Naruto Uncut Season 04 Box Set 2 (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The final episodes of the first series plays out as Naruto comes to a conclusion at long last, teasing with the final moments that the show can actually start making progress again.
What They Say
Naruto and his fellow Leaf ninja are desperate to find a set of stolen blueprints revealing secrets of the Hidden Leaf Village, and in their search they discover something even more devastating: someone has set paper bombs all over the village. Is the Hidden Leaf doomed to destruction? Then, the legendary Toad Sage, Jiraiya, returns to the village, and for Naruto, another amazing adventure begins!
Contains episodes 192-220.
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 2005, 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 episodes on this set, broken down into a four or five episode per disc format as seen from their previous edition, 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 discernible issues. Colors are nicely solid, bit rates 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.
Done up in a double keepcase thickness, this set contains six discs as seen from the original digipak releases. The set runs with a brown color that fits the character artwork of Gaara as it points to his Sand village. Gaara has a really good serious look too him as he's manipulating his power. While some of these sets haven't looked so hot with the colors and character artwork, this one works rather well. They do some nice pushes on the content side, stating it has over twelve hours of action and that it's a six disc set, making it a pretty good deal on the surface. The back cover uses a lot more brown as well while adding the character artwork for Naruto and the pervy sage together doing an action pose that is decent overall. The summary doesn't exactly add all that much but it highlights the basic idea of the set with a couple of the stories dealt with. The sets features are all very clearly listed in a positive way and there's a small and slightly difficult to read block of production credits as well for both sides. The technical grid is pretty weak with most of it filled with logos and distribution information with only the running time and region coding really being useful here. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
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 and sixth volumes, are decent enough but lacking in some ways. The production art section is the same as the past and we get a new “sketch to screen” done up for two episodes. Add in the sneak preview of the next set and the English language credits and you have some mildly interesting pieces for a minute or two. 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)
The final collection of the filler episodes of Naruto is essentially a lot like the past couple of sets in that they’re fairly pointless in their own way as nobody really grows. The usual parade of secondary characters appear for single episodes or something slightly larger before it moves on to the next piece. This set features two larger stories, though they do come across as too long in both instances, and a few smaller single episode pieces that keep the Naruto brand fully in focus. Even scarier is that there is a “Battle recap” episode that highlights five of the best fights of the series, most of which occurred at the end of the manga adapted episodes no less.
Naruto does kick off in an amusing way as Ino and Naruto are sent off to deal with a princess who has a prince coming to court her and she has a problem. She’s madly in love with him but has never met him. She got so nervous in waiting for the appointed time that she ate and ate and ate and now she’s quite big. Ino looks close to how she used to look and takes on the role of her double to help smooth things over and to let the princess know what she’s getting into. The visiting courter is rather amusing as he’s basically a low-rent Elvis and neither Naruto nor Ino can believe she’s head over heels for this guy. What makes it priceless – especially I’m sure for certain American sensibilities, is that Naruto actually gets into the role of playing the double once and goes full on with the hair, make-up and clothes. Naruto is truly a progressive anime character.
When it comes to the main story arcs, there are two in the first half set that aren't that bad; they just seem to go on for a bit too long. The first one delves into the way the Hidden Leaf Village continues to be really in trouble because it’s so overworked as all of its ninjas are out on missions. There’s few solid ones left in town (though the Anbu Black Ops group always seems to be around) and the village is always on edge because of this. Even worse is that because of all the property damage that’s been going on for awhile, standards have fallen and a lot of temporary workers have arrived to help in the reconstruction. One of the workers is an older man that Naruto has befriended over time as they share some noodles together whenever they see each other. Of course, the man has been slyly sneaking information off of Naruto and he never knew about it.
Over the years, the man has been setting up numerous paper bombs all over the village and is close to executing his plan, a plan that was based on events from some thirty years earlier that went awry. Over the course of about five episodes, there’s a series of discoveries and close calls as those who are left try to figure out what’s going on and deal with the real plan behind the plan. There aren’t a lot of layers to it, and it does drag out more towards the end when the final real revelations come along, but it’s a fairly fun little story arc overall. It does push believability quite a bit with all the bombs planted around and the links to them all that it’s gone undetected all this time and that it’s only the new guys who suddenly see it with their Byakugan. But that’s really just a part of what the Naruto series is all about in a way.
The second story arc, which runs for only three episodes towards the end of the set, is a bit more personal and interesting. The story focuses around Kurenai who has suddenly stepped down from her position in squad eight which has really thrown that group into disarray. Her reasons aren’t given to them, though Sakura gets a mild clue about it as she accidentally eavesdrops about it. Her leaving revolves around a young woman named Yakumo who is attempting to get away from the Anbu Black Ops group as she’s being sought after by others because she is the last of a family who is gifted with incredible potential. Potential that Kurenai was assigned to train and deal with over a year ago but has failed horribly to do so, which is why she’s now moved on. Of course, Naruto gets caught up in it when he discovers Yakumo using her special ability and he learns the connections to Kurenai and what’s happening with her. Kurenai really doesn’t come across well here, not that I’ve cared for her from what I’ve seen so far anyway, but this doesn’t help in the slightest. It’s the kind of story where she comes across poorly and Yakumo is presented as far too gifted a young woman who could really change quite a lot in the balance of power in the world.
Another 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 because it takes us into the much better Shippuden series, not that that series is free from the dreaded filler as well. Little of what filler they have there rivals some of what ended out this series, but that's not for a lack of trying at times.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Sketch to Screen: Storyboard Comparison for Episode 193, Shippuden Sneak Peek, Production Art
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: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2