Naruto Box Set 04 (also w/special edition) (Mania.com)

By:Justin Rich
Review Date: Thursday, October 04, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007



What They Say
After barely making it out of the Forest of Death, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura proceed to the next stage of the Chunin Exam: a one-on-one sudden death elimination battle! Pitted against each other in individual combat, an assortment of young, bright-eyed ninja reveal their true colors and brandish their hidden powers! Can Naruto beat the odds and prove to his fellow shinobi that he's good enough to be a chunin?

Contains episodes 39-52.

The Review!
Hand to hand combat will now decide the fate for all of those who past round two, and the winners will stay to only fight more in round three.

Audio:
For this viewing session I began with the Japanese track. Unfortunately this series does not posses a 5.1 for either language track, for it would have benefited greatly with all the fighting scenes. The balance though is a small problem since there are points when the battle music comes on and drowns out the dialogue. There are no drop outs in either of the three discs. I also did a spot check on the English track on episode 49 Lee’s Hidden Strength: Forbidden Secret Jutsu!

Video:
This group of episodes aired in June of 2003 into the beginning of October 2003 and the transfer is pretty clean. The background of the forest show up exceptionally well bring the feeling of being there. The flashbacks come out with an old television feeling with the constant “snowy” black, white and gray dots. The only problem that is some shadowing and transfer problems during the Garaa and Rock Lee fight.

Packaging:
This 14 episode box comes in a flimsy, metallic casing which holds a fold out for the three discs. On the front it has in white Shonen Jump’s logo over the Naruto title and Uncut box set in olive green paint with volume 4 inside a Kelly green chakra mark from Naruto’s palm. The fold out box has a single picture of Sakura disc 1, Rock Lee disc 2, and disc 3 is back to Sasuke with a sword drawn within the box containing the original R2 cover art from second stage volumes 2-4 with another picture of Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura and Iruka staring into the sunset which I can’t find as a Naruto cover anywhere. The box is also large enough to hold the storyboard book of episode 46 without crushing either the book or the DVD foldout. The LE box also comes with a Mist Village cosplay headband and wristband.

Menu:
Each of the three discs have their own menu and particular piece of background music. Disc 1 is pink with three rotating pictures of Sakura, Hinata and Ino, while disc 2 is orange with three rotating pictures of Rock Lee, Kiba and Naruto, and finally disc 3 is light blue with three images of the Jonin Teachers. Other than the one pic of Guy on the last box set the pictures on the discs have been of one character, Viz changed that up here with the rotating pictures of different characters which was a nice change of pace. The menu responds extremely quickly with the curser being a throwing star.

Extras:
There is a five minute trailer for box 5 will focus on third round of battles as well as the training involved by all of those who advanced; including getting to know Jiraiya. Also Shonen Jump Home video trailers for Hikaru no Go, Bleach, Prince of Tennis box sets and One Piece Alabasta arc DVDs. A flip through page of Shonen Jump manga images from both regular Jump and advance series lines as well as the complete monthly Jump too. There are also English credits on an orange background with no music. There are also ten pages of production art: starting with Sakura, all four of the Konoha Jonin teachers, Ino, the two sand siblyings since Gaara was on the last volume, Rock unlocking his gates and finally Kabito. The highlight of the special features is the eight sketches to screen clips from episode 40, where you can see the story boards on the screen and then activate the clip itself to see it in motion.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume picks up in the middle of the first preliminary battle to get into the final round with Sasuke in trouble as his chakra is being drained, and an unyielding urge to win this battle without leaning upon the increasing temptation to use his curse seal. He wins with using the sharingan long enough to replicate Lee’s lion’s barrage technique but suffers from the wear on his body. Kakashi removes him and takes him to seal the curse with his old teacher Orochimaru showing up to claim Sasuke for his own. Kakashi refuses to back down showing loyalty and courage, much more noble qualities then his usual blasť demeanor, as he uses Chidori to back of Orochimaru for a little while.

Then we are bored with an extremely drug out fight between Ino and Sakura which only shows how petty and brittle their friendship truly was since it disintegrated because of mutual obsession over Sasuke. We are forced to watch a lot of flashbacks of Sakura being made fun of for the dumbest reason in anime, a large forehead, and then when there is action it is extremely boring, except for a little entertainment from inner Sakura the highly animated chalk figure living within her head. The match ends as a draw leading to even less point other than to even out the field with the crafty Kabuto voluntarily withdrawing.

One of the most fascinating characters in the series has to be Shikamaru, for he is one of the few truly brilliant fighters in shonen anime, and his ability is always outmatched by his rival but his sheer intellect over comes that. I love watching his brains over brawn battles and after being stuck with the mindnumbing whining of Ino and Sakura it gets the series back on an upswing as he wins and then goes into Naruto and Kiba’s fight. Naruto clearly shows his growth over the seires in this match as he begins with showing his mastery over Kage bunshin and we get a flashback of his horrible attempts at transformation early on to his master of it now. Using wit and pure determination, and a helpful blast of flatulence, Naruto is able to shock everyone who is in the building with his victory over Kiba.

Next up is my favorite match of the boxset with Hinata vs. Neji. This match is similar to the Ino/Sakura fight but this time it does land home with the audience why the blood runs bad between these two members of the same family. Everything that was ineffective in the aforementioned fight gets corrected and we feel sorry for both; Neji for the slighting of his family just because of simple birth order and Hinata because of her kindness but acceptance of her role none the less. Neji receives more of a battle then he ever imagined possible from Hinata as she stands tall against him so that she doesn’t let down Naruto who she knows is watching and cheering her on from the rafters. Hinata is horribly injured and is removed on stretcher, but Naruto steps in to make a blood pact that if he ever gets the chance to fight Neji he will avenge his friend who fought so hard against a vastly superior opponent, which only makes Neji scoff at the idea of a loser like Naruto defeating a genius like himself.

Then from emotion to pure adrenaline as the next three explosive episodes focus on the high octane battle between Rock Lee and the final Sand member Gaara. With his two sibling already advancing Gaara intends to make short work of the odd looking Leaf ninja through the power of his unbreakable defense, but Rock also has a few tricks that he can do even without the abilities to do anything but Taijutsu. The techniques that Guy had taught him cause his speed to be enormous and even able to hit Gaara, which causes his deranged insanity to come through as he shifts from calm to killer. Guy is even forced to use both Lotus attacks, the first is thwarted by a sand shield and the second causes great trauma to Guy leaving him almost dead as Gaara uses his sand coffin attack on him breaking his arm and leg in hundreds of places. The horror that is Gaara is clearly shown and the darkness that looms within him becomes clear to all watching the end of the match.

The winners all plan to continue their training during the couple of week break they have and much to Naruto’s displeasure Kakashi passes on his training to Ebisu the hidden pervert while he goes off to training his fellow Sharingan user Sasuke. After games of cat and mouse Naruto is finally cornered by Ebisu and he reluctantly accepts his training, which begins with Chakra control. I have to admit that watching Naruto repeatidly drop into scalding water did make me laugh and then I laughed harder when Ebisu tries to show off and gets whipped in a split second by the mysterious man sitting on the edge peeking in on the girls in the hot water springs. In a great conclusion to this extended boxset Naruto meets his soon-to-be teacher Jiraiya.

In Summary:
If you’re a fan of the old tournament style of shonen anime then this box, which for twelve of the fourteen episodes, will give you just that. Personally, I think the fun in Naruto is the fighting since the series doesn’t have the tremendous depth in it’s characters or the most flushed out backgrounds like some other shonens. Although the Hinata/Neji match does a great job of character development for background characters which the series tends to ignore far too much. The time when Naruto is at its best is when there is a lot of fighting for a point and with the closing of the second round of the chuunin exam there will be a little more fighting to be done coming up since we now all know who is moving on to the final round of the tournament. The matches have yet to be set but we get to see the cast and also the entrance of a mysterious man riding a frog at the end of the box set really closes the volume in strong fashion.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Art,From Sketch to Screen Art

Review Equipment
Sony SAVA D9000 Dual Stack DTS w/ 5 Disc Changer in stack 1 and subwoofer in stack 2 via Monster optical cable. Tv is Sony 55” SXRD Grand Wega 1080p widescreen rear-projection HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player via HDMI cable.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 49.98/69.98
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Naruto