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Title:
  Naruto Unleashed Series 1 Box Set

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  24.99

Episodes:  1-24 (of 52)

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

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

We waited ages for it and it finally came out.  Two series of uncut Naruto goodness have hit UK shores, and now the first one - all 24 episodes of it - are collected together in one budget boxset.

The story follows Naruto, a troublemaking ninja-in-training who bears a terrible legacy.  Shortly after Naruto's birth, the village's greatest ninja - the Fourth Hokage - sacrificed his life to save the village from a terrible demon.  However, he was unable to destroy the demon and instead sealed it within the baby Naruto.  Twelve years have passed and Naruto is ostracised by other villagers because of this deadly inheritance, and vows to gain their respect and recognition by become the village's best ninja and taking the title of Hokage.  It's not an easy road, he must first qualify from the academy as a full ninja and undertake a number of missions as part of a three-man cell led by an elite shinobi.  His cell consists of himself, the cute but violent Sakura Haruno and the sullen and distinctly emo Sasuke Uchiha, making for a mutually antagonistic team that their elite teacher - Hakate Kakashi - must somehow keep in line and train.  Their first serious mission, which is to escort a bridge engineer back to his homeland, seems like a good opportunity to get some light training in.  However, things aren't as simple as they thought they were.  The engineer is in more danger than he admits, the evil businessman Gato wants him dead and has hired the powerful ninja Zabuza to do the deed.  With such a dangerous foe it looks like Naruto's dream could come to an end sooner than he thought...
 

Everybody reading this review must be aware of Naruto by now.  It was the most wanted anime series for years and has proven very popular both on TV and DVD.  For those who have somehow managed to miss it, this set is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with everyone's favourite orange-suited ninja.  Packing 24 episodes into six discs, the series takes us from Naruto's graduation as a ninja through the formation of his three man cell and into his first major mission.  The value for money is undeniable, but is Naruto any good?  


It's easy to be cynical about a popular series and it's easy to say you don't like it just to avoid being part of the crowd.  However, there are reasons that series like Naruto are popular, and the main one is that it's just so damn entertaining.  The characters are strong, the setting is interesting and the story really draws you in early on and keeps you hooked.  Naruto's greatest strength isn't the action, even though the action is frequently awesome, it's the fact that it spends time to develop the characters and isn't afraid to inject a subtle dark edge to the story.  Naruto and co are just 12 years old, yet they are expected to grow up fast and enter a world of violence and danger.  This loss of innocence and Naruto's alienation  because of the demon fox balances the gung-ho fighting and occasionally goofy comedy very well.  There's consequence to the characters' actions, and things get very dark as Naruto and his companions take on Zabuza and the superb Haku.  The drama builds brilliantly and things stay interesting even during the episodes where Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are training, in fact the series only really has one major problem - flashbacks.
 

Yes, like quite a few action based series of this kind some episodes are padded out with flashbacks to previous episodes, or occasionally flashbacks to a character's past.  Now, I don't have anything against using flashbacks as a narrative device, but in places they seem to be used solely to stretch things out.  Occasionally the flashbacks are to events that only happened about two episodes previously, which can be infuriating when you watch several episodes in a row.  It seems lazy, and detracts from what is otherwise a

hugely entertaining and enjoyable series.  There are other minor gripes - some people will no doubt find Naruto himself pretty annoying, and there are a couple of mawkish moments - but generally everything hangs together well and conveys the sentiments that it is supposed to.

Personally I really enjoyed the first series of Naruto, and with 24 episodes for just 25 (and even cheaper in many shops) you would be hard pressed to get more anime for your hard earned cash.  However, it's not just quantity, Naruto Unleashed Series 1 has quality in spades.  The story is excellent and the characters are interesting, some of the animation is superb and there are plenty of great set-pieces and brilliantly executed fights.  The dub is pretty good and the set is graced with a full subtitle track rather than the dubtitles (word-for-word transcript of the English dub track) that have been present on some volumes.  Although some people will no doubt moan about the lack of extras and the budget feel of the release, I for one am glad to see such a decent series released in a format that's accessible to all.  Naruto may be on telly and most people will no doubt have seen it there, but if you want it in its full uncut glory then this set is pretty much a must have.

Extras

Not much, a few trailers, a booklet in the first DVD and a slipcase box.  The booklet does have a few storyboard images in it but character biographies would have been better than the episode synopses that make up the bulk of it.  Below par stuff.

Ratings

Feature:   Extras:
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