Mania Grade: C-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 16 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 49.95
- Running time: 650
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Naruto
Naruto Uncut Season 04 Box Set 1
Naruto Uncut Season 04 Box Set 1 Anime DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
December 31, 2010
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Naruto Uncut Season 04 Box Set 1
© Viz Media
Whether they're short arcs or long arcs, what we get here is a whole lot of stories that are meant to just pass the time.
What They Say
In the Village Hidden in the Leaves, there are few things Naruto and Choji love more than a steaming bowl of Ichiraku ramen, and when the daughter of the owner is kidnapped, they're on the case. Then, missions for the Leaf ninja lead them to the Land of Bears after a fallen meteorite and the Land of Greens to protect a princess. When an evil ninja who's after the princess gets in their way, it's Naruto's life on the line!
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 2005, 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 episodes on this set, broken down into a four or five episode per disc format as seen from their previous edition, 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 discernible issues. Colors are nicely solid, bit rates 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.
Done up in a double keepcase thickness, this set contains six discs as seen from the original digipak releases. The set lets the purple shine strong here as Kakashi strikes a serious pose with his blades in hand here. They do some nice pushes on the content side, stating it has eleven hours of action and that it's a six disc set, making it a pretty good deal on the surface. The back cover uses a lot more orange as well while adding the character artwork for Naruto and Orochimaru together doing an action pose that is decent overall. The summary doesn't exactly add all that much but it highlights the basic idea of the set with a couple of the stories dealt with. The sets features are all very clearly listed in a positive way and there's a small and slightly difficult to read block of production credits as well for both sides. The technical grid is pretty weak with most of it filled with logos and distribution information with only the running time and region coding really being useful here. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
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 and sixth volumes, 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 two episodes. 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 once again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Naruto barrels through another big chunk of filler episodes with this collection and it’s painting one very obvious picture. How in the world did the series survive this run of filler? Twenty eight episodes populate this set and we get a couple of longer stories, including one carried over from the previous set, as well as some standalone tales. These stories are really mediocre at best and are all entirely forgettable for the most part outside of the campy factor that’s kicked up for the standalone episodes that go for the laughs. But did they go for the laughs intentionally or did they end up degrading the show from its serious aspects that made up the really good material before the filler?
The first comedy story is admittedly amusing in a way as it introduces the concept of ninja chefs. These chefs were originally created in order to provide better sustenance options for ninjas on missions instead of the tasteless pills that help them out. What they found out in the past though was that ninjas have no sense of moderation and would overeat on what they had and become plump and unable to perform their duties. The desire to cook well is still there though and the episode introduces one of those chefs whose daughter has been kidnapped. Naruto and friends have to help him out by cooking for the bad guy in order to free the young woman. Cook with ninja skills. It’s pretty bad but there’s a kind of camp factor here that kept me laughing at times when I knew I shouldn’t.
The other standalone comedy episode doesn’t fare so well as it involves postal ninja. Or as they prefer to be called, Delivery Ninja. This group of skilled ninja serve to deliver packages between destinations with nothing getting in their way and they treat it with the utmost honor. Jiraiya figures heavily into this story as Naruto decides to spend time with him to get some training but Jiraiya is too busy writing his manuscript. Naruto ends up writing his own to send in Jiraiya’s place so they can start the training, but it ends up causing a whole lot of trouble and could actually cause a war between two places. So they have to go up against the Delivery Ninja to try and retrieve the manuscript first and then stop the war. Unfortunately, even as weak as this story is, it’s still one of the better parts of the show because it is memorable.
The larger storylines in the set aren’t all that memorable overall, largely because anything that happens in Naruto during this phase won’t matter since it’s not part of the original manga storyline. They’re basically spinning their wheels and trying to do something a little bit fun. The downside is that nothing here really has as strong a feel as the non-filler episodes do. The stories may even be contradicting at times as they introduce things that don’t make sense or feel out of place. The standalone stories have that feeling as well, but it’s the multi-part episodes that give it off more because they’re trying to do something with Naruto that’s done with some amount of seriousness. And that has a feeling of being hamstrung by the inability to really change anything.
This set does finish out the storyline that started in the previous set with the Cursed Warrior that was causing trouble in the land that Naruto and the others were sent to deal with. While the mission did end properly, something about the situation didn’t sit well with Kakashi and Naruto and each of them went off in their own way to try and deal with it. The power play aspect of it introduces a Wandering Ninja group which adds more to the overall world at large but runs into the problem again of having ninjas with big abilities that Naruto has a hard time overcoming. Except that they don’t seem like particularly big abilities and Naruto and Kakashi in particular should be able to handle with ease.
Another storyline has Naruto and a few others heading off on a mission that puts them up against some remnants of Orochimaru’s who are involved in genetic manipulation. The creation of man-fish ninja figure heavily into this as does Anko’s past as she’s chosen to head up the mission and was involved in the creation of one of the prototypes years earlier. Another storyline has Naruto being sent to work with Kiba and Hinata on a treasure hunt mission that’s really about them figuring out how to work together as they’ll be sent back to the Academy otherwise. Each of these runs for several episodes and has a lot of the same kind of elements, where each group pushes up against each other but have to find a way to work together to solve the larger problem. The real problem is that there is nothing terribly engaging about what they’re doing.
One filler episode that was predictable but good involved Kiba and Akamaru. The pair have been something of a favorite of mine since there’s such a fun and honest relationship between the two. The standalone story involving them has Akamaru taking ill to the point where he becomes very out of character in his violence and starts attacking others randomly. There is one hilarious moment where he’s got Naruto bent over on all fours and he’s just chewing his butt out hard. It looks badly animated and it’s choreography and position really makes it look like it’s asking for a bestiality parody to be done. Beyond that though, it’s a nice little episode as it shows the bond that Kiba and Akamaru share since there’s the potential for Akamaru being put down if they can’t discover what’s wrong with him. Of course, you know nothing drastic will happen, and it is predictable, but I liked the interplay between the two.
While I can understand the smaller standalone stories being somewhat bad to say the least, I usually hope that the multi-episode stories are better since they have more time to actually develop something. Then I remember that they can’t really change anything and more often than not they introduce concepts and ideas that push the boundaries of what fits within the show. The opening arc which runs several episodes focuses on a small isolated ninja village that has a secret power to it that revolves around a fallen star. The rock is something that when used in training helps to boost the abilities of those who train with it, giving them skills that go beyond the norm which even includes flying. Use of the star has been forbidden for a bit but a power play is in motion that has people using it again and it’s causing all sorts of problems. Naturally, Naruto and others are brought in to help manage things a bit at the request of some in the village, but they can do only so much because each village must determine its own destiny.
The other main story arc that runs several episodes is on the back end of the release that starts off by giving you the horrid idea of a ninja moving company. The Land of Green is undergoing a coup itself within its power structure as more ninjas from across the ocean have arrived (there must be some sort of easy crossing point as this happens in the movies too) and they’re going to take over everything. Naruto, Choji and Hinata are sent to guard a merchant train working its way through the mountains and they get caught up in everything while discovering that one of the members of the wagon train is actually a princess that’s somewhat held hostage by her position. There’s a good bit of fighting back and forth, but unlike the star storyline, no ninjas use their chi in order to give themselves psychic wings on which they can fly. But it’s hard to get into it because of the entire idea that they give off in the title about a ninja moving company. It’s story ideas like that, more often seen in the standalone episodes, that continue to demean the series overall. I’m sure there are quite a few of these in the main canon material as well though.
Going through this set at the same time that I'm watching filler stories in the Naruto: Shippuden series that go back even further than this is really disconcerting. There's little real difference between them in the end other than the age of the characters. What we see Naruto and the others go through are are zero impact stories where more often than not, the ninja world is expanded in a bad way. Cooking, delivery and other such events really don't help to make the show any better, at least for a segment of fans. It's easy to see why these kinds of episodes appeal to younger fans and those who are easily connected to their inner younger fan, but I continue to find them very tedious to watch overall and a second viewing of them a few years after their initial release has not softened my view of them. Fans of the show and this material get a great amount of content for a good price and those who would only buy it when they could get it cheap will do well to hunt up this set. But if you weren't keen on this material the first time around, time likely has not changed how you will feel about it.
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.
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