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Naruto Uncut Box Set 9 - Special Edition
It's hard to deny that Naruto has become one of the world's most popular anime franchises. Heck, all you really have to do is hit an anime convention and see how many cosplay characters you can pick out of the crowd. The masterpiece created by Masashi Kishimoto has more volumes of manga than you can shake a stick at and an anime with over 200 episodes. You just know going into a DVD release that you need to be vested for the long haul and thankfully VIZ's uncut collections capitalize on that.
While you can find DVDs of Naruto edited for the younger American audience the original Japanese version is by far the better of the two. After all, would you want to watch some watered down shadow or one that packs more of a punch? Punch it is!
The long running adventures of Naruto continue and not too long ago it seems like we just sat down to watch the eighth volume. Last time around the conclusion came about with Tsunade's storyline as Naruto and Jiraiya saved her neck and got her back to Hidden Leaf Village. Orochimaru was up to his old tricks again but he was put on the backburner while Tsunade became Hokage. There were a couple of one shot stories thrown into the mix and a brief mission that took a few episodes. All in all there wasn't much that was epic but that all changes with this installment.
Right from the start this volume gets the ball rolling with Sasuke recuperating in the hospital and feeling bitter about his situation. All along he has been the prodigy and destined for great things according to everything people told him. Deep inside all he ever wanted was power and revenge but all of that has been slowly crashing down around him as Naruto the once incompetent ninja youth has surpassed him in just about every way. The somewhat friendly rivalry they once enjoyed has turned Sasuke's frustration of his own inadequacies against Naruto and in this volume it comes to a boiling point.
Sasuke calls Naruto out and the two teammates have it out on the rooftop of the hospital. They trade blows but before they can unleash their most powerful attacks on each other Sakura and Kakashi step in and stop the battle. To make a long story shorter Sasuke feels compelled to leave the Village of the Leaf and go see Orochimaru. Naturally this doesn't sit well with Tsunade and the rest of the ninja so a team is sent out to retrieve him. Unfortunately all of the Jonin and more powerful ninja are stretched thin and away on missions so things are left in the hands of Shikimaru who has recently been appointed to the status of Chonin.
Shikimaru's task is simply to prevent Sasuke from reaching Orochimaru by any means necessary and bring him back to the village. He can't do it alone though since Sasuke is being couriered by four of Orochimaru's curse marked thugs. He's given thirty minutes to pull a team together that includes Choji, Neji, Kiba, and naturally, Naruto. The four make an interesting team with their own strengths and you can rest assured that each gets their fair amount of time in the spotlight here. This pursuit and these fights take up the entire volume and right up to the end we have no closure. Things are left with the assumption that some of the characters are left for dead while the others are outmatched and facing formidable opponents. If you haven't spoiled the show for yourself you simply don't know how things are going to end by the time the final episode rolls around. It's a nice change of pace and certainly makes you want the next volume as soon as possible.
The Naruto trend of offering a more subdued volume followed by a kick ass one continues. There is some fine action here and the storytelling elements are every bit as good as material that came before it. It's installments like this that prove how great this show can be and how it can bend preconceptions about the fact that it's aimed towards kids. There's some deep storytelling here and a lot of background to follow.
Originally airing in 2002 Naruto is presented with a 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio and features a vibrant transfer. The characters absolutely pop from just about every frame with a bright palette and a pleasing art style. With the recent production date the show doesn't have a lot of visible flaws though it's hard to deny that there are some here and there. A slight amount of grain blankets areas of the feature where colors are shaded or murkier than most. Some bits of compression where identifiable as well. Apart from these minor borderline nitpicky gripes there really was nothing to complain about. This is a solid looking show that is presented well on DVD.
The audio presentation for Naruto comes in the form of two 2.0 stereo tracks. The English dubbing offers up some irritating voices and an experience that one might call overacting. The Japanese language track was much better with easily acceptable vocals and equivalent quality in sound. With the limitations of a stereo track it's no surprise that there is little to no directionality. It wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination but a 5.1 offering would have gone a long way. Still, this collection is problem free; it just doesn't go out of its way to impress.
The ninth installment of Naruto keeps the trend going and offers up a storyboard booklet for episode 110 and a few familiar inclusions on the third disc. A gallery of production art, some trailers, and a storyboard to screen comparison for episode 112 are available as well. All around these are the same standard features we have been receiving with each volume so there shouldn't be many surprises or disappointments here.
The Special Edition of Naruto's ninth uncut box set is identical in every way to the regular release, but it's another $20. This extra dough nets you another collectible figure to line up on your shelf of Naruto toys. For the ninth boxed set the figure included is Orochimaru's summon creature, Manda. It's not worth the extra cash just for the little toy, but true Naruto enthusiasts and collectors will undoubtedly want it.
Naruto is just one of those series that has lasting appeal with all audiences. It's rare that something is as widely accepted, but the action, humor, and heartfelt storytelling are perfect reasons for its success. All along this has been a great series and with every other volume it seems to raise its own bar. This installment is by far one of the better to come along in a while and that's mostly thanks to the fact that some secondary characters get their time to shine.
Is the Special Edition worth checking out over the regular edition? Well, considering that the actual discs themselves are the same and there are no added bonus features, probably not. The real test of the Collector Edition's value comes from the toy that's included with it which isn't necessarily worth $20 in my opinion, but it's cool to have nonetheless. Either way you look at it the show comes highly recommended, but you're probably better off with the regular version of this release.