Naruto Season Three Volume One from Viz collects another 29 episodes of the ninja anime on six DVDs that are certain to entertain fans. This set starts the next big story arc in the saga, where Sasuke mysteriously leaves the Leaf Village in order to join Orochimaru, the villain who killed the third Hokage. Naruto and his friends aren't sure if the young ninja has been kidnapped or what, but they intend to bring him back, even if it kills them. A lot of fun, ninja action, and some heart-warming vignettes are contained in this enjoyable collection.
Sasuke is still upset about losing his last battle, and even though he's in the hospital he longs to train and get stronger. What's even worse is that he knows Naruto is gaining strength at a faster rate than he is. Thing come to a head when Naruto and Sakura come to visit: Sasuke challenges Naruto to a fight, which the impulsive friend accepts. The battle is interrupted, but not before both combatants reveal just how strong they've become.
Sasuke leaves to cool off but just gets angrier. He desperately wants to become powerful so he can defeat his brother, the man who killed his entire clan. While stewing he encounters the Sound Four, Orochimaru's elite bodyguards who have been looking for him. After his battle with the Hidden Leaf Hokage, Orochimaru's body is in bad shape and he needs another. He's selected Sasuke as the replacement vessel, and sent the Sound Four to get him. The group promise to unlock incredible power in the young ninja if he'll go with them, and after saying goodbye to Sakura, he agrees.
Off in the forest the Four tell Sasuke that he needs to be able to tap into the full power of his curse, and to do that... he needs to die. At least for a while. They give him a pill that will put him in a comatose state and while he's unconscious the curse will grant him strength. He agrees, takes the pill and after he's out the Four seal him in a round coffin. They then head off to Orochimaru.
When it's discovered that Sasuke is missing the new Hokage, Tsunade, assigns the newly promoted Shikamaru to go after him. Shikamaru can't take any experienced ninja with him, they're needed to defend the village which is still very weak after the events surrounding the Third Hokage's death. He selects Naruto, Neji Hyuga, Choji Akimichi, and Kiba Inuzuka to go with him and the small group sets out to follow the trail.
They eventually meet up with the Sound Four, but as elite guards, they're pretty tough. One of them stays behind to take care of the lowly Leaf Ninja while the other three continue to bring Sasuke to their master. The rest of the collection is the chase after Sasuke, with one of Shikamaru's team staying behind to fight a member of the Sound Four one-on-one, while the others continue the chase. There are some desperate battles, and not everyone comes out unscathed.
This set of episodes was good, but it did get a little repetitive. They established a pattern with the chase and pretty much stuck to it through most of this collection. The fights also were a little long, which is a critique that could be leveled against most of the series, but this time they seemed to drag on a little longer than usual.
This set of shows also relied on a lot of flashbacks to pad out many of the episodes. Now Naruto has never shied away from reusing material. Almost all of the episodes start by replaying the ending of the previous show, and sometimes this lasts for a few minutes (!) but in these installments there were several flashbacks to earlier episodes. Members of the team would recall significant events in the recent past, sometimes in extended montage sequences. This felt like filler, almost like a clip episode spread across several episodes instead of being presented all at once. Instead of bringing viewers up to date on the show however, it felt like filler.
That's not to say the entire set was bad, it wasn't. There were several great moments, especially where the members of Shikamaru's team get an unexpected hand from an unlikely source near the end, and some interesting background information is revealed too. The two episodes where Sasuke recalls his life before his clan was slaughtered were both high points, but exploring the history of all of the ninja in Shikamaru's team was a nice touch that helps flesh out the show.
This set includes the next 26 episodes (107-135) on 6 DVDs. They come in a single double-width keepcase with each disc on its own side of a page. They are not overlapping.
This collection comes with both the original Japanese audio (with optional English subtitles) as well as an English dub, both in stereo. The dub track was not outstanding. Some of the children's voices were a little too high pitched and squeaky and other actors put a little too much emotion in their performances and hamming it up too much. Because of that I mainly screened this with the Japanese track, which I enjoyed much more. Being a recent show, the sound quality of both tracks was very good without any defects.
The full frame image was very good overall. The colors were bright and strong, and the lines were tight. Happily, digital defects were not prevalent and even aliasing was very minor. A solid looking DVD.
The extras are pretty minor. Scattered across the six discs are a couple of storyboard to finished product comparisons and production art galleries.
The show isn't quite reaching the heights that it once did, but this set still has some good episodes and this next story arc has a lot of potential. Like other Shonen Jump based shows it has an innocent charm and they cram each installment full of action and adventure. The show moves so fast (action-wise) it's hard to get caught up on the small flaws. Recommended