After one, if not the best arc of the Naruto box sets, the cliffhanger does pay off with some real tender moments with Naruto if albeit with a lack of action…before sadly setting up for another filler season.
What They Say :
The attack on the Leaf Village intensifies, and Naruto’s transformation into the Nine-Tailed Fox reaches a critical level. With eight tails already emerged, Naruto makes a surprising discovery that changes everything. His confidence buoyed, Naruto seeks a face-to-face meeting with Nagato, the Pain responsible for the massive destruction in the village. Can one boy’s will alter destiny? Contains episodes 167-179.
The audio is either set up in 5.1 English or 2.0 Japanese Stereo as is standard, I found the Naruto audio to be almost muted in comparison to most releases which is kind of disappointing considering a lot of the conversations in this arc. It is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it as good as many of the previous reviews (especially in Japanese) though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video. The video is again of a decent quality, albeit the animation seems to be down a notch compared with some of the battles and details that were in the previous box set. No noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing or when pausing, so no problems with watching the whole release through.
The menu on both discs have a picture of Minato (Naruto’s father, a.k.a. the 4th Hokage) on the right side of the menu whilst the menu choices are on a scroll on the left, Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 2, Extras. The menus are very basic, and function fine in selection both from the main menu and from watching the show, but nothing interesting.
We get a couple of extras on the second disc, some production art which involves a lot of the flashback and younger characters, including a younger Jiriaya, and Nagato, Konan and Yahiko, as well as the variation of pain, all done in sketch style with no colour images. We also get a trailer for the first Naruto Shippuden Movie, and for some reason a trailer for Shippuden itself…which is odd considering you are watching the series…
The last Naruto set was one, if not the best set of the entire series. I know some people will disagree, but the Pain arc set up some real tension, some deaths of some very popular characters, and for me, one of the most heart churning moments when one of the most popular side characters in Hinata defends Naruto and FINALLY confesses to him…before being obliterated by Pain. Naruto’s rage boils over as he starts to transform into the fox, and you wonder how this will end…well, it definitely ends – but maybe in not the best way you may think. Let’s see what I mean…
Naruto evolves from 4 tails to 6 tails as the rage seeing Hinata practically sacrifice herself to save him was the last straw. Pain actually manages to subdue him but Naruto evolves even further to his 8 tails form as you are concerned he may change into the 9 tails form (various others see this including Sakura, as Hinata is just about alive as she tries to heal her) – but just as he is about to, a vision of his father Minato (the 4th Hokage) appears and snaps him out of it, and also explains what really happened during the attack on the village which caused him to seal the fox inside him, and managing to get him back into true fighting spirit. Whilst this was a tender moment, it did feel a bit out of nowhere that he comes here to be the deus ex machina to defeat Pain. However it does advance the true plot, as Naruto is able to sense where Nagato is, and staying true to the teachings of his sensei, actually ask for Nagato’s side of the story for this war before actually fighting considering that Nagato is near death.
Nagato tells his story of when he was young, of how his parents died, and how his Rinnegan was activated, causing his almost isolation. He meets two young ninja, Konan who is by his side to this day, and Yahiko, a young rebellious male ninja. They survived as thieves but get inspired by the three Sannin, which leads them to eventually convincing Jiriaya to teach them ninjitsu. From his teachings, when he left, the three stop their thievery and form a group to protect the Hidden Rain Village. However Hanzo, the leader of the Hidden Rain of this time, saw them as a threat and teams up with another Kazukage Danzo to kidnap Konan, and force Nagato to kill Yahiko. This is the turning point of despair for Nagato as Yahiko sacrifices himself and causes his true ‘pain’ as it were.
The key point however is how well Naruto responds to this, and that for the first time, people could see him as a hero. It is interesting how he takes Jiriaya and Kakashi’s words to heart over the years, and it is able to turn Nagato into believing in him which gives him a change of heart. In his last moments, Nagato actually revives everybody he has killed during the Pain battles…which is both good in terms of some fan favourites (particularly Kakashi) back alive, but at the same time feels a bit of a cop out because it did add some true tension, plus it makes Sakura’s healing of Hinata seem a bit silly (though it does at least give some brief look if Sakura does see Naruto a different way after Hinata’s bravery…). Aside from that, the arc does conclude really well as it showcases Naruto’s first true potential to be the Hokage…
…unfortunately this basically is 7 of the 13 episodes. The rest is filler (including 2 episodes in between the actual arc) which is usually quite more miss than hit. Some is practically flashbacks as well (one involves Kakashi thinking about when Sakura, Naruto and Sasuke first was a team, and we see a lot of the scenes from the past, and it all just leads to the fact Kakashi wants to be the one to take out Sasuke) which feels like recap episodes for most part. The two in between the arc is discussing something called “the fourth Hokage’s legacy” to get stronger before the Chunnin exams involve Guy leading Naruto, Sakura, Shikamaru, Chouji and Ino around in a wild goose chase that ultimately leads into them discovering there is no shortcut to being a ninja and hard work is what drives them through. It did feel like a wild goose chase both for me and the viewer.
The other filler arc is a fair bit better though – it discusses Iruka as his first day as Naruto’s teacher. Like many people, he is concerned about the fox seal and is actually quite dismissive of him which is quite different for those who remember way back in episode 1 how the two became quite close. What I liked a bit about this is how some characters develop into seeing that Naruto may not be the weakling people think he is, I especially like Shikamaru here, as when you watched the series after Shikamaru gets introduced, you did get the feeling he does have some sort of friendship for Naruto or at least doesn’t mind him as much. Seeing a lot of kids bully Naruto (and Ino and Sakura pinning over Sasuke annoyed me then as much as it annoys me now) and trick him into dangerous stunts where he is saved by Iruka and Kakashi (who also seems to see more in Naruto than first appears), and at the very least it does lead back into the current story potentially, so it wasn’t all bad, just felt that there was more than there really was in terms of filler moments.
It’s a shame because after developing the Pain arc so well that it kind of ends in an anti-climax combined with the filler parts makes this release a bit of a disappointment. It does end well to an extent in terms of endings the arc, Nagato’s pain and story is told really well and you can see that if he had a life similar to Naruto then maybe he could have turned out much better with someone like Kakashi, unfortunately he suffered through some overpowering shinobi which causes his descent into madness. The fact that he revives everybody is both a good thing in terms of everyone is OK, but also it did remove a lot of the tension that caused the war and also made a lot of the things and trauma pointless. Also, the fact that the big cliffhanger at the end of the last set (Hinata’s confession) was never finalized, which could be something built up later on but again, felt it was a big thing and was barely touched on bar perhaps a few moments with Sakura.
That said, I cannot say this was a bad arc, because over half of it was still good, and the Iruka filler arc at least gave some nice moments which set apart a few of the characters. There were a few fun omake moments as well (Guy interviewing Hinata, two polar opposites in terms of personality, and Ino/Sakura trying to imagine Tsunade as being young) but the animation felt a step down at times compared to the previous volume. The Minato moments, whilst definitely felt a bit Jedi-ish, did give a moment between Naruto and his father which got him into gear and a glimpse of what you felt Naruto would feel like being with his father and making you wonder if his life with the seal would have been far better if his dad was still around. It’s a case of 50/50 – a lot of the good stuff that happened could also be seen as a weakness overall in terms of the plot of the series, that it did feel rushed in terms of the main arc. What was there was still good, but combined with the filler parts, it really set itself up to be a tad disappointed after one of the rare ‘A’ grade Naruto arcs.
The latest arc of Naruto concludes after an excellent action filled war arc, with deaths, tension and confessions. This arc tries to finish on a good note, and in some ways succeeds with Naruto being accepted fully now but the attempts to hammer that in with weak filler didn’t really help and wasn’t needed. A few of the key moments (Minato appearing, Nagato’s death) felt like a way to apologise for the darker stuff, when some of it didn’t really be needed either and would have worked better without it. That said, the conclusion was still acceptable, Nagato’s story was well told, Pain’s defeat thanks to Minato was well shown, and it does at least make you wonder what is going to happen next, so it certainly isn’t the worst of the Naruto arcs, and at least needs to be looked into to see how the cliffhanger is resolved.
Content Grade: B-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 23rd, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.