What They Say:
With Kakashi unable to get through to Obito, Naruto leaps to his Sensei’s defense. The release of Ten Tails forces the Allied Shinobi Forces into an assault on Obito and Madara, but the powerful Tailed Beast proves to be a formidable enemy. The devastation is severe, but Hinata’s words spur Naruto to continue fighting with renewed energy, while help arrives from unexpected quarters – including an old adversary! Will Naruto and the Allied Shinobi’s efforts be enough to fend off destruction?
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 2014, 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 pretty 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 with Naruto in his powered up mode with flames coming surrounding him. This one goes for a purple background which lets the character artwork stand out well enough though the contrast with the oranges and yellows of Naruto is a touch awkward. The fully classic logo is included as well along the upper left which gives it a little more definition. The back cover uses the shades of orange with a shot of Naruto and Sakura together 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 but sadly no dub outtakes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After another extensive run of flashback material in the past couple of sets, the series is now firmly back in the present and the relevant elements of the flashback come into play a bit more. Though Naruto is the titular character of the series, and he makes an appearance here at the start but he’s not the primary focus of things for a good bit of it. Instead, we get to deal with Kakashi and his attempts to reach out to Obito, which is an honest and natural thing to do considering the extensive history that we saw and the way it impact Kakashi for so long afterward. Though the flashback arc wasn’t a favorite of mine for some of the choices it made, it did help to flesh out things that are connecting in the present once again that helps to give weight to what Kakashi is going through and Obito as well.
That focus works out well here as Kakashi and Obito end up going at it and the whole thing ends up taking them to a kind of otherworldly place for the moment so there are no distractions. Kakashi has certainly solidified his position over the years in how to deal with things and even though he looks for that way to do the right thing, we know he’ll do the necessary thing as well because of what he’s experienced. And with this fight, the scale of what’s at stake is pretty damn large so there’s obviously that factoring into it as well. But unlike a lot of other issues that have come up over the years, this a lot of personal aspects to it that come in as well that can color it. Particularly since this goes back to a pretty much defining aspect of who Kakashi became over the years, as we saw.
As the fight goes on though, events start to come out to the surface again and we get a rally of sorts that puts the Leaf guys back together as they face down what Obito has brought to the table. Amusingly, because Naruto is so concerned about Kakashi, Kurama actually comes up with a way to get him out of the picture briefly so that Naruto can properly refocus. With the Tailed Beasts working with him now, there’s a great sense of scale that comes from what’s involved as they make it clear that it’s time to act and finally seeing them exercise that power in a significant way, with Naruto being their rallying point, brings the show to a place that it has long tried to get to but hadn’t quite achieved most of the time. For me, the last time was his fight against Pain but even that doesn’t go quite to the level that this one wants to.
With Naruto and his beasts working to deal with what Obito is throwing at them, a particularly nasty looking creature that has an even greater scale than them, provides the right kind of feeling as if they’re titans striding and battling across the landscape. It’s rich in design, even if murky in color, as it’s the kind of gods battling it out moment that defines generations thereafter with what they see and what’s accomplished. The back and forth of the fight is not a surprise as we get Bee and Naruto and their Tailed Beasts going up against them in a big but also suffering along the way as well because of just how much Chakra is required to engage in this kind of fight. That makes for some good moments where there’s defiance, intent and clarity of purpose coming from both sides as they take stock of things and prepare for the next round. Solid and well done, as one would expect at this stage.
The difference between the two sides plays out fairly well during this quieter period as what Naruto has going for him is the arrival of so many other key players in the allied forces that are there to support and help him do what must be done. It’s an expected rally, but one that needs to happen as well. There’s an expected and well-done swelling of support as more people show up to help, their powers start to become focused and used to defeat the foe, as everyone works together with the abilities that they have. It is standard fare material in just about every well, but it reinforces the value of teamwork and the style that the various villages use, which is in contrast to what Obito and his ilk stand for. It may just be obvious and blunt, and it really is, but it works well for what this kind of show is and what it wants to say while entertaining along the way.
While this is all aligned against Obito and Madara, it is Obito and Madara they’re dealing with and their powers are pretty much off the scale. That they basically begin lobbing massive Tailed Beast Bombs across the landscape towards distant parts of the countryside, it reinforces the power behind them and the catastrophic damage that can be wrought by them on the innocents all around. The reaction side from the allied forces is about as you’d expect as they do know they’re in a war and have to do what’s necessary and fight back, understanding that there will be consequences. So it’s good to see that there’s a kind of rock solid nature about them in that they really get the situation. This still has an impact on some of them out there though because strong as they are, they’re still human, and even Naruto is trying to grasp what’s going on in a way.
The way the fight goes definitely starts introducing the costs of war, with people that we know getting wounded and at least one named character getting taken down outright, which is done with some good emotion and impact. Whether it holds or not (being an anime-only viewer that I am) remains to be seen as deaths do happen in the series, but it’s a solid moment that helps to reinforce things for Naruto and others with what they’re facing. The best of it though is, for me, once again the involvement of Hinata as she gets through to Naruto in a way nobody else seems to be able to. I’ve loved her for quite some time in the show and what she wants from Naruto. Here, she once again gets to play a pivotal role and it’s executed beautifully. It naturally all leads towards the finale of the episode and the larger setup, but it’s a great moment that I wish the series had more of.
As the events progress and the heightened chakra from the Nine-Tails now running through everyone, that gives us a few moments to provide some flashbacks, a re-staging of who is who and the sacrifices made since there are connections to those that have moved on as well. The emotional side of the series has always been one of its stronger points since everything is so connected and having that come up in the midst of the fight just adds a bit more weight to it all as they fight back against Obito. There are some pretty good bits along the way as some of the elders in the shadows get to provide their advice and we see how the younger generation is truly stepping up and leading the way, but we also get a bit of planning and organizing going on amid it all as well. There’s some odd changes in tone as it goes on since it pauses for these moments, but it works overall.
The build up of all of this and what Naruto does by distributing the chakra power is quite good since it allows a super-powered army to form behind him that’s ready for just about anything, and to take down the first real line of defense. This all moves along quite swimmingly, but of course we have to go away to other things. That’s usually problematic and annoying, but what we get here is the “infiltration” of the Leaf village by Sasuke, Orochimaru and the others working with them to advance their goals. Waiting for the big guns of the village to be away was definitely a big part of their plan and with some pretty disturbing bits along the way, we see them moving their plan into motion with some reanimations going on that will let Orochimaru move to the next level in his grand plan, once again truly painting him as the master manipulator and ultimate evil of this series.
When it comes to the back story for the Naruto world, I have such a love/hate relationship with it. Honestly, at this point in its original run it really needed its own series running in parallel to give it the time and attention it needed and so that it doesn’t just completely disrupt the ongoing storyline. There’s a lot of key and important information in a lot of it, but it’s often also drawn out in a way that really gets aggravating, especially the further into the series we’ve gotten. Every time Naruto turns up again, we get an episode or two of him and then some more important back story. Such is the case about midway through this set as we get back to a young Madara who has just met Hashirama for the first time, which is definitely interesting enough in itself after what we saw in the previous episode with the various Hokage.
There’s a lot of things going on with the kinds of issues that have created grudges and rifts between the various clans that exist, especially after the last Warring States period and all the animosity that still ferments among many people. Seeing how that plays out here with some of the younger members just wanting to move on from that, especially since they occasionally have friends with the other side, is of course welcome. But the harsh reality of what their elders are doing keeps coming into play as killing after killing happens, retribution and its endless cycle works its way through. And we have that in the present storyline as well, which is one of those things where you really struggle with what the series will do. Can it break the cycle in a believable way? Or do you just admit that while there might be a respite from it for awhile with what will happen at the end of it, it will all come back around again. Which is pretty depressing to think about.
As it goes on, we do get some nice time between Madara and Hashirama as the two of them “get” each other and understand what they’re going through. But they’re also both dealing with the ghost of their families around them and the losses that are there, with Madara even saying that if he was better with his skills, there are those that might still be alive. It’s the kind of damaging thoughts that build and build within him, among many others, which helps to make clear why he took the path he did. It is nice to see how Madara and Hashirama get along here and that they do, at times, get to have something resembling a normal childhood. And while it’s part of the larger events that are about to come to the forefront, I have to admit there’s still a good bit of simply, well, not caring at this point as well.
As we’ve seen different shades of how the village came about, its early days and the kinds of leaders it had, some more than others, this current flashback has certainly been interesting in a general sense as it delved into the Uchiha clan in particular and some good material with the Senju clan as the two were close and tight in the forming of the village. That things went bad after all those years of ups and downs is no surprise, sacrifices made, family lost and more, making it a complex, convoluted and less than clear situation where there is no true right and wrong. Things just happened, spiraled out of control between Madara and Hashirama even came into the picture and just moved on its own from there. That they tried to find a new way definitely is for the best and both have made out better for it with what they achieved in the creation of the village.
All of this comes full circle as we get Sasuke hearing about all these origins here in the present, talking with Hashirama as he explains everything in this controlled state that he’s been put in along with the other revived Hokage. It’s definitely an interesting scene when you just look at the scope of what’s involved here, the people that are talking, their collected experiences and even the seeming sadness and understanding that comes from Orochimaru as he listens to Sasuke talk about what it was that Madara had inherited, the responsibilities forced upon him and more. There’s a good bit of atmosphere and a proper somberness to it all as it unfolds, but woven with the tragedies that come as we see others from the past in flashback moments surfacing with their own agendas.
All of this dialogue, exposition, and understanding of the situation has come to the point where Orochimaru puts the question to Sasuke about what he’s going to do. Will he destroy the village or will he let it continue on. That’s the money question to be sure and it works to give us some time with Sasuke’s own past within the family, the things that happened there and the moments within the clan that truly formed his view of them and the world along the way. Sasuke doesn’t come to an unsurprising decision, and it’s good to see that the Four Hokage will line up behind him to do what’s needed, but also to see that Orochimaru will follow through on his promise, as do the others for the most part. There’s some neat moments to here, especially when it comes to watch Orochimaru and what he learned while being inside of Kabuto and how it’s changed his view on things to a minor degree.
Similar to my experiences in watching this a few years ago in weekly form, Naruto: Shippuden works some good material then falls into the problem of flashback material. There’s a lot of it at this stage in dealing with Madara, Obito, Hashirama, and the foundations for what will bring the series to a close in another 125 episodes that goes back to the founding of all the ninja clans. It’s just so poorly setup and so “late” in the larger series run that it’s frustrating. The small moments of good material are here when it digs into the core story itself, but the expansion and backstory pieces simply fall flat and that ends up making the bulk of this release feel more like you’re slogging through some bad material to find a couple of golden nuggets, only to come up with some occasional silver and a few pieces of bronze.
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 17th, 2017
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.