Naruto Unleashed Series 1 vol 1

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £24.99

Episodes:  1-13 (of 52)

Audio Options:  English & Japanese 5.1 DTS, 5.1 & 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


It’s finally here, the most anticipated anime release for a long, long time hits the shelves in its full uncut glory on 21st of August!  Manga have gone all out to give value for money, chucking a whopping 13 episodes on three discs for just £24.99, but despite all of the hype is Naruto any good?

The story follows Naruto Uzumaki, a troublemaking ninja-in-training in the hidden ninja village of Konoha.  12 years previously Konoha’s most powerful ninja, the Hokage, had sacrificed himself to defeat a giant nine-tailed demon fox that had threatened the village, sealing the mighty beast within the body of the baby Naruto before dying.  Now older, Naruto is ostracised because of this legacy he knows nothing of, and in order to get the respect of his peers he vows to one day become the next Hokage.  However, it’s not an easy task.  Not only does he have to pass the stringent exams required to be an official trainee ninja, but he has to work in a team under a elite ‘Jonin’ ninja in order to develop and have any chance of reaching the next stage.  Unfortunately he’s teamed up with the sullen Sasuke Uchiha, who he hates, and the perky but violent Sakura Haruno, who he likes but who only has eyes for Sasuke, to form a pretty antagonistic group.  Their Jonin instructor Kakashi Hatake has his work cut out if he is going to make them work well together, but he’s going to have to work fast.  The team’s first serious mission sees them assigned to protect Tazuna the bridge engineer on his journey to the Wave Country, but it turns out a lot more dangerous then they first realised.  A crooked businessman named Gato has reasons for wanting Tazuna’s latest project to fail, and he’s hired the deadly and powerful rogue ninja Zabuza to put Tazuna out of action for good…

There’s a long line of enjoyable action series that focus on fighting and little else, but Naruto is a bit different.  The series takes time to explore some of the characters’ backgrounds, giving it far more depth than you would expect from this kind of fighting-based anime.  Naruto himself is a particularly interesting character, his pranks and stunts covering up the loneliness he feels after being looked on with fear and distrust his whole life.  His story is something of a coming-of-age tale as he struggles to reach his seemingly impossible dream of becoming Hokage with stubbornness and hard work.  Naruto has got more potential then either of his companions

Only Kakashi can look cool holding bells

but he also has the furthest to go, his determination and his subsequent rivalry with the cool and collected Sasuke is what drives the volume, but he’s not the only one with a story to tell.  There seems to be some dark secret in Sasuke’s past which has shaped his cold and angsty character, and even minor characters like Tazuna’s grandson Inari have obstacles they need to overcome.  The characters are nearly all excellent, with Zabuza and the mysterious Haku make intriguing villains who you begin to sympathise with to an extent.

This depth of character is Naruto’s strongest hand, but this isn’t all the story has.  The plot itself is intriguing with a few twists you probably won’t see coming (unless you’re one of the many people who have already seen a downloaded ‘fansubbed’ version…), and it balances out the drama with comedy, action and even a touch of horror.  The action scenes are excellent as you would expect, but where the series wins out is that it is still highly enjoyable when the characters are not fighting.  The training episodes are as watchable as the showstopping fights, something that is rarely true in series like Dragonball Z.  The series covers a lot of bases very well – in places is laugh at loud funny, and in others tense and dramatic.

Now this is my kind of ninja training...

There are problems, some long explanations of things that didn’t need explaining and a couple of repeated and unnecessary flashbacks are the most noticeable, and there are some minor technical things as well.  Some odd still screens after the credit sequences stick out like sore thumbs, in Japan these screens usually carry sponsor names, but are left blank here.  It is also a bit annoying that you can’t skip the lengthy end credits to get on to the next episode, but these gripes are hardly serious.  For the most part Manga have done an excellent job with this set, thirteen episodes over three discs for well under £30 is nothing

to be sniffed at, especially when there are full DTS and 5.1 sound options for both languages thrown in too.  And those who have been worried about the dub should take heart – it’s really good, with the gravelly voiced Zabuza stealing the show and Naruto not being half as annoying as he could have been.

There have been a lot of people moaning about the cuts on Jetix and here Manga have provided the perfect answer.  Naruto in its full, unedited glory is superb, and if the excellent ending of episode 13 is anything to go by it is only going to get better.  There’s plenty of action and drama, as well as some great comedy and the character driven story has more depth to it than you may expect.  There is some room for improvement as it does explain the obvious on occasion, but this is still a great release.  Manga have succeeded in making the most anticipated release of the year as good as it deserves to be, great value, great action, great anime.  Superb.


With 13 episodes and a host of audio option you probably aren’t surprised to find that extras are a little thin on the ground.  There are trailers on disc 2 and a bizarre extra on the third disc which appears to be a reel of the episode title screens (not a ‘manga to anime comparison’ as the menu says), and that’s about it.  However, Manga do include a colourful booklet packed with episode synopses and featuring a couple of storyboards and the DVD comes in Manga’s usual slipcase box, so it’s not a bad set all things considered.


Feature:   Extras:

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