Naruto Shippuden – Box Set 27 Review

Naruto Shippuden presses onwards in the 27th two-disc “box set”, featuring episodes 336 – 348. As with any kind of long-running series, you get some chunks of episodes that are mostly wasteful filler, then sometimes you get a batch of episodes that move the main plot along and are generally really good, and thankfully that’s what you get with these discs.

The last set ended with Sasuke and his resurrected brother Itachi facing off with Kabuto, a side-villain that has been in the works since pretty much the beginning of the Naruto franchise, and the man responsible for resurrecting all the dead shinobi and having them fight the allied Ninja forces. We get a good long flashback to see just how Kabuto fell under the influence of Orochimaru and why he has started to turn himself into a facsimile of the snake-themed demon. It does a good job of letting you understand his motives, and the way in which he’s defeated is very satisfying. I’ll leave the details out, but with the resurrection ninjutsu broken, Itachi says his tearful goodbye to Sasuke, imploring him to do what was right, and the allied forces watch on and celebrate as their resurrected foes crumble and return to the afterlife.

That was just the first two or three episodes! We switch to the five Kage (top-of-the-pile ruling Ninja in each of the five major hidden ninja villages) battling legendary baddie Madara Uchiha, who reveals he rescinded the resurrection spell and is very much still around. Meanwhile Naruto, Kakashi and others confront the mysterious masked Tobi, who is unfazed by the resurrected ninja falling apart, and instead moves forward with his plan to restore the ten-tails demon and bring about the Infinite Tsukuyomi (a worldwide ninjutsu that will put everyone in a pleasant dream for all eternity). This leads to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Naruto breaks his mask, eventually revealing the man behind it all. It’s probably not a surprise to anyone at this point in time, if you’re into the series you’ve no doubt found out already, or if you’ve been watching just through the DVDs, you’ve probably noticed which eye socket Tobi’s sharingan eye has been located in and its familiar powers, but I still won’t straight-out spoil it… even if the DVD cover does its best to do so…

The next bunch of episodes spells out how Tobi got from Point A to Point B, then to the present day. It does sometimes reek of retconning in order for something to fit, rather than “it was the plan all along”, which was previously evident when Tobi went from silly comedy character to serious lead antagonist at the drop of a hat (although that is also sort of addressed…) It works well enough that you buy it without much resistance. The last two episodes of the set are actually filler, but the kind of filler you don’t mind because they fill in a blank that doesn’t necessarily need to be filled in, but it’s fun to watch. It deals with the formation of the Akatsuki and shows how Nagato and his Paths of Pain became the front men of the villainous group while Tobi stayed in the background (and acted like a silly fool, for some reason). That, my friends, is the last time I refer to the character as Tobi! Hooray!

“Tsuki no Okisa” by Nogizaka46 is your opening song for all 13 episodes, while “Black Night Town” by Akihisa Kondo is your ending theme for Episodes 336 to 343, then it switches to “Niji” ( or “Rainbow”) by Shinkū Hollow. The extras are your normal affair, clean opening and ending, plus trailers.

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 27 then. It’s a fine example of the show when it isn’t filled with filler and focuses on the story. Plus, even better, this set barely focuses on Naruto himself, who can often suffer from overly-nice-protagonist syndrome, with the side effects of predictability and changing the hearts of the bad guys with his niceness. In fact the backstories of both Kabuto and Tobi (okay, I guess that’s the last time I call him that…) are sad and extremely dark, respectively, and are well written excuses for some of their actions over the past few years of DVD releases. I mean, I’m not saying they’re justified in what they do, but at least if you see how they ended up on their paths and understand it, it makes for more interesting villains.

If you’ve been collecting Naruto “box sets” instead of the… collected box sets, and trying to avoid certain volumes that are skippable, this is NOT one of those. It covers many key points that have ripple effects both backwards and forwards across the timeline we’ve been seeing unfold for over a decade. This is one not to miss for anyone with even a passing interest in the series.

 

Title: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 27
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Studio: Pierrot
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2013
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 9/10

Geeks, Otaku & Weeaboos: The language and range of fandom

“Those of us who are geeks, OK, real geeks, who earned our geekhood at school through sweat and loneliness and wedgies will no long stand idly by and watch our geekly identity taken from us be people who think geekhood is nothing more than wearing cute glasses and an asymmetric fringe – particularly not when they are the very people who gave us the wedgies at school!” – John Finnemore

While I’ve been having many of the ideas for this piece for some time, the main impetus for writing this feature comes not from an anime, but from the new series of stand-up comedy show Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish.

modern-life-is-goodish

In the first episode of the new series, starting on Dave on 8th November at 22.00, Gorman deals with the subject of guilty pleasures, fandom and why he is not a geek when loads of other people mistakenly think he is. When discussing fandom, he talks about those annoying groups of fans that seem to suck the joy out of a subject you might have an interest in, or as he calls them: “extractor fans”.

I would advise everyone to watch the episode, but for those of you living outside the UK and are unable to access the episode, here is a quick explanation. Gorman claims that “extractor fans” fall into three groups:

  • “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of…” – e.g., someone who is outraged by the fact you haven’t heard of a particular thing and then show off that they know all about it.
  • “Unless you like them as much as me, then you’re not a real fan of…” – e.g., annoying completists, which if you are an anime fan is troublesome because that also means the expense of importing expensive stuff from Japan.
  • “I don’t like them now everyone else likes them…” – e.g., people who hate anything once it becomes mainstream.

Now we in the anime community have our own group of annoying fans: “weeaboos”, or “weeb” for short. If we go by Wiktionary, their definition of weeaboo is: “A non-Japanese person (especially one of Caucasian ancestry) who is obsessed with Japan and behaves in a stereotypically Japanese manner.” For some people it is considered a useful term, pointing out when certain fans are being infuriating or ignorant, and perhaps should educate themselves more on the subject of Japan and its history. People must be aware that no country is perfect, and must acknowledge what they have done wrong as well as what they have done right. However, for other people the term “weeaboo” is a xenophobic word. To quote one of AUKN’s editors when I was drafting the article: “it tends to be rolled out to trash any fan who doesn’t display a cool dismissal of anime’s Japanese roots in certain communities, discouraging people from learning Japanese or engaging with the wider fan community across the world.”

Recently, I feel that the term “weeaboo” is now being misused, and no longer being used to describe annoying fans like many people do currently. I have seen on social media people calling anime fans “weeaboos” because they happen to like a popular anime. Anime-loving extractor fans are now calling people weeaboos because they like the most popular series around such as One Piece, Naruto and Sword Art Online.

One example I’ve found is a Tumblr post where an anonymous person says: “How can I tell if I’m a weeb?” The person responding says: “Easy. What is the first thing you think when you see this?” Then they post this picture.

luffy-hat

And then adds: “Thought so. Weeb.”

If this is a joke it is a rather pathetic one. What this person seems to be saying is that if you know that this hat is worn by Monkey D. Luffy, the main character in One Piece, that makes you a weeaboo and thus an annoying fan. That hat belongs to the lead character in the single most popular manga series ever made. Loads of people are going to recognise it because it is such a famous show. It is like accusing people of being annoying fans of all things American because they recognise a large stack of blue hair belongs to Marge Simpson, or you are annoying Anglophile because you know who says: “Don’t tell them Pike!” Knowing who wears that hat doesn’t make you a weeaboo – it means you have a basic working knowledge of anime and manga.

Mind you, it should be acknowledged that the snobbery can be reversed. If you are only into mainstream shows and think people who are into niche anime are being pretentious, then you are just as annoying the people who are only into the obscure stuff and shun the popular.

It saddens me to see such a term being misused, but at the same time I know that this sort of thing is inevitable. Language is constantly evolving. Words change and gain new meanings. Take the word “gay”. It used to mean “happy”, then it meant “homosexual”, and now some people use it to mean “rubbish” or “uncool”. Similarly the word “geek” had a very different meaning. A geek was originally a performer at a freak show – normally someone who bit the heads off live chickens.

The problem comes down to how you define something or someone as being geeky, something which again is dealt by Gorman. As he says, if you have seen Star Trek, that doesn’t make you a geek, because Star Trek is such an incredibly popular programme, but, “If you go to Star Trek conventions and speak Klingon”, that makes you a Star Trek geek.

Another term that has problems when defined is “otaku”. In the west, we use it to mean an anime fan, but in Japan the term is used to mean someone who is obsessive, and it doesn’t just refer to anime or manga. You can be an otaku about any subject. The term is also an insult, popularised by Akio Nakamori who is famous for his deeply-critical views on pop culture and people attending conventions. Later Tsutomu Miyazaki, dubbed the “Otaku Murderer” by the Japanese media, who would go on to make the term even more negative. Given this, “otaku” seems less of a synonym for “fan” or “geek”, and closer to our British term “anorak” in its negativity.

In terms of a solid definition, I would recommend this piece from Tofugu, dealing with the term’s origins, controversy and meaning. Here, they claim that otaku focus on the following:

  • Sharing information.
  • Possessing their passion – examining it in every detail.
  • Going further by creating their own works: costumes, fiction, art, etc.

The article also differentiates between an “otaku” and a “maniac”. The latter are “spectators in their obsession” and want to collect things, whereas the former, an otaku, combines both the physical and the intangible. They want the action-figure and to learn more about the series in question. They want the homemade, derivative products too. As a result, I would say a “maniac” is closer in definition to “anorak” than “otaku” is. After all, you don’t tend to hear about train-spotters making their own creative projects. The only example I can think of is the co-creator of the British adult comic book Viz Chris Donald who collects full-size train stations, one of which he turned into the world’s most geographically remote restaurant.

Having examined all these terms, I think it is possible to try to define and rank fandom terms more accurately. Thus I present…

The Wolf Scale of Fandom

wolf-scale

On this scale – which let’s be honest I have named after myself mainly as a way of inflating my own ego – the higher your rank, the more obsessed you are with your subject and normally the more weird you appear to be to those outside the fandom. As this is brand new, it won’t be perfect, so I would encourage debate to improve the scale in any way possible.

I would also argue that the following scale can by used on any form of fandom. This is not just applied to subjects normally considered geeky like comic books or anime, but anything. A sports fan who has an obsessive knowledge of their favourite team is just as passionate as someone who is into sci-fi. You can be an otaku about western comics as much as an otaku on manga.

-1 or 0 Hater or Disinterested

People in this rank either dislike or have no interest in the subject in question. Thus, there is little to say about this rank.

1 – Fan

The entry level. This, going back to Gorman, includes people who have watched a particular show and like it, but don’t feel the need to go beyond any level of deeper devotion. For example, the Star Trek fan Gorman refers to in his programme. No-one generally thinks of fans as being weird.

2 – Geek

This is where things start to get interesting. How do we define a geek? There are many ways, but having started this feature by talking about one comedy show, I would like to reference another one. My preferred definition of geek is taken from this sketch from BBC Radio 4’s John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme.

Thus the central elements of being a geek should be:

  1. You should, “know loads and loads and loads about it”.
  2. You should be, “a bit weird about it.”
  3. You can’t like it all.

Going by this definition, a “geek” is mostly concerned with knowledge. A geek should we willing to put the hours into their subject, to the point those outside the fandom think that you becoming a bit too obsessed. However, this is not proper obsession yet. You also need to have your own opinions. If you just like everything in your fandom then you have not been looking hard enough. I know there are certain anime and manga that I don’t like. To give one example, Cardfight!! Vanguard, which in my view is way too commercial in comparison to Yu-Gi-Oh!, which at least began as a manga before the trading card game version took off.

However, it is easy in your hatred to stray into extractor fan/weeaboo territory. You need to have a valid reason for hating something, and if you become involved in an argument with some you should not resort to any form of snobbery. We need civilised debate. People are not going to get anywhere if people suddenly accuse you of being a weeaboo because you happen to favour dubs over subs. In fact, I suspect that if you call someone else a weeaboo, then it is you yourself that are the weeaboo.

3 – Nerd

Here we start to see more practical applications being used. If the “geek” ranking is mainly concerned with knowledge, it is the “nerd” that starts putting that knowledge to some kind of use.

Think of the classic computer nerd. Here they have taken their knowledge of computers and use it to improve the design and functionality of the next generation of computers, gadgets and so on. To use an analogy, the nerds are like the people who work backstage on a film, TV show or play. They are the people who make the stars look good, getting the action caught on camera, perfecting the lighting and sound and so on.

The end result is a product that people want. At the same time, they tend to shun the limelight. They are too busy working on the next big thing to concern themselves with other projects. This therefore makes them weirder than geeks in my opinion, because a nerd will probably be too busy working to go out and have a normal social life. They would either be too busy making something or learning something new.

This is also what separates the nerds from otaku. Otaku spend their time sharing information. The nerd is alone, busy working on their projects. They are misers of knowledge, reluctant to share what they know if others unless it is worth their while. Think a nerd will share what they know if you for free? Bah humbug! Give them an incentive like a job in which they might earn money from their nerdiness and then they may progress.

4 – Anorak

If the thing that moves you up to “nerd” is the practicality, then the thing that moves you up to “anorak” is the weirdness.

For those living outside the UK, an “anorak” is normally defined as someone who obsessed with their hobbies and often being boring to those not part of their fandom. The term is most associated with train-spotters, wearing unfashionable waterproof anoraks while indulging their passion.

The key thing that moves you from “nerd” to “anorak” is you yourself moving. If the nerdy Scrooge is trapped inside with all of his knowledge, then the anorak is the newly reformed Scrooge who is willing to be friendlier after his spiritual visitation. The anorak moves away from their work and takes it elsewhere, making it public, often to the derision of passers-by. If the train-spotter is proud to wear their anorak and be humiliated, then the cosplayer should be proud of their outfit as they walk down the street, as well as the sports fan who’s painted their body in their team’s colours when going to an away-game.

In fact, not only should the reaction be one of weirdness, but possibly one of hostility. If you know that you are angering people then that probably means you are doing something right. The anorak should expect to be insulted. They should walk towards the gunfire, but they should also be ready to fight back. They know how to ignore the haters, or even better are able to come up with a way of fighting back.

5 – Otaku

As mentioned before when talking about Tofugu’s article, an “anorak” is close to a “maniac”. To reach “otaku” they not only must be collecting information, but also to be making their own stuff.

The otaku takes their passion, and with their expert knowledge change it into something they want, and then they share it with others. They share their ideas, art, stories and more. The otaku becomes a figurehead of the community, respected by others around. Not necessarily liked, as an otaku can be a divisive figure and it is only right that geeks may not like said otaku, but a figure that people know about and at least have an opinion on.

6 – Otaking

otaku-no-video-1

This last rank is purely hypothetical as there is currently no otaking.

This term comes from the anime Otaku no Video. For those who haven’t seen it, the central character, Kubo Takeshi, becomes an otaku and his obsessions take over his life. He eventually becomes annoyed by people’s prejudices towards otaku and thus decides to overturn them by becoming the greatest otaku of all, the “otaking”, which he does by setting up a garage kit business which slowly becomes a multi-million yen company. His ultimate plan is to set up an otaku-themed amusement park where otaku all around the world can indulge in their passions without fear, and thus slowly make everyone in the whole world otaku.

While this anime may be a flattering portrayal of otaku, it is mixed with a live-action mock documentary called Portrait of an Otaku which shows otaku in a negative light, and thus production company Gainax got criticism from the otaku community when it was released in the early 1990s.

The “otaking” (if you prefer “otaqueen” or some other gender neutral term, I’m not fussy) is thus a lone position. There can only be one. The otaking must be able to turn the public to their side and join them. In effect, the otaking is a world dictator, with the masses all joining in with that otaking’s passion, whether it be manga, sci-fi, sport or whatever.

Thus, the person who is closest to the rank of otaking is the one with the largest following of any sort. Therefore, in terms of who is the closest to becoming the otaking at the moment, to once again reference Dave Gorman from an earlier episode of Modern Life is Goodish: “I’m gonna go… with the Pope.” The Catholic Church currently has 1.27 billion members, so currently Pope Francis probably has the largest loyal following. You could also argue that the president of China, currently Xi Jinping is even closer as the country has a population of 1.33 billion, but membership of the Communist Party of China is just shy of 89 million, so it is probably safe to assume his following is less committed. You might even consider the General-Secretary of the United Nations for the role as so many countries are members of the UN, but again there is the question of actual support for the person in the role, which at the time of writing is currently in transition.

This then raises the question of where I would consider myself in the ranking. Obviously I’m being subjective, but I personally think than when it comes to anime and manga I’m somewhere between “anorak” and “otaku”. There are certain bits of knowledge I am still lacking in, such as not speaking Japanese. I’ve never even visited Japan at the time of writing. However, I believe my writing does help count towards the area of making my own works. I certainly suspect I will become more humiliated and hated when this article goes out.

To conclude, I would like to thank all the writers who I have used as sources and in particular Dave Gorman, who just for clarification is not a geek – well, he admits he could be a geek geek, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish is on the TV channel Dave, and airs at 22.00 on Tuesday nights. The previous three series can be watched in the UK on UKTV Play.

John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme is available to download or by on CD. The first five series are available now, with a sixth series to begin on 27th December. Episodes are often repeated on BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra.

Otaku no Video is available on a region free DVD and Blu-Ray from US distributor AnimEigo.

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 26

ns-box-26

Naruto Shippuden continues onwards with the 26th two disc “box”, this time containing Episodes 323 to 335. In the last set I complained (in a completely unsurprised way) that it was mostly filler, and uninteresting filler at that. Well, I’m happy to report that this set is the opposite. It’s non-stop manga adaptation episodes, with only a few flashbacks and little filler moments here and there.

To very quickly recap (as I have so many times!) the world of Naruto is in the midst of the Fourth Great Ninja War, fought between the Allied Shinobi and two rogue ninja and their army of immortal undead. This chunk of the story arc, a story arc I might add that is only just now coming to an end in Japan with episodes in the 470s, can be split into three separate storylines. The most important one focuses on Naruto and his allies Killer B, Kakashi and Guy, who fight the man in the mask we were all told was Madara, but found out at the end of the last set that wasn’t the case. The masked man, who I’ll call by his old name of Tobi for the sake of this review (his actual identity won’t come until the next set, sorry!) soon unleashes reanimated versions of the past Jincuriki, people who had tailed beasts trapped within them just like Naruto and Killer B had. This leads to a large-scale tailed beast battle that finally, and I mean finally, see Naruto and the Nine-Tails come to understand each other.

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Elsewhere on the battlefield, Sasuke is on the hunt for Kabuto, the man who is reanimating all these past ninja, though for his own goals rather than to save everyone. On the path to finding him he comes across the reanimated Itachi, his big brother that he once swore revenge on for killing his entire clan, only to find out, after killing him, that he wasn’t so bad… or at least he had sort of good reasons for doing it? Well, anyway, they have no time to chat as they soon have to deal with Kabuto, who has absorbed a great deal of Orochimaru’s power. As this set closes out we start to finally see Kabuto’s backstory, after being a bit of a mystery since back in the original Naruto days.

Finally, the five great leaders of the hidden Ninja villages (known as Kage), team up to take on the real Madara, who, of course apart from being extremely powerful and skilled, is now immortal due to the whole reanimation thing. This fight has plenty of crazy, high-level ninja techniques on display, but has slightly less impact on the story as a whole compared to the other two plots.

screen-2

“Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” by NICO Touches the Walls is once again your opening up to Episode 332, where it switches to “Tsuki no Okisa” by Nogizaka46 (who personally I find much better than Nogizakas 1 through 45). “Yume o Idaite ~Hajimari no Crissroads~” by Rake continues to close out the episodes until likewise ending its run in Episode 332, where it switches to “Black Night Town” by Akihisa Kondo. As per usual, the extras are trailers, clean openings and endings.

screen-3

When I say Naruto, a lot of people will roll their eyes, and I completely understand that this show does go through (often very long) periods of dull, repetitive filler that mostly involves Naruto being a really nice guy. If someone asks me why I like the show, I’d gladly point them in the direction of this “box set”. Well paced, full of great fight scenes and some story threads that date back to the start of the original series get addressed and closed. It’s these sets of episodes that make me wish there was a “Kai” version of Naruto with all the filler removed, as sometimes Masashi Kishimoto can tell a good story and the anime team can show a good fight. This set is Naruto at its finest.

Title: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 26
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Studio: Pierrot
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2007
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 295 minutes

Score: 9/10

Naruto Spin-off: Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals – Collection 1

cover

When Bleach ended its TV run in March 2012, I was sad. When I found out that a cute chibi spin-off of Naruto was replacing it, I was annoyed and confused. Now several years later, that previously mentioned spin-off has made its way to DVD in the UK via Manga Entertainment. Naruto Spin-off! Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals is basically those silly light-hearted omake segments that are normally at the end of TV anime, stretched to a whole series of 51 episodes, the first 26 of which can be found here.

The main focus of the episodes, as you’d imagine, is lovable ninjitsu-less Rock Lee, plus his close associates Neji, Tenten and master Guy, with plenty of cameos and stories based around other members of the large cast, from Naruto himself to villains like Orochimaru. Each episode is two mini-stories, and so I can’t really give an overview of the series beyond that. There are obvious gags for the age group here, failed love gestures, sneaking a peak at girls in the communal baths, toilet humour and slapstick, plus some pretty standard storylines, like the old body swap hijinks, mishearing that you’re going to die soon and doing silly things before finding out you’re fine, beach-based episode, evil impersonator, school and homework-based worries and many more.

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While a lot of the humour is basic, there are a few gags aimed at Naruto fans only, characters acting out of character for the hell of it, or little asides to the camera. While you could watch the show without prior knowledge of the main Naruto universe, it certainly helps. I was informed that the English dub had been altered in order to make the comedy more approachable, which makes sense, similar shows have done so previously. I watched two episodes in English but with the Japanese subtitle track on, and really it seems to amount to a few pop culture references (which given this is a light-hearted spin-off, I’ll ignore that fact that they’re “breaking the fourth wall” and all that) and a few changing of food or folklore. It’s fine, and actually can be a bit funnier, especially as some English voice actors have got good comic timing, specifically Vic Mignogna’s Orochimaru (bonus points for having him and Kabuto use the old “we’re blasting off again!” Team Rocket line from Pokemon!)

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The soundtrack is all very cartoony and light-hearted, as you’d imagine, and the opening (“”Give Lee Give Lee Rock Lee” by Animetal USA) is cheerful and catchy, while the two endings for this set (“Twinkle Twinkle” by Secret and “Go! Go! Here We Go! Rock Lee” by Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku) are also obnoxiously catchy. The extras here are just the old trailers and clean opening and endings.

So, Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals… this is a hard one to rate. Firstly it’s not as bad as I remembered, maybe I was just bitter over Bleach’s cancellation, but it’s still not great. Maybe in small doses, like its old weekly slot, it might be easier to take, but watching multiple episodes in a row makes the often immature jokes start to grate. I don’t want to rag on the show for being aimed at an audience younger than me, though, which is what makes this difficult to judge.

screen-3

I’d say if you’re a Naruto completionist, then get it, give it a watch through (over a long period of time) and then put it on your shelf. If you’re a younger fan of the show, but don’t have to buy everything, get it cheap and you’ll get a laugh out of it or ignore it completely without worry. I do have to say though that it’s currently retailing at over £30 everywhere, so I’d definitely wait for a price drop, no matter which category you fit in, at the end of the day it’s just a collection of comedy shorts. Anyone else, especially those who have no interest in Naruto, avoid it. That may sound like an obvious thing to say, but seriously, I grew tired of it very quickly and got the in-jokes; I can only imagine what the show would be like when you don’t even have that!

Title: Naruto Spin-off: Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals - Collection 1
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2012
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 650 minutes

Score: 5/10

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 25 Review

Cover

The ever popular Naruto series continues its UK release with Box Set 25 of Naruto Shippuden, containing episodes 310 – 322. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, most of this set contains filler episodes, with only the final two episodes of the set adapting Masashi Kishimoto’s original manga.

For a quick recap, everyone is deep in the Fourth Shinobi World War pitting the allied forces against the masked Madara and Kabuto, who has used his powers to resurrect a whole bunch of dead ninjas from the past, both recent and long deceased, who have no choice but to fight for him. Episodes 310 to 320 spin several tales to do with this concept, some of which lead to entertaining fights involving characters who were, for one reason or another, barely featured in the manga version of the story arc, including moments for the once popular bowl-haired Rock Lee and bug user Shino. Where as some just go down the old sentimental route, complete with Nartuo being the loving kind voice of reason again, and involving the childhood versions of the main cast for the hell of it.

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The final two episodes are rather important, however. At the end of Episode 321, Madara Uchiha, long-talked-about villain from the past that we thought was the man under the mask, is resurrected. This not only leads to some interesting questions, but also leads to a rather well animated and really enjoyable fight scene where Madara gets to flex his muscles and takes on a large squad of allied forces ninja by himself and defeats them using only hand-to-hand combat (or taijutsu, to use the in-universe term). It’s a really entertaining scene that not only gets across that this man is every bit the person he’d been hyped up to be, but also because it’s so fluidly animated. Plus there is another surprise in store right at the end of the last episode…

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“Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” by NICO Touches the Walls continues to be your opening for this set, whereas “I Can Hear” by DISH// is your ending theme up to Episode 319, when it switches to “Yume o Idaite ~Hajimari no Crissroads~” by Rake. As per usual the extras are the clean opening and ending, and some trailers.

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So, Naruto Shippuden Box Set 25 then. It’s hard to recommend this one, given 90% of it is filler that has no consequence on the story as a whole… or even the story in the next episode a lot of the time. That being said, if you skip it you are going to miss a rather large, plot-significant event and one of the better animated episodes in a long time. I mean, some of the filler is fine, it fills some time but at least it does so with new fights for underused characters, but others are a real slog to get through. Best to wait for the price to drop, but if you’re enjoying the key plot then you’ll want this in your collection eventually.

Rating: 5/10.

Age Certificate: 12

Run Time: 293 minutes

  • Studio: Manga Entertainment