Naruto Shippuden Collection 37 (Episodes 473-486) (Cert 15)

2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 329 minutes approx.

It’s finally here! After almost FIVE years and a multitude of interruptions, we have actually reached the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War! Yes, the story began as a result of the Five Kage Summit way back in volume 19 which was released here in late 2014, and since then has gradually crawled to the finish post, severely bogged down by more filler then in the faces of the cast of TOWIE!

But here we are at last, and whilst it should be cause for rejoicing as it is finally over, the reality is that the closing moments of this epic battle that has taken more turns than a puppy chasing its own tail for an hour on end, are a bit anti-climactic. However, some context is required since they cover the first three episodes in this penultimate release under the Naruto Shippuden umbrella; had they arrived at the close of a disc or even the entire set, no doubt the impact would be different.

Unfortunately, Manga’s hands were tied (they can’t be blamed for how the episode count runs) an this is how they fell, so maybe re-watching a few of the previous episode from the last volume as a lead in might help this feel more significant. Anyway, the gist of this final battle sees Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura unite as Team 7 one more time to vanquish Kaguya Otsutsuki for good, albeit with some unexpected help.

Closure is afforded for some of the support players, one in particular whose backstory has been one of the pillars of this whole affair, proving instrumental in swinging the tide in favour of our heroes, reminding us of the emotional undercurrent that has driven this series since its debut well over a decade ago. It’s sentimental without being soppy, touching without being schmaltzy.

Yet, the fighting isn’t quite over yet. To bring this arc, and seemingly the entire Naruto saga to an end once and for all (or for now, since we’ve already seen the Boruto film ahead of the series due out later this year), there is one more overdue showdown that needs to happen – I’m of course referring to Naruto vs. Sasuke!

Like many great pro-wrestling feuds that have spanned years (even decades) – Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada, Midnight Express vs. Rock & Roll Express – Naruto and Sasuke have been friends and enemies since the start and even though Sasuke appeared to have returned to the fold in helping Naruto in the Ninja War, he still has his own objectives to fulfil which are principally the same as Naruto’s, but his methodology is diametrically opposite.

Spanning three episodes, this is part mega battle, part baring of souls, part reunion of a friendship that is neither overly spectacular yet purposely underwhelming should you be expecting the mother of all punch-ups. Visually, it uses a clever technique of framing this battle against the previous ones these have had over the years, showing them in their junior forms then morphing into their pre-teen and finally their current states during the fight, a nice touch in conveying the history of these two beloved characters.

Apparently this is the end of the canon material from creator Masashi Kishimoto, and we’ve only covered the content of disc one – not only that but the series runs to episode 500 and we’re still a few steps away from that too. They could have eked things out and ended on a nice round number like 480 but didn’t, so you know what that means – yup, this series closes with filler episodes!

Well, not quite. The first few chapters on disc two are anime only originals, each one split in half to look back at the very early days of two characters. For example, the first goes back to the beginning for Naruto and Hinata, then it’s Sasuke and Sakura and so on. Nothing major is revealed nor does anything truly exciting happen either, but these are so relaxed and gentle distractions, it feels churlish to waste energy complaining about them.

The last three episodes are semi-canon in that they are adapted from a light novel series which was illustrated by Kishimoto himself. Set after the events of the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War, we are treated to the first three instalments of Sasuke’s Story: Sunrise. People are mysteriously exploding, having been hypnotised by a spell called Red Eyes, and this army of human bombs is expanding as villagers everywhere are disappearing.   

Naruto and friends are sent to investigate, whilst Sasuke is recalled by the Hokage, as his Sharingan would be handy in combating the Red Eyes Jutsu. Choosing to conduct his own investigation, Sasuke is attacked by Chino and Nowaki, two ninja mistaking him for an enemy but are quickly deterred by his power. Together they visit an old acquaintance of Sasuke’s to seek information, but can he be trusted?

If only this was a story for the main series and not an offshoot, it has so much potential and is a huge departure from the norm it might be one the better arcs in a long while, though some purists might balk at this. Admittedly, the animation is half-hearted for these episodes but the story is strong enough to hold our interest, and having Sasuke as the main protagonist adds a nice darkness to the already subversive vibe.

One more volume to go and that is your lot, but is Naruto Shippuden going to go out with a bang or a whimper? As I opined earlier, ending with the climax of the Fourth Ninja War would have made greater sense, as you will see when you watch these episodes – anything coming after is really just a wasteful coda. That said, the exploding humans story is fun but might have been a better OVA adjunct than part of this run.

Not much longer to go now, anyway…

Extras:

English Language

Japanese Language

English Subtitles

Disc 2 only:

Storyboards

Production Gallery

Trailers

 

Rating – ***    

Man In Black