Naruto Unleashed Series 6:2 Review
Naruto 6:2 commences with Naruto going up against the idiot brothers: Fuujin and Raijin, who prove impervious to physical attacks and a real uphill challenge for the leaf’s no.1 most unpredictable genin. Iruka meanwhile is facing off against Mizuki, who’s happy just to gloat and goad for the time being.
Whoever thought it was a good idea to create a bungling duo who cannot tell their arse from their elbow in a given situation, then give them physical resilience and strength on par with that of the Sannin really should’ve been taken round the back of Studio Pierrot and beaten with a stick. This story arc with Mizuki represents one of the lowest points in anime filler history, and really insults the intelligence of Naruto’s viewers. It’s all down to lazy writing that is so typical of the Pierrot staff writers, creating a character and giving it super powers to make the fights one-sided is the simplest way to create tension in an action scene, what takes real skill is in designing a give and take battle. Fuujin and Raijin are just monstrous powerhouses with characterisation that is beyond a joke, which makes them intensely unappealing villains.
The Mizuki/Iruka fight in Episode 145 works a little better as there’s real history and a dynamic between the combatants, and the writers take the opportunity to flesh out the back story of the two nins a little without stepping on the toes of Kishimoto’s own work, but the action itself is very poor and there’s a distinct lack of creativity on the part of the writers when it comes to fighting techniques. In Episode 146 the plotline descends into total ridiculousness when we learn that Mizuki’s plans are to find one of Orochimaru’s abandoned laboratories, where he can mix a potion that will grant him superhuman powers by turning him into a half-man half-tiger troll that looks like it was designed by a blind five year old. This is what Naruto goes up against in Episode 147, which at least means we’re not focussing on the Fuujin/Raijin fools. There is at least one nice moment between Naruto and Iruka in this episode that reverses the roles they played back in the first episode, so at least one member of Pierrot’s staff must have been paying attention!
A new story arc plays out across Episodes 148-151, and there are actually a couple of brief scenes from the manga tucked away in Episode 148. The new plotline concerns Team 8, who come up with a plan to capture a bug known as a Bikochu, which can aid them in tracking down Sasuke. As they search the bug’s home forest though, they attract the attention of a group of enemy ninjas who after the same bug, but are prepared to exact morally dubious methods to achieve their goals. It may not be much of a synopsis to fill out four episodes with, but this arc is miles better than the last one because it focuses on Naruto’s relationship with Team 8, which holds some strong dynamics that even the filler writing staff have a good grasp of. In particular there’s plenty of comic potential in the clash of personalities of Shino and Naruto, which is taken advantage of quite well in this arc.
The staff writers always seem to do a better job when they stick to placing Naruto in the midst of comedic capers, and this arc certainly proves a more engaging antidote to the rather dramatic story arcs we’ve been subjected to lately. Yes the plotline is rather minimal, but the characterisation is so much better than in the Mizuki arc that you could almost believe that Kishimoto wrote it himself. The action fares better as well, because we’re back to enemies that have clearly defined ninjutsu techniques, but as per usual the ventral villain becomes completely over powered, whilst Naruto is depowered to the point of complete and utter uselessness. Hinata on the other hand is given a significant boost in ability and becomes the primary action lead of this arc.
Naruto is teamed up with Rock Lee, Tenten, and Neji in Episode 152 in the final story arc present in this volume of Naruto. This one concerns the miners at the Katabama Gold Mine, who have been overrun by a gang of bandits calling themselves the Kurosuki Family and are killing off any rebels by burying them alive. Three miners escape to Konoha, and Neji is assigned a team and given the task of escorting the miners back home and eliminating the Kurosuki family. This is the most substantial story arc in a while now, and a more serious attempt at a story, but it’s another poorly written effort. The big baddie this time was a member of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, so should be at the very least a high jounin level ninja who for once should be massively over powered against a team of four genin, but instead the character is very easily defeated when he first goes up against them! Also, Raiga and Ranmaru are a clear rip off of Zabuza and Haku, so there’s a serious sense of déjà vu with the characterisation here.
This is a dull story arc with a badly developed narrative and annoying characters; even the comedy is poorly realised and far too absurd to work within the dramatic context of the arc. Also the action scenes are extremely uninspired, which is pretty unforgiveable given the likes of Neji and Rock Lee are at the centre of the story. Naruto has certainly gone down the toilet quite rapidly into Series 6:2. This long period of filler episodes has completely de-evolved the series and made it a real chore to watch – and we’ve got another 3 or more series to go yet before we return to the manga plotline!
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.