Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $24.92 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Return of the boy who would be Hokage.
If you’ve been following the first half of the Naruto series on Cartoon Network, you have probably felt the sting of being cut off from the series even despite the fact that the last portion of the series has been nothing but filler episodes. Thankfully, VIZ Media has brought the episodes we missed on DVD and ran the Naruto Shippuden episodes online via the Naruto website. Well, we finally get a chance to see the second half of the series the way it was meant to be seen … on DVD with the option to watch it with the original English dub cast.
Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden begins, interestingly enough, with a slightly older Naruto and Sakura desperately searching each room in a long corridor that leads to the outside where the friend they had been searching for finally reveals himself to them. It’s a surprising and memorable scene and if you have been keeping up with the manga this reunion doesn’t take place until later. Still, it goes to show you that the anime does things slightly differently and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
The four episodes in Volume 1 finally gets straight to the heart of the story as Naruto Uzumaki finally returns to the Hidden Leaf Village after having taken off to train with Lord Jiraiya two and a half years ago. His shinobi outfit isn’t the only thing different about Naruto as the spunky kid is replaced by a spunky teen who is slightly taller, somewhat wiser and still – according to Sakura – quite annoying. Naruto is happy to see Konoha and realizes that much has changed in the village besides the addition of Lady Tsunade’s likeness on the cliff face overlooking Konoha.
We find Sakura has not only grown more beautiful but also more sure of herself after having trained directly under the guidance of the Lady Hogake. Every student in Naruto’s class has also moved up in rank, leaving the young shinobi behind. Of course, some things haven’t changed at all such as Kakashi-sensei’s love for the “Make Out” series books and even an older Shikamaru still thinks everything is a drag.
In an effort to test Naruto and Sakura’s training, Lady Tsunade asks the pair to go up against Kakashi-sensei much like they did in the first two episodes of the series when they were grouped with Sasuke. Even the objective is the same … grab the two bells that are dangling from Kakashi-sensei’s belt. Meanwhile, the moment Lady Tsunade and Lord Jiraiya feared has come as the Akatsuki finally make their move by sending two of their agents to the Sand Village where the once villain Gaara is Kazekage. Their mission, of course, is still capturing Jinchuriki like Gaara and Naruto.
The four episodes take their time to reach the memorable moments of the manga such as Sakura and Naruto taking on their mentor and Gaara facing the Akatsuki threat. Surprisingly, the Shippuden series skips the usual child-like antics of the first half of the series for a more serious tone that lets the blood fly. There are still moments where Naruto falls back on his usual antics but they feel out of place in a series that is trying to establish a sense of dread. It’s not that the series doesn’t try to lighten things up (I don’t remember Kakashi-sensei being actually funny like he is in this half of the series) but somehow the humor is lost in the drawnout emergence of the Akatsuki and its infiltration of the Sand Village.
Still, Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden manages to be every bit as entertaining as the manga version and yes we love having the Naruto Shippuden series on DVD. Still, the series starts off pretty slow and the pacing does hurt the story … especially since there are some exciting moments to be seen when Gaara takes on the Akatasuki. We will definitely be coming back for more of this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
After a two and a half year absence from the Hidden Leaf Village, Naruto and Lord Jiraiya finally returns to Konoha. While physically older and just a tad wiser, Naruto finds himself reunited with Sakura to test his training against his mentor, Kakashi-sensei. Meanwhile, the Akatsuki are on the move and are targeting Gaara of the Sand who has a new role.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The real visual treat is seeing the older version of familiar characters so you’ll be glad the DVD looks sharp and does justice to the series.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
It’s great to hear the usual cast in both the English dub and original Japanese that continues to bring all these great characters to life. The opening track, “Hero’s Come Back!!” by nobody knows (with DJ MITSU) is just awesome.
There are a few very short trailers on the disc with very little else in terms of extra content. There’s no audio commentary tracks either so there’s isn’t much to look forward to after you finish viewing the four episodes.
After a long absence on the small screen, Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden is like welcome houseguest you have been dying to see in your home again. The four episodes do an adequate job of setting up the events to come but in the meantime the humor of past episodes seems to take a backseat to a more serious tone that makes this series less exciting and more fascinating.