Naruto Shippuden Vol. #07 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 29, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, March 09, 2010
The fights come to a conclusion, at least for this round, as most everything starts getting wrapped up for the opening chapter of Shippuden.
What They Say
In their battle with Sasori, Granny Chiyo and Sakura must make life-or-death choices to bring the puppet master down. Outside the Akatsuki hideout, Team Guy have fought the copies of themselves to the point of exhaustion, but Rock Lee's plan sets fire to their fighting spirits. Meanwhile, Naruto and Kakashi have caught up to Deidara, and Kakashi prepares to unleash his newest jutsu - the Mangekyo Sharingan!
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 2007, 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 five episodes that are on this disc, 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.
Similar to previous installments, the cover artwork features a black and white piece of character art featuring Deidara looking all gleeful with what explosive action he might take next as he has one of his paper dolls on his hand. The black and white nature of it really does change the appearance of it all in comparison to the previous kind of singles which were mostly shots from the show with vibrant colors. There’s a lot of color here, with a red original logo on the right side and the US logo along the top brings in reds, oranges, blues and even some pink. It’s an eye-catching and busy cover that stands out because of the disparity. The back cover is kept to white with some gray background circles to give it a bit more accent. A few shots from the show are included that are decent and the summary covers a fair amount of ground with what’s going on here. The episodes are listed clearly by name and number while the rest is given over to production credits. As is usual, Viz wants nothing to do with a technical grid that would make it easy to break down what’s here, so you have to find the basic stats within the various areas of text. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The menu for this release is pretty decent and stands out more than most other companies at this point in time. There’s a black cloud like border around the screen with a static image of Team Guy in action while the background has animation from the film playing through it as various weapons fly by. It’s really nicely creative to fit in with the show overall and it does highlight some care and creativity. The music is spot on for something uplifting and energetic. Menu navigation is straightforward with a strip along the bottom and episode navigation isn’t bad as you can access the parts of each episode from one submenu. Everything loads quickly but the disc doesn’t read our players’ language presets as it defaults to English with no subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With volume seven we get up to the thirty episode mark and the show actually finishes out, or gets close, wrapping up what you could call the initial chapter of the story. With this batch of episodes and the twenty-six before it, we got the newly improved Naruto and gang back in action, away from the filler, and dealing with something that’s going to be big. With the Akatsuki looking to do something quite epic with their acquisition of Juchinriki power and their ties to Orochimaru, there are a number of threads that can be tackled. Add in the history that Itachi brings to it with Sasuke and what we’ve seen so far of Gaara and the Kazekage, and there’s a good deal of real meat on this story.
Of course, it’s stretched out a fair bit because it is a Shonen Jump show and that is simply understood in how it will portray itself. We’ve had a good number of episodes dealing with three different fights here that were definitely long. There have been good moments to be sure, but some of it was just too much fluff. The good material came in the form of watching Sakura really express how much she’s grown and changed in the last few years with her fight against Sasori with Chiyo. She impressed greatly in the last volume with how resolute she was and the methods through which she dealt with him. If anyone comes away from this arc for the better rather than the status quo, it’s her. Her story finishes up early in this set though it’s more focused on Chiyo and what she can do for Sasori. It’s a decent little epilogue but the last volume was all Sakura.
The remainder of this volume focuses on two different areas and one of them is supremely weak. And that, naturally, is the Team Guy subplot with everyone facing off against clones of each other. The struggle there takes a turn for the worse when everyone realizes that the clones are getting stronger. Or are they? Goodness, it couldn’t be that Team Guy is actually getting weaker from continually fighting against their mirror images? This is such a radical thought that it completely takes you out of the show and you realize that these guys can’t be quality ninjas because they can’t assess a situation like that or even realize that they themselves are getting tire and use that as the rationale for it. This was a bad subplot from the start made worse by this revelation but at least the whole thing finishes out relatively quickly here with some basic motivation.
Where the main material for these episodes deals in is the chase between Naruto and Kakashi with Deidara. It’s been painful to watch this arc up until now because it’s one long drawn out chase sequence. That all comes to a head here as they finally catch up to him since he’s running out of explosive material to use on them and a face-off must occur. The matchup itself isn’t all that much to write home about, though Kakashi finally gets a chance to show his stuff a bit with a new Sharingan. Where the story works well is when the pair finally do manage to retrieve Gaara’s body and Naruto really gets the understanding that his friend is dead because of these people. Kakashi has the quick realization of what’s happening from a conversation he had with Jiraiya before they left and we see the Nine Tail’s Cloak starting to seep out of Naruto. It’s very rare that we get a look at the true power within him, something we know the Akatsuki are seeking, and there are a couple of really good intense and well animated moments here as the power takes him over. The arc wasn’t worth the result as it could have been a lot tighter if it was done as two single episodes instead of spread out, but getting another glimpse was definitely fun.
At this stage, I’m just glad that the two initial opponents are finally dealt with and we can move on to some other things. There has been a lot hinted at in this opening set of thirty episodes so there’s definitely plenty of places to go. This volume serves as an endpoint for one story but it’s just the prologue really and I’m definitely okay with that. It’s just unfortunate that even when we do get to the good stuff it’s still strung out too much at times or it has some really bad subplot to it. The removal of such things is a double edged sword since you eliminate some of the favorite characters for awhile yet you have to have them acting stupidly. Which is why, for all its faults, One Piece is more engaging in a way since it actually shuffles off nearly the enter main cast for a over a dozen episodes to actually tell a particular story. Still, there are things to like here and it’s giving me hope that the show will get a little more focused going forward now.
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.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2