Naruto Unleashed Series 7:1 Review
Naruto Unleashed series seven is upon us and we’re still languishing firmly in the year of filler hell that clogged up the Japanese airwaves back in 2005-2006. Episode 157 concludes the “Curry of Life” story arc that I heavily trashed back in my review of the previous volume, so there’s no need to tread over old ground there, but Episode 158 at least demonstrates a more successful approach to padding out an Anime series when the Konoha genin are assigned as team captains for the Konoha ninja cadet’s survival training. Naruto is teamed up with Konohamaru, Udon, and Moegi in a seriously toned down retread of the Forest of Death section of the chuunin exam. This episode successfully captures the tone of the series back when it first started and highlights how breezier the writing is when the staff haven’t got to worry about designing new powerful villains for Naruto to face off against.
Next up is a two-episode plotline in Episodes 159-160 which teams up Naruto, Kiba, and Hinata on a mission to catch a petty thief from the Land of Tea named Gosunkugi, who is hiding out in the Land of Stone. Matters become complicated when they discover Gosunkugi is in fact a skilled shinobi with a large bounty on his head, forcing the team to forge an uneasy alliance with a bounty hunter named Sazanami. This story starts off promisingly by mixing stylistic and narrative trappings from Spaghetti Westerns, Wu Xia films, and traditional Japanese TV serials, but the action proves a lame duck and the arc fritters out in Episode 160 with an extremely anti-climactic confrontation with Gosunkugi.
Episode 161 is a strictly humourous filler that follows the misadventures of two would-be ninjas who try to infiltrate Konoha by disguising themselves as Gai and Rock Lee. Unfortunately the comedy falls rather flat, making this episode a bit of a chore. A large chunk of this volume is taken up by the next story arc, which plays out across Episodes 162-166 and sees Naruto, Neji, and TenTen commissioned by the Land of Birds to exterminate the ghostly apparition of a masked soldier that has been haunting the land. It’s not long before they become embroiled in a political struggle for control of the land. Although I tend to be more critical of the longer filler arcs, this one is generally rather well plotted, sure it’s rather generic but the political intrigue is at least engaging, although it is ultimately let down slightly by unadventurous and lazily designed action sequences.
Episode 167 is another completely facetious one-shot story where Naruto, Chouji, and Sakura learn to make Ramen noodles for Ichiraku owner Teuchi when he is forced to take place in a Ramen tasting competition with a band of Ninja Chefs who have kidnapped his daughter Ayame. This episode has earned a little infamy amongst Naruto fans as one of the silliest stories in the anime, thanks to the channelling of violent ninja techniques into the preposterous setting of creating noodles. This is perhaps a little unfair though, as the comedy is at least a lot more successful than any of the action in the more dramatic filler arcs.
The final episode in this volume: Episode 168 commences a moody arc that rather ambitiously aims to flesh out the back story between Orochimaru and former pupil Anko, which I’ll leave until the next volume to talk about. Overall the filler episodes across this volume have seen a tiny increase in the standard of writing from Studio Pierrot, but they still fall far short of matching Kishimoto’s standards.
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.