Review

by Carlo Santos, Jul 19th 2013

Naruto Shippūden

DVD Set 14

Synopsis:
Naruto Shippūden DVD Set 14
The wrathful ninja Pain has launched a devastating attack on the Hidden Leaf village, and Naruto Uzumaki is their last hope for survival! Pain's team of remote-controlled puppets has been reduced to one, and Naruto takes on the final Pain in a duel that forces out every last bit of his power—including the nine-tailed fox demon. As the inner beast threatens to go berserk, Naruto makes a shocking discovery about his abilities. Eventually, Naruto comes face-to-face with Nagato, the man behind Pain, and demands an explanation. How could Naruto and Nagato, who both trained under the great sage Jiraiya, have taken such different paths in life? The answer lies in their respective childhoods: Naruto learns of Nagato's tortured past, while Naruto's mentors reflect on the young troublemaker who has now blossomed into a hero.
Review:

The conclusion to the Pain saga is one of Naruto Shippūden's finest moments—not just for the titular hero, but for the entire series itself. As expected, the final battle pushes Naruto and Pain to the brink, but it's the personal storylines surrounding the battle that really make it memorable. This story arc goes beyond simple questions of who is the strongest, and whether good or evil will triumph: instead, it tackles more serious thoughts, like what it takes to become a hero or villain, and whether it's truly possible to believe in world peace. The series is still enjoyable for its flashy fight scenes, but there's also plenty more going on beneath the surface.

The episodes in this set don't take long to reach the realm of spiritual introspection. Right away, an enraged Naruto goes into beast form, while his human soul wanders the ether and meets an unexpected figure from his past. It's one of the most touching moments in the story, and just the push that Naruto needs to take control of the situation. Seeing Naruto gather the strength to defeat Pain is a thrill, but it's what he does after the battle that really proves his heroism—he demands a face-to-face discussion with the bad guy. Everything that follows from that is what makes the story a masterpiece.

The tale of Nagato is one of those moments when taking a detour from the main storyline is absolutely okay: his flashback completes the character, connects him to Jiraiya (and thus Naruto's own story), and sparks a debate about whose philosophy is right (Naruto's idealism versus Nagato's vengeful cynicism). The scenes from Nagato's childhood are incredibly tragic and harrowing—is this really still Shonen Jump?—but they do explain how someone with so much talent, plus a well-meaning teacher, could turn against the world. Then comes the real coup: Naruto takes everything he's learned about Nagato and Jiraiya, then twists their ideas into a message of hope. In that moment, Naruto isn't just a hero with his fists, but with his heart and mind.

How does one even top a conclusion like that? The answer is simple: you don't. The last few episodes in this set are predictably anticlimactic, closing out with some fillers about Naruto's youth. In addition, a brief young-Naruto escapade slots itself in just before Nagato's flashback, presumably to balance out the dark story content. These flashbacks aren't a total waste of time—they do show how Naruto's positive upbringing was markedly different from Nagato's—but obviously they recall a more lighthearted, less drama-laden era. Meanwhile, the plot churns quietly in the main storyline, setting up for the next great conflict.

As expected, the animation is at its most spectacular during the great battle—Naruto and Pain attack each other in dynamic fashion, often at camera angles lifted straight from the manga. Mind-boggling sights, like Naruto's raging beast form and Pain levitating a giant ball of dirt, are sure to leave an impression. A couple of artistic experiments don't quite work out, though: when Pain battles beast-form Naruto, the amount of contortion their bodies go through is impressive, but looks sloppily drawn; later on, the deep shadows at the beginning of Nagato's flashback create a striking look, but at the cost of detail and consistency. Surprisingly, some of the most enjoyable visuals come during the young Naruto episodes, where a rich color palette, crisp lines, and familiar old character designs set the tone. By contrast, most of the Pain/Nagato segment is an exercise in brown and gray, although given the mood at that point (and the rain-soaked locale), it's the best fit for the story.

A dramatic, full-orchestra score also adds to the impact of Naruto and Pain's battle, from loud power-packed chords when they clash, to mournful string elegies during Nagato's flashback. Even Naruto's triumphant homecoming gets a brass fanfare to call its own. However, the tales of Naruto's youth resort to more cheaply produced music, with rock instrumentals and other medium-to-light pop tracks playing in the background. The opening theme stirs up the show's fighting spirit with its hard-rock sound, but the slow-paced, bittersweet closer captures the other side of the story.

Because of the way these episodes traverse so many moods, they serve as a true challenge of voice-acting ability—and the English dub cast handles it pretty well. Maile Flanagan (Naruto) faces the ultimate test, having to be defiant, despondent, hopeful, and even comical at times, and she pulls it off no matter what the situation. Supporting cast members also do a fine job of bringing out the characters' myriad personalities and voices (plus, they pronounce the names correctly). Only during some of the filler-flashback adventures are there some unfortunate cases of overacting, and that's as much the fault of the story as it is the actors. The 3-DVD package is scant on extras, with only a small selection of production sketches, storyboards, and post-episode comedy shorts to go with the usual credits sequences and trailers.

For all the complaints about Naruto's filler episodes, long-drawn-out fight scenes, and minor characters getting too much attention, sometimes there are moments when everything just falls into place. This is one of those moments—a perfect storm of drama and action, back-story and plot advancement, and some surprisingly deep thoughts on what it means to strive for peace. Were it not for the tangential flashback episodes on the last disc, this would be a near-perfect story arc. Even the production values remain solid throughout, proving that mass-market shonen anime doesn't necessarily equate to cheap. This is one adventure that's worth the price of admission—the moment when a boy ninja takes that crucial step toward becoming a man.

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

+ A spectacular, all-out battle leads to some seriously deep debate between the hero and villain—action, drama, tragedy, and hope all rolled into one.
Mischief-filled flashbacks of Naruto's youth don't carry the same dramatic weight as the other episodes in this arc.

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)

Release information about
Naruto Shippūden (DVD box14)

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