Review by: Gretchen Silverstedt
Picking up directly after the late arrival as Sasuke Uchiha to the exam arena, the sixth 3-disc box set opens with one of the Leaf Village’s most promising stars up against the dark Sand Village ninja named Gaara. At this point, both Naruto and all-around slacker Shikamaru already know that Gaara is not only dangerous but he’s also psychotically out of his mind.
Well, it doesn’t take Sasuke long to find that out seeing as Gaara begins “talking” to his dead mother and using his sand jutsu as both a shield and as an attack. It is in these first few episodes that Kakashi Sensei reveals to Sakura (as well as Guy and a still badly injured pupil, Rock Lee) that their delay was due to the simple fact that he trained Sasuke to build up speed to unleash a new technique … Chidori: One Thousand Birds. Gaara also unveils a startling revelation but doesn’t quite pull it off because Sasuke manages to do something nobody had ever done to him and that is make him bleed. In fact, he freaks out when he sees his own blood.
It is also in these episodes during Sasuke’s battle with Gaara that Guy and Kakashi begin to notice something strange about the Ambu Black Ops that are scattered throughout the arena. It is also here that the Third Hokage begins to suspect something about the suspiciously acting Lord Kazekage. All seems to be going well until somebody unleashes a Genjutsu that makes everyone except for Kakashi, Guy and Sakura fall asleep. And then, with just a glance from Lord Kazekage, the invasion of the Hidden Leaf Village begins.
The invasion is, quite possibly, one the darkest moments in the series and one that propels the scoundrel Orochimaru to major villain status. He not only posed himself as the visiting Lord but also manages to reveal to the Third Hokage a most startling fact I won’t spoil for those who aren’t following along with the Cartoon Network episodes or the manga. We witness as the alliance between the Sound and Sand villages launch an attack that includes summoning a three-headed snake that trashes a good portion of the Leaf village. People die and the Third Hokage is trapped with Orochimaru in a barrier as both former pupil and Sensei fight to the death.
In the middle of the destructive chaos, however, Sasuke is sent in advance to chase a humiliated Gaara and his Sand Village companions Temari and Kankuro. It isn’t until Sakura wakes Naruto from his doze as well as Shikamaru that Kakashi sends them out to pursue Sasuke. Not wanting to leave them on their own, though, Kakashi summons Pakkun – a ninja puppy that guides the three through the forest to eventually face off against Gaara. It is deep in the forest that Gaara finally transforms into a hideous monster (one that even Temari can’t even look at) that manages to injure Sasuke and trap Sakura. The last episode ends with Gaara setting his sights on Naruto who is prepared to save his friends at all costs.
The three discs that make up this collection are, as you can see, dramatic and filled with action. They are also powerfully emotional as we learn about Orochimaru’s past as well as Gaara’s sad childhood and the betrayal that breaks his heart and is the basis for his anger and hatred. We witness Gaara as a boy who is lonely because children and adults in the Sand Village are afraid of him. His loneliness is understood by only one person but that’s something for the next box set to disclose.
There are also standout episodes such as Episode 70 where Shikamaru decides to stay behind to thwart pursuing ninja that were sent to stop Naruto from reaching Gaara. In episode 77, we witness the extent of Sakura’s love for Sasuke by shielding him from Gaara’s attack using her own body. The Uncut episodes don’t really add more blood to the battles but rather they slightly extend the damage done during the invasion of the village and extent of the damage caused by Gaara when he defends himself against somebody he thought he could trust.
Once again, the video and sound quality are at the top of their game and the voice acting in the English dub is still good … for an English dub, of course. Those that prefer the better Japanese voices will not be disappointed and the soundtrack featured for these 14 episodes are personal favorites (RAICO’s ending theme song is still wonderful).
The sixth volume is just the best of the bunch and the episodes featured here will definitely stick with you long after you finish. Here I thought the fifth was the better one until this one came along with its deeply engaging episodes that are on the top of the list of favorite Naruto moments. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
It’s the moment of truth for Sasuke and much is revealed about the curse mark on him but the real star of the box set is Gaara. The list of episodes featured here don’t give you much of a rest whether it’s the invasion of the village or the sad revelation of Gaara’s tragic upbringing. In the end, you’ll be really looking forward to the next box set.
VIDEO QUALITY: 9/10
The video quality is handled as well as expected and it’s great to see colors this vibrant and a transfer so crisp that you’ll eat it up like bacon. It’s a great job overall.
AUDIO QUALITY: 10/10
The sound quality is, once again, top notch. I have a Bose sound system and each DVD sounds crystal clear. As far as the English dub goes, it’s good but still not as stellar as the Japanese cast.
The 3-disc box set is incredibly slim on extras but I always thought the real highlight for future animators are the storyboard section and the accompanying book that’s as good as any college animator’s textbook out there. There’s also a preview for the next box set.
This is quite possibly the best box set so far in the Naruto franchise and contains what is probably the most dramatic, action-packed and revealing moments in the series. If the Chunin Exam storyline was the a turning point for the characters, this invasion of the Hidden Leaf Village is the sign that things will never be the same for Naruto and the others ever again. In short, if you must buy a Naruto box set, make it this one.