VIZ Media continues their release of individual volumes of Naruto Shippuden, despite the fact that they've also begun releasing boxed sets. Why they continue to release individual volumes is beyond me, but one must assume that these discs are selling. Personally I'd rather get a chunk of episodes at a time, rather than four on one disc, but maybe that's just me. Whatever the case may be Shippuden is a blast so far and being able to see it in any form is a treat for fans of the first series.
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!
Since the first volume of Naruto Shippuden we've been on the search for Gaara. This opening arc has had many highs and lows, and in all fairness after 30 episodes I'm at the point where I just want it to be over and done with already. In the sixth installment the five episodes focused on Sakura and Chiyo's fight against Sasori, the Puppet Master. It was an interesting battle and one that played out similarly to other Naruto efforts. Both sides went through different phases where they unleashed one technique or another to overcome the other, and in the end the volume left with the dust still not settled. Thankfully that particular battle comes to a conclusion at the start of this volume.
In the seventh volume the show is finally able to move past the five (or was it six?) episode long conflict. This time around we get a little shift in focus between Kakashi and Naruto and Team Guy. On the Team Guy front they are struggling against their mirrored counterparts, because as they tired their foes' strength remains the same. They each have to come up with some way to defeat themselves before they become to exhausted to stand.
On the other side of the coin, Kakashi has created a new technique entitled the Mangekyo Sharingan that he plans to use on Deidara. Things don't go quite as planned with that, and in the end it's up to Naruto to step in for a bit. He begins to lose his cool, however, and the demon within starts to come to the surface. The episodes here heat up as all three storylines converge on Deidara and Gaara. The volume ends with a cliffhanger that leaves you contemplating the fate of a character, though I dare not say more than that.
While the four episodes once again leaves one disappointed, I can't help but feel that this installment was far more interesting than the last. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the battle between Sakura, Chiyo, and Sasori, but watching Team Guy in action along with Team Kakashi was definitely more energetic and entertaining. This volume his some solid notes despite feeling dragged out in parts, and in the end Naruto fans will eat it up. Granted that's mostly because the Fox Demon starts to control Naruto, and that's just cool when it happens.
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 a big fat load of nothing are all you're going to find here for bonus features.
Naruto Shippuden keeps the focus on action with the seventh installment. As the dust settles from the battle that took place in the previous volume, some more take center stage here. The Team Guy battle is fairly engaging in parts and the Kakashi/Naruto battle has some highlights as well. Overall this one is gear more towards fighting, rather than plot, so in that sense the pacing feels strange. It's also stretched out with flashbacks and drawn out, unnecessary conversations, but that's par for the course. This DVD is recommended only to those collecting the individual volumes of the show. Everyone else should wait for the boxed sets.