Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 31

Naruto Shippuden Set 31 includes Episodes 389-402 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options available for the set are the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Naruto Shippuden Set 31
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: June 27, 2017

Set 31 primarily focuses on either backstory episodes or on stories that fill in the time skip between the first Naruto series and Naruto Shippuden. In fact, only three episodes out of the 13 episodes included in the set do anything to progress the current story arc of the Fourth Great Ninja War. The events that take place during those three episodes are very significant, but the story just kind of stops and the focus changes to filling in the timeskip.

The first two episodes of the set provide backstory for Hinata’s younger sister, Hanabi. It was nice to finally get some backstory for her, since Hanabi was a character we saw in the crowd during the first Chunin Exam and we’ve heard occasional references to her in passing. These two episodes show the relationship the sisters had prior to Hanabi taking over as the heiress of the main Hyuga clan from Hinata. In a lot of respects, these two episodes filled in some information that had been hinted at previously. I appreciated seeing the actual event that had been referenced in the past, as well as finally getting to know Hanabi as a character. For the longest time, there had been the joke about Hanabi being a forgotten character (i.e. “Hinata has a sister? Oh yeah… we saw her during the Chunin Exam”). These two episodes helped establish Hanabi as a character and reinforce the idea that she actually exists.

The remaining eight episodes in the set show the Chunin Exam that took place while Naruto was away from the village to train with Jiraiya. At the beginning of Naruto Shippuden, we learned that all of the other Genin who hadn’t advanced after the first Chunin Exams had become Chunin while Naruto was gone. Even though these episodes are technically “filler,” I’m appreciating getting to see this Chunin Exam and finding out what these characters had to go through in order to become Chunin. These episodes are set during the time shortly after Gaara became the Kazekage, so we also get to see what’s going on in the Hidden Sand Village because of this.

What I appreciated is that this Chunin Exam wasn’t simply a retread of the first one. So far, we have seen that while the first test is a written one, and the second is trying to get the two scrolls in a certain timeframe, they are done in different ways compared to the Chunin Exam in the first Naruto anime. The first exam is still taking place in the Hidden Leaf Village, but Shikamaru is the proctor this time around. I was really impressed with how Shikamaru decided to conduct the written portion, and I thought the end result was great.

The second portion is set near the Hidden Sand Village, so this required the teams to have to travel between locations. Capping it to the first 30 teams to reach the next destination was something that made this Chunin Exam different from the first one.

Unfortunately, the second test is still underway as the end of Set 31, so this will definitely be continuing in Set 32. All I can say at this point, though, is that I’m grateful that I’m watching this series in 13 episode chunks through these box sets. I can only imagine the frustration of viewers in Japan watching on television, or anime fans around the globe watching the weekly simulcast, since only one episode would air each week. Unfortunately, I’m sure this causes a long gap of time between seeing what’s happening in the current story arc, and probably made it harder to remember what exactly had happened in the previous batch of canon episodes that pop up in between filler arcs. I appreciate these episodes that fill in the time skip, but I can imagine I probably would have been frustrated if I was watching this one episode a week.

When it comes to the animation, it was a mixed bag on this set. Sometimes there would be some decent animation, and other times where it looked like the animators were cutting corners.

The bonus features on this set are basically the same as what has appeared on other sets for the series: storyboards, art gallery, clean openings, clean endings, and the English credits.

Naruto Shippuden Set 31 needs to be in the anime home video collection of a Naruto fan, primarily for the three episodes that progress the story. The Hanabi backstory and the second Chunin Exam story are nice bonuses as well.

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