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Naruto Uncut Box Set, Volume 12
It's hard to deny Naruto's place in the anime world. It's arguably one of the most popular franchises this side of DBZ and all you need to do is hit an anime convention and see how many cosplay characters you can pick out of the crowd to understand that. 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 the better of the two.
For quite some time now we've been watching Naruto and seeing how the story has been building and building. The series features a vast amount of detail, well structured plots, and fantastic character development. As time has worn on for the show we have seen a tremendous amount of grow throughout 140+ episodes. There series undeniably has the longevity necessary to keep fans happy, but if you're joining us for the twelfth installment be prepared for some disappointment. Nothing happens this time around. There's no new developments, no new arcs, no new moves for Naruto to learn, and nothing is brought up about Sasuke. Welcome to filler land. Population: 3 discs and 14 episodes.
It's really a shame that we've hit this juncture, though I suppose it was inevitable really. Kishimoto didn't have anything new about the time these episodes were produced, so naturally the folks working on the anime had to come up with sometime to pass the time with. It's just bad luck that it all kind of hits at once. Sure we saw a lot of this start with the eleventh installment, but the twelfth just picks up that torch and carries it right through to the end. With this in mind it's important to note that what's here isn't necessarily bad. Most of these episodes do have plenty of humorous, entertaining moments. It's just that when you look at the highs we've experienced prior to these episodes, you can't help but feel like you're missing something.
This volume starts out with the end of the Bikochu arc and we see Naruto, Kiba, and Shino out searching for the bug and Hinata. It would seem that she has fallen into the hands of some unsavory characters who want to trade her for the bug, and as I'm sure you can already figure out there's some fighting down the pike. There were some fine moments towards the end of this arc and Hinata had some chances to show more personality than just fawning over Naruto. Overall the Bikochu storyline wasn't bad, but it wasn't exactly "epic" by anyone's standards.
The next six episodes deal with the Mist Village ninja, which naturally peaks Naruto's interest. Zabuza was a Mist Ninja, as was Kisame who was traveling with Itachi, who is being pursued by Sasuke. It's a Six Degrees kind of thing, but to make a long story short Naruto is signed up for the mission along with Neji, Lee, and Tenten. There's plenty of stuff to like about this little arc, even though it has nothing to do with the main storyline of the series. Rock Lee gets quite a bit of show time and in some of the other missions that follow. He and Guy sustain the filler for a while, but in between there are random missions and episodes that are wholly forgettable.
It was inevitable that we would reach this point in Naruto's journey. The well had dried up by this point in production and there simply wasn't anything worthwhile to talk about or show us. Thus the filler episodes are piled on and man, you can really feel this volume drag at times. Some of the episodes and missions here were entertaining enough, though three discs of nothing but pointless filler is simply too much to chew on. If you're a Naruto fan you may get with a rental for this volume. Just don't expect to get much out of it.
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.
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.
More Naruto playing cards are packed into the boxed set here. The discs also contain some features, but they are only a production art gallery, a storyboard comparison for episode 150, and some trailers.
There's no denying that Naruto is just about the most popular anime out there right now. It's just a shame that in between the good stuff we get filler. Lots and lots of filler. This volume is jam-packed with random missions and storylines that do little to flesh out any characters or provide interesting moments. There are some nice bits with Rock Lee and Hinata, but they just aren't quite strong enough to warrant running out to buy this installment. This one is a rental for fans of the show. Even then you shouldn't come expecting much more than feeling like you've just been served scraps from the table.