Either in battle or on the move, Naruto keeps the show flowing fairly well as it teases out a few more secrets and some good emotions.
What They Say
Two powerful jonin of the Leaf, Kakashi and Guy, have taken on their Akatsuki rivals Itachi and Kisame. While Guy battles to save his team from a water prison, Kakashi exhibits his genius ninja prowess by seeing through Itachi's most subtle tactics. Turns out the battle wasn't quite what it seemed, and Kakashi and Granny Chiyo are fearful of the implications. Naruto and the team are forced to face the bitter truth - they might already be too late!
Contains episodes 14-17:
The Secret Weapon Is Called...
The Secret Of Jinchuriki
The Death Of Gaara!
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 2007, 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 four episodes that are on this disc, 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 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.
The cover artwork features a black and white piece of Itachi with a dark and almost brooding look to his face as he stands calmly along the left side of the cover. The black and white nature of it really does change the appearance of it all in comparison to the previous kind of singles which were mostly shots from the show with vibrant colors. There’s a lot of color here, with a red original logo on the right side and the US logo along the top brings in reds, oranges, blues and even some pink. It’s an eye-catching and busy cover that stands out because of the disparity. The back cover is kept to white with some gray background circles to give it a bit more accent. A few shots from the show are included that are decent and the summary covers a fair amount of ground with what’s going on here. The episodes are listed clearly by name and number while the rest is given over to production credits. As is usual, Viz wants nothing to do with a technical grid that would make it easy to break down what’s here, so you have to find the basic stats within the various areas of text. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The menu for this release is pretty decent and stands out more than most other companies at this point in time. There’s a black cloud like border around the screen with a static image of a couple of the Akatsuki while the background has animation from the film playing through it as various weapons fly by. It’s really nicely creative to fit in with the show overall and it does highlight some care and creativity. The music is spot on for something uplifting and energetic. Menu navigation is straightforward with a strip along the bottom and episode navigation isn’t bad as you can access the parts of each episode from one submenu. Everything loads quickly but the disc doesn’t read our players’ language presets as it defaults to English with no subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the fourth volume of the series in single disc form, Naruto: Shippuden moves along rather nicely and I’m still surprised that I’m enjoying it for the most part. There are some slow moments to be had here and there and some of the flashbacks to the very early past feel a little forced at this point, but with a couple hundred episodes in the first series it’s not entirely unwarranted. For the most part though things are kept in the present and there’s a good bit of movement with the plot and with the characters that help to cement things pretty well.
There are two main areas that these four episodes play in and they’re all related which is nice. The first half of the volume focuses on the two fights that are going on, one with Kakashi’s team and the other with Guy’s team. Each of them are going up against a fairly powerful member of the Akatsuki, though it’s hard to say just how powerful as often they don’t let their strongest go out in the first round of fighting. The inclusion of Itachi in the fight has really given us a different view of what this storyline may be about since he brings a fair amount of baggage with him in relation to his family and with Sasuke in particular. Guy’s fight is a bit less intense since in some ways it feels like a rematch, though Guy doesn’t realize it, and you know that all of this is just stalling for time.
The fights themselves are a whole lot of fun, though my preference goes for Itachi’s fight against Kakashi and Naruto. There are a lot of little nuances here with how it plays out regarding the powers that are being used with the eyes, and Naruto really does get to shine a fair bit here as he starts to figure things out. The only downside is that they have to use the old trick of showing Naruto undergoing his special training with Jiraiya where he’ll learn exactly what he needs at that moment in order to survive the fight. It’s a reason that I really wish that the filler area of Naruto focused more on the two year gap instead of all the silly filler we got. But that’s just not how it works unfortunately so we do get the forced moment, but it does lead to a really good series of events as Naruto has to actually put it into motion and work through it.
The second half of the disc is a bit more mellow in a way as it shifts the dynamic from the fight to the find aspect. Gaara’s been down and out for a few episodes now and we see that Akatsuki have been spending a few days continually draining the power from him for their nefarious purposes. It’s given a small amount of time, which is all it really deserves, because it’s a quiet series of events as they drain him. The more interesting aspects come from having Chiyo dealing with the Leaf village folks as they speed as fast as they can to rescue Gaara. She’s had such a different life than all of them and found so much hardship, much as they have but in a different vein, that seeing these youngsters fighting so hard for her grandson strikes a nerve with her.
It goes so much against how she has lived her life, the distrust and unwillingness to ask for help of other villages because it would show a sign of weakness, that she is only now realizing that the world has changed significantly over the years. When the talk of what’s inside people like Gaara surfaces, with it being clearly called the Juchinriki, Chiyo starts to understand why Naruto is taking all of this so personally. What’s unfortunately glossed over, and that I wish was covered more, is that Chiyo talks about all of this with Kakashi as they fly between the trees to reach where Gaara is. Considering the distaste she has for the man based on his father, it’s somewhat surprising that she’s so easily conversational with him. I would have liked to have seen more of that initial tension dealt with here since it’s hard to believe that Chiyo would change her attitude towards him so quickly and without much outward issue considering what there is between the two families.
Naruto: Shippuden keeps on rolling here and I’m enjoying it since it’s providing some decent fight scenes, good character moments and building upon everything that has come before. The singles are a bit frustrating in a way because it’s such a small snapshot of the show, but there’s a lot to like with each volume. This one gives us some good initial moments with Itachi, though not without some deception, while the second half of the disc works up the character sides and adds more to the connections that these younger characters all have together. This isn’t a standout set of episodes, but it’s a solid groundwork piece that sets up where we’ll be going even more while reinforcing the relationships that several people have. Definitely a lot of fun and it kept me entertained for the whole duration and wanting more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.