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DVD Review

DVD cover

Naruto Unleashed
Series 8 - Volume 2


Starring (voice): Chie Nakamura, Junko Takeuchi and Noriaki Sugiyama
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 01 February 2010

Konoha, the Hidden Leaf Village, is your average ninja hamlet; except for one thing... it contains Naruto Uzumaki. Unbeknownst to the children, but known to their parents, Naruto’s body contains the trapped spirit of Kyubi, a demon fox that had been defeated twelve years ago. Because of their parent’s behaviour towards Naruto, the children of the village also treat him with deferential fear. All Naruto wants is to become the best ninja that he can and win the respect of the villagers...

So we finally come to the end of the original Naruto series with Naruto Unleashed: Series 8 - Part 2, a three DVD set. As anyone who has followed my recent reviews of Naruto, it comes as no surprise as the series moved away from the original manga, it degenerated into single formulaic episodes and arcs which filled the time with fights and very little in the way of engaging narrative. So, I’m not really sure what happened with this last part of the original Naruto show as the three disc set contains two emotionally engaging arcs. That is not to say that it doesn’t contain a couple of real dogs as well.

First thing is to tidy up the story arc started on the last set with episode 196: Hot-Blooded Confrontation: Student vs. Sensei, with Rock Lee still recovering from the injuries he sustained the story wraps up with an almighty battle.

The next set of episodes (197: Crisis: The Hidden Leaf 11 Gather!, 198: The Anbu Gives Up? Naruto’s Recollection, 199: The Missed Target, 200: The Powerful Helper and 201: Multiple Traps! Countdown to Destruction) starts the first good story arc in a while. It’s a convoluted affair involving the relationship between Naruto and a carpenter called Genno, who is something other than he appears to be. When secret plans to the village go missing everyone suspects an imminent attack and, although the plans are recovered, it looks like the village will be soon fighting for its very existence as paper bombs have been placed, hidden in enough places to level the village once and for all.

The great thing about this arc, and in truth the arc which follows it, is that with the focus shifted from Naruto’s motivation to Genno. The team have a chance to demonstrate both character development and a real sense of pathos in the story.

Just when you thought things were getting better we come to episode 202: The Top 5 Ninja Battles! Long time fans of Naruto will enjoy seeing some old friends return, whilst other will disagree with the choices the makers have made. In the end it does what it says on the can, five fights from the series as a whole.

The second arc covers episodes 203: Kurenai’s Decision: Squad 8 Left Behind, 204: Yakumo’s Sealed Power, 205: Kurenai’s Top-Secret Mission – The Promise with the Third Hokage, 206: Genjutsu or Reality? And 207: The Supposed Sealed Ability.

Once again the story benefits from a lack of Naruto, this time the central character is Kurenai. When Naruto meets a young girl, Yakumo, who is painting a picture. Naruto is intrigued, especially when she paints storm cloud where none exist. As soon as she has painted the clouds they appear, but so do some medical ninjas to whisk her away. Naruto’s world is further rocked when he returns to the village to discover that Kuenai has quit, without an adequate explanation. What follows is a trip back into her past to try and correct what she feels was a mistake. The story of Yakumo is probably one of the saddest stories that Naruto has shown, which does make you question why the show descended so low before the last burst of creative juices were unleashed.

The show could have ended on a creative high were it not for the last episode 208: The Weight of the Prized Artefact! Where the show has another go at the shallow end of the trough with a story about guarding a tea cup for a jerk.

The show's animation is good, but not great. Its lack of character definition prematurely ages the show. The 4:3 picture is bright and free of faults. As per the other releases you only get options for either an English or Japanese 2.0 track with optional subtitles. The set contains no extras apart for a couple of trailers on the first DVD for the first two Naruto movies.

So the final disc leaves us a little confused about the sudden upturn in narrative quality. If they could have done this earlier the show may have remained enjoyable for a longer period. So we bid farewell to Naruto and look forward to the new show Naruto Shippuden.


Charles Packer

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