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?
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
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.
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.