Now we’re still starting off with some angst: the village is a mess, Tsunade’s in a coma, Sasuke’s still plotting Hidden Leaf-icide, and who knows what Madara and the remaining Akatsuki are up to. And you’ve gotta hand it to the writers, they really take the time to make sure it’s all a gigantic kick in the teeth. But this is still Naruto, and angst is not the end of this story. Amidst all the tear-jerking, we get to see a lot of familiar faces to remind everyone that the fight isn’t over and that things can and do get better.
Remember Inari? Kid shows up in the first episode, and his story about his encounter with the remnants of Gato’s old gang show that he’s really grown up since meeting Team 7. Gaara also recalls how Naruto helped him gain the respect of the Hidden Sand Ninja when they (acting like the ignorant townsfolk straight out of classic cinema) still treated him like a monster. Even the ever-stoic Neji recalls how Naruto’s influence enabled him to overcome his shortsighted grudge and do the right thing when it mattered.
Some of the stories are completely hilarious too—who could imagine the normally cool-headed Tsunade putting Hidden Leaf under martial law just to quarantine a plague-carrying Naruto? (Apparently anything less than mobilizing every available fighter would’ve been way too easy.) Mayhem ensues when the gang has to corner a member of the Ninja Cat underworld in his—what else?—fortune cat-shaped fortress. Tenten has a day in the spotlight when she, Neji and Naruto all retrieve some absurd-yet-awesome Ninja tools from the Leaf's resident mad scientist’s lab. Lee recalls how Naruto and the others procured a rare ingredient from a resilient plant to give him the medicine he needed to recover. (Don’t dis the rainbow flowers!) Yet somehow the best has got to be the William Wallace-esque tale of freedom fighting, as remembered by Condor the Ninja Ostrich.
Condor. The Ninja Ostrich.
However, the looming tragedies still cast shadows even at the best of times. A simple memory about a swordsman grappling with pointless revenge reminds characters and viewers alike that Sasuke’s still out there, planning to take his hatred out on everyone he can reach. The appearance of a lovely young spy provokes painful memories in Kakashi of a hard moral dilemma. (I hate those, don’t you?) A remembered training session with the late Jiraiya nearly turned into a bloodbath for a small mountain village thanks to Kandachi, an old supporter of Hanzo, using the area’s native genjutsu-boosting magnetism to power up his summoned Conch King. (Though we also had a cross-dressing toad to lighten the mood in that one. Disclaimer: we are not making this stuff up!)
The animation quality also had some great moments. The number of key frames seemed higher than average. (Though Naruto does hide behind a cardboard cutout of a houseplant at one point.) Sasuke’s fight with Nekomata actually offered some gorgeous imagery and smooth animation during Nekomata’s nightmarish genjutsu sequence. The two-part battle with the Conch King was also surprisingly epic, not to mention it even gave us a chance to see Jiraiya doing what he does best once again.
All in all, while this DVD set did not have a climactic battle that changed the course of the story arc forever (like the last one), it was a brief return to happier days, and to the cheerful slapstick that has been missing for awhile now. New viewers and hardcore fans alike will enjoy this uplifting breather as a reminder that Naruto doesn’t have to be tragic to be epic.
English & Japanese 2.0 Audio / English Subtitles
Special Features: Storyboards, Clean Opening/Ending, Omake
Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 15 is available here!
©2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN All Rights Reserved.
by Chris Turner