Naruto Shippuden Vol. #11 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Sasuke marks a return to the series, briefly, as Sai’s ulterior motives are finally revealed in full. Maybe.
What They Say
Naruto is horrified to learn that he's responsible for the destruction caused by his rampage under the influence of the Nine-Tailed Fox, which includes Sakura's injuries. Though the battle takes a severe toll on his body, the team continues on to Orochimaru's lair to find Sasuke. But the mysterious Sai has disappeared along with Orochimaru, and the implications could spell disaster for the Leaf Village.
Contains episodes 44-48.
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.
After the tenth volume changed things up with Naruto going all fiery red with his inner beast coming out of him, the series returns to its normal (and appealing) cover design for this installment. This time we’re given a look at Orochimaru in all his snake-like glory as his tongue is in full color slithering out of him while the rest is in a creepy black and white that works to good effect for the disturbing individual. 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. 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 Orochimaru and Kabuto 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 hits a decent stride with these five episodes but it also brings in something to view that really has me wondering. With Orochimaru having a fairly strong presence in the last volume and this one, is his impact being negated in that he’s starting to come across as an ineffective villain or foil for the Leaf Village and Naruto? Considering the scope of what he accomplished in the original series, the only last impact really seems to be is that he slinked away with Sasuke in his grasp. That certainly provided for engaging and emotional television during its original run, but now all this time later, and all these years later, Orochimaru is just sort of there as this big bad villain who has been legitimately built up but… does little of anything.
The aftermath of events from the previous set of episodes has left the area where the battle occurred in quite the state with so much devastation. Two arcs play out from this that eventually come back together in a rather fun way though so it works out pretty well. Sai has managed to slide the information he’s been trying to get to Orochimaru into his hands and it’s something that Orochimaru ends up deciding to play along with. It’s not a surprise to see that Lord Danzo and the Foundation are trying to set up an alliance of some sort with him in order to change the way the Village of Hidden Leaf works and even going to the point where they’ll sacrifice most of the village to do it. Danzo looks fairly evil through and through, though there’s always that possibility that he’s playing a higher game.
While it’s understandable that Orochimaru would take Sai as his go-between and pawn for all of this, you also get the sense that it’s all just part of a larger game that he’s playing with the world in general. You can feel that Orochimaru has no real intent on believing everything about what’s offered and it’s fairly obvious that both he and Danzo will be playing a dance of their own to determine who really has the upper hand as they attempt to outflank each other in the long run, should Orochimaru actually take him up on it to any serious level. There’s a certain fun in watching that angle play out as Orochimaru and Kabuto take him back to one of their lairs, especially since you know that Kabuto will get to play with him in some way as time goes on.
While this plays out, the fallout from Naruto’s unleashing of his fourth tail against Orochimaru hits home as he’s being healed by Sakura after being subdued by Yamato. Naruto’s completely oblivious to the reality of the situation and believes that all the damage came from Orochimaru after he blacked out and Sakura can’t do anything but lie to him about it. In particular, she lies plainly about the attack on her by the Nine Tailed Fox that has hurt her pretty significantly. There’s an undercurrent of tension here about all of it but Yamato takes the opportunity to change direction and explain what he thinks is really going on with Sai. Such things only serve to infuriate Naruto and he’s ready to go wild against him when they catch up to him. Luckily for them, Yamato has a neat little trick that allows them to track him right into Orochimaru’s lair.
There’s a lot to like with this episode but the whole affair has left me feeling that Orochimaru just isn’t all that impressive anymore. Perhaps it’s the coloring made by watching episodes about a hundred past this at the same time, but that’s also allowing me to see some of the threads that carry through the series coming to fruition in interesting ways. What really gets me here is that we have Sasuke back for a relatively brief scene, with dialogue no less, in which he makes the same things perfectly clear that we’ve heard a few times already. As has been said, how many times does Naruto need to hear from Sasuke that he has willingly chosen this before Naruto gives up the ghost? It’d almost be more interesting if he did finally give up on rescuing him and focusing on something else, only to have it all come back around to him again much later.
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