Review

by Carl Kimlinger, Nov 7th 2008

Naruto

Uncut DVD Box Set 10

Synopsis:
Naruto DVD Box Set 10
Orochimaru's rascally underlings have absconded with Sasuke, attempting to ferry him off to the Sound Village with Naruto and a team of crack Genin recruits hot on their tail. As Shikamaru, Kiba, and Rock Lee occupy Orochimaru's errand boys, Naruto trails after Sasuke, newly hatched from Orochimaru's superpower-granting coffin. While his comrades end their desperate battles with a little help from an unexpected quarter, Naruto tries to convince an obstinate Sasuke to return to his home village. Sasuke replies by wasting entire episodes exploring his dark, dank past before trying quite earnestly to kill Naruto off.
Review:

Imagine yourself as a blushing Shonen Jump bride. You've been courting Naruto for a Victorianly appropriate period, from the first clumsy overtures to the seductive whispers of untold fulfillment in the latest handful of story arcs. “The best is yet to come,” they breathe in your ear. “The rivalry between Nar>uto and Sasuke is about to explode,” they husk. In the ninth box set, when Sasuke leaves the village, the engagement is set. Things progress nicely, if predictably, through the preparations for the big day. Big, life-threatening fights revolving around long-term characters set the tone, and after much ceremonial hullabaloo the long-promised moment finally arrives. And there you are, the blushing bride, waiting to be swept away, only to have the show suffer a debilitating performance malfunction at the worst possible moment.

Which gives you a rough idea of how deflating a let-down the infuriating, clumsily-structured Nar>uto/Sasuke fight is. The set starts out quite well, riding high on the energy of the three-way battle that closed out the last set. Shikamaru's showdown is a clever battle of wits, Ki>ba's is a dirty, desperate struggle to live, and Rock Lee's is pure kung-fu bliss (complete with a healthy helping of drunken-boxing goodness). There's a lot in the first half that is genuinely exciting and even touching, however, it's all merely a prelude to the inevitable mano-a-mano with Sasuke, at which point the series promptly falls apart under the weight of its own ambitions.

An earnest but seriously ham-fisted desire to fashion something deep and serious from the climactic battle soon transforms what should have been an exhilarating whirl of action and high emotion into a patience-testing, time-distending showdown that recalls the worst excesses of Dragon Ball Z. The tedious speechifying alone (distilled: Na>ruto: “Come back with me.” Sasuke: “No!”) would be enough to slow the fight to an irritating crawl, but the series goes the extra step of using the fight to repeatedly bookend a series of long Sasuke-fleshing flashbacks. Sasuke has been in need of development, but couldn't they have done that before they built a ginormous climax around him? We didn't make it this far to be force-fed more bleak back-story, we came to watch Nar>uto and Sasuke beat the ninja stuffing out of each other.

After hours of frustrating stop-and-go (mostly stop) action, the series does salvage an episode-long fight from the mess, and even throws in a follow-up episode for good measure, giving the characters time to clean up all that ninja stuffing—but only after so many false starts, meandering flashbacks, and male-bonding interludes that it seems small recompense for all the hair we tore out getting there.

That isn't to disparage the execution of the fight. Though it does make one yearn for the clean choreography of Rock Lee's straightforward martial-arts, there's no denying the impressiveness of the Sasuke fight's visuals. Nar>uto clones explode from a lake like ninja-shaped surface-to-air missiles and glowing energy limbs ambush enemies from underground and cling to rock faces like neon prehensile tails. Pint-sized ninjas leap over water, bounce off cliffs, and fight atop floating logs. The animators put all the love they could into the fight, and it shows, in spite of the artistic details that are sacrificed in favor of fluid movement. If only they had put half as much effort into structuring the fight—though in a manner of speaking their decision to water it down did succeed: by the end of the fight it isn't Sasuke that you want to spank, it's the series' creators.

Toshio Masuda's guitar-metal-meets-traditional-music score hasn't substantially changed since the series' inception, but as Hayato Date's direction loses all subtlety going into the Sasuke fight, so too does his deployment of Masuda's score. It's still a blast to listen too, but here it is more a blunt instrument than an effective support. A new hard-rocking punk-pop opener heralds the coming of the Sasuke fight, while the new closer is an unremarkable ballad that represents one of the series' few outright opener/closer mistakes.

After this length of time, there's little new to be said about Viz's dub. The cast handles the heavy stuff with what grace they can muster, the adaptation is lively, and Brian Donovan's humorous handling of Rock Lee's Drunken Fist fight (far and away this set's highlight) is but the latest demonstration of the series' dead-on casting.

Some production art and storyboard-to-film comparisons are this box set's only extras of note.

As with any relationship gone sour, in hindsight the signs that all was not well with Naruto are obvious. The three battles that begin the volume end in cop-outs, the series consistently forgets that its leads are supposed to be tweens, and the fact that the conflicted, complicated Shikamaru snakes the set's most affecting moment out from under Nar>uto—despite all his angst-mongering—is merely the latest of many indications that Nar>uto's one-note personality is beginning to wear thin. This set does leave the series in an interesting place, but as any fan of the franchise knows, it will be a long, long time before anything comes of it: after the botched honeymoon comes an eighty-episode marriage to flabby filler.

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

+ Three opening showdowns featuring an eclectic mix of fighting styles and initially uncertain outcomes.
Unbearably mishandled climactic battle; the moment you think “wait a minute, these are twelve-year-olds,” you're screwed.

Director:Hayato Date
Script:
Kou Hei Mushi
Yuka Miyata
Satoru Nishizono
Katsuyuki Sumisawa
Yasuyuki Suzuki
Junki Takegami
Akatsuki Yamatoya
Michiko Yokote
Shin Yoshida
Storyboard:
Tetsuro Amino
Hayato Date
Takafumi Hayashi
Yuki Hayashi
Tsubute Hyakuno
Hayauma Ippaku
Satoru Iriyoshi
Takaaki Ishiyama
Mashu Itō
Kei Jūmonji
Shigenori Kageyama
Hiroki Kawashima
Hiroshi Kimura
Yuki Kinoshita
Kazumi Kobayashi
Junya Koshiba
Rion Kujo
Masaaki Kumagai
Yasuaki Kurotsu
Koji Masunari
Hitoyuki Matsui
Tsuyoshi Matsumoto
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Yasuhiro Minami
Yuichiro Miyake
Masahiko Murata
Noriyoshi Nakamura
Atsushi Nigorikawa
Toshiya Niidome
Mitsutaka Noshitani
Seiji Okuda
Takeyuki Sadohara
Mamoru Sasaki
Shinji Satoh
Toshiyuki Shimazu
Hirofumi Suzuki
Tetsuji Takayanagi
Chiyuki Tanaka
Toshiyuki Tsuru
Hidehito Ueda
Yasunori Urata
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Yuu Yamashita
Ryo Yasumura
Episode Director:
Hayato Date
Kiyomu Fukuda
Hayato Goda
Yuki Hayashi
Yasuyuki Honda
Masayuki Iimura
Mashu Itō
Shigenori Kageyama
Keiichiro Kawaguchi
Hiroshi Kimura
Yuki Kinoshita
Rion Kujo
Masaaki Kumagai
Tsuyoshi Matsumoto
Kyosuke Mikuriya
Shuuji Miyahara
Masahiko Murata
Atsushi Nigorikawa
Toshiya Niidome
Mitsutaka Noshitani
Yukio Okazaki
Takeyuki Sadohara
Shinji Satoh
Akira Shimizu
Yoshihiro Sugai
Chiyuki Tanaka
Toshiyuki Tsuru
Yasunori Urata
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Kazuyoshi Yokota
Unit Director:
Rion Kujo
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Hirofumi Suzuki
Toshiyuki Tsuru
Yuu Yamashita
Music:
Musashi Project
Toshio Masuda
Original Manga:Masashi Kishimoto
Character Design:
Tetsuya Nishio
Hirofumi Suzuki
Art Director:Shigenori Takada
Art:
Tomoyuki Shimizu
Shinji Sugiyama
Kazuhiko Suzuki
Shigenori Takada
Michiko Taniguchi
Animation Director:
Naoki Aisaka
Mariko Aoki
Atsushi Aono
Seiko Asai
Yukiko Ban
Choi Jong Gi
Hideki Hashimoto
Kumiko Horikoshi
Masaru Hyodo
Yasuhiko Kanezuka
Kazuhisa Kosuga
Akira Matsushima
Tokuyuki Matsutake
Minoru Morita
Yuji Moriyama
Kenichiro Ogata
Yukimaro Ohtsubo
Hidehiko Okano
Hiromi Okazaki
Takako Onishi
Takeshi Ozaka
Kazuya Saitoh
Chikara Sakurai
Gorou Sessha
Haruo Sotozaki
Hirofumi Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki
Marie Tagashira
Chiyuki Tanaka
Akihiro Tsuda
Takenori Tsukuma
Zenjirou Ukulele
Atsushi Wakabayashi
Masafumi Yamamoto
Hideyuki Yoshida
Sound Director:Yasunori Ebina
Director of Photography:Atsuho Matsumoto
Producer:
Tomoko Gushima
Hiroshi Hagino
Ken Hagino
Noriko Kobayashi

Full encyclopedia details about
Naruto (TV)

Release information about
Naruto - Uncut DVD Box Set 10 (DVD)

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