Naruto Unleashed Set 3:2 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Release Date: Monday, May 26, 2008
What They Say
Sasuke's match against Gaara finally begins! Sasuke's only hope of winning lies within the move Kakashi taught him... Chidori. But, how will Gaara react when Sasuke causes him to bleed?
Meanwhile, a battle of kings has begun as one of the Legendary Sannin has summoned the bodies of the First and Second Hokage, using a forbidden technique. They have no choice but to fight and so war has begun!
The tides turn as a chase for Gaara begins, while Lord Hokage does battle with arch-nemesis Orochimaru.
I watched all three discs here primarily with the English stereo track, while sampling the Japanese track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback, and both tracks are fairly standard fair.
The dub, produced for TV but not really toned down a great deal (thus far) is actually thoroughly enjoyable. Some of the performances are really good, with the voice actors for the main kids all coming across very well.
The video is presented full-screen and looks pretty good for the most part, and is on par with the last volume. Colours are vibrant and well reproduced, but there is still some banding and colour bleeding going on, and during high motion scenes things tend to become quite blocky. This is more noticeable on a bigger screen, but it's not as bad as it was at times in the last set.
For this release the openings and endings are presented in their original, untouched Japanese kanji form. It's nice to get this for a TV show aimed at a young audience, but even better is there is a translated credit scroll after each episode. Unfortunately, there are no credit scrolls in English at all, meaning we don't get any translated voice actor credits or anything.
Like most Manga releases, this one comes with standard white subtitles with a black border, and it pleases me to say that they're a literal translation of the Japanese track.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are really well done and fit the style of the show perfectly. The main menu loops through the characters as they move across the screen before coming up in a group shot, while the selections are static at the bottom of the screen and the opening theme of the edited version plays over the menu. Sub-menus are all in a similar style, some with a bit of movement and music and others static, but they're all in the same theme and easy to access. I was really impressed with the menus here, especially given a couple of recent Manga series haven't been the best.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I took on the task of reviewing Naruto, a series already running well into the hundreds of episodes, I wondered how long it might take before I started to get bored of it. Well, if any volume so far was going to trigger that kind of feeling, it's this one. It's a bit strange as well, because there's a fair bit of character development in there, and the story continues to move forward. The problem in this volume is with the pacing.
In previous volumes, while some fights and stories have extended over several episodes, they're generally very focused on one or two fights or plot-lines. Here though, we have so many different stories going on at once that at times it becomes confusing as we switch between them all. It's quite a shame this is the case as well, because some of the meat in there is actually quite good, and I couldn't help but feel that a bit more focus here would've worked wonders.
This set opens where the last left off, with Sasuke and Gaara continuing their fight. It's back and forth, and Naruto warns Kakashi that he must call off the fight, having witnessed what Gaara is truly capable of. Kakashi has other ideas though, and feels Sasuke is ready for the challenge. Sure enough, the training has paid off because Sasuke has become considerably stronger than before. On the other hand, Gaara starts a transformation into something even bigger. All the while, the Anbu Black Ops are on alert, and just as the fight gets really interesting, things are interrupted as invaders jump in and all hell breaks loose.
Now, a new battle begins as the members of the Hidden Leaf Village try to fend off the intruders, and Orochimaru shows his face. He squares off against the Hokage, and at the same time we get to see a bit of history between the two that drives their ill will, as Orochimaru was once in line to be Hokage until he started learning secret jutsus. Meanwhile, Sasuke has disappeared on the tail of Gaara's team, and Kakashi sends Sakura, Shikamaru, Naruto and a dog called Pakkun after him.
The show then turns into something of a chase, with Naruto and team running into a few problems as they try to sniff out Sasuke, who in turn is trying to catch up to Temari, Gaara and Kankuro. At the same time, Kakashi and the other villagers continue to fend off Orochimaru's henchmen, while Konohamaru tries to help keep the other children safe. And of course, the battle between the Hokage and Orochimaru comes to a head, with potentially deadly consequences.
Eventually, when Sasuke catches up with Gaara's group, things start to pick up pace. But while the fights with Temari and Kankuro are fairly short, the key one with Gaara and Sasuke squaring off again is really good, as Gaara just continues to grow in strength. What also really helps make this fight so meaningful is seeing more of Gaara's past, with the man who brought him up and eventually decided he could never love him. It gives us a reason to sympathise with Gaara despite all the heinous things he's done, and that's always the sign of a good story.
It gets even better initially when Naruto intervenes at a key moment, and seeing his increased strength in the fight is really good as well. My only problem with how the fight takes place following Naruto's entrance though is that it just gets bigger and bigger, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Ending the volume with the fight where it is, as the sand demon Shukaku, summoned by Gaara, is about to fight the Chief Toad, called on by Naruto, is a bit of a downer for me because it leaves me almost dreading what is to come. Hopefully something good is pulled out of the hat, because as it stands I find it hard to get excited about the turn this fight has taken. And that's a shame, because while the battle should be grandiose it should never get too ridiculous.
Earlier I mentioned my big problem with the volume is it's pacing, and that's shown in the switch from the Sasuke fight followed by all hell breaking loose, which was a great twist of events that effectively turned everything on its head, to an episode almost entirely following Naruto, Sakura, Pakkun and Shikamaru as they chase Sasuke and the others. While the chase is important to the story, we really could've done without an entire episode devoted to it.
Likewise, the fight between the Hokage and Orochimaru starts off brilliantly, and although it's a bit too spread out amongst the other action, it's so intense that you can't wait to get back to it. Then it gets to a stand-off, and we remain in that same position (literally) for about the last five episodes on the disc. It's so ridiculous I started to roll my eyes when we kept going back to the same scene with nothing happening even though the Hokage kept talking about risking his own life. At times even the fight between Gaara and Sasuke/Naruto felt a little drawn out.
I dread to think what it must be like to watch this show week in, week out when you end up spending over a month's worth of episodes looking at the same scene with nothing at all changing. At least with the fights generally they move forward. The big shame of it is that amongst all the pacing problems, the story takes a great twist and the characters continue to grow and develop. Sakura uses some new skills she's learnt, Sasuke gets stronger and Naruto proves his worth again. We get to see more of what makes Gaara the way he is, the origins of the problems between the Hokage and Orochimaru. And what should be a great volume is brought down to normality for Naruto because of the problems with pacing.
If you're enjoying Naruto so far, this volume is a no-brainer. There are some great moments on this disc that really change the way the story is going, especially the interruption of the chuunin exam by Orochimaru and the subsequent fight with the Hokage. It's just marred by pacing problems that some fans will be able to ignore, while others will just find eternally frustrating, especially considering Naruto has done a great job of avoiding such trappings of its genre up until now. Couple that with a disappointing turn of events in the fight between Gaara and Naruto, and you have a volume that, while still worth buying and good value for money, is let down by a few problems that keep it from greatness.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Philips DVP 5980 region free DVD player upscaling to 1080p via HDMI, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2