August 08, 2008
by: Adam Beck
How many ninjas can you take?
Hardware Used: Dell 42-inchóW4201CóPlasma display, Sony Playstation 3 with HDMI input set to 720p resolution and Optical out, Klipsch 7.1 Surround sound system.
Naruto returns to the Hidden Leaf Village to find Sasuke, frustrated with Naruto's sudden growth, thirsting to fight to decide who's the better ninja once and for all. Kakashi stops the fight before the worst can happen, but soon Orochimaru's henchmen arrive in the village to lure Sasuke to Orochimaru with the promise of greater power, a promise Sasuke can't refuse. In order to retrieve Sasuke, newly appointed chunin Shikamaru forms a squad of genin, including Naruto, to pursue the terrifying Sound Ninja Four. Will they catch up before Orochimaru gets his hands on Sasuke? Let the chase begin!
- Episode 107. The Battle Begins: Naruto vs. Sasuke
- Episode 108. Bitter Rivals and Broken Bonds
- Episode 109. An Invitation from the Sound
- Episode 110. Formation! The Sasuke Retrieval Squad!
- Episode 111. Sound vs. Leaf
- Episode 112. Squad Mutiny: Everything Falls Apart!
- Episode 113. Full Throttle Power! Choji, Ablaze!
- Episode 114. Good-bye Old Friend! Iíll Always Believe in You!
- Episode 115. Your Opponent is Me!
- Episode 116. 360 Degrees of Vision: The Byakuganís Blind Spot!
- Episode 117. Losing is Not an Option!
- Episode 118. The Vessel Arrives Too Late
- Episode 119. Miscalculation: A New Enemy Appears!
- Episode 120. Roar and Howl! The Ultimate Tag-Team!
- Contains 14 Original & Uncut Episodes (Approx. 350 minutes)
- Stereo Audio (Japanese/English)
- English Subtitles
- Collectible Naruto Storyboard Booklet, Episode 110
- From Sketch to Screen: Storyboard Comparison Episode 112
- Volume 10 Snake Preview
- Production Art
- English Credits
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
After a complete humiliation of Sasuke in the previous volume, Sasuke is not too cheery and even threatens the life of Naruto. The ninth installment into the Naruto Uncut anime series kicks ass with lots of bang for your buck with some well coordinated fights and a lot of history behind Sasuke and our lead hero.
The first disc of the three is probably my least favourite, not only because it only contains four episodesócompared to the other two which hold fiveóbut because it is pretty boring. The biggest thing about the 107th and 108th episodes (first and second on the disc) is the long awaited battle between Naruto and Sasuke. Sadly, this is a very short fight as it is cut off way too soon by Kakashi. It would have been a lot better if the two didnít have a long and useless vocal battle at the beginning: named were called and threats were made, but none of them truly delivered. That is not to say the battle was uninteresting. For the most part, while it was short, it was pretty well done with lots of variety. And when Naruto used his shadow clone jutsu, the animation and attacks that Sasuke showed were enhanced quite a bit. In the end, it shows how much Naruto has surpassed Sasuke, but why Sasuke is so mad at him should be blamed only on himself, not others. After the battle we get a taste of Kakashiís previous life as he revealed that he really wasnít all that different from Sasuke. This is pretty brief but also interesting as Kakashiís past really is still a mystery. This incident helps shed some light on him.
The last two episodes deal with Sasukeís decision: does he continue his seek for power to revenge his clan, or does he accept his new friendships and live a new life? A push in the right direction is given when Orochimaruís henchmen appear and give Sasuke a little beat down. This battle was again cut short as the goons decided to leave only after a few punches were thrown. The main focus on the 109th chapter was definitely the emotion coming from Sakura. Sakura cares deeply for Sasuke, you can see that, but her emotions and confessions in this episode help express herself better, even though it really does make no difference to Sasuke. Itís an emotional and saddening chapter that dishes out a heartfelt scene. The final episode on the disc is probably my least favorite only because there are a lot less animations than I would have liked. Yes, it isnít action-packed, but there are way too many still images that are shown by a sliding camera and really did get on my nerve. It was strange too; the beginning looked so much better with the lighting and character placements, but it only ends up a slow and weak adventure, visually. This chapter into the series basically just groups together characters we all know and love and tell us that theyíre going to work together. Itís a very interesting episode in the sense that Shikamaru really is a strategic guy, but there really isnít a lot that happens either than a smile and a thumbs up.
Rasengan vs. Chidori... which will win?
Starting up the second disc, you will soon realize that the tubby-bubby Choji is now the main starófor a bit, anyway. The first of the five episodes is really slow and nothing really happens. Basically it explains that ninjas can set up traps, and we see that Rock Lee is struggling harshly as his disability is not allowing him to train. It really is a disappointment as the previous episode felt like it was setting you up for something really amazing. Instead, we are given a slow and generic episode that does nothing but fill gaps and emotions that we already knew about. The 112th episode is actually one of my favorites. Not a lot occurs other than Shikamaru showing off his strategic abilities once again, but the atmosphere is solid and only makes me interested how they are able to escape from the predicament. The only thing I found unappealing was the way they ended up in the situation; they really became sloppy and while it ended well, it didnít start things off too good. It really tests the mental stability of the team and while it is a bit repetitive, it does overall end in enjoyment.
Getting to a particularly focused character, Choji, I actually really enjoyed his part. For the next two episodes, Choji actually performs extremely well only to offer an intense fight and a terrific story. The fight is technically pretty fast going, and feels like it doesnít get a lot of airtime, but the gaps in-between that explain Chojiís saddening past are spread out and well told. In fact, the story of Choji is quite intriguing. I really didnít care for the character before, but as we are given a light on his situation and how he has endured such harsh verbal abuse in his past, of besides Shikamaru, it ends up becoming a heart-filling story. I turned into someone who could give a crap about him into someone who really does care if his life is in danger. In the end though, it is one of the most saddening conclusions and it really does touch your heart. The final episode on the discóepisode 115óis very well-executed. I mentioned that the series usually goes from slow to fast, and back to slow. Well, this is not the case here; the 115th episode starts off with a battle and only continues throughout. There are a couple of slow moments, but generally speaking, from start to finish, this is an action-packed thrill ride. Not to mention one of the most hyped up characters, Neji, finally gets to start his debut.
The final disc is another great addition into the series as it involves all four of the lasting ninja from the Leaf Village in a fierce battle. As the 115th episode suggests, the following episode involves Neji and his genius ways. This lasts a good two episodes and I am surprised how much of a performance Neji gives us. I am not a big fan of Neji only because he has an arrogant attitude, but he is a great fighter and he proves that here. His battle with the spider-man Kidomaru is entertaining because this is the first time you will witness Neji pushed to his limit. As much as he had to fight Naruto, he didnít show as much strength and struggle he has done here. Neji shows true heart and it ends up entertaining with such a strategic and well balanced fight, even though Neji really does pick the complete opposite opponent. Itís not a good idea to fight a long-ranged fighter such as Kidomaru when you rely only on close-ranged attacks. We donít get as much information as we did with Choji, but in the end, I did find myself caring for him.
Iím kind of disappointed with the 118th episode only because there is a lot less action and a lot more talking. It isnít bad, but the episode moves away from Naruto and the group and focuses on Orochimaru and how he needs to get a body before things are too late. This actually moves the story along rather than showing all fighting, but it shows way too many flashbacks that arenít necessary. The last two episodes of the volume are some of my favorites because it splits the fighting from just one battle to three entirely separate ones. Kiba gets the (literally) split-personality Sakon, Shikamaru gets the summoner or beast-master Tayuya, and Naruto gets the newly introduced Kimimaro who has the ability to use his bones as weapons Ö creepy. Out of all of them, the only fight that takes off is Kiba and Sakon, and really it is a fast and furious fight that has packs one hell of a punch. I do have a few complaints about it though, one is that the two begin fighting off screen, so when you start watching, it begins in the middle, and lastly, there are way too many flashbacks for Kiba. There is one long one that is completely unnecessary and involves almost every moment either Kiba or Akamaru has been on screen, just somewhat shortened. It still filled way too much screen time.
In the end, Naruto continues to entertain with many new twists and turns around every episode. Iím quite happy that the last two disc focus on the drama and character development of secondary characters like Choji and Neji, but I am not too pleased with the first considering itís slow and uninteresting most of the time. This new pursuit puts a new spin on things and continues to offer a terrific and action-packed storyline.
Choji finally becomes useful.
Video: The Naruto anime franchise has always found itself to be only a 4:3 aspect, so anyone with a widescreen (16:9 or 16:10 aspect) televisions will have to hope their DVD players have the ability to properly stretch the picture. The video transfer is really good and comes straight from the original Japanese videoóhence being uncut. There is some good colors and there arenít any apparent transfer errors other than a couple flickers when viewing it on a higher definition television.
Audio: Along with a no widescreen aspect, there isnít any surround sound option either. This doesnít bother me that much considering the ninth volume sounds really good, offering strong sound effects and memorableóyet sometimes repetitiveómusic tracks. Included are both the English and Japanese voice tracks, and while there are a couple mediocre lines or voices in the English version, itís generally well done. Overall, while the audio department lacks a surround sound option, it does a good job to ensure that your time spent with Naruto is vocally appealing.
Menus: The first disc contains one unskippable video advertisement for the Playstation 2 video game, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3. We are also handed the traditional FBI warnings and the Viz logos. The FBI warnings and logos take a matter of seconds, while the video game advertisement actually takes a bit longer than I would have preferred. The menus are pretty well done and specialized based on each characteróSasuke, Choji, and Kiba with fantastic color. There are some soothing animations in the background, and then fast clips pulled from the episodes on the disc that really jumps at you. Itís also easy to navigate, although the scene selection section is a bit crowded. What I found interesting was that the still-image on the main menu was relatively blurry for my higher definition television, while the Shikamaru image in the setup section was crystal clear.
Dialogue: The English-translation is well done and follows the Japanese translation close, but not the same. It still establishes what each point is trying to make, but there are mainly insignificant different dialogue between the two languages. The English version, like the previous volumes has the traditional one-liners and memorable quotes for each character, and of course the cheesiness it brings with it. Subtitles are also readable and very acceptable. Also, Naruto doesnít say ďBelieve it!Ē this volume!
Extras: Being that the box set series has always included a lot of goodies in the package and DVD, you will begin to expect the next volume to have the same or equal value. This is exactly the case as the ninth volume includes lots of extras to keep the inner fanboy at bay. Besides the nicely designed DVD case, we are also treated to a storyboard booklet for the 110th chapter. Also given is a nicely designed sticker of Naruto and another sticker to collect for the customer to have a chance at winning a trip to Japan. Inside the final disc of the set, we are given a couple nicely added extras. There are some wonderful production artworks, a long and spoiler-filled peek into the 10th volume of the Naruto Uncut Box Set series, From Sketch to Screenóa comparison between the original storyboard and animation on episode 112, English Trailers, and previews into other Viz products. In the end, the extras are great and offer an extended value to your purchase.
Overall: The Naruto franchise has always been rather big for the anime and manga industry, and it really shows as itís action-packed with lots of drama and wonderful characters. The ninth installment into the uncut series provides the continuation into the series with dual audio, uncut and original video transfer and some badass battles. Itís a glorious series that has lots to offer and has the ability to attract anyone of any age group.
Tayuya can be pretty scary at times.