Naruto Box Set 08 (also w/special edition) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, June 19, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
What They Say
Naruto and Jiraiya's journey climaxes in all-out war with Orochimaru and his skilled right-hand man, Kabuto. Naruto must perfect the Rasengan in time to save the future Hokage, but when Naruto himself needs saving, Tsunade must overcome her fear and join Jiraiya in beating down Orochimaru.
The legendary Sannin engage in the ultimate Summoning battle, with their lives and the Leaf Village's future on the line. Will Naruto succeed in bringing back the Fifth Hokage and her supreme medical skill to heal the Village Hidden in the Leaves?
This special edition includes a limited edition collector's "Summoning Creature," Tonton.
Contains episodes 93-106.
Bringing to close one arc and working through two more, Naruto hits up a lot of good material, more so the less of Naruto there is of course.
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 2004, the transfer for these TV episodes are 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 fourteen episodes on this set, broken down into a 4/5/5 format, there aren't any real issues to be found at all. There's 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.
Released in both a regular and limited edition, the main difference between the two is that the limited edition contains a statue with it. That's simply a box that has a flap that slides into the existing digipak box and slipcover. This installment is done up in all purple with Jiraiya as the principle character. The character artwork looks decent here with the purple filter over all of it and I like the consistency among all the sets, but sometimes I wonder if they'd stand out better with more varied colors within the actual designs. The raised logos are a nice touch which gives it a bit more of a special feeling. The back of the slipcover has a basic rundown of what's going on with some of these episodes and has a clean listing of what the extras are to be found and the very basic technical specs. It unfortunately doesn't list the episode numbers included in the set which I find to be quite annoying. Within the slipcover we have the storyboard production book which mirrors past ones as well as the digipak. The digipak is cleanly designed and similar to the slipcover in its colors and artwork but it brings in a bit more artwork as the back of it features Orochimaru and Tsunade. The interior features full color panels of a nice design for Kakashi and another character I can't quickly identify after avoiding the series for eight sets. Opening the digipak up once more, you get a purple filtered layout which has the three discs with full color character artwork and a purple filtered insert. The insert is the only place that lists the episode numbers and titles of the set and is certainly good to have somewhere in the set.
The limited edition set is done in the manner that Viz has been doing a lot of their limited edition releases in for awhile now and it works well. The additional purple colored box holds the tiny pig Tonton, which admittedly makes this feel like a huge waste of space. But still, it's very securely packaged and it looks cute to see it when you finally do take it out of the box and adorn it on your shelf with the rest. There's not much to the box otherwise but if you've bought any of the previous limited edition releases you know what to expect here.
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 volume, 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 episode 93. 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The eighth set of the series, Naruto runs through episodes ninety three through one hundred and six. My experience with Naruto is a bit limited, but not so much that jumping into set eight is that big of a hurdle. I'd read the first seven or eight volumes of the manga before giving up on it as it just didn't feel like my thing and I saw the first four or so episodes of the first box set before I decided I didn't want to get involved with it on an ongoing basis. As things happen though, here I am with the set in front of me, a hot day and nothing else to do but watch something. Perhaps I can blame the heat for my apparent enjoyment of the show and the way it has me looking forward to the next box set?
The layout of this set is quite good as it deals with a number of things, mostly self contained. The only odd part, at least for me coming into it in this regard, is that the first volume with four episodes deals with the closure of an arc surrounding Tsunade. This was actually surprisingly enjoyable and easy to get into as she's fighting against wanting to get involved with everything related to being the Fifth Hokage. But as the fates would have it, everything seems to push her in that direction and Naruto's own stubborn way sort of lights the beacon for it as he simply doesn't ever give up. Naruto is actually a very minor character in this story arc as it deals more with Orochimaru and his attempt to beat down Tsunade alongside with Jiraiya.
The supporting cast is kept mostly off stage and just poking in once in awhile as the main characters get seriously fighting. There's a lot of fluidity to it and the action gets pretty intense at times which makes it flow rather well. Naruto's moments are small but they're a solid catalyst for how things progress from there as the three Legendary Sannin take things to a new level after they summon their creatures. The initial summoning are quite amusing as we get a pair of frogs that are similar in nature to Tonton who almost looks at them derisively. The banter between them, in slow frog style, brings the right amount of levity to what is otherwise a solid fight sequence between three powerful fighters.
The second disc revolves around more personal stories after a bit of transitional "filler" material which threw me off. I had almost sort of figured that by this range of episodes that they would be beyond hot spring stories, but lo and behold, there is one right at the start of the disc. It's not too bad as it's just Jiraiya that's kept to it mostly in his quest for bathing with cute women. Instead, most of the time is spent with a smaller story that reveals a touch more about Tsunade and what she's been like in her past. Naruto's more prominent here and it's a good bit of fun as he has his almost eternally optimistic view of things and tries to help everyone out.
What made this disc difficult yet enjoyable was that it revolved Rock Lee. Just from his first introduction and his character design, he was a character that just rankled me and made it difficult to deal with. Something about the design just turned me off of it. With one of the goals of Naruto in going to Tsunade being that she would use her medical knowledge to help his friends, he's prominent during these episodes because of his injury. While Sasuke is easily healed, Lee's injury is one that has her telling him to give up being a ninja since there's barely even a 50/50 chance of survival after numerous other issues. Lee's crushed by this and we see a lot of his past because of it and how his mindset has grown over the years and why. It actually turns him into a very sympathetic character, even as creepy as he looks sometimes. It also provides a reason for Tsunade to be challenged as to how she deals with her new responsibilities as the Fifth Hokage and with responsibility in general for this new family. There are slow moments to be sure across this volume, but as character building pieces they're a lot of fun and they utilize a lot of the past and character interactions to get it to a new place.
The real difficulty for this set was with the third disc in which we get a five episode story that has Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura off on a new mission. Naruto hasn't figured too heavily into the set until now, though he's had his dominating moments. This storyline has the team being sent down to see Boss Jirocho to be told the mission, which is bodyguard work for a special person. The person they're guarding, Idate Morino, is someone that they actually met just prior to meeting up with Jirocho and that has Naruto all inflamed. The two of them are practically the same, just a little apart in their growth, so naturally they grate against each other easily. It's not exactly like looking at twins, but it's easy to imagine that they're the same in far too many ways.
The storyline for it, which is resolved in this volume, deals with a race that takes place every few years between the Wagarashi Family and the Wasabi Family. The one who wins the race, which involves crossing a sea and taking a special gem to a shrine, earns the right of that family to take control of the region in governance. The Wagarashi Family has held this for some time now and they're abusing it heavily, taking advantage of everyone and instilling fear wherever they go. The hope is that the much more benign Wasabi Family will win. There's no real rules for the most part to the race so Jirocho has decided to hire from the Hidden Leaf Village some protectors for his runner. With it being Idate, it's not hard to imagine how complicated the whole thing will get.
Some parts of the third disc run a little long and annoying, but there are some really good pieces of material as well. Idate's past is one that is revealed to be tied to the Hidden Leaf Village and it gives a lot of connection with Naruto in regards to the Chunin Exam which is nice. The growth of the two throughout the episodes is the best part in general, but the growing connections that are brought up is what helps to elevate it. What sold me the most on this set in general however was the first disc with the character of Tsunade. She's the kind of character that I'd want to see spun off on her own to follow simply because she's got a fun personality, has confidence to spare but also challenges herself along the way. Watching her grow into the role of the Fifth Hokage and tweaking everyone along the way works well to slightly alter the status quo and keep things fresh.
With only so much background for the show, and something of a disdain for it from those past experiences, I was somewhat dreading going into the series. I do like the challenge of dropping into a show midway to see how accessible it is for newer viewers, since a show must continually bring in more people or stagnate. Or even worse, lose viewers and thus lose steam. Naruto was surprisingly easy to get into even with some ninety odd episodes already gone by. And these episodes were enjoyable enough that it has me actively looking forward to the next couple of sets to see where it will all go. It hasn't quite made me want to back track any, as the Chunin Exam was something that made me cringe during my reading of the manga, but my opinion of the show has certainly changed. I knew it was popular, and I knew why it was popular, but I didn't think that it'd appeal to me after how I felt about it earlier. Color me surprised and this was a wonderful reminder of why I like to go outside of my normal likes to see something else.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Sketch to Screen,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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 350
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2