We return to the main story at the end but before that, more filler…but surprisingly one of the better sets of filler as it focuses a bit more on specific characters and their past rather than silly plots and adventures which makes it a lot more bearable…
What They Say:
As the Leaf Village prepares for war, each shinobi and clan must contemplate the role they will play in the battles to come. While Naruto’s peers seek training from surprising sources, Naruto himself must confront both his biggest weakness and greatest strength: the Nine-Tailed Fox. To reach optimum power, Naruto must learn to control the beast within him, so he seeks help from the one person who has mastered just that, Killer Bee! But the Jinchuriki of Eight Tails wants nothing to do with training Naruto!
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both Japanese and English instead of a 5.1 release, is still an acceptable quality but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video.
The video is again of a decent quality, but there was a mixed bag with some of the quality in the animation in the filler episodes (I noticed that certain characters seem to get better animation than others during their stories, suggesting there are some favourites of the animation staff…) No noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing or when pausing, so no problems with watching the whole release through in terms of syncing and sound, but animation is definitely a mixed bag.
There are a few minor extras on the 2nd disc; we have some storyboards with a lot of the battle set ups and the Killer Bee scenes/flashback and (yet again) we get the same old trailers of Naruto Shippuden The Movie and the actual series…I know I say this every time but what is the point of putting a trailer to a show you’ve already bought, and the same ones since I started reviewing Shippuden?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Usually when it comes to a mostly filler session of the big series (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc) it is usually a chore – the stories don’t make sense, the excuses to do such and such are poorly written, and you just hope there is something worthwhile before it finally gets to the main story. Strangely however this set of Shippuden actually makes it work a lot better – it is still filler but instead of focusing on plots, they focus on the characters and how they relate to Naruto or their teammates, with a problem back in the past, giving them character development which if you didn’t know in advance it wasn’t part of the manga, you could easily see this being in canon personality wise. This is easily one of the strongest filler sets in quite a while and it does end with episodes back to the plot as Naruto and Killer Bee finally meet.
The filler episodes mostly do answer some questions as well in terms of the characters background and abilities. The first one for example involves probably my favourite of the Naruto females Hinata, as her father has put her cousin, Neji, in charge of the Hyuga clan roles in the coming war instead of her, despite being the heiress to the Hyugas. Thinking she is a bit upset about this despite knowing Neji is the stronger fighter (Hinata’s father admits Hinata is getting stronger but she is basically too kind to really deal with decisions in a war – a nice side bit that he is now acknowledging her) – with this, she and the other Konoha 12 girls (Sakura, Tenten and Ino) get together for some lunch for a girls nights out, whilst some of the boys do the same thing – both with the same story of how much Naruto has changed. It gives belief to Hinata and whilst there is some silliness (Tsunade crashing the party was amusing though) I like the idea that the girls are friends as it is barely touched upon in terms of friendships and the fact Hinata is fine and understanding with her position whilst being developed at the same time.
There are some other good ones that focus on one or more particular characters. Kiba for example has an episode where he is stunned of how well Naruto has advanced when he only beat him in the Chuunin exams via a fart (yes, this is how he won) – Kakashi actually gives him his ninja animals to train him, and you see some flashbacks of how determined Naruto was to beat Kibas’ speed, whilst Kiba is now the determined one to catch up to Naruto. Rounding up this team there is an episode with Shino who I always felt was underrated, here it does answer a question on how someone focused on ninjitsu is at hand to hand, and it showcases Shino facing off against a jonin in the past and losing due to his weakness in taijutsu. A combination of training and trusting his two teammates leads to him defeating the rogue ninja and believing in his friends (though Naruto still can’t remember his name…) Other good focus episodes include Tenten getting one seeing how she saw Tsunade as a role model, yet couldn’t specialize in her medical skills so how she became a weapons specialist is discovered, a flashback of the fathers of Ino, Shikamaru and Choji saved a filler episode character from before Kosuke, similar to how the kids did just recently, and even one with another underrated character Temari, on track with Tsunade is challenged to a fight by Konohamaru as he wants to be used in the war, and how much regard he has being Sarutobi’s son and Naruto’s student. Shikamaru and Temari interactions are always fun of course but how Temari changes her opinion of Konohamaru was surprisingly sweet.
Unfortunately, there are still a few episodes which can’t really work. The Naruto imposter episode was OK in terms of dealing with friendship but really was one that unlikely many of the others didn’t feel like it needed to be there. The episode that deals with someone wanting to marry Naruto because she was betrothed to Jiraiya definitely felt out of place aside from the comparison to Narutos’ love of Sakura. The Sai episode was essentially a full Team 7 flashback just showcasing how they used to be, and the Kakashi/Gai episode had potential as it was revealing how the rivalry came about…but it ended incredibly stupidly that it made the whole thing almost a farce.
Surprisingly though the good outweigh the bad, and it does set up for the next set as Naruto and Killer Bee finally meet. And yes, it is as goofy as you may suspect. Naruto does request training but Bee refuses and then we get a back story involving why Bee is as he is via his assistant Motoi, using the same training techniques Bee used (via a waterfall leading to a Naruto mirror match) and the surprise that Motoi had tried to kill Bee because of his father’s death when the seals of the eight tails happened and thus, had a revenge for the vessel. However, Bee’s personality on not letting anything getting him down definitely affects Motoi’s thoughts. It shows that Naruto and Bee suffered a similar past due to their association with the tails beasts, and it also shows Bee never minded because he always said they were friends – which leaves the show on a high note after defeating a giant squid nearly killing Motoi and Naruto learning to overcome his hatred and defeat his other self, the training looks set to begin as the set ends.
For mostly a filler season, this one is pretty decent. Nothing ground worthy but the fact there are some good back-story episodes for a lot of popular side characters (Hinata, Shino, Kiba, Tenten and Temari all get their moments, and the stories involving Shika-Ino-Cho generations was also good) allowing them to develop and despite it being filler, you do see this could be in canon a lot of the episodes, which is the only way to really do filler right. Sadly, with a few of the episodes obviously out of place and back to the sillier stories that have nothing to do with plot, it still cannot be fully recommended. However, the set up for the story has been done (and Killer Bee/Naruto finally meet), and as far as sets to get to that point, it could have been a lot worth…
Naruto: Shippuden continues to catch up to the manga with a mostly filler season but with some strong background stories that you may have actually asked, like is Shino good at taijitsu or how did Tenten become a weapon specialist and not a healer when she was a big fan of Tsunade, it actually is one of the better ones. There are the few failures but mostly not too bad, and it sets up big time for the story to come full fold. Not the best set but definitely one of the better filler ones.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 13th, 2014
Running Time: 293 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.