While I always say that the boxed set route is the best way to go when you're talking about anime, VIZ is still releasing Naruto Shippuden as individual volumes. Four or five episodes at a time just doesn't quite cut it anymore, though the fact remains that Shippuden is a worthy successor to the Naruto brand. Fans of the original will appreciate the sequel as much as the original. Newcomers, however, may want to check out the first series before digging into this one. After all, this is one of the biggest anime franchises on the market right now and it's so popular for a reason.
I could go through the complete history of Naruto here, but in all fairness there really shouldn't be a need for it. If you're coming to this installment you know what Shippuden is and are probably well-versed in Naruto lore. If not, then check out the top part of this page for a little search box. It'll do you a world of good!
As entertaining as Naruto Shippuden has been, I can't deny that it has kind of kept things in neutral with regards to the story. Sure some of the battles have been cool, and the characters are as fun as always, but the entirety of the first seven volumes (30 episodes) has been on chasing down the Akatsuki who kidnapped Gaara from the Sand Village. We had the tracking of the ninja, various battles with them, and finally, thankfully, this eighth volume brings this arc to a close. Don't get me wrong, the overall story was good, but it just took so long to get from point A to point B that it began to drag.
So what happens in this volume? Well, for starters Gaara is brought back to the land of the living. I won't divulge how it happens, but let's just say that it comes at a great cost for someone from the Leaf Village. An eye for an eye, as they say. What happens next is quite a bit of character development for Gaara, and his relationship with Naruto grows substantially. It's actually quite a touching scene and speaks volumes for just how good the Naruto franchise can be.
From this point the other three episodes follow the crew as they return to normal life inside their ninja village. Gaara heads back to the Sand Village to pick up the pieces while Naruto and company travel back to Konoha to do much of the same. In the meantime there's some plot surrounding a new member of the Akatsuki, the introduction of a new Anbu ninja, and Kakashi gets a new team put together. That's pretty much all that happens in this installment, which exemplifies why individual discs just aren't as good as boxed sets. The content is on such a small scale that by the time the volume is over, you'll feel like nothing actually happened.
Fans of Naruto Shippuden will be pleased with this volume as the content that carries weight here is actually quite good. It's probably the best we've seen from the show since the split between Naruto and Sasuke. With that being said if you have the option go with the boxed sets instead. Sure you may have to wait a little longer for that particular release, but getting 12-13 episodes at a time is far better than four. Either way, you can consider this show recommended and this disc is solid enough for those who have been collecting the individual releases.
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.
Naruto Shippuden finally moves on from the Gaara kidnap arc! It took about 30 episodes to get to this point, but the closure certainly feels worth it. Emotions run high and there's some fascinating character drama that takes place in the first couple of episodes here. The rest feels like filler, though some stuff happens that will hold ramifications for future episodes. Consider this disc recommended, though realistically fans should be holding out for the boxed sets.