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DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 8

As with any long-lasting series, peaks and troughs are to be expected!

In the village Hidden in the Leaves, ninja reign supreme, and school is literally a battlefield. Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are teenage classmates and ninja in training, working together – sort of! – under the instruction of their teacher, Kakashi. Sasuke is training to win revenge… Sakura is training to win Sasuke…And Naruto, the class clown, insists that he ll become the greatest ninja in the land!

Notching up 220 episodes even before the Shippuden time shift, Naruto is the iron horse of anime, up there with fellow shonen series Bleach and One Piece as far as longevity is concerned. As with any long-lasting series, peaks and troughs are to be expected and it’s the eighth Naruto Shippuden box set’s misfortune to pick up the plot right after the compelling Hidan and Kakuzu arc. With Box Set 7 seeing a shocking death, the development of Shikamaru as a major character and an epic final battle between Naruto and his Akatsuki foes, it’s hardly surprising that the latest box set’s dozen filler episodes feel more than a touch underwhelming.

The storyline is divided between Kakashi and Team 8’s hunt for Orochimaru – the big bad of the show’s first series – and yet more training for Naruto; this time with summoned toads Gamariki, Gamakichi and Gamatatsu. The latter is fine if you appreciate Naruto’s more slapstick humour, but it’s the confrontation with Orochimaru’s minions that provides what drama there is – especially once Naruto, Sakura et al get drawn into the fight.

While the battle’s dénouement is reserved for the next DVD release, it does at least mean that we get some decent combat sequences – always the series’ main strength as far as animation and inventiveness are concerned. We’re also introduced to a couple of new characters; Guren, an Orochimaru lieutenant specialising in Crystal Style jutsu, and a mysterious young boy named Yuukimaru. Guren’s novel fighting style make her a decent antagonist, but it’s her changing relationship with Yuukimaru that elevates her from being just another goon to be slapped around by the Hidden Leaf shinobi… and injects a spot of interest into an otherwise fairly lacklustre plot.

If you’ve been following Naruto Shippuden up to now you’ll want to buy Box Set 8 for completeness’s sake, but it’s by no means the ideal spot for series’ newcomers to dip their toes into the water. This latest Shippuden release isn’t bad per se, but it is Naruto by numbers; all filler, not enough killer.

Label: Manga Entertainment

Release date: 27th February 2012

Certificate: 12

Running time: 292 mins

Genre: Anime

Director: Hayato Date

Stars: Chie Nakamura, Junko Takeuchi, Noriaki Sugiyama

Review written by David Axbey

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