What They Say:
Gaara leads the Fourth Company into battle against the previous Kage, including his own father. Meanwhile Naruto and Killer Bee face the reanimated Itachi Uchiha, who recog-nizes Narutos growth as a shinobi and his potential to rescue his brother, Sasuke, from his path of vengeance. Kabuto assumes control of Itachi to use his Mangekyo Sharingan, but Itachi’s well of power is not yet drained.
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.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menu is very basic – set on a black background, we have a shot of Naruto on disc 1 in a smiling pose, and then him in more of a battle pose 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.
A couple of extra bits for this release – we have some storyboards which are 6 black and white storyboard selections with basic line drawings, seeing what potential ideas for the scenes/story will be, and also a production gallery which is more line drawings but of character designs (which focus a lot on the one episode/filler characters) – sadly as always – trailers for Shippuden and the first movie still happen despite two other movies (which are far better) now out.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I have a love/hate relationship with Naruto – the seasons can be really good or really bad depending on how much story is involved, and if the characters involved work with each other. This comes off also the best Naruto movie of all time which of course, kind of spoils the end of the series as the movie was done whilst Shippuden is still airing in Japan so the UK release is in that quandary of into the think of the story but a movie has happened which already declares the ending. That said, there is still potential in how it got to that ending (in terms of what happened to Naruto beforehand, and how he got with his potential wife) so with the resurrection jutsu bringing many characters back, it gives us nostalgia, potential battles and revenge, and plot points. Unfortunately, there are some filler parts as well intermixed so you take the good with the bad.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The first episodes on the set are some of the best with the returning characters. First, we have Gaara ready to face off against the Fourth Kazekage, or more personally, his father. The show does a good job reminding you of the history between Gaara and his father, as in basically his father creating the monster that Gaara was in his younger days, hence his shock that Gaara is still powerful but much kinder, and commenting about how he has friends, like his siblings and Naruto. It also features the idea that many of the resurrected cannot control what they do and actually try their best to help their opponents in defeating them – and the fact that people can change. Gaara’s father seeing Gaara’s sand in the form of his late wife means that he shouldn’t have held onto the fact that Gaara ‘killed’ his mother and the scene where he tells Gaara the truth of his mother’s love for him is short but quite touching. The fact the two reconcile before Gaara seals his father is a nice book end for this story and was brought back quite well.
Also returning is fan favourites Itachi and Nagato, up against Naruto and Killer Bee – with Kabuto pulling the strings to try and capture Naruto and using the very powerful Itachi, he still tries his best to resist and talk/learn from Naruto, trusting him by revealing that Sasuke knows about the truth behind the Uchiha massacre but also in trusting Naruto not to reveal this information to anyone else – considering what Naruto was like as a youngster this is a big step in both trust and in Naruto’s character development. Through a very smart way of his genjitsu, Itachi is able to free himself from Kabuto, defeats Nagato – but unfortunately Kabuto is able to resurrect him and even return him to his strongest form, however a great episode battle between Nagato v. Naruto, Itachi and Killer Bee leads to their victory and a heartfelt regret from Nagato. Itachi departs most likely to deal with Kabuto with some choice and smart words for Naruto.
The good battles continues as the various Mizukage and Raikage face off against Gaara, Mu, Temari – but keeping Itachi’s words in mind to rely not just on his own strength, Naruto arrives to help out – working out strategies that you wouldn’t have expect out of Naruto as he and Gaara take centre stage showcasing both their strength and good bond. However, with Zetsu managing to infiltrate other base camps of the Shinobi Alliance, there are clones hidden amongst the good guys. This leads to yet another familiar battle of the past, this time with Shikamaru, Neji, Kiba and Choji facing off against foes back from the Sasuke retrieval arc – the Sound Four of Jirobo, Kidomaru, Sakon and Tayuya. Back in the past the four younger men either struggled or only just defeated them, now they are stronger it is time for a rematch – however the 4 are caught in a genjitsu fighting them putting their chakra on life hold. Thanks to help from Hinata, Ino and Shino, they are kept alive but are struggling and Ino and Shino also put their own lives with their techniques to keep them alive – Naruto even calls out Shikamaru’s father when it looks like his son is going to die, however Naruto does learn that you have to keep a cool head even when you are in true agony, whether physically or mentally. They do win, as Naruto worries about further problems…
Unfortunately, this is where the active story really ends and we now get into a combination of flashbacks and filler. Some are actually good taking advantage of the reanimation jutsu and showcasing other characters, but as this lasts to the remainder of the set it does hit you hard with filler. The first one is a flashback as Neji and Hinata are fighting against the Zetsu clones, and we get a flashback of Neji training Hinata. Initially it feels like he is hurting her too much which stops her from going on a ‘date’ with Naruto and Sakura, but it does showcase that Neji truly cares about his cousin and goes to try and help her with her injuries – it also showcases that Hinata also appreciates her cousin and the two can work together very efficiently. As I’ve always liked the Hyuga family, especially Hinata, this one wasn’t too bad – had a couple of fun moments with Sakura on Naruto, and Hinata’s crush on Naruto of course is always both adorable and hilarious.
Another good episode is the return of another old favourite character, the exam instruction Hayate – Kabuto brings him back to try and get more samples, however during their infiltration Hayate comes across a woman named Yugao, who was actually his former lover. This is a surprisingly good mini-arc as Hayate who sadly wasn’t really given much screen time we actually get a glimpse at his history, and whilst it is obviously filler, it is quite touching the romance between him and Yugao, and the fact she is forced to reseal him and Hayate forcing every last inch of his will to not harm her is quite a touching sight. Added to Sakura getting some airtime helping out, this little two episode arc was surprisingly good.
The final episode however seems a bit weaker – Naruto recognised a reanimated samurai named Tatewaki who was someone he met on a previous mission. Unlike the Hayate arc though, this is a character we haven’t met before, so we get a story on how he met him – it is basically a mission to ‘kidnap’ a Feudal Lords’ son under a treaty…which they infiltrate by hem having an eating contest at that time so Choji, Shikamaru, Ino and Naruto go with Choji having to come 2nd to avoid being suspicious whilst the others do their thing in capturing the son Shu. This ends without resolution so this will be continued in the next set, and it kind of ends the set in a whimper because it is a cliff-hanger you don’t really care about as the samurai hasn’t really been given any development as of yet, and it does feel a bit silly with it going via an eating contest – which weakens the set because it was the final episode on there.
That said, the majority is the story and the Hayate filler eps were actually quite good as it reminded you of a character from the past, and the Hyuga flashback episode wasn’t too bad either. I guess it feels weird that just one episode was a bit meh, but because it happened right at the end, it sticks in your head.
The actual main story though was really good – the angle with Gaara and his father, Itachi breaking free of Kabuto’s control, the battle sequences with him, Kagato, Naruto and Killer Bee were great, Naruto’s continuing intelligence and character development is showcasing he is coming to be a true hero, a rematch with the Sound 4 vs. the Sasuke retrieval group was a great way to showcase how far they’ve come combined with the struggle that characters that sadly don’t get that much airtime like Ino and Shino do get to play a role in this war, it is hard to really fault this set apart from that one niggle, definitely one of the better sets as the filler was minimal, and 3 of those filler episodes weren’t actually half bad. Combined with some fun moments, good range of characters getting some air time (though Sasuke and his group were absent) combined with nostalgia (which thanks to flashbacks does remind the viewers if they have forgotten about Gaara’s history, the Sound 4, etc) equals a very good arc for the whole – I am just worried that the next arc will now be all filler…
Naruto: Shippuden can be good, bad or in the middle – this one is mostly good. Despite the last episode feeling like a bit annoying considering the rest was mostly good – the story does take hold as the reanimation jutsu brings us some nostalgia, some flashbacks, and yet doesn’t feel as annoying this time. Combined with good character development for Gaara and Naruto, some nice battles and some filler which wasn’t that bad (the Hayate two episode one felt like it could actually be part of the main story), this is a good set for Naruto fans.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Storyboards, Production Gallery, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 4th, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.