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Title:
  Naruto Shippuden Box Set 1

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  24.99

Episodes:  1-13 (of 32)

Audio Options:  English & Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Release Date: 14th June 2010

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)
 

 It's been a long time coming.  220 episodes down and the moment we've all been waiting for has arrived...

...Sakura finally does something!

Oh, and Naruto Shippuden begins.

Two years have passed since the end of the last volume and we rejoin an older, wiser incarnation of our favourite orange-suited ninja as he returns to Konoha.  His prolonged period of intensive training under the legendary ninja Jiraiya has left him far stronger than he was before, and he's not the only one who has changed.  Sakura has been training under the Fifth Hokage Tsunade and has become a first-rate medical ninja, whilst all of his old classmates have developed new skills and grown stronger.  Relations with the Sand Village are flourishing and Naruto returns to a village enjoying a prolonged period of peace, but it's not going to last.  Rogue ninja Orochimaru has nearly recovered his strength following his failed coup and time is running out if Konoha is to recover Naruto's former team-mate Sasuke from his clutches.  Orochimaru isn't the only obstacle between them and Sasuke though - Sasuke remains focused on power and revenge and doesn't exactly want to be saved.  If this situation wasn't bad enough the mysterious Akatsuki organisation are once again on the move and have Naruto and the other tailed beast hosts firmly in their sights.  However, with Naruto under the protection of Jiraiya they have turned their attention to Gaara of the Sand, the host of the One Tailed Beast Shukaku.  Gaara has come a long way since the Chuunin Exam and has finally earned the respect and trust of his village, but his newfound responsibility may be his undoing when faced with the powerful Akatsuki agents Deidara and Sasori.  With danger looming the Hokage dispatches Kakashi, Sakura and Naruto to help the Sand, but even with additional backup in the form of Might Guy's team the Leaf ninja face an uphill struggle, especially when Akatsuki agents Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki appear with designs on Naruto...
 

Naruto Shippuden is a new dawn for the franchise after a prolonged period of filler that has seen a steady deterioration in both story and animation quality.  The reboot couldn't come soon enough either, and thankfully this first volume shows that Naruto is once again a quality product.  The animation and art has been brushed up, the music has been revamped and there is a more grown up feel to a story which thunders along at an impressive pace.  The redesign of the characters is pretty effective too, they really look more mature than they did previously and this helps give the series a more serious feel that is backed up by quite a dark storyline.  Whilst there are a few

comedy pratfalls and daft situations in the first few episodes things take a far more focused and dramatic turn when Akatsuki launch their attack on the Sand Village.  From this point on the series is pretty much solid action with plenty of chances to see how much all of our heroes have grown.

As mentioned Naruto is a lot stronger and more mature than he used to be, and his serious attitude is a breath of fresh air after the toss we have had to put up with during the filler.  However, it's the improvements the other characters have made that really give the series some depth.  Sakura spent the majority of the previous nine series standing in the background and fawning over Sasuke, but now she is a fully-fledged ninja boasting a quick brain and superhuman strength - something she wastes no time in demonstrating when Kakashi re-evaluates them following their training.  The character that has changed the most though is Gaara, he strived to follow Naruto's example and is now respected and even admired by his fellow ninja.  His battle against Deidara is the first of several showpiece fights in this first volume, and it's easily the best with both fighters using both brains and brawn to try and overcome the other.  The action and drama following this fight is relentless, with Sakura demonstrating her medical skills alongside her fighting prowess and the other leaf ninja facing a race against time to prevent the Akatsuki plan from coming to fruition.  The story is fast-paced and exciting, whilst the new characters work brilliantly alongside the franchise's established cast.
 

Whilst the action comes thick and fast though Naruto Shippuden still hasn't managed to shake the age old flashback issue.  Whilst some are used well, such as those comparing Naruto & Sakura's performance in their re-assessment against their original training several years previously, they often just replay things that happened only a few episodes before to often pointless effect.  This couples with a sneaking suspicion that some of the big battles are using them and some long pauses to stretch their runtime, which considering the general quality of both the story and animation feels a little bit cheap.  This said the battles themselves are generally pretty damn good,

and there are some flashbacks and hints at unseen aspects of the story, including a few tantalising moments from Naruto's training with Jiraiya and Kakashi's troubled past. 

Naruto Shippuden vol 1 is a very good start to what should be a very good series.  It introduces several excellent new characters to really up the ante in terms of danger and pits them against a fully developed cast with newfound strength and abilities.  The story is tense and action packed with a welcome toning down of the comedy aspects that sometimes made the original Naruto fall a bit flat.  What Naruto Shippuden does very well is to broaden the series' scope by focusing on the Sand Village and also bringing the great ninja war that preceded the original Naruto series into the central storyline.  The events of the war shaped the world Naruto inhabits, and by explaining the unseen events of the past gives the series a lot more depth whilst also going someway to revealing how some characters have become like they are.  It's this added depth and the sheer relentless action this volume provides that are its strongest hands at the moment, but I only wish it could keep the urgency up during some of the big battles.  As it stands though Naruto Shippuden vol 1 is an excellent reboot to a franchise that had become a parody of itself in its later volumes.  It reminds you why you liked Naruto in the first place, it's exciting, action-packed and full of great characters but this time there's added depth and previous nonentities like Sakura and even Ten Ten get a chance to show off their skills.  Watch this and get hooked all over again. 

Extras

Only a gallery of production art and some trailers, not surprising considering the number of episodes crammed on to the discs.  However, there are short bonus animations at the end of each episode giving background info on characters and techniques as well, these are generally only a minute or so long but are played more tongue in cheek than the series itself.  They don't tell you much you won't already know, but they're a nice bonus nonetheless.

Ratings

Feature:   Extras:
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