Naruto Shippuden Collection 15 (Episodes 180-192) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 294 minutes approx.
If the nostalgia of the last few episodes in the previous volume whetted your appetite for more adventures from the early days of Naruto’s history then be prepared to dance yourself into a state of delirium as this release continues with the flashback filler material. The rest of you go get some fresh air or something.
The thirteen chapters that make up this set are largely one shot standalone stories – one story spans two episodes – set back in the day when Naruto was still deep in his training and Team 7 was still an ongoing concern. These are mostly comedic affairs with only a couple carrying a serious message thus are hardly essential to any of the main timelines and story arc from the pen of Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto. The benefit is that one can dip into this collection at any time without fear of interrupting any set continuities or spoiling future events if they wanted a quick Naruto fix. Conversely, casual or fair-weather viewers can skip this without missing anything of value or importance.
Thankfully a number of the episodes are prefaced by a short clip set in the current timeline just after the devastating attack on the Hidden Leaf Village which incapacitated Fifth Hokage Lady Tsunade. This gives our cast a chance to indulge in some convenient reminiscence to set the scene for the ensuing adventure. There is no set pattern for when these stories take place so be alarmed by certain noticeable changes such as Sakura’s hair flitting between long and short or current friends returning to the role of foe (with Sasuke being the main opposite instance).
If this concept of revisiting Naruto’s past has done anything it has given the writers free reign to come up with a variety of ideas and new challenges and antagonists for our heroes to overcome. Sadly this gives way to some rather ridiculous ideas even by Naruto standards so the loyalty of the faithful is sure to be tested here. In one story Team 7 are forced to disguise themselves as cats to get the paw print from a notorious giant cat. In order to infiltrate the feline circles a disguise it needed – cats ears! Sakura fans will get a kick out of their idol indulging in this cosplay fetish but the bigger issue is that we are expected to believe this simple addendum to their otherwise human appearances is enough to fool the cats that Naruto and co are actually cats!
An animal of the feathered variety causes chaos for our young ninjas in two separate stories, when a belligerent talking ostrich named Condor(!) becomes too much to handle. In his first appearance Condor is already captive and being taken back to the Leaf Village when they come across a vendetta duel taking place. In the second, Condor himself recalls the day he and three other animals were captured by Team 7 with the help of Rock Lee. Other stories feature Gaara, the sand wielding ninja, a musical spy, young carpenter Inari, the hunt for a medicinal flower and helping a workman protect his tools and an attempt to give an injection to a cold ridden Naruto.
Depending on one’s dedication to (and dare I say tolerance towards) Naruto this release is set to be a very hit and miss affair. There are some interesting ideas present but none are given a chance to develop into anything of any real worth while the greater emphasis appears to be on the frivolous and humorous. Again how successful this is will be commensurate to how basic and puerile you like your humour; the outing featuring Condor the Ostrich are unlikely to be viewed as highpoint among these adjunct offerings (although the boxing kangaroo and its pugilistic joey was worth a laugh). The quality of the animation is equally variable throughout, ranging from the sloppy to the competent with the character designs also suffering from this random lack of effort.
There is an unfortunate irony that Naruto Shippuden was supposed to be the series that left the childish Naruto behind while we follow the older (and allegedly wiser) spiky haired ninja on his personal journey – yet here we are with a collection of episodes entrenched firmly in that past we were meant to have moved on from.
For the absolute hardcore fans who must have everything Naruto related, this is a sufficient way to pass the time until the next major story arc begins (only a few episodes away) while getting the chance to wander down memory lane. Anyone less devoted or discovering the franchise for the first time will assuredly find little to reward their time and patience.
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ** ½
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