VIZ has finally started releasing the boxed sets of Naruto Shippuden (yay!), but in the meantime their individual volumes are still ahead of the boxes as far as episodes are concerned. The problem here is fans may have already started collecting the individual discs before the collection was announced. There's a reason this practice was more or less abandoned by the anime industry, but these feelings aside yet another four-episode DVD has landed on my doorstep.
In case you're unfamiliar with Naruto then do yourself a favor and use the "search reviews" function at the top of this page. I won't bother reciting the history of the show or go into lengthy dialogue regarding what it's about. If you're coming to this review for the fifth installment of Naruto Shippuden then I'm going out on a limb and assume you know what's going on in the series.
For some time now Shippuden has been taking us on the quest to find Gaara, who got himself kidnapped by the Akatsuki a few volumes back. Two teams of ninja from Konoha village have come to the rescue and the past two installments have taken to a place where they are hot on his trail. Aside from some interesting fight scenes there hasn't been anything really going on and we've just been watching Naruto, Kakashi, Sakura, Guy, Lee, Tenten, and Neji running around. Does that change with this installment? Not entirely, but things do heat up a little towards the end.
Basically these four episodes offer some more of the same with Teams Kakashi and Guy still chasing after the Akatsuki. They finally reach their hideout and where they're keeping Gaara, but a Five-Seal Barrier is blocking the way. In order to break through this seal and fine their way inside the four other seals must be destroyed. Five seals, two teams, you do the math. The group has to split and the ninja that head off to take care of the other seals run into a tricky situation and a tough opponent that each has a tough time with. You wouldn't think that the Akatsuki would let them break through their seals easily, but I was pleasantly surprised to see what was in store for them here.
The ninja who are left after the team splinters are Kakashi, Naruto, Sakura, and Chiyo. At this point there's yet more fighting to be had as Kakashi and Naruto take off after Gaara while Sakura and Chiyo deal with Sasori the puppet master. While both pairings get a decent amount of time in the spotlight, the focus is primarily on Sakura and Chiyo and their plight. This was a nice touch because the battle at hand was different than what we've seen before, and it allowed for further development of Chiyo's character.
In the end this volume of Naruto Shippuden was pretty much over before I knew it. Four episodes just isn't enough for the series to feel like it's moving anywhere due to the large amount of filler content and rehashed scenes/dialogue. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly bogs down the experience and I must admit the show feels like its dragging on at times. Still, Naruto fans that have been collecting these individual DVDs will want to consider this an easy recommendation, but if you are totally new to Shippuden do yourself a favor and pick up the box set.
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.
Trailers and that's it.
Naruto Shippuden continues forward with its tale about the Akatsuki and their efforts to do whatever it is they want to do with Gaara. This storyline has featured more action than actually plot, but there's still some story peppered in here and there. With this fifth installment I must admit that I'm growing a little weary of this plotline and look forward to see where it's going, or what's beyond. There are some nice battles here and I appreciated the amount of creativity that went into the episodes, but the four-episode single discs just feel like they're dragging on. Taken as a straight shot in a boxed set this would be a much different experience. It's still entertaining and it's decidedly Naruto, but these individual discs are only recommended to fans that haven't decided to go with the boxed set.
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!