My latest review is up, go and check it out on UK Anime Network or read it here.
First Published on UK Anime Network: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 21.
First things first: We must begin by ignoring the set’s content for a little while and focus our attention on the release itself, which is almost certainly causing some major headaches over at Manga UK Headquarters. You see, there are some pretty glaring technical issues with this release. Foremost amongst them is that the second disc of this set was initially encoded for the wrong region, so would not play on most UK DVD or Blu-ray players. A clanger of epic proportions, that proves a disappointing continuation of a trend for problematic releases from the erstwhile stalwart of the UK anime industry, which we had noted to have been starting to improve of late. Thankfully Manga Entertainment has now recalled and replaced the faulty sets with retailers. However, this doesn’t address the other major technical issue to be found here: There is no translation for on-screen text when listening to the English audio. This poses a major problem for this set (and potentially future sets), as there is a great deal of on-screen text in these episodes - for example much of the battle strategy, troop formations and such are discussed over maps filled with text describing the different divisions and their orders.
Turning our attention to the content of the series: The prior release (Naruto Shippuden Box Set 20) in the series provided a notable improvement over the previous few, though it wasn’t without it’s imperfections. Most notably, for long time Naruto watchers like myself, a lot of time was spent on flashbacks, and an entire episode at the end of the set was dedicated to retelling old stories. These episodes continue in a similar vein, maintaining the improvements for much of the set while still harbouring some of those same issues.
Story-wise, things continue from where the last release left off, with more episodes set aside to the retelling of stories from the time of the original Naruto Unleashed series. Perhaps disappointingly for long-term watchers flashback episodes such as these make up the entirety of the first three episodes of this set. These episodes delve mainly into Sasuke’s past, concentrating particularly on the relationship between Sasuke and Naruto. It is nothing Naruto veterans won’t have seen multiple times before, and be pretty tired of by this point, but it does provide a useful amount of backstory for Naruto newcomers.
Once the retrospection of the first three episodes is out of the way we rejoin the preparations for the Fourth Great Ninja War. We find here that the Allied Shinobi Forces (gathered from the five great nations) are beginning to bicker about past differences. It is then left up to Gaara, as Regimental Commander, to galvanise and inspire the troops with a rousing speech. Once they troops are suitably roused the Allied Shinobi Forces head out to war...
It is once the battles commence that this set really comes into it’s own, with ninjas from all five great nations facing off against a seemingly infinite number of White Zetsu clones along with some of history's most powerful Shinobi, reanimated and controlled by the now rather sinister looking Kabuto. The inclusion of these powerful ninja from the series past is something of a double-edged sword - while providing for some tense, interesting and exciting encounters it also means that the action is interleaved with yet more flashbacks to remind viewers of the reanimated Shinobi’s relevance to the series. While these scenes are great for Naruto newcomers, they will very quickly grate the nerves of anyone already familiar with their significance.
Parts of this set are undoubtedly among the high points of the series’ recent efforts, but the set as a whole is spoilt somewhat both by technical issues and by harking back to the past too often, and is guilty of lingering for too long on prior events.
5 - Among the high points of recent Naruto Shippuden sets at times, but spoiled by too much retrospection and technical issues.