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Naruto Uncut Box Set: Season One, Vol. 2

VIZ // Unrated // November 24, 2009
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted December 23, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
The second collection of Naruto episodes for Viz wraps up the big story arc that was just getting started at the end of the previous set:  The Chunin Exams.  With a bit more action and some interesting background information being revealed this is a fun and entertaining set of shows.
Series background:
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 changes one evening 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?
This collection:
After surviving a particularly dangerous mission in the last collection, Kakashi decides that Naruto and the rest of his cell are ready to advance to the next rank.  That means taking the Chunin exam, a rigorous trial in three parts that will test the applicants both physically and mentally.  Having passed the first stage (in the last collection,) the group moves on to stage two, a test in The Forest of Death. 
In this trial all of the three man groups are given either an Earth Scroll or a Heaven Scroll.  They are let into a large forest that has a tower in the center.  To pass each group has to reach the tower with both a Heaven and Earth Scroll within five days.  All three members have to reach the tower, and they can't read the scrolls, but besides that there are no rules.
To make things harder on Naruto and his team, a set of elite ninjas have been sent into the forest, posing as a group taking the test, in order to kill Sasuke.  The first of these to catch up with the young ninjas is Orochimaru, who manages to bite Sasuke in the neck and leave a curse mark, a wound that will likely kill him.  With Sasuke near death and Naruto knocked out cold due to fighting Orochimaru, it's up to Sakura to protect her teammates.
After that trial, comes the third and most difficult part of the test:  one-on-one fighting matches with the winners being promoted.
Like the first collection, this set has a lot of exciting battles and is generally a good deal of fun.  This set wasn't as silly as the last, they toned down the comic relief just a bit, which is an improvement.  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 next 27 episodes on 6 DVDs.  They come in a single double-width keepcase with each disc on its 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:
I actually enjoyed this collection a bit more than the first.  They fleshed out some of the characters a bit more, especially Sasuke.  If you enjoyed the first set, you'll definitely want to pick this one up too.  Recommended. 
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