Naruto Shippuden Collection 12 (Episodes 141-153) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 304 minutes approx.
The fallout of the battle of the brothers Uchiha opens this latest volume with Sasuke licking his wounds despite coming out victorious in what was a hard fought and violent collision. Yet Sasuke doesn’t feel like celebrating least of all in light of the revelations shared with him by masked clan leader Madara. None of it makes for easy listening for Sasuke but it makes him understand his brother’s motives in the past. Thus a rejuvenated Sasuke with a new power inherited from his brother Itachi takes his group Hebi, rename it Taka (Japanese for Hawk) and vows to destroy the Hidden Leaf Village. But first he has to hunt down the Eight Tails host.
Before you get your hopes up too high, it is fair to warn you that this makes up the first three chapters in this thirteen episode set. The next eight episodes are taken up with a filler arc which brings our eponymous hero back into the spotlight.
When a young woman is attacked in her village and is forced to flee for her safety, Lady Tsunade dispatches Team 7 and Yamato to serve as her protection. The woman in question, Hotaru of Tsuchigumo clan is the granddaughter of an elder named En no Gyoja who created a forbidden jutsu, so powerful it has been hidden away. A group of ninjas aware of the jutsu’s power are out to abduct Hotaru and force the location of the sealed away jutsu. Aided by her retainer Utakata and the Hidden Leaf Ninja, Hotaru tries to avoid capture but it seems greater forces are interested in the forbidden jutsu and will stop at nothing to get it.
The filler arcs in Naruto (and indeed most long running series) are usually greeted with scorn and abhorrence; indeed some cheeky souls on the interwebz have posted guides on how to “enjoy” these shows without the filler material, letting you know which episodes you can skip if you just want the canon output! To be fair, unlike the fillers in Bleach which often come out of leftfield, at least in Naruto they attempt to keep things within the same remit of the main stories rather than wander off into extraneous fantasy territories. This story is now different and while it features a non-regular antagonist and side character to build the crisis around, it at least feels as though it could be a credible detour from the current major arc.
The only downside to these episodes is the noticeable drop in animation and character design. While the backgrounds still look lavish and detailed, Hotaru, Utakata and the antagonist Shiranami look like they were designed and drawn in two minutes flat – combined! Sadly, this drop in quality isn’t relegated to the filer arc as the last episode of the previous arc, in which Taka face the Eight Tails host Killer Bee, a painfully unfunny Hulk Hogan look-a-like wannabe rapper, also features some decidedly sloppy artwork.
Once the plight of Hotaru and the forbidden justu is dealt with, we return to our regular programming for a new arc, which begins with Naruto learning of the death of Jiraiya. Naturally upset, the young ninja goes off the rails, blaming Lady Tsunade for the death of the Pervy Sage.
A fairly emotional set all told then, with parties on both sides of the good/evil fence suffering some kind of personal loss and reacting to it in fairly similar and destructive ways. But only one will go through with their vow of vengeance but which one? You probably already know but you’ll have to wait until the next volume to find out.
How you feel about fillers will influence your overall enjoyment of this release and while the tone of the extraneous material is noticeably lighter and less intense than that of the ongoing arcs, it provides the most action and returns the titular hero to his place as the focus of the show, at least satiating those fans who expect some presence from the main man of this mammoth franchise. And the story that makes up these episodes is no more or less engaging than those that get the big screen treatment.
All told this is another solid Naruto release that won’t win over any new fans but will keep the faithful happy.
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black