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 low-episode count 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 sixth 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. That changed somewhat with the last volume and the battles heated up quite a bit. There's still a long ways to go for this particular arc to see fruition, but until then there are plenty of battles to be had.
The five episodes here offer up more of the same with Teams Kakashi and Guy confronting the Akatsuki. In the last installment they came upon a seal that needed to be destroyed and the groups were split up. Kakashi and Naruto headed off in one direction while Sakura and Chiyo had to deal with Sasori the Puppet Master. Even in the fifth installment Sakura and Chiyo took the center stage, but I was kind of surprised to see that was the case with this volume as well.
The five episodes here focus entirely on the conflict between these two and Sasori. Quite honestly there isn't much else aside from this battle that's featured here. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because the action is pretty damn good. It's nice to see Sakura's new skills and Chiyo is a virtual unknown to us, so it's also cool to see what she has to offer. As is the case with any battle Naruto the Sasori fight reaches several climaxes as the ante is continuously upped to increase the dramatic effect. For instance Chiyo unleashes some hidden secret techniques that are trumped by Sasori, only to be beaten by Sakura. The pacing goes back and forth and the action easily outweighs the story here. In fact fighting is the only thing you really get.
I must admit that this installment feels light on content. The focus strictly on the action leaves it lacking in some areas and the lack of balance between characters is another sore spot. Don't get me wrong, I loved watching Sakura and Chiyo in battle, but it also would have been nice to have seen more of what was going on with the other characters. It's still worth checking out for fans of the show that have been collecting the individual volumes, but anyone who hasn't started should just wait for the boxed sets.
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 keeps the focus on action more than story as the sixth installment moves forward. The focuses here is almost exclusively the battle with Sakura and Chiyo, and in that sense it's good, but disappointing at the same time. It compartmentalized the show in a way and really feels like its just stalling to rack up the episode count. It's not surprising in any way really, but more story and less drawn-out action would have gone a long way. Recommended only to those collecting the individual volumes of the show. Everyone else should wait for the boxed sets.