There's a reason complete collections and larger batches of episodes have overtaken individual volumes for anime. For an example let's just take a look at Naruto.
The original series came out in beautiful three disc sets with several episodes apiece. After all, there were so many episodes in the series that getting a measly four at a time just didn't seem plausible or an intelligent way to market it. However, for the sequel VIZ opted to begin by releasing it as individual discs with four episodes a pop. Needless to say it's been a little frustrating so far and each volume feels painfully light. Thankfully there is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Next month we'll be getting a boxed set with a collection of episodes, so if you've held off so far you have something to cheer about.
Personally one of the things I dislike about individual volumes (at least from the reviewing angle) is the fact that installments sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Last time I was able to watch Naruto Shippuden the movie and second volume were made available to me. Unfortunately the third never came our way, so I must jump ahead to the fourth installment and miss a leg of the journey. Tragic, I know.
The last time Naruto played in our DVD player Gaara was kidnapped by the Akatsuki and all hell broke loose as ninja from the Sand and Leaf Villages assembled to rescue him. Naruto, Kakashi, and Sakura left from Konoha and we even saw Kankuro spring into action from the Sand. Presumably the conflict escalated in the last volume, since other ninja are brought into the fold by this point.
This time around things get much more interesting with the appearance of Itachi and Kisame. Something does appear to be off with these two at some point, but their appearance was welcome indeed. The Akatsuki are certainly a powerful group and their goals that involve Gaara and Naruto are quite foreboding. Everyone is still trying to get to Gaara at this point to rescue him before the Akatasuki finally kill him. Naruto in particular is resolute in his mission to save him and pushes himself to get past Itachi.
While there are no startling revelations in this volume (another problem with only four episodes of Naruto), there is a whole lot of fighting. The mad dash to save Gaara from the Akatsuki, the confrontation with Kisame and Itachi, and the inclusion of so many known ninja made the events here quite entertaining. I truly appreciated the involvement of Guy, Lee, Tenten, and Neji, and thought their battle against Kisame was particularly cool. With that being said there aren't many plot developments here until the final episode entitled "The Death of Gaara!". I'll leave your mind to wander about that one, but let's just say we've seen episodes titled that before.
Naruto Shippuden continues to prove why it's better than the majority of the first season. The battles are much fiercer, the plot is darker, and all around things just feel slightly more mature. The pacing and storytelling elements remain largely intact though, so you should expect drawn out moments, flashbacks, and recurring scenes throughout these four episodes. Personally I would hold out for the upcoming boxed set rather than dig into these individual volumes, but even so I'd consider this easily recommendable.
Just like the first series Naruto Shippuden hits DVD with its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. This isn't necessarily surprising, but I will say that I was kind of disappointed given the show's slightly more recent production date. I guess if it isn't broken you shouldn't fix it, though. For what it's worth the show looks extremely similar to the original. The world looks identical, the colors are just as vibrant, and all around the picture quality is on par with expectations set by the other DVD releases. Overall this is a generally solid release with little to no flaws.
English and Japanese 2.0 stereo are what you're going to find here. Though the show takes place a couple years after the first one it's worth noting that the voice actors are the same. So Naruto from back in the day sounds like the slightly older Naruto found in this one. The dubbing quality for both languages is quite solid, and the technical aspects are decent for a stereo presentation. Again, I'd say the quality is on par with the first show's release.
Some trailers are pretty much all you're going to find on this DVD for bonus features.
Naruto Shippuden picks up the pieces left by about 100 episodes of filler. It's easy to get back into and feels like a true return to form. The four episodes on this fourth installment offer plenty of fighting, a few dramatic moments, and some surprises. The presence of Guy, Lee, Tenten, and Neji in addition to the actions of Naruto and Kakashi make the ninja roster feeling well-rounded. The same goes for the inclusion of familiar villains. Add to all of that the fate of Gaara hanging in the balance and you have an action packed installment that easily entertains. This volume is recommended.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!