Naruto Shippuden Vol. #09 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 28, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The tensions in the group are rising so the only solution to fix it is… a trip to a hot spring?
What They Say
Everything about Team Kakashi's newest member Sai rubs Naruto the wrong way, and Sakura and their new leader Yamato have their hands full trying to keep them apart. A night at a hot springs inn doesn't do much to promote team unity, but Naruto decides that he will do anything, even pair up with Sai, to help their mission succeed: to find Sasuke and bring him back. Sai has a hard time understanding Naruto's feelings, but that may be because he himself has no feelings at all!
Contains episodes 35-39.
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 four 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 with Yamato in a ninjutsu pose where he looks pretty serious, though dorky with the headgear that he wears. 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 Sai and Naruto almost in an action pose next to each other 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)
Naruto: Shippuden moves right along in the realm of predictability with this volume as we get five more episodes that takes us up to number thirty-nine. The series has hit a bit of a lull after the opening issues dealing with the Akatsuki as it’s kind of wandered a little before moving on to the next piece. On the plus side, we’re at least well teased by the end of this episode for the next one where we might potentially get some exciting material. Sadly, in order to get there, we have to go through the usual team building efforts now that Team Kakashi has two new members in it while Kakashi spends his time taking his meals through a tube and not even able to get on a proper liquid diet yet after the last battle.
There’s been a lot of manipulation going around now that the Foundation is getting involved and people are second guessing Tsunade over the way she’s handling the dangerous Naruto and his Nine Tailed Fox. This has led to the Foundation angling one of its own members onto the team in the form of Sai, a ninja about the same age as Naruto and Sakura who nobody has heard of before and who has no personality. As the episodes go on here, we learn that he has no emotions at all, though the reason is undisclosed, and that leads him to be fairly blunt and direct in a way that infuriates most people. He’s so emotionless that he doesn’t even really have any feelings on the death of his brother, which is why his talk about how Saskue was such a traitor comes across as blasé from him but totally ticks off Naruto who is doing so much to try and rescue him.
For his part, Yamato does try to do the right thing in easing tensions. His role as a member of the Anbu Black Ops has him understanding the value of trusting each other to be sure and he’s doing his best with this public facing mission under the name of Yamato to keep it all together. So much so that he does spend his own money to take them all to a hot spring where he tries to ease their tensions with no talk of the mission and just relaxing and mild chatter. Unfortunately, this is an instance (and a job!) where it’s easier to imagine that the better path is just throwing them into their work because they’re not going to get along. Stubbon as Naruto is, Sai’s such a wooden character that there feels like there’s no point in trying to get to know him. And they make him even sillier by having him be fairly artistic but unable to give any of his pieces a title because he can’t feel/think of any. That’s just pretentious.
A lot of time is spent with this angle and some of the discussions before the group heads out as Yamato learns just how dangerous Naruto can be when his inner beast is out. Jiraiya’s tale is amusing, especially since it involves peeping on Tsunade, but it highlights just how much is involved here and the scale of it all should the Akatsuki get all of this power. When they actually get to the Tenchi Bridge after a bit of simulation, it’s actually really intriguing that we finally get to figure out who this spy is that’s inside the Orochimaru organization. Yamato’s spot on perfect as Sasori so he can get close and wheedle it out, but the situation goes out of control when it’s revealed to be Kabuto that’s been working on the inside and that Orochimaru himself has been tagging along to see what’s really going on, though it appears that Kabuto wasn’t aware of it. I don’t know when we last saw Orochimaru in non-filler form of any significance, but it’s good to see him back in the forefront again and that his group is getting brought into play once more.
While there’s been a definite lull in the series since the group returned to the village and started preparations to meet the spy, we do get some good payoff toward the end of this set of episodes. Unfortunately, we have to go through a string of team bonding moments with characters that are hard to empathize with in general and even more so when we really do start to learn more about them. That’s Sai more than Yamato since Yamato is keeping his true self away from them because of his Anbu Black Ops status. It’s easy to feel Naruto’s frustration during all of this and the way Sai conducts himself just makes it all the worse, which in the end just makes the Foundation look even more stupid in that they sent someone out that would surely aggravate someone that they don’t want to get overly excited. Things are definitely looking up at the end here though and I’ve got hopes for the next round of episodes.
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: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2