Naruto Shippuden Collection 25 (Episodes 310-322) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 294 minutes approx.
We’ve all seen those episodes of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire were Chris Tarrant is about hand over a juicy cheque for thousands of pounds only to pull his hand away and say “But we don’t want to give you that!” – well, that is what Naruto Shippuden feels like a far as the Fourth Hokage War is concerned.
This story arc has been interrupted and replaced with filler material more times than a cast member from TOWIE has struggled to write their own name. For Japanese TV viewers it must be hell having to wait months on end for the story resume while we Brits are a little luckier in that we can skip the non-canon episodes if we want to and pick up the main story again without dely.
Except it is always that easy as we have to pay for this privilege and when the ratio of filler vs. canon is overwhelmingly in favour of the former – as for example with this release where just TWO out of the thirteen episodes are part of the Hokage War storyline – it remains only for the true Naruto faithful to not feel somewhat short changed by any of this.
As it transpires however, the two episodes which are relevant to the Hokage War result in some fortuitous serendipity for Manga Entertainment, delivering a crucially pivotal plot development before leaving us hanging until the next volume arrives. Naruto finally joins the frontline, having sent three shadow clones to share his assistance across multiple locations.
But this exhausts Naruto’s chakra and he is forced to revert back from his Nine-Tails fiery form just as a serious threat arrives in the form of an unfamiliar figure. In fact, this is no stranger to the Allied Forces at all – this intense hirsute opponent is recognised by Onoki as none other than an unmasked Madara Uchiha!
Is this possible when a masked version of Madara is seen elsewhere at the same time, leading another team of reanimated Jinchuriki? Whoever this chap is currently facing our heroes he is one powerful force to be reckoned with and villain or not, he kicks some major backside. Channelling Bruce Lee, this Madara single handedly wipes out hundreds of foot soldiers and gives Naruto and friends a few headaches in the process.
Madara’s return brings with it some pretty heavy revelations that leave Naruto and co gobsmacked, not to mention the new levels of destruction he is now capable of. By ending on such an open note with so many questions, the anticipation level for the continuation of this story will be off the charts for loyal fans – provided we aren’t thrown back into filler territory that is.
On that subject, the anime only episodes are the usual mixed bunch of some interesting ideas and time wasting dross depending on your point of view. Not all of them feature Naruto or any of the main characters, allowing lesser known supporting cast member you probably didn’t even know existed have their 23 minutes of fame.
There is also what I refer to as “congruous filler”, one off stories that are adjuncts to the main arc, taking place in the same time line, featuring the White Zetsu army as prime facilitators to introduce various new or returning foe. A little leeway is required from the viewer as ever when watching these outings, purely as they go without acknowledgment once the Hokage War story resumes.
For example, one features an attack by the reincarnated Kimimaro and Chiyo, who then are seen back in the ranks of the enemy later on, naturally oblivious to what occurred before. Presumably the anime staff writers read the manga in advance to ensure they weren’t stepping on Masashi Kishimoto’s toes by ruining future plans for his characters, and it should be noted that the above instance is isolated.
Sticking to the flashback formula prevalent in the previous non-canon filler yarns, one of the more successful entries sees us go way back to when Naruto and the others were small kids, even before the ninja training days. The catalyst is the arrival on the battlefield of another reanimated figure, Yota, a strange looking child who can control the weather.
Yota arrives in front of Sakura at the medical base, Shikamaru, Chōji and Ino on the mainland and Kiba and Akamaru in the forest, making it snow, rain and throw lightning bolts respectively. Naruto also encounters a fourth Yota creating a heavy wind. Over three episodes the emotional backstory of their first meeting is revealed along with the truth behind Yota’s strange behaviour.
It’s a well crafted tale given an extra dimension of pathos with the cast being so young, leading to an added twist that allows it to temporarily subvert the established Naruto history. Despite Yota being as annoying as he is with his childish speak and protean demeanour and the bathetic conclusion, this is a rather fun and touching diversion.
Elsewhere Bee Man gets an episode to himself when the reanimated Jinchuriki who once hosted he Eight Tailed Demon before him arrives, leading to a showdown between the two volatile spirits, while Rock lee and Might Guy have a moment in the spotlight too. No doubt of particular interest to many will be the prologue for the Road To Ninja movie, which was released in Japan at the same time these episodes aired on TV there.
If you’ve sat through the previous Naruto Shippuden releases that have promised the Fourth Hokage War but instead deliver endless filler then you know what to expect. Dependant on how dedicated a Naruto fan you are, this is either value for money or an egregious dent made to your wallet.
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black