Naruto Shippuden Collection 29 (Episodes 362-374) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 307 minutes approx.
You will be pleased to learn that Naruto Shippuden is done with the filler material (for now at least) and it’s back the Fourth Great Ninja War! However it wasn’t deemed necessary by Studio Pierrot to bother with a recap to help the audience remember the events as we left them, so if you need a reminder, do refer back to volume 27 before proceeding with this release.
Okay done that? Right, then we open with the standoff between the Allied Shinobi Forces and the deadly duo of Obito and Madara Uchiha. Having fended off an attack from Naruto, Madara sets a plan in motion to trap the remaining tailed beasts using a jutsu favoured by the First Hokage. Meanwhile Kakashi tries to reconcile with Obito, which eventually leads to a heart to heart in which some long held truths are finally revealed.
Madara is unsuccessful in gaining the Eight and Nine Tailed beasts but does succeed in transforming the Gedo Statue into the Ten Tailed beast, and scores numerous hits against his opponents, even with the combined power of the village ninjas. Naruto is pushed to the limits in trying to protect everyone with his chakra and fight back against Madara, until help comes from an unlikely source.
In true Naruto fashion, we take a temporary detour from the main story AGAIN, just as it is getting tense and dramatic, but not for another filler break but to back in time to fill in some blanks in the history of one of the long running disputes of the show. As inappropriate as the timing may be, right a crucial point in the battle, the relevance to the plot is just as vital.
The first flashback recalls the initial meeting between Madara and Obito as two young lads from differing clans, who just happen to feuding with one another. Nether reveals to the other their family name, resulting to a relationship built purely on personality and compatibility. Both boys hate the current fighting between their clans, especially the use of children on the frontline, both with siblings they’d rather not see die in battle.
It might not be the most original premise but there is no denying the emotional clout it possesses, doing a sterling job in once again showing the negative effects power and politics have on two young, idealistic minds. There is a bitter irony in the twists and turns of the relationship in lieu of where the pair currently stand, but ultimate this is a tale of how even the most altruistic of people can be corrupt.
Providing the catalyst for the second trip down memory lane is none other than Sasuke. Having spent the past few years hating the Hidden Leaf village for the death of his brother, Sasuke is now ready to learn the truth. To achieve this Orochimaru reanimates the first four Hokage in order to answer Sasuke’s questions, their stories overlapping with the previous tale of Madara and Obito.
Will Sasuke be open to accepting the answers he is given? Will this have any bearing on the ill-feelings held towards Naruto and the Leaf Village? And could the timing be any worse given the current predicament Naruto and the Allied Shinobi Forces are in with the Ten-Tailed Beast having been unleashed?
I’m not going to tell you but if you are a long time Naruto fan and have been watching faithfully up until this point then naturally you’ll already be keen to invest in this release regardless of what I might say. On this occasion, your patience is rewarded as Studio Pierrot seemed aware some goodwill would have been lost due to the most recent filler break, so they needed to hit one out of the park upon its return to compensate.
The intense action on the battlefield bookends this collection and is prime Naruto in terms of spectacle and energy whilst underlining the show’s core message of unity and friendship. To combat the attack of Madara, Obito and the Ten-Tailed Beast, Naruto spearheads an ambitious plan which involves every single ninja on the scene to work in unison, utilising their specific jutsus and powers.
As mentioned above the cutaway to the other stories come at a critical moment when a key member of the Leaf Ninjas and fan favourite gives his life in sacrifice while a projectile from the Ten-Tailed Beast scores its most devastating hit yet. This last development has no follow up in this volume so we can only hope it is addressed in the next release.
It might not seem like it due to the action-flashback-action lay out of this set of episodes, but there is a lot going on here, and more importantly for the hardcore fans who have followed the story since day one, many outstanding storylines come to a head or get their overdue explanations.
How rewarding this is depends on your emotional investment in the series, but even as a fair-weather follower of Naruto, this writer could sense the significance and monumental impact of these revelations, and in how the characters affected go forward with this information. As far as what happens next, the door is now wide open with possibilities but all we can be certain about is that nothing is for certain.
The ball is really in the writer’s court now and they are under tremendous pressure to follow this up with the best possible outcome to satiate and meet the high expectations of the fans. Of course, those who have read Masashi Kishimoto’s original manga will already know what happens but for the rest of us relying solely the anime, anything less than incredible (not to mention logical) will be a huge disappointment.
In conclusion, this is one of the strongest canon releases of Naruto Shippuden in a long time, both in terms of storytelling and emotional impact. Volume 30 has a LOT to live up to!
Disc 2 only:
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black