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Naruto Uncut Box Set: Season One, Vol. 1

VIZ // Unrated // October 6, 2009
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 13, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Show:

After releasing Naruto in individual (and edited) volumes and then in three-disc unedited sets for $50 a pop (MSRP) Viz has gone back and started releasing the series again, this time in attractively priced 6-disc collections.  Based on the wildly popular manga by Masashi Kishimoto, this action adventure series has a lot of laughs and some endearing characters. 
Naruto is a 12 year old boy living in a village populated by ninja.  He isn't the best student around, he's failed the test to become a ninja twice as the series opens and it's not looking good for the third time either.  What he lacks in discipline he more than makes up for in moxie: He loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that he's going to be the best ninja ever! The fact that everyone in the village shuns him and treats him badly just makes him even more determined.
There's more to the story than Naruto knows though. Twelve years ago, a giant nine‑tailed fox attacked the land.  The village all turned out to face the monster, and many ninja were killed, but the creature couldn't be stopped. The only way that the fox could be defeated was for the village elder to sacrifice his life and trap the fox inside a human body:  a baby boy named Naruto.
Shunned by the villagers and without a family, Naruto becomes the class clown.  He figures that it's better for people to be angry with him than ignoring him.  That all changes one evening though when the boy is tricked into stealing a scroll of forbidden ninja techniques.  Naruto reads one, and miraculously masters the complex maneuver which allows him to make "shadow clones" of himself, countless copies that are solid, and not just illusions.
Armed with this technique Naruto manages to become a ninja, but that's only the beginning of his training.  Next the young warrior has to go through advanced training as part of a cell.  He's teamed up with Sakura, a cute girl he has a crush on, and Sasuke, the highest scoring student in their class.  Together they have to go through some rigorous training with Kakashi, a masked master who seems like a goof.  Is he just putting on an act?
After their training, Kakashi and his pupils begin taking on missions.  At first they are easy, Grade D jobs:  finding lost cats, picking weeds, and cleaning trash out of streams.  Eventually however they're given a Grade C assignment, to escort a man back to his village and protect him from bandits while he finishes building a bridge.  What the ninjas don't know, and what the bridge builder hasn't told them, is that he's been targeted for assassination by a powerful businessman who does not want the bridge completed.  To accomplish this end, he's hired a powerful ninja to kill the bridge builder, and anyone who gets in his way.
This show is a good deal of fun, though it is bit lighter in tone than the manga.  They play up the humor a good deal, but there is still a fair amount of action.  After the first handful of episodes where the main characters are introduced and the premise of Naruto's world is established the show picks up the pace a good bit and the kicks start to fly.  Being a kid's action anime however, the fights aren't based on reality at all.  That brings me to my main complaint about the show; the ninjas are more magicians than martial artists.  By harnessing their inner power these ninja can walk on water, create impenetrable sheets of ice, throw fireballs, transport themselves, and on and on.  There are a few too many times when a ninja will pull a new, powerful technique out of his hat just when the situation seems hopeless.  It's not a huge flaw though.  In other shows that are more grounded in reality it would be fatal, but this show asks you to suspend your disbelief right from the beginning.   
The animation is okay, but not great.  There isn't a lot of detail in the character designs.  Hair is just a field of color without and texture, and many people look two dimensional.  The motion is alright, with the action flowing fairly smoothly.  The show does cut more than a few corners too.  The most grievous example of this is the repeated scenes.  Each episode opens by replaying the last 3 or 4 minutes from the previous show.  That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're talking about a 22 minute episode, that's nearly 20%.
Having said all that, I still enjoyed the program.  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. 
The DVD:


This set includes the first 25 episodes on 6 DVDs.  They come in a single double-width keepcase with each disc on it's own side of a page.  They are not overlapping. 

This collection comes with both the original Japanese audio (with optional Englsih 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 were 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, production art galleries, and a promotional trailer to Naruto Shipuden, the sequel to this series.
Final Thoughts:
This is a fun show, along the lines of One Piece and Dragon Ball Z.  The humor doesn't work as well as it does in One Piece, and the fights aren't as engaging as in DBZ, but it's still an enjoyable show that's worth checking out.  Recommended. 
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