Naruto Unleashed Set 2.1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £24.99
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Naruto

Naruto Unleashed Set 2.1

By Dani Moure     May 25, 2007
Release Date: May 21, 2007

Naruto Unleashed Set 2.1
© Manga UK

What They Say
Naruto Uzumaki is a lonesome young boy from the Hidden Leaf Village, a town with several young ninja-in-training who aspires to reach the village's one-of-a-kind highest ninja rank, the Hokage.

Featuring episodes 27 to 39!

The Review!
The chuunin exams continue for Naruto and friends, but the story starts to slow down a little.

I watched all three discs here primarily with the English DTS track, while sampling the Japanese DTS track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback. With the DTS (and 5.1) tracks being Manga's in-house upmixes, there's not a great deal to differentiate between it and the stereo track. It's a fair bit louder but the dialogue all comes across the front channels with little activity from the rear channels. Nevertheless, it's nice to have options and if you have the capability then the DTS track does probably offer the best experience.

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 really nice. Colours are vibrant and well reproduced, and I didn't notice any aliasing or other artifacting. Ghosting was also unnoticeable during playback on my television.

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, the Manga-produced full credit scrolls from the ends of each episode are gone, 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. Unfortunately, like far too many Manga releases this year, after two solid volumes Naruto has suddenly become plagued with dubtitles. Whether it's laziness, a decision from above or just for the sake of it, this really should not be happening on so many shows, especially a high profile one like this. There is simply no excuse, and it's unfortunate that although Manga have been aware of the problem for months they have chosen not to fix it and not to respond to the issue (at the time of writing this review) either. It's ridiculous.

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)
With this volume of Naruto, we're already up through episode 39 of the series, and while I still enjoyed this volume quite a lot, it has undoubtedly lost a little of the edge it had during the first two volumes. Partly, this is because of the nature of the chuunin exams " the lengthy story arc that takes up this whole volume and far beyond " and indeed, the nature of the series itself. As a long running action show aimed at teenage boys, you always end up getting into some sort of tournament, challenge or similar, and at this point Naruto gives us the exams.

It's actually a pretty interesting set up, as we see all the different groups of ninja go through a series of trials and tribulations in the second test, as their skills and resolve are pushed to the limit, and they have to deal with the fighting with each other as well as some outside forces at work. Given the amount of time these episodes get, there's plenty of time for character development, and we get a fair amount of that throughout these episodes too, as the cast is fleshed out beyond what we've seen before.

The second test itself is actually fairly simple. Each team of three starts at the same time, and they each have either a heaven or an earth scroll. The team's goal is to get one of the opposite scrolls to what they were given, so they have a pair, and take it to a tower where the final exam awaits. Of course, it's not quite that straightforward, as they aren't allowed to look at the scroll under any circumstances, or they fail, and the forest they have to navigate contains some very interesting challenges itself.

Things start as they mean to continue, with Naruto's group being tested from the offset. They are tricked by another group, who use an imitation trick to become Naruto and the imposter gets close to capturing their scroll. Luckily, Sasuke realises what's going on in time, but their whole team eventually comes face to face with a giant snake.

It seems a little crazy at first, but this leads to the most exciting part of this set " the introduction of Orochimaru. He is the man behind the snake trick and indeed, has many snake-like qualities himself. Although we only get to see him in one battle here, it's clear that he is going to play a large part in the story at some point, because he has some very lofty ambitions (to take over the Leaf Village and eventually kill the Hokage) and also manages to brand Sasuke with a certain mark that impacts his performance and could take him over at any time. He's just generally a pretty bad guy, and works behind the scenes for a lot of the disc as well.

Once we get past Orochimaru's introduction, we get the recovery stage as Sakura watches over her team as the only uninjured member left. Naturally they get attacked again, and Rock Lee is on hand to save the day. Once that fight is out the way, everyone suddenly has the urge to read their scrolls, and Kabuto is on hand to help Team Kakashi complete the exam.

The best thing about these episodes is the character moments we get scattered throughout. Despite being the titular character, often Naruto isn't the focus, so we get some nice balance with the supporting cast. What we do get by the end of this volume is some maturity in the way Naruto fights, and a general increase in strength. This is clear in the last battle he takes part in, and even Sasuke notes that this is not the same Naruto he knew before.

Sasuke gets a bit of a work through in general with Orochimaru, not just because of the branding but because he ends up doubting his skills. It's an interesting change to see Sakura have more confidence and try to break him out of the trance-like state he's in as he can't face fighting, and feels inferior to Naruto and Sakura as well. This is a side we don't often see, as Sasuke is usually the one most confident in his own skills, even to the point of arrogance.

There's even a bit of backstory there for Sakura, as we see the origins of her feud with Ino, after being childhood friends, over the fact that they both want to be with Sasuke. Even some of the supporting characters like Rock Lee and Gaara get some nice development as the episodes continue on, although not all to quite the same degree of success.

Despite the nice characterisation at times though, there can be no doubting that Naruto falls into the same pitfalls as most other shows in its genre. Although I hate to draw comparisons too much, it's hard to ignore the similarities with its Shonen Jump ilk, as it does at times become a bit repetitive and a bit of a bore. While it's obvious the creative team are doing their best to follow and pad the original manga story as closely as possible at this stage, the trappings of the long running story sometimes become obvious and it's a shame, as it just means the series has lost some of its spark. Granted, it's still a lot of fun, it's just not quite as much so as before.

In Summary:
This volume of Naruto entertains for the most part, but on a few occasions drags a little. I'm not sure if it's a good thing that we don't have to wait a week for the next episode when we get a slower one, or if it's like we're over-dosing on too much of a good thing. Either way the characters and their relationships are still strong, and there are some very good parts on this disc. Overall given the price, Naruto is still a bargain but whether it'll keep the interest over its extraordinarily long run is another question. It's just unfortunate that this release has become pointlessly marred by dubtitles like so many of Manga's releases this year. What's up with that?

Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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