Naruto Unleashed Series 5:2 Review
With Neji and Chouji sacrificing themselves to take out Jirobo and Kidomaru; Naruto. Kiba, and Shikamaru are all that’s left to stop Tayuya and Sakon from delivering Sasuke into the arms of Orochimaru. While 3 on 2 seems like good odds, the team hit a terrible snag when a 5th sound prodigy appears to take control of Sasuke’s carriage, and this ninja is a far more formidable enemy than Naruto and company could possibly have imagined running into.
Episode 118 switches the action rather gloomily to Orochimaru’s lair, where we discover that the painfully side effects of the 3rd Hokage’s sealing jutsu have reached critical mass, forcing Oro to take a new host immediately in a very cool sequence that sheds new light on how Oro’s body possession technique works. We also meet Kimimaro who will become the primary antagonist for this volume, he was originally the leader of the four sound nin who have taken Sasuke away from Konoha, and the group was formerly known collectively as “The Sound Five”. Kimimaro was Oro’s greatest student and the original choice to be his next body, but ill-health has brought him to the brink of death as we meet him. He is by far the most interesting and three-dimensional member of the Sound Five, he also has the best character design and most developed ninja techniques, making him an excellent villain.
By Episode 119 Naruto’s team have managed to snatch Sasuke back in a great little exchange that highlights how well Kishimoto designs group co-op fights. Their efforts are swiftly thwarted though when Kimimaro arrives to take over the Sound mission. This leads to the final split in Naruto’s team when Kiba and Sakon fall down a ravine and Shikamaru goes up against Tayuya to give Naruto the chance to chase down Kimimaro and Sasuke alone.
And so it’s back to usual format of multiple fights running alongside each other in Episode 120: Kiba Vs. Sakon, Shikamaru Vs. Tayuya, and Naruto Vs. Kimimaro. These fights take up the bulk of this volume: Episodes 120-127, each one is very unique and in the grand Shounen tradition, each fighter is facing the opponent they are probably best suited to fight. In Kiba and Sakon’s fight we have two opponents who are actually fighting as two people; Kiba has Akamaru and his human mimicry ability, while Sakon has his twin brother: Ukon living symbiotically inside him. Ukon can emerge from any point in Sakon’s body to attack from all angles in what is one of Kishimoto’s most grotesque ninja creations.
In spite of Sakon’s imaginative abilities, his fight with Kiba is perhaps the least interesting of the three because it’s a little one-sided and a little less tactical than the other fights, mostly because Sakon immediately goes into his Curse Level 2 transformation and really dominates the fight. Still, make no mistake this is merely the weakest of 3 very good battles, and any fight that features a dog pissing all over its opponent gets a thumbs up from me! This fight also takes the theme of self-sacrificing to a more extreme edge.
As for Shikamaru, his fights are always more engrossing because of the highly tactical stance he takes, which tends to stray the most from Shounen battle conventions. He also tends to get pitted against girls, and there’s a bit of a deficit of strong females in Naruto. We’ve already seen Shika take on a long range ninjutsu user, and now he takes on an opponent who uses music from a flute to control 3 giant summons that form a strong taijutsu based attack. Tayuya can also switch to using genjutsu through the flute in an intriguing mixture of taijutsu and genjutsu offensive. She’s also the only member of the Sound Five who actually incorporates sound into her techniques!
It’s the Kimimaro fight that really shines though, partly because of Kimimaro’s unflappable personality and excellent character design, but mostly because this is one of the best taijutsu-heavy encounters we’ve seen yet. Kimimaro’s ability is that he can control, extend, and harden his bones at will, thus a bit like Sakon, making every point in his body a potentially lethal weapon. His combination of taijutsu genius and bloodline ninjutsu tears Naruto’s Kagebunshin army to shreds, but before “Konoha’s Most Unpredictable Genin” can fight back he’s interrupted by Rock lee, newly revived from a successful spine operation. With Lee’s entrance we’re set for an excellent exchange of taijutsu and a healthy dose of great comic relief in an otherwise very serious story arc, when we learn that “Konoha’s Mighty Green Beast” has a natural affinity for Drunken Fist! Lee Vs. Kimimaro is by far the best choreographed fight that Kishimoto has designed so far, and it really demonstrates his HK Kung Fu film influences.
All three fights between Konoha and Sound culminate in an absolutely delicious twist that I’ll refrain from spoiling here, but it takes each fight to a whole new level and takes them towards exciting conclusions that feature some excellent techniques. Particularly good is the conclusion to Kimimaro’s fight, which is grand in scale and ensures that Kimimaro becomes one of the most revered characters in Naruto to date.
The reason for Naruto’s exit from the Kimimaro fight is because Sasuke awakens from his Curse Seal transformation and heads off to the Sound Village on his own – with Naruto in hot pursuit. This leads to another epic confrontation from Episode 128 onwards that will ensure season 6 of Naruto: Unleashed will get off to an explosive start!
PresentationThe episodes in this volume of Naruto: Unleashed are presented on DVD to the exact same standards of A/V as in the previous boxsets, so to avoid repeating myself I will simply quote the Video and Audio sections of my previous reviews:
”Presented in Naruto’s original broadcast ratio of 4:3; the episodes in this set all look great. Naruto is a very bright, colourful anime, which is handled well by a transfer that exhibits bold, vibrant colours that are free from noise and any bleeding. Likewise, brightness and contrast levels are never less than impressive, while detail levels are as high as you can expect from a show that first aired in 2002. Look a little closer at the image though and you can spot the occasional recurring video artefact, things like cross colouration in some of the line work, dot crawl in some of the finer areas, very faint edge enhancement, and some very fine mosquito noise. There’s also the usual NTSC – PAL interlacing foibles as well, but the negatives should be almost unnoticeable on an average home cinema display.”
”Flicking between the Japanese and English tracks of each audio format it’s clear that they both represent the same auditory experience, so I will simply refer to each audio format as a singular audio track that covers both the original Japanese and English dub. Ok, firstly we have the DD2.0 soundtrack, the format that Naruto was originally recorded in. It’s an excellent track, dialogue is loud, clear and whenever any high screaming kicks in, it’s dealt with crisply with no audible tear. Likewise the sound effects and thumping bass provide a rich and involving companion to the dialogue.”
Optional English subtitles are provided with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.