ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 25th July 2015, by NEO Staff

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 21

The Fourth Great Ninja War is about to break out, and forces from around the ninja globe are assembled with the objective of taking out the evil cult Akatsuki – or what’s left of them – in the build-up to Naruto’s final arc. Unfortunately, the tentative alliance between the five villages of tempestuous shinobi is a little strained, and things go from bad to worse when they discover that serpentine scientist and amateur necromancer Kabuto has used his master’s forbidden jutsu to resurrect the best of the best of the deceased ninja all-stars. The amassed heroes and antiheroes will have to tangle with some famous figures from the annals of ninja history, as well as some familiar faces who’ve been brought back to fight against their will.

The 12-episode box set starts out midway through a bunch of flashback filler episodes that take place around proceedings so far back in the series’ history that they can’t quite measure up to the raised stakes and power levels of the latest events. But luckily, things quickly move back to the main storyline to introduce the major players in the upcoming Ninja War. Though it takes a little while to get moving, viewers will be hooked once the conflict picks up speed, and though it just gets started in these episodes, the ninja war is shaping up to be one of Shippuden’s best arcs thus far. One of Naruto’s strong points has always been its diverse cast of ninja and their various power sets, and seeing these clash is as fun as it ever was. With Naruto still on his secretive training mission, these episodes bring a lot of fan favourites back into the spotlight, and even relatively new secondary characters are given their chance to kick some undead shinobi butt.

This arc indulges the impulse that every fan feels – which is to wonder “who would win in a battle between these two characters?” The best way to find out, of course, is in an arc like this: a tumultuous tussle with shades of Battle Royale, in which protagonists are matched against their polar opposites, friend is forced to battle with friend, and old grudge matches are revisited. While the trope of resurrecting old enemies so that the protagonists can fight them all over again might feel a little forced at first, you can’t argue with results, and the results of this plot point are a return to the strategic and technical battle scenes that Naruto is best known for – although with a lot of supplementary flashbacks thrown in. As ever, Naruto brings its best animation to the big conflicts, and these are no exception – even experienced readers of the manga will get a kick out of seeing these large-scale battles given new life as they’re expertly adapted for the screen.

While the episodes included in this box set, as mentioned, set the stage for a truly epic arc to come, the major drawback of the set is its length. At 12 episodes, it doesn’t feel like much more than a bite-size portion of a series as vast as Naruto has become, and the relatively slow start to the arc doesn’t help much. Fans will definitely be fully engaged by the time this instalment draws to a close, but looking back, you might end up feeling like the set-up promised more than you got out of these dozen episodes – especially since the last few will leave you clamouring for the next box.

Though it’s not the most substantial of collections, these episodes of Naruto cannot be missed. There’s a lot more loose ends to be tied up in the story – and surely many more ninja brawls to be had – but this is a great beginning to what is definitely going to be one of the most climactic final arcs in the history of anime.

It’s a little light on content, but the start to this highly-anticipated arc will definitely leave you wanting more.
SCORE: 3.5/5
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