Multi-length stories set the stage again for Naruto as everything has practically no long or short term impact on the characters.
What They Say
Naruto and his teammates return to the Leaf Village with the injured Kurenai and Yakumo, only to find the village in ruins! Has the Village Hidden in the Leaves really been destroyed? Then the Leaf ninja must face a band of rogue shinobi known as the Ninja Dropouts, and later, Naruto once again joins with the Sand ninja to protect Gaara from capture by a mysterious group known as the Four Celestials. But when Gaara's sand is sealed, does he have any defenses left at all?
Naruto's life may be full of danger and excitement, but when the legendary Jiraiya returns to the village, he finds that his adventures have only just begun!
Contains episodes 206-220.
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 2006, the transfer for these TV episodes is presented in their original full frame aspect ratio. 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 fifteen episodes on this set, broken down into a 4/5/5 format, 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 discernable 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.
This installment is done up in a shade of orange that’s reminiscent of the first box set release, especially with the artwork used. The character artwork is good here with Naruto showing his game face in a partial transformation as the anger flows through him in an action pose. The back of the slipcover has a basic rundown of what’s going on with some of these episodes and has a clean listing of what the extras are to be found and the very basic technical specs. Unlike some earlier releases, this one does list the episodes included within the set which is really great to see. Within the slipcover we have the storyboard production book which mirrors past ones as well as the digipak. The digipak is cleanly designed and similar to the slipcover in its colors and artwork but it brings in a bit more artwork as the back of it features some of the secondary characters in action poses. The interior features full color panels of a nice design that has some of the Land of Sand characters. Opening the digipak up once more, you get a orange filtered layout which has the three discs with full color character artwork. No insert is included here but they have provided for a small packet of Naruto playing cards.
The menu design for Naruto is straightforward in that what we get for each disc is the same as the artwork used on the disc itself for that particular volume. Bright colors, clean looking character designs and some associated music gives it all a very consistent and pleasing feel, even if it is somewhat minimal. The first two discs are simple with just the language, scene selection and starting point to be had while the third volume brings in a bit more with the extras section. Everything is quick to access but there is a bit of interstitial animation between when you start the show itself which is annoying. The discs strangely enough didn’t read our players’ presets though and defaulted to English with no subtitles at all.
The extras for this release, which are on the third volume, are pretty minimal and lacking in some ways. The production art section is the same as the past but we don’t get a sketch to screen piece. We do get another round of DVD and game trailers and a preview for the Naruto Shippuden series though, which of course is highly exciting. I continue to be disappointed that the clean opening and closing sequences aren’t included, especially as they do change within this set once again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In some ways it’s a real surprise, but the filler has come to an end with this set. I only started watching the show about two sets before the filler started and got into it and then got slammed with several box sets of material that was definitely nowhere near as much fun as what I had initially gotten into. This last set takes us through a few stories but actually manages to end on a fairly decent on from which it then sets the stage for the Shippuden series.
The opening episodes to this set are kind of awkward, as the first couple deal with the remaining storyline from the previous set. Kurenai’s care of the young woman who has had her very strong powers sealed is one that is mired in misunderstandings to be sure, and it takes time for it all the play out in a very dangerous way. Naturally, everything resets to zero towards the end, likely to never be mentioned again, but it’s the kind of story that raises things to such a high level in terms of powers running around out there that it kind of dwarfs the seriousness of the more main villains that we’ve seen. And when you go to the next episode, a simple standalone piece, those involved come across as completely inept in handling events after facing such a big and ominous danger in the story arc before. It’s been an issue throughout these non-manga stories and it continues right up until the end.
The first new arc to this set is one that really irked me if only because of the naming used. The story is basic fodder in which Naruto and a few others are escorting a somewhat notorious criminal to the capital for his trial. He’s been accused (and is guilty) of quite a few deaths and destruction as part of a group known as the Ninja Dropouts. Seriously. The group is fairly straightforward with what they do in trying to gain status and so forth, but the criminal, Gantetsu, has a soft spot that he developed after awhile because he saw so many kids killed along the way. Instead of letting it continue, he started setting treasure aside and rescued many of the kids of families that were being killed and set up a little retreat in a magnetic forest where finding your way is almost impossible.
The storyline, over quite a few episodes, has Naruto being tied to a man named Todoroki to help transport Gantetsu. Todoroki has a vested interest in seeing Gantetsu die since his younger brother was one of Gantetsu’s victims, though he does avoid talking about this for awhile to the others. When the situation goes wonky as the Ninja Dropouts arrive to take back Gantetsu, it forces the trio to work together. As it turns out, Gantetsu isn’t a completely bad guy and the Ninja Dropouts want him because of all the treasure he’s swiped, as well as the general embarrassment of it all. The storyline is predictable right up until the end and the thing is filled with kids along the way that are completely annoying. But like the previous arc, it again showcases the poor writing going on here as Lee and Sakura are completely powerless against a group of children for fear of hurting them. Sure these two can figure out a way to deal with it without hurting them?
The final story which runs for about five episodes is a fair bit of fun simply because it keeps it, well, simple. The focus is on the ninja from the Land of Sand and on Gaara specifically. A group of ninja from the Village of Artisans has decided that they’re no longer going to be subservient to the Five Great Nations any further on the belief that those nations would not exist without all the tools that they provide. And to prove it, they’re going to take down Gaara and his ultimate weapon status right off the bat. They do it in an underhanded way by kidnapping his only pupil and setting the stage for a fight with him and his friends against the Artisans. Help arrives eventually from the Hidden Leave Village which gives Naruto and the others an excuse to play the last minute cavalry role, but overall it’s a fun set of episodes simply because it keeps it to action without any true grand motives to it. Aspiring villages are apparently a dime a dozen, but it’s nice to see them not going after the Leaf directly at least this one time.
The end of the non-manga stories has finally come at last and I have to say it should have come much sooner. Though I do understand why, I wish they had decided to do something far more creative with this run, or do more to set up what’s coming next rather than deal with it all in the last minute of the last episode. So much of it was the spinning of wheels when they could have allowed a lot of other characters to shine, even at the risk of really minimizing Naruto for awhile. The time it took for all of this should have had Naruto off screen with just a nod here and there and instead focused on everyone else over the two years of growing up that occurs during his journey. That said, I’m glad that I’ve finished and survived it and am looking forward to seeing what Shippuden will do, since there’s over a hundred and thirty episodes as of this writing out there to be seen.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.