi off since he couldn’t leave kids to face such horrors without trying to help.
While Omoi is hopeful that he can deal with this quickly, getting some short term permission to abandon his post due to what’s involved, it is a formidable task when he arrives as there are thousands of White Zetsu in this particular area and they’re just mindless attach machines that put him into a bind from the start. He does get some help from a Naruto Shadow Clone, which is intensely powerful, but even that doesn’t go well after a bit and it Omoi just puts himself into even more of a bind from there. The hits only go on the further he delves into this fight to save the kids when he finds that the Zetsu are cropping up in an area filled with red dirt that essentially allows them to create poison from their mouths.
The focus is heavily on Omoi, but we also get to see the kids of the Thundercloud unit and what happened to them that pushed them into this area and how they’re surviving until there’s help coming, though they believe that there’s little chance of that. Naturally, you know Omoi will get there and they’ll discover a trickt o make things work, which allows a large blow to be dealt to the enemy. There’s a whole lot of predictability to it all and plenty of manning up by the younger members of the fight going on here. Omoi definitely takes the lead here and has some decent moments, but the more exposed you get to his personality the less you like him overall.
Eventually, the show does get back to the main arc with Madara, now revived and full out in the open, gets things moving with the next phase of the war. Of course, having been stuck in filler hell for much of the past year in simulcasts, the tension and excitement that it should generate here is definitely cut down significantly because of that.
Naruto: Shippuden has been a series that has really pushed my buttons the last couple of years in just how much I’m willing to deal with when it comes to actually getting the job done with the story. Revisiting older episodes in sets like this should bring me back to fun material that I had enjoyed before, but the further we get into more and more drawn out filler material later on, the harder it is to maintain the interest because you know that there’s at least another 125 episodes after this that still puts us in the middle of the war itself. The forward push and momentum was lost long before this, but seeing these episodes now in the context of where it is in the present just reinforces how terrible the structure of the show is. There are good episodes within this set but it’s outweighed by everything else in a big way.
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: January 26th, 2016
Running Time: 325
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.