The battle to rescue Gaara goes on. And on. And on. And....
What They Say
It's time for another pulse-pounding, action-packed volume of Naruto Shippuden! Sakura and Team Guy fans will definitely enjoy this latest volume!
Team Kakashi is joined by Team Guy in their pursuit of Gaara's kidnappers, Deidara and Sasori, but on their way to the Akatsuki hideout is fraught with familiar enemies and deadly traps.
Audio is provided in English and Japanese 2.0 versions - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. The audio is serviceable rather than impressive - there's decent use made of directionality but nothing that has an wow value, even during the fight scenes. Dialogue is clear, though, and there are no obvious encoding defects.
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect, and looks pretty damn good - although given the profile of the show that's hardly surprising. There's some good detail in the backgrounds, while the animation is smooth, colours are bright and animation smooth. There are no obvious problems with the encode.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu for both discs is a static affair, with the boy wonder in an action pose against a dark background with the opening theme playing. Options are provided for Play All, Setup, and Episodes for scene selection. An option for Extras is added to disc two. There are no transition animations - a pet hate of mine - so it's all quick and easy to use.
There's a small gallery of production artwork on disc two, and that's all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The Leaf teams may have the advantage in numbers, but it's the Akatsuki warriors that are making all the running in the current battles, to the point where Naruto's beginning to wonder what the hell's going on. Putting up a good fight is one thing, but if you're just not good enough... well, it's not going to end well. And the Leaf don't seem to be good enough. Guy, at least, has a weapon of last resort for just such an occasion and knows that it's time to use it. Naruto, though, is finding it impossible to avoid being caught up in Itachi's genjutsu. Jiraiya once taught him how to break free of a genjutsu, but theory and practice are two very different things. Later, the battle continues when the two Leaf teams are united, but it seems that the Akatsuki are well-prepared for their arrival...
This will be a short review, as there's really not a hell of a lot to write about here. In true Naruto tradition, the entire set is taken up by the continuing effort to free Gaara - with the vast majority of the time being filled by the ongoing battles of the gang. Some get more emphasis than others, though, and the short straw this volume goes to the members of Team Guy, who send a sizeable chunk of the story playing with themselves - as in, fighting against clones of themselves, which as you might expect isn't particularly easy, when your opponent thinks and fights in exactly the same way as you do. There are only the briefest of flashbacks to the team's battles, by way of letting you know that they're still going on, but for now at least it's Naruto and Sakura who are doing the heavy lifting.
In Naruto's case, that's solely through letting himself be riled in a tally predictable way. On reaching the Akatsuki lair and finding Gaara apparently dead (and I don't believe for a moment that that won't be undone), he goes into a rage and sets off in pursuit of Deidara, one of the responsible Akatsuki members - despite knowing that Deidara has been tasked with capturing him so that he, too, can be subjected to the same treatment as Gaara. Forward planning? Not really his strong point.
It's Sakura, though, who gets the majority of the spotlight this time around, as she takes on Puppet Master Sasori with no small amount of help from his grandmother, Chiyo - this battle is the focus of the second half of the set, and while it starts well enough it quickly falls into the old trap of each combatant stepping up the power levels over and over in turn until it reaches the stage where, to me at least, it was just getting silly. By that stage it had also gone in for far too long, and more than any other part of the series so far (including the first 'season') had me wishing it would all just stop. The whole arc is just being dragged out beyond any sort of reason, and has thoroughly worn out its welcome with me.
There are moments of real plot, where the reasons behind Gaara's capture are explained (all to do with the tailed beasts that are sealed inside Gaara, Naruto and others like them), but these are few and far between. You're more likely to find yourself in the middle of a flashback, where the training behind a particular fighting move is explained - and since that just break up the flow of the battle and drags them out for even longer, they're not scenes I particularly welcome.
If the events of this set - 13 episodes - had been crunched down into half the time, it might have been worth watching. Stretched out for as long as it is, though, it becomes tedious beyond belief - and I don't believe the arc is remotely near finished yet. Oh joy. If you're a die-hard Naruto fan, I admit that you'll probably get more out of this than I did, but it's still a long way short of Naruto's finest hour.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.