Review

by Carl Kimlinger, Dec 12th 2010

Naruto Shippūden

DVD Box Set 4

Synopsis:
Naruto Shippūden DVD Box Set 4
Having learned of a spy sent by the Akatsuki to keep tabs on Orochimaru, Tsunade has dispatched Team Kakashi to capture the mole and squeeze him until he leaks intel. Predictably, Orochimaru makes mincemeat of their plan. In the ensuing attack Naruto pushes himself too far and loses himself to Nine-Tails' evil chakra. Only the sustained efforts of his comrades pulls him back, and not without casualties. Under the cover of Nine-Tails' rampage, Saskue's replacement Sai makes a potentially traitorous move, one that allows Naruto, Sakura and Yamato to finally locate Orochimaru's lair. At last the rescue of Sasuke can begin, but troubling doubts remain. Just who is Sai, and what is his objective? And what if Sasuke doesn't want to be rescued?
Review:

When you're tasked with rebooting a series that nearly killed itself with filler, filler prevention has to be a high priority. Maybe it's a cruel, hard fact of logistics that the canon material will run out. Maybe, like death and taxes, filler is one of life's inevitabilities. But that doesn't mean that you can't struggle like hell to postpone it for as long as possible.

Looked at that way, Naruto Shippūden's battle to stay on the canon path almost seems kind of noble. If only its effect on the show's quality wasn't so negative. In its desperation to stretch Masashi Kishimoto's plot over as many episodes as it can, the show ends up slowing itself to a crawl that'd make a snail blush. Director Hayato Date breaks out every time-distending cinematic device known to man. If there's a chance to insert a shot of birds taking flight, or debris blowing ominously in the wind, or trees rustling in a breeze, he'll take it. Any pretext to pad out a conversation or a fight with unnecessary reaction shots (to Every. Person. In. The. Room) will do. Every shot is held for a few seconds too long, every pan is a degree too slow. No one speaks unless it is preceded or followed by a thoughtful silence. If an event is mentioned, by god it'll be shown too. And explained, at length. Armed with such a formidable array of time-wasting devices, is it really any surprise that the series can spend an entire episode on a bridge watching Naruto power up? It's Dragon Ball Z all over again.

Admittedly, the ponderous pace fits the serious tone of Shippūden, particularly here as it gathers itself for the long-delayed reunion of Naruto and Sasuke. Bristling with betrayals and studded with emotions like regret and remorse and frustration, with some fear and hate thrown in just for that extra fun factor, this is hardly the breezy entertainment of early Naruto. And the change in style and pace reflects that. The shift from the punky energy of composer Toshio Masuda to the grim chanting of Yasuharu Takanashi, the exchange of dynamic action and flashy editing for long shots and longer takes, the preference for lonely emptiness over colorful crowding: it all serves to emphasize the new graveness of Naruto and his life.

Which would be fine if that was as far as it went. Unfortunately, Date pushes the draggy new style to such extremes that it becomes a detriment to the very things it's supposed to be supporting. Scenes that should crackle with tension, that should land like Mohammed Ali uppercuts, are so bloated with portentous pans, so drunk on their own plodding importance, that they bore rather than thrill. Naruto and Orochimaru rearranging the landscape during a duel; Naruto discovering that three years has not changed Sasuke's self-destructive thirst for revenge. These are BIG scenes. So big that Shippūden actually started with the latter one. These are the scenes that the series' gravitas should most benefit. Yet they haven't even half the impact of, say, the relatively disposable Chunin Exam fight between Rock Lee and Gaara. And we won't even speak of the soporific havoc wreaked on the dark ninja plots, with their interminable explanations during which Naruto and company stand around jawing instead of busting jaws.

Half is better than nothing though. Unlike the Gaara kidnapping, which was both overextended and uninteresting, this arc actually matters, particularly if you're invested in either Naruto or Sasuke, or even Sakura. Remnants though they are, there's excitement to be found in Naruto's monstrous duel with Orochimaru, sadness in Sakura's feelings for Sasuke, tension in Naruto and Sasuke's reunion. Sai's evolution beyond his role as an antagonistic Sasuke replacement fails to similarly involve, but it does improve his standing and opens up intriguing possibilities for future development. The return, however momentary, of Date's adventurous showmanship plays its part in these emotional remnants—the nifty flourishes during Sasuke's grand entrance(s) and the inhuman sound effects and amorphous texture of Naruto-as-Nine-Tails are particularly memorable—but series' successes are more a result of Kishimoto's characters, and to a lesser extent his writing, besting Date's destructive filler-delaying tactics than of any kind of director/source symbiosis.

The importance of the characters in making Shippūden's butt-dragging slowness tolerable places a corresponding burden on the English cast. Luckily, they're up to the challenge. There are moments when characters' voices match the character designs for artificial inexpressiveness, and the preponderance of heavy pauses isn't always kind to the dialogue or the actors (neither benefits from having too much time to think about them). But the strengths nearly always outweigh the weaknesses. Maile Flanagan continues to wig out most excellently as Naruto, Steven Blum inhabits Orochimaru with hammy relish, and if Kate Higgins stumbles during some of Sakura's more intense scenes, it's a forgivable flaw in an otherwise satisfactory performance. True, the dub, with its conservative tendencies, is unlikely to knock anyone's socks off, but then again neither will Naruto Shippūden.

An interactive relationship chart for Orochimaru, Kabuto and Sasuke, along with a featurette on the voice talent made in the form of a quiz (my score: a dismal 60) are the set's two extras of note.

Much is made of "bonds" in these episodes. Emotionless Sai is trying to comprehend what they mean, Naruto and Sakura are trying to preserve theirs with Sasuke, Sasuke is trying to sever them, and everyone talks about them incessantly. For all that talk, though, it isn't the bonds between characters that redeems Shippūden; it's the bonds they've formed with us. Because of our fondness for the show's likeable little stereotypes, because of the maturation they underwent between Naruto and Shippūden and their development since, including here, we want to see what happens to them next. Even if it means grappling with the sluggard of a show that they're in. Naturally, having made that decision, it turns out that the next set will consist of filler. Bring on the taxes and death!

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B

+ A rare all-out fight, a reunion a hundred episodes in the making, and oodles of complications; Sai isn't as awful as he first seemed.
Sloooooooow.

Series Director:Yasuaki Kurotsu
Director:Hayato Date
Series Composition:
Satoru Nishizono
Yasuyuki Suzuki
Junki Takegami
Screenplay:
Hayato Date
Masahiro Hikokubo
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Yuka Miyata
Satoru Nishizono
Yasuyuki Suzuki
Junki Takegami
Shin Yoshida
Storyboard:
Charozo
Noriyuki Abe
Akitaro Daichi
Hayato Date
Masaaki Endou
Kiyomu Fukuda
Naoki Hishikawa
Masahiro Hosoda
Takayuki Inagaki
Hisashi Ishii
Kei Jūmonji
Yutaka Kagawa
Jun Kamiya
Shigeki Kawai
Hiroshi Kimura
Yuki Kinoshita
Hiroyoshi Kishikawa
Yoriyasu Kogawa
Junya Koshiba
Rion Kujo
Masaaki Kumagai
Tomoyuki Kurokawa
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Koji Masunari
Yukihiro Matsushita
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Shigeru Mita
Yuichiro Miyake
Kazunori Mizuno
Tsutomu Murakami
Masahiko Murata
Naomi Nakayama
Tsutomu Naniwa
Atsushi Nigorikawa
Toshiya Niidome
Ken'ichi Nishida
Mitsutaka Noshitani
Maki Odaira
Takahiro Ohno
Marabe Ono
Tetsuto Saitoo
Chikara Sakurai
Sumito Sasaki
Shinji Satoh
Gorou Sessha
Ogura Shirakawa
Yoshihiro Sugai
Masato Suma
Shigeharu Takahashi
Wakoudo Takahashi
Tetsuji Takayanagi
Chiyuki Tanaka
Toshiyuki Tsuru
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Keisuke Watanabe
Shuu Watanabe
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Shingo Yamashita
Yuu Yamashita
Hiroshi Yamazaki
Akitoshi Yokoyama
Episode Director:
Noriyuki Abe
Eitarō Ano
Hayato Date
Junichi Fujise
Kiyomu Fukuda
Hayato Goda
Naoki Horiuchi
Yoshihide Ibata
Hisashi Ishii
Yutaka Kagawa
Hiroshi Kataoka
Shigeki Kawai
Hiroshi Kimura
Yuki Kinoshita
Hiroyoshi Kishikawa
Masato Kitagawa
Rion Kujo
Masaaki Kumagai
Masaaki Kumatani
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Yasumi Mikamoto
Shigeru Mita
Yuichiro Miyake
Kazunori Mizuno
Masahiko Murata
Jun Nakagawa
Naomi Nakayama
Atsushi Nigorikawa
Ken'ichi Nishida
Hiroaki Nishimura
Mitsutaka Noshitani
Maki Odaira
Takahiro Ohno
Kunitoshi Okajima
Takahiro Okao
Katsumi Ono
Yūsuke Onoda
Maneko Ooku
Masahito Otani
Chikara Sakurai
Sumito Sasaki
Kazuma Satō
Mitsutoshi Satō
Shinji Satoh
Gorou Sessha
Ogura Shirakawa
Yoshihiro Sugai
Yuriko Sugaya
Hidetoshi Takahashi
Shigeharu Takahashi
Hideki Takayama
Hayato Takeda
Chiyuki Tanaka
Tomoya Tanaka
Tsuneo Tominaga
Hiroyuki Tsuchiya
Daisuke Tsukushi
Hideaki Uehara
Fumiaki Usui
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Shuu Watanabe
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Yuu Yamashita
Hiroshi Yamazaki
Akitoshi Yokoyama
Unit Director:
Charozo
Akitaro Daichi
Hayato Date
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Koji Masunari
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Kazunori Mizuno
Masahiko Murata
Toshiya Niidome
Marabe Ono
Shinji Satoh
Chiyuki Tanaka
Toshiyuki Tsuru
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Keisuke Watanabe
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Shingo Yamashita
Yuu Yamashita
Music:
-yaiba-
Musashi Project
Toshio Masuda
Yasuharu Takanashi
Original creator:Masashi Kishimoto
Original Character Design:Yasuaki Kurotsu
Character Design:
Tetsuya Nishio
Hirofumi Suzuki
Art Director:
Hideaki Kudo
Shigenori Takada
Art:Hideaki Kudo
Chief Animation Director:
Seiko Asai
Kumiko Horikoshi
Yasuhiko Kanezuka
Gorou Sessha
Chiyuki Tanaka
Yumenosuke Tokuda
Zenjirou Ukulele
Animation Director:
Charozo
Hiroki Abe
Naoki Aisaka
Manabu Akita
Yoshinobu Aohachi
Erika Arakawa
Seiko Asai
Takahiro Chiba
Ik Hyun Eum
Akihiro Fukui
Manami Fukuyo
Kōji Furuya
Masatoshi Hakanda
Hiroki Handa
Noritomo Hattori
Hyo Jung Heo
Ken'ichi Hirata
Beom Seok Hong
Kumiko Horikoshi
Yūri Ichinose
Hiroaki Imaki
Keiichi Ishida
Hirokazu Ishino
Yūko Ishizaki
Yukiko Iwata
Min-Ho Jang
Hiroyuki Kamura
Yasuhiko Kanezuka
Koji Kataoka
Shigeki Kawai
Dae Hoon Kim
Kang Won Kim
Yuki Kinoshita
Yukari Kobayashi
Hiroki Koike
Yuki Koike
Ryo Komori
Masayuki Kouda
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Boo Hee Lee
Kengo Matsumoto
Hideaki Matsuoka
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Shin Minseop
Minoru Morita
Tsutomu Murakami
Hisao Muramatsu
Masahiko Murata
Takashi Nishikawa
Ichiro Ogawa
Yukimaro Ohtsubo
Hidehiko Okano
Hiromi Okazaki
Masaya Onishi
Marabe Ono
Noriko Otake
Hong Rong
Takashi Saijo
Konomi Sakurai
Shinji Satoh
Ryousuke Senbo
Gorou Sessha
Naoki Sousaka
Yoshihiro Sugai
Yuriko Sugaya
Hirofumi Suzuki
Natsuko Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki
Naoki Takahashi
Makoto Takahoko
Itsuko Takeda
Tatsuki Takemoto
Kei Takeuchi
Chiyuki Tanaka
Hironori Tanaka
Hiroto Tanaka
Shinsuke Terasawa
Yumenosuke Tokuda
Eiichi Tokura
Megumi Tomita
Kayano Tomizawa
Akihiro Tsuda
Takenori Tsukuma
Zenjirou Ukulele
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Akira Watanabe
Keisuke Watanabe
Anna Yamaguchi
Hiroyuki Yamashita
Shingo Yamashita
Yuu Yamashita
Kwang Seok Yang
Mamoru Yokota
Hyo Sang Yoo
Hideyuki Yoshida
Hiromi Yoshinuma
Miho Yoshioka
Sound Director:Yasunori Ebina
Producer:
Fukashi Azuma
Tomoko Gushima

Full encyclopedia details about
Naruto Shippūden (TV)

discuss this in the forum (10 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

Add this anime to

Review homepage / archives

Around The Web