Naruto: Shippuden Box Set 01 (Mania.com)

By:Bryce Coulter
Review Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The hero is back and he’s all grown up.  Well, sort of...

What They Say
Naruto Uzumaki is back! After two and a half years of training on the road with Jiraiya of the Sannin, Naruto is back in the Village Hidden in the Leaves and he's ready to show off his new skills. He and Sakura team up to take on their old master Kakashi, who's pretty impressed with their progress. They'll have plenty of opportunity to put it into action when news arrives from the Sand Village that Gaara, Naruto's former rival and now Kazekage of the Sand, has been kidnapped! And the culprits are the very same group who are after Naruto - the Akatsuki!

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!

Audio:
Naruto Shippuden is presented bilingually with two stereo tracks encoded at 256kbps.  A solid stereo sound stage, this TV series makes good use of the sub woofer along with a smattering of sound directionality.  This is typical of most television releases, so don’t expect to blown away by all kinds of sound engineering and wow effects.  The stronger use of the sound stage comes about during the opening and closing sequences.  The dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the English track.  
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this collection is presented in the original full frame aspect ratio as was shown on TV.  The production value is on par with what one would expect for a highly regarded anime series.  There were virtually no motion artifacts nor were there any breakups in the anime sequences that involve a lot of movement.  This series has lots of action and it presents very well.  You will find some very minor aliasing during some panning sequences as well as some noise in darker scenes, which is usually par for the course.  You really can’t get much better than this unless you go high definition, which is a whole new ballgame.  Overall, everything looks pretty much on par.  This is a solid video release and it should meet the expectations of the fans as it matches right with the format presented in the previous Naruto collections.
 
Packaging
Compared to the box sets from Naruto, the design for this collection feels more striking, edgy, and grown up.  The slip cover features a white background with black and grey text.  Naruto is depicted as looking cautiously over his right shoulder.  Naruto, himself, is the only colored object on the slip cover as everything else is in grey or black.  Overall, this is a very eye catching design that is welcome change for the new series.  The logo for the series is featured on the lower right-hand corner.  
 
The back side of the slip cover continues with the grey text and features a short description of the collection.  The technical details are found near the bottom of the back cover and on the bottom panel.  The details are not your typical grid design and require you to dig a bit to find the information.  
 
Included with this collection are three thin DVD cases, each housing one disc only.  The front cover for the discs feature Naruto on disc 1, Gara and Deidara on disc 2, and Itachi and Kisame.  Following the slipcover format, the fronts of these cases have color images set to a white background.  However, the backside features a black background with list of episodes in white.  Also included is a stenciled phrase in grey that summarizes the collection of episodes on the disc.  The extras are not listed, which would be nice as there is plenty of space to place them on there.
 
Menu
The menu for this release is very eye catching and is on par with what one would see with other VIZ collections, like Bleach.  This is definitely one of the better DVD menus out there.  The main menu features a black cloud-like border with a static image of character(s) featured on the disc’s front cover.  Featured in the center of the screen is a series of animation clips that are displayed in the shape of shuriken and kunai weapons.    Creatively, this is very nice setup and is fun to watch.  I wish more DVD menus were as creative as this.   One of the Naruto musical scores plays in the background and loops very appropriately in sync with the video clips.  Menu navigation for this collection appears along the bottom of the screen.  The menus are quick and very easy to navigate.  
 
Extras:  
The extras worth noting in this collection are found on the third disc.  These extras include a voice actor featurette withDave Wittenberg, Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan.  The voice actors along with ADR, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn talk about the challenges of the series as it has transitioned from a series about a little ninja who believed in himself to a darker show that will focus on the importance of depending on friendship to accomplish the impossible.  Maile Flanagan speaks about how she has been challenged with making Naruto’s voice sound older.  This is also something that Kate Higgins must also do as she had to make Sakura sound more mature as well. 
 
Also included on the third disc is a collection of production art images along with a multimedia chart for understanding the Team Kakashi relationships.  This is a nice touch for the extras, but I would like to have seen some more detailed information as all it really reveals is what each team member thinks of each other.  Rounding out the extras list is the English Credits for the series.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).  
Naruto, often revered as a member of today’s Holy Shonen Trinity alongside Bleach and One Piece, kicks off its sequel as Naruto Shippuden.  The world of Naruto is wildly popular in both anime and manga.  Its popularity is embraced and despised throughout anime fandom.
 
The Naruto anime closed with a lot of filler content that did not come from the original source material.  It sort of fizzled out at the end leaving the viewer with many questions as Naruto left the Hidden Leaf Village with Master Jiraiya.  The ‘little ninja that could’ still had a lot of growing up to do, and he had lots of potential.  Can the whiny little kid pull through?  Can he master the demon nine-tailed fox that is sealed within him?  Does he have what it takes to become the future Hokage?  Naruto Shippuden has a lot of expectations to fill, but can it recapture the promise that led viewers to believe in the previous series?  Moreover, can it capture a skeptical audience or even new audience?  The short answer is, Yes it can!
 
Naruto Shippuden takes place two years after the conclusion of Naruto.  Naruto and Jiraiya return to the village as quietly as they left.  Life in the Hidden Leaf Village has progressed as well.  All of the characters from the original series have grown up.  We don’t get to see all of them at once which leaves a degree of anticipation for the viewer who wants to see how their other favorite supporting cast members have changed.  While things have moved forward in the Hidden Leaf Village, so also have Sasuke and Orochimaru.  The opening episode gives us a glimpse at what they have been up to.
 
The two years have been good for Naruto.  So much so, many folks fail to recognize him.  He has gained new skills, and he has matured … a little bit.  You will definitely recognize the maturity in him, but the childish traits that were so rooted in from the previous series still come to surface every once in a while.  Naruto’s reunion with Sakura and Kakashi are memorable in that they revisit some memories from their first time working together as a team.  We also see that the role of sensei is not so easy for Kakashi as Sakura and Naruto are nearing his equal in skills and abilities.  The absence of Sasuke is still a very tender spot in each member’s heart.  So much, so that Tsunade and Kakashi wonder if Naruto and Sakura can handle higher ranked missions.  I’m sure this will be a source of continued strife and strength for both in the episodes to come.
 
Reunions are short as Jiraiya informs Tsunade and Kakashi about the workings of the Akatsuki and their plans.  These sinister plans are a threat to Naruto as the Akatsuki are seeking to collect all of the tailed beasts for their plan of world domination.  Two members of Akatsuki, Sasori and Deidara, are already closing in one person who possesses a tailed beast.  That person, a former rival of Naruto, is none other than Gara of the Sand Village.  Gara is now the Kazekage or leader of the village.  
 
Sasori and Deidara outwit the Sand Village’s defenses, thus forcing Gara to protect his village from certain destruction.  Their plan is perfectly executed as they draw Gara out and capture him.  The tailed beast, Shukaku, housed inside the current Kazekage is what they seek.  They quickly exit the village with Kankuro, Gara’s brother, in pursuit.   
 
It seems like Akatsuki is always several steps ahead as nobody can seem to stop them.  Sasori quickly stops Kankuro in his tracks with the same puppet techniques.  It’s almost as if Sasori knows exactly what Kankuro is going to do.  I see an interesting back-story coming up with this one.
 
Lady Tsunade sends Team Kakashi to support the Sand Village.  While in route, she soon discovers that Team Kakashi is going to need backup and sends Team Guy to back them up.  We get to see Guy, Tenten, Rock Lee, and Neji.  The spirit of youth is alive and well.  As corny as Guy and Rock Lee are, I can’t help but being a little giddy about seeing them again.
 
As this collection closes, we see Team Kakashi arrive at Sand Village where Sakura’s medical ninja skills are put to the test as she works to save Kankuro from Sasori’s poisons.  We are also introduced to an elder of the Sand Village who appears to know more about Sasori. Can Team Kakashi and Team Guy meet up to save Gara?  It’s not going to be an easy task as Itachi and Kisame rear their ugly heads to stop both teams dead in their tracks.  Time is running out for Gara! The next collection can’t come soon enough. 
 
Summary
The Kazekage Rescue Mission story arc begins with the return of Naruto to the Hidden Leaf Village.  Reunions are short lived as the Akatsuki are on the move and they have their sights set on capturing the tailed beast, Shukaku, from Gara who is now the Kazekage of the Sand Village.  Teasingly, we get to see our favorite supporting cast members all grown up, but we don’t get to fully see what they are capable of doing or how they have matured.  Older favorites like Tsunade, Kakashi, Guy, and Jiraiya remained unchanged.  Speaking of maturation, can Naruto measure up to the expectations that have been set before him? Can he work as a team player?  Better yet, can he control the anger within him and not be consumed by the Nine Tails?  If you haven’t jumped in on the Naruto bandwagon, now is the time as Shippuden promises to be a more adult and darker themed series that will push the ‘little ninja who could’ to become a shinobi respected by all those around him.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Voice Actor Featurette: Return of a Ninja, Interactive Character Relationship Chart: Team Kakashi, Production Art

Review Equipment

Samsung  UN46B6000VF 120Hz  LED HDTV, Samsung HT-WS1R/XAA  2.1 Channel Soundbar Speaker System with Wireless Subwoofer, and Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 49.98/69.9
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Naruto