I can't tell a lie, I'm really glad this 16th installment of Naruto has arrived. Do you know why? It means that the end of filler is upon us! We're at the point where the overall story of the series can finally move ahead. Unfortunately before that can happen we still have to sit through plenty of filler material in this volume as well. Don't fret, there are still some fun adventures here. It's just unfortunate that in order to get to those episodes you have to slog your way through a bunch of mediocrity.
Okay, I have to say that despite all of my complaining I've still had a good time with Naruto even throughout the filler. The charm is still there, the characters are still fun, and there are plenty of ninja missions that unfold. It's just the fact that no new developments come about really slows down the overall pacing. That and the fact you just know nothing cool is going to happen kind of puts a damper on things.
For this 16th installment we have episodes 206 through 220 up for grabs on three discs (same layout as all the other sets). The collecting kicks off with two episodes that bring a close to the story introduced in the previous installment. This one sees the group rescuing Kurenai and trying to put a stop to the ridiculously powerful Genjutsu of Yakumo. There are some interesting moments here and the wits of Shino, Naruto, and the gang are put to the test. In the end though, I think you can figure out who wins and that nothing happens to the secondary cast members. After the ending of that arc there's a lame one-shot episode with Naruto and Kiba.
The next storyline in Naruto follows the gang from Konoha village as they transport a prisoner to another area's council. At first the tale is kind of dry, but when the prisoner's rival and friends show up things get a little more interesting. There's a bit of fighting as you'd expect and some things are not quite as they seem. In the end this was a rather middle of the road arc. Following that was an even weaker one about some kid who lost his memory. What's worse is this one lasts three episodes instead of one.
Leading up to the grand finale is a series of episodes focusing on the exploits of some Sand ninja, included everyone's favorite badass Gaara. A whole lot of fighting transpires here as everyone tries to get back a member of the Sand village who was kidnapped. In all honesty the action hasn't been this good for a while and there are several moments that feel like the old days. I suppose it was a fitting way to lead up to the end of the series, but still ultimately disappointing in the end. And finally we have the last episode, which merely bridges the gap between this series and Shippuden. I don't want to give away all that happens, but let's just say that Jiraiya comes back to Konoha and has a tempting offer for Naruto.
It's been a long road since I started watching Naruto back when the first volume came out back in 2006. I can't believe I've been reviewing the series for over three years! The majority of my time with the show has been very positive. I didn't know if I would get into it at first, but the core story is so good that it just sucked me right in. Unfortunately my time with the show has gone out in kind of a whimper. These filler episodes have been absolutely murder to sit through at times. While some of the random storylines are fine enough and there's plenty of action, the pacing and fact that nothing major happens just leaves everything feeling "blah". This 16th installment feels slightly better than some of the previous ones, but the fact still remains that it's all filler, except the last episode. I say bring on Shippuden already!
Naruto is presented with a 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio and features a vibrant transfer. The characters absolutely pop from just about every frame with a bright palette and a pleasing art style. With the recent production date the show doesn't have a lot of visible flaws though it's hard to deny that there are some here and there. A slight amount of grain blankets areas of the feature where colors are shaded or murkier than most. Some bits of compression where identifiable as well. Apart from these minor borderline nitpicky gripes there really was nothing to complain about.
The audio presentation for Naruto comes in the form of two 2.0 stereo tracks. The English dubbing offers up some irritating voices and an experience that one might call overacting. The Japanese language track was much better with easily acceptable vocals and equivalent quality in sound. With the limitations of a stereo track it's no surprise that there is little to no directionality. It wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination but a 5.1 offering would have gone a long way. Still, this collection is problem free; it just doesn't go out of its way to impress.
The final round of Naruto playing cards have been tossed in here. There is also a production art gallery and a sneak peak at Shippuden, but that's pretty much it.
Naruto's popularity is well-known and deserved. The show has had so many highlights it's not even funny, and I dare say that it stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best shows out there. Unfortunately for every two steps forward there is at least one step back. The show hit the ground running, it knew what it wanted to do and it took you there in calculated steps. Unfortunately at some point the show got ahead of the manga and from then on just churned out filler after filler. This is the end of it all and the beginning of Shippuden is just around the corner. It's sad but the main reason I enjoyed this episode was because it felt like the last chapter of a long book, and now I want the sequel.
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