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Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1

VIZ // Unrated // January 26, 2010
List Price: $69.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted February 28, 2010 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
I'm glad that fans didn't have to wait too long for Naruto Shippuden to be released in multi-disc sets.  It was originally put out in the traditional 4 episodes per disc single volume style, but that method has thankfully all but vanished from the anime market in the US.  This second Naruto series is a bit darker than the first.  It's less juvenile, which is good, and takes the series to the next level by making the characters adults with larger problems.  Fans of the original Naruto should enjoy this series just as much, if not more so.
I won't go into detail about what happened in the first series.  I'm sure most people reading this will be familiar with it.  Suffice to say that Naruto is a young ninja in a world where every village is ruled by ninjas.  It's been 2 ½ years since the end of the earlier series, time that Naruto has used traveling and training with Jiraiya.  His friend, Sakura, has also been training during the interim.  She has been learning from Tsunade who is also the newest leader of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. 
As the show opens, Naruto returns to Village Hidden in the Leaves and everyone is glad to see him.  His welcome is short-lived however, as he's immediately given a test to see how much he's learned while he was away:  Naruto and Sakura have to work together to take a pair of bells away from their old master Kakashi.  This was the same test he gave them when he first started working with the young ninja years ago, but this time he's taking it much more seriously.  (In other words he's not reading a book while fighting off their attacks as he originally did.)
After that trial, Tsunade groups Kakashi, Naruto, and Sakura into Team Kakashi.  She's thinking of having them escort a merchant vessel as their first assignment when disaster strikes.  The Sand village is attacked by a pair of Akatsuki members, a league of renegade ninja who owe their allegiance to no village.  Gaara, the near invincible ninja who is Naruto's age and the village leader, goes out to fight this menace and, astoundingly, is captured and taken away for some nefarious purpose that the Akatsuki have planned for him.
The Sand Village sends a plea the Hidden Leaf, their ally, and requests assistance.  Tsunade sends the newly formed Team Kakashi to aide them, but what can this group do against the Akatsuki, the most powerful ninja in the world?
While watching this, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Dragon Ball.  Like the earlier series, Naruto rebooted the show with a renamed series and had some time pass between the two shows.  The tone of both Shippuden and Dragon Ball Z is a bit darker and more mature than the first series, and the characters are mainly the same.  The big difference is that Naruto Shippuden caries over several plots and hanging storylines from the earlier series, something that DBZ managed to avoid.  Because of that, if you haven't seen the earlier series you'll be pretty much lost.  There are a lot of references to things that happened in the past, and a major event in this collection concerns a character from the first series making a surprise appearance.
The animation is still solid in this series, though they rely on CGI effects much more that the original series did.  When someone is moving very fast and making multiple hand-signs in rapid succession they'll use CGI to get that across.  This only partially works though.  It's easy for a computer to speed up the hand signs, and it does look impressive, but at the same time it doesn't mesh with the background animation.  It's not smooth and when it pops up it's a little jarring and obviously CGI.  It's too bad that it didn't work out better.
Another of the changes, this one a big positive between the two series is that Naruto himself has grown and no longer shouts his irritating catch phrase "Believe it!" every chance that he gets.  That's a welcome relief.
The DVD:

This set includes the first 12 episodes on 3 DVDs.  They come in three thinpak cases stored in a slipcase.  

This collection comes with both the original Japanese audio (with optional English 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 was very good without any defects.
Just like the first series, 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 set.
The extras are pretty minor on the first two discs.  They just have some trailers and ads for Viz.  The third disc includes a nice featurette with the English voice actors Return of the Ninja.  They talk about how the characters and the show changes between the classic series and Shippuden, and give their thoughts on they interpret the changes with their voices.  It was pretty interesting though there were too many clips from the show.  There's also a Relationship Chart which is pretty hokey but it lets you know how various characters feel about each other, on the off chance you haven't been watching the show.  The bonus section is wrapped up with 15 pieces of production art. 
Final Thoughts:
These first episodes in the new Naruto series are pretty good and will be sure to please fans of this ninja show.  If you've been waiting for the individual volumes to be collected together in a more attractively priced set, your wait in now over.  Recommended. 
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