Naruto Shippuden Reviews.
This is a review of the pre-release version. As a pre-release version, one receives a disc without the full features of the retail discs. It does not contain any extras, menus and only has the English dialogue track (no Japanese audio or English subtitles). It also contains episodes 1 to 7, where the retail version will have episodes 1 to 13. Personally, Naruto never caught my imagination as a series as the genre just doesn’t overly appeal (that’s just me) — but, when offered an opportunity to preview the first Shippuden collection, I thought “why not take a look at it”. So here we go:
Story and Characters:
The story starts off presumably following the original series and, importantly, viewers are expected to have prior knowledge of the characters. There is no background to establish relationships other than several flash-backs to when the characters were younger – such as training sessions. For me, not having the benefit of seeing the first part, the story has a lot of action, fighting and suspense – and not too much else. There are lighter parts, though, where the interaction between the main cast is emphasised such as when Sakura decides to beat Naruto up for offending her. The cast is large but not entirely superficial as most characters appear to have a detailed back-story and I’d guess if you know the series you will be up to speed. I, however, was entirely confused and lost the plot quite often, but that is just my lack of background knowledge and not necessarily a fault of the show. If you have been following and like the Naruto series you’ll probably like, and have been waiting for, this release. If you haven’t but want to check it out, you would be best advised to go back to the original series and follow that through first — which may take a while at some 220 episodes.
The collection is presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio. Colours are clear and scenery is detailed. Fight sequences appear fluid, fast and smooth with plenty of action. Character designs are pleasant enough, but nothing remarkable. Madman states clearly that the visual quality of the preview disc does not match the final production quality (so maybe there was some compression to fit seven episodes on one disc). However, there were no obvious visual issues and the transfer is fine when I was viewing it on my 24″ iMac (late 2007 model) using the in-built Mac OS X DVD Player software.
With only the English audio track available presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, there are no opportunities to compare with the original language. That said, however, the voice acting of the English cast reflects how I’d expect the characters to behave. Naruto comes across always impetuous and enthusiastic. Sakura comes across as a determined young woman who doesn’t tolerate crap from anyone — and wouldn’t hesitate to make sure they know it. What music there is works well with the visuals: dramatic dark scoring for action and fighting sequences; softer music where the story is calm. Opening and closing themes are appropriate, I guess, with a heavy rapping opening theme; and a slower rapping ballad-like song for the closing.
Extras and General Presentation:
No extras on the preview discs, but each at the end of each episode is a brief background explanation to something raised during the episode. It might be how tasks are allocated to each team, or how a ninja progresses through the ranks, and so forth. These backgrounders can be helpful in filling in some knowledge gaps (including mine).
The Bottom Line:
Personally, I’m not a fan of the Naruto genre (i.e. ninjas, samurai, etc.) but, that said, I did find elements of the story engaging such as where Naruto and Sakura have to team up to fight one of their sensei. To be fair, I’m sure there is much more to the series than what I got out of it with my limited exposure — i.e. fighting and lots of it. Characters had enough variety and the main ones enough detail (if you know the history) to not appear shallow and one-dimensional. It’s still early days with this series with 32 episodes in Season 1, and 150 in total so far. Would I continue to follow this series or go back to watch the original? Probably not. It gets a solid 3-stars in my view, though, for some nice detailed artwork, smooth action sequences, some character depth and interactions that I was able to enjoy even without knowing the background of the series, and the feeling that previewing this disc was worthwhile even if I would not be overly interested in following this series further. For those who like and have been following the Naruto series, I doubt you’d be disappointed with this release.