Naruto Shippuden Collection 30 (Episodes 375-387) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 306 minutes approx.
The big news coming out of the last volume of Naruto Shippuden was the return to the fold of Sasuke after many years fighting against his fellow Hidden Leaf ninjas. It wasn’t quite the majestic emotional reunion between him and Naruto however, since Sasuke’s main motive for joining forces with his old friends was to help destroy Obito and the Ten-Tailed Beast.
For long time fans, it was a moment to rejoice and with both ninjas now in possession of superior powers than before, their combined efforts should prove formidable. As we rejoin the action of Fourth Great Ninja War, this resumed partnership has already yielded some capital in halting Obito’s advances, forcing him to regress deeper into his blackened psyche to up his game.
Goaded on by Madara Uchiha, who wants Obito to perform the Rinne Rebirth so he can absorb the power of the Ten-Tails and become its Jinchuriki, Obito instead absorbs the beast himself and attempts to do the same to Naruto and Sasuke. With the entire Allied Shinobi Forces and reanimated Hokage combining their powers, Madara is forced to repel their attacks via another tactic, the Infinite Tsukuyomi.
I don’t know if Masashi Kishimoto has been reading/watching Bleach whilst searching for ideas for this current thread of the Fourth Great Ninja War, but to me, things like the Infinite Tsukuyomi and the Rinne Rebirth sound more at home in the world of the Soul Society than in the ninja world of Konoha. There may not be spirit-powered swords employed to fight the battles but the antagonists powering up to take on otherworldly forms to succeed in their missions does sound more like a Tite Kubo concept.
Then again so many of the ides in anime are interchangeable anyway, only a handful of truly original concepts can remain reverently untouchable, and Naruto has been around long enough and carved out a substantial niche of its own to avoid overt connotations of external influences. One thing this does do, aside from continue make this a sluggish and protracted arc, is bring something fresh to the table and force Kishimoto’s hand in developing Naruto’s abilities.
However this comes at a price in terms of narrative flow, and if Naruto has one major irritating flaw it is the reliance on procrastination. If it isn’t filler material (more on this in a moment) it is the flashback sequences which may provide valuable insight into the history of a certain character and put their grievances into perspective, but they take the viewer out of the excitement and intensity of the action.
In other words, there is a lot going on in the twelve episodes in this set but little actually happens. For three chapters straight, a return to Obito’s childhood – which was already covered in sufficient detail in the previous volume – brings the battle to a halt, leaving these episodes to be bookended by Naruto and Obito to stare angrily at each other as a reminder of where we are in the story.
No doubt may fans will find this fascinating but for this writer, the stop-start nature of this entire Ninja War arc has been its undoing and taking further detours at this juncture, especially those that are simply reiterating what we already know, feels more like a cynical exercise in covert prevarication. And it is not just Obito who is subject to this but Naruto’s parents too, when his reanimated father Minato sides with his son at a crucial point in the battle.
Yet, when the talking is done and the pace picks up again, the battle scenes offer plenty of action and inventiveness in bringing together the disparate abilities of the current Hokage, the reanimated Hokage, all of the allied forces and the addendum of Sasuke and, rather shockingly, Orichimaru who also sided with the good guys, impressed by Sasuke’s growth and noble intentions towards his former comrades.
Though only appearing in short bursts, the fun aspect of these fight sequences is seeing everyone come together and Kishimoto throws in the proverbial kitchen sink in bringing together all of the spirits and chakra beasts inside the various ninjas to create a one-off superpower, yielding spectacular results, if occasionally only temporary, but enough to force Obito and Madara to push their own abilities further in retaliation.
As mentioned earlier, this volume isn’t immune to the curse of the filler episodes, something that has blighted the Ninja War arc since the beginning, but on this occasion it is only for two chapters – the niggle is that they come after the first episode, so having waited three months for this saga to resume and our attention is almost immediately diverted away again.
Thankfully, this is a comedy filler, featuring a mecha-Naruto terrorising the Hidden Leaf village and interrupts Naruto’s training thus incurring his wrath, which I am sure less jaded viewers will enjoy a lot more. Perhaps if one was to initially skip these two episodes and watch them having completed the others as to not disturb the continuity of the main story, they might hold greater appeal and prove more enjoyable.
Having set a rather lofty precedent with the quality and consistency of the storytelling in the previous volume, expectations were high that this momentum could be continued with this release. Others may disagree, in fact I have no doubts the hardcore fans almost certainly will, but for Ol’ MIB, the constant interruptions from the action and forward trajectory of the story in favour of material that furthered nothing made this a tedious collection to sit through.
Whatever opinion I hold is irrelevant though as Naruto has proved to be critic proof and this latest Shippuden release will be met with the usual fervour from the fan base and devoured with equal relish, so if that is you, enjoy!
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ***
Man In Black