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 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. 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 30, so this will definitely be continuing in Set 31. 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.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 30

Naruto Shippuden Set 30 includes episodes 375-388 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 30
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: April 4, 2017

Set 30 sees the continuation of the Fourth Great Ninja War, with much of the focus being on the Ten Tails and its Jinchuriki. Unfortunately, early on in this set, this story arc is interrupted by two filler episodes that focus on “Mecha Naruto.” Quite frankly, I hated these two filler episodes. First off, the story may be set in the past, but some of the characters and interactions that take place in the episodes cannot have happened at the point in time that this filler was set in. Secondly, the tone of these episodes is so far off, not only from the canon arc that the series is currently in, it’s off for the Naruto Shippuden series entirely. This filler is comedic and exaggerated, and honestly felt like it would have worked much better in the Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals spin-off than in Naruto Shippuden.

But those two episodes aside, though, this set does a great job of advancing the storyline. Naruto’s interactions with the Ten Tails’ Jinchuriki are especially noteworthy. With the last few episodes on this disc, we have primarily backstory episodes. At first, there’s new backstory and footage for the Ten Tails’ Jinchuriki. But with the last couple of episodes in the set, the backstory is primarily made up of footage already seen in the series for the Ten Tails’ Jinchuriki and for Gaara. However, these last couple of episodes do include some previously not seen before backstory for both of these characters. For Gaara’s backstory episode, it was nice to see how Kankuro and Temari reacted to Gaara after seeing him transform into Shukaku for the first time. This new footage helps to illustrate why Kankuro and Temari acted the way they did toward their little brother when these characters were first introduced, back in the original series’ Chunin Exam arc.

When it comes to the animation in this set, there were a couple of instances where some really poor animation was used. For this bad animation, I thought it came off as bad as what was seen in the battle between Naruto and Pain. But my husband, however, thought the poor animation here looked a little worse than that. Fortunately, the animation in this set is primarily on the good to decent side, and outweighs the few shots of poor animation that appear in these episodes.

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 30 needs to be in the anime home video collection of any Naruto fan that wants to have all of the canon storyline. However, if you do get this set, I would advise skipping over episodes 376 and 377 (the “Mecha Naruto” ones), because you won’t be missing much if you do.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 29

Naruto Shippuden Set 29 includes episodes 362-374 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Naruto Shippuden Set 29
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: January 17, 2017

Set 29 starts out with the deaths of three members of the Allied Shinobi forces from the Hidden Leaf Village. While I don’t want to provide spoilers as to which characters die, what I will say is that these deaths affected at least three of the characters who are currently on the battlefield.

Sasuke, Jugo, Suigetsu, and Orochimaru arrive at the Hidden Leaf Village. While they are there, Orochimaru is able to use his Reanimation Jutsu to bring back the four previous Hokage, so Sasuke is able to get some answers about the Hidden Leaf Village and why Itachi felt the need to be loyal to it. Many of the episodes in Set 29 are backstory episodes that focus on Hashirama and Madara, as well as on the founding of the Hidden Leaf Village. As a long-time viewer of Naruto, I appreciated finally getting this backstory. Throughout the series, so many references have been made about Hashirama, and it was good to finally get an understanding of exactly what kind of person Hashirama was, the events in his life that shaped him, and what ultimately caused him to found the Hidden Leaf Village.

There’s also some backstory for Kakashi and the team from his youth. The revelation as to exactly how Rin died caught me by surprise. I never would have guessed what led up to her death.

Right near the end of the set, the story returns to the main battlefield of the Fourth Great Ninja War, and something very surprising happens. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but I will say that as someone who’s been following this series for so long, the event that takes place at this point was something that I had hoped would somehow happen. This particular event doesn’t end in this set, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when I get a chance to watch Set 30.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, my husband and I noticed that in the setup menu, there’s a new option under audio. You can choose English, you can choose Japanese, and you can choose to have translations for signs and text. We didn’t really explore this new option, but we get the impression that if you choose that option, you won’t be able to hear the Japanese audio. We could be wrong on that, though.

When it comes to the bonus features included in this set, it’s basically the same kind of extras that I’ve come to expect from these sets: storyboards, art gallery, clean opening, clean ending, and English credits.

Overall, Naruto Shippuden Set 29 includes some very important canon episodes that not only progress the current story, but provide important backstory as well. If you’re a fan of the Naruto franchise, this set is a “must get” in order to have all of canon storyline from the manga.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 24

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 includes episodes 297-309 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 24
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: November 10, 2015

Set 24 continues the story of the Fourth Great Ninja War, and immediately opens with the battle between Gaara and the reanimated version of his father. The first episode in the set goes into a little more backstory for Gaara, and the viewer finally learns the truth about certain things that had been said in Gaara’s flashbacks from the first Naruto anime. I really enjoyed this particular episode, and to me, it was the best one to appear in this set.

Naruto also has a fateful encounter with a reanimated Itachi Uchiha. Important revelations and events happen during the two episodes that feature this part of the story, and this helped to make this my second favorite thing to see while watching the episodes included in this set.

The next six episodes continue to progress the story of the Fourth Great Ninja War. This includes the reanimation of the Sound Ninja Four, who are out for revenge against the Leaf Shinobi who defeated them during the original Naruto anime. The rematch is interesting, and the stakes are even higher than they were originally. I thought this was a great nod to the series’ past, and the pacing for this battle was perfect.

There are also two episodes that see a reanimated Hayate Gekko having to attack his Leaf Village comrades and encountering his lover, Yugao. These episodes provided some great backstory for Yugao, and also allowed the viewer to see what had happened behind the scenes in the original series that ultimately led up to Hayate’s death. These two episodes would be my third favorite thing to see while watching this set.

There’s an episode that shows Neji and Hinata in the middle of a battle, and Hinata reminisces about something that would have taken place during the first Naruto series. While this was a nice story, it was obviously filler material. And to be honest, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Hinata to be remembering this event in the middle of a battle because you’d think she’d want to focus on the fighting that’s going on around her instead.

The final episode in the set is very obvious filler material. Naruto appears on the battlefield and recognizes a reanimated samurai, which leads into a flashback of how Naruto met this man. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t finish in this episode, so Set 25 will be continuing with this flashback. But not only is this obvious filler, this story also ignores things that have been established in canon material that was seen earlier on in Naruto Shippuden. By far, this episode was my least favorite on this set, and I’m not looking forward to continuing this particular story when I’m able to watch Set 25.

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 isn’t a bad release when it comes to the episodes, but there are a couple of things that weaken it a little. If the Neji and Hinata flashback and the final episode on the set hadn’t been included, I would have said that this was a very strong release. But the emotional aspects for the Gaara and Yugao storylines do help to make up for those weaknesses to some extent.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there are five bonus features. First are the storyboards for a section of Episode 297, “A Father’s Hope, A Mother’s Love” (but on the disc, the storyboards are mislabeled as being from Episode 277). Next is the art gallery, which includes six pages of line art of the new characters that were introduced in this set. Next, there are “clean” versions of both of the openings and both of the endings that appeared on the episodes in this set.  There are three versions of the clean openings and endings included: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. There are also English credits, along with trailers for other properties that VIZ Media was promoting at the time this set was released.

Naruto Shippuden Set 24 is worth it for the Gaara, Itachi, and Yugao stories. You can skip the Hinata flashback and the final episode on the set and not really miss out on anything.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 21

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Naruto Shippuden Set 21 includes episodes 258-270 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.


Naruto Shippuden Set 21
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: January 20, 2015

Naruto Uzumaki, the star of the series, has gone through incredible growth since the beginning of the Naruto franchise. At this point, he’s gone from being the boy with the Nine-Tailed Fox demon sealed inside him who was shunned by his village to a young man who became a hero after saving his village when it was attacked by Pain from the Akatsuki. Naruto is currently hidden away, training with Killer Bee in order to learn how to control the Nine-Tailed Fox’s chakra, while the rest of the ninja world is gearing up for the Fourth Great Ninja War.

But before we get to see what’s going on with Naruto’s training or the war, the viewer must first sit through three episodes of a four episode 10th anniversary special, which recaps roughly 90 episodes of the first Naruto series. It seems that the point of this special is to emphasize the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke, but it feels disconnected from the current story arc. Unfortunately, all this special does is to reuse footage from the original episodes and adds nothing new, which makes it feel pointless. Not only that, the flow of the narrative was choppy due to how awkwardly time skips were handled. For a 10th anniversary special, this was very disappointing. It felt more like a way to kill time to allow Masashi Kishimoto to get a little further ahead in the manga before continuing the canon storyline in the anime.

Luckily, the remaining 10 episodes in the set return the viewer to material that progresses the storyline. At first, it looks like the Allied Shinobi Forces are going to fall apart due to grudges that the various villages have against each other. But Gaara delivers a powerful speech and brings the forces together. As a viewer, I think I was just as moved by Gaara’s speech as the characters were.

As the forces mobilize toward the enemy, they discover that Kabuto has used a Reanimation Jutsu to bring many dead shinobi back from the dead and force them to fight for him. In addition, an army of White Zetsu is unleashed to support the Undead Army. As the Undead Army is deployed and encounters the Allied Shiboi Forces, the matchups cause reunions of former friends and former enemies to continue their battles from the past.

Of the reunions that we see in Naruto Shippuden Set 21, the most touching is when Sai comes face-to-face with Shin, his “brother” from The Foundation who had died. While we received backstory on Sai when he first introduced in the early episodes of Naruto Shippuden, this encounter with Shin allows the audience to see how different Sai was when he was younger and how he became the unemotional young man that we’ve seen up to this point. But the most important thing to come out of this reunion is Sai finally allowing himself to show his first real emotions since he was first introduced in the series.

In this set, Kankuro is able to have a rematch with Sasori, and Kakashi and Sakura get to see Zabuza and Haku again. I thought it was interesting to see that while Sasori was more than willing to fight Kankuro, Zabuza and Haku were only attacking their opponents because they had no control over their actions. We get to see flashbacks of Kakashi and Team 7 from the Land of Waves arc, but instead of simply reusing the original footage, a decision was made to reanimate the scenes. Personally I didn’t think the new animation worked very well, and I would have preferred to simply see the original footage.

Outside of the first three episodes, Naruto doesn’t appear much in Naruto Shippuden Set 21. He gets one episode that’s devoted to his training with Killer Bee, and there were occasional times where we might see him briefly before returning to the action taking place in the war. Hopefully we’ll see more of Naruto’s story mixed in with the war material in future episodes of the series.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there were only three bonus features. First are “clean” versions of the opening and both of the endings that appeared on the episodes in this set.  There are three versions of the clean opening and endings: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. There are also English credits, along with trailers for other properties that VIZ Media was promoting at the time this set was released.

Unfortunately, the bonus features on Naruto Shippuden Set 21 are rather lacking when compared to previous Naruto Shippuden releases. Set 21 didn’t include any production art or storyboards, which had always been a feature previously. I don’t know if this is due to the Japanese rights holders not sending these materials to VIZ Media, or if the company chose not to include those features on this release.

Even with the three filler episodes and the relative lack of bonus features, Naruto Shippuden Set 21 is still a “must get” for Naruto fans who want to own the entire franchise in their anime home video collection. The canon material included on this release more than makes up for the filler, especially the backstories and the ninja from the series’ history that the audience has never seen before now.

Toonami Announces New Schedule Beginning February 7, 2015

Toonami announced on its Tumblr account that starting on February 7, 2015, Toonami’s schedule will be reduced to a midnight-3:30 a.m. run every Saturday.

As part of their announcement, Toonami commented, “For fans of GITS, IGPX, Bebop AoT, etc, we’re sorry but due to slipping ratings in those later hours, Adult Swim programming has determined a change is necessary. These shows may be back at some point- or they may not. Nothing is definitive on that front.”

The new schedule, beginning February 7, 2015, will be:

12:00 a.m.: Dragon Ball Z Kai
12:30 a.m.: Kill la Kill
01:00 a.m.: Naruto Shippuden
01:30 a.m.: Inuyasha: The Final Act
02:00 a.m.: Gurren Lagann
02:30 a.m.: One Piece
03:00 a.m.: Deadman Wonderland

Source: Toonami

Anime Soundtrack Review: Naruto Greatest Hits!!!!!

Naruto Greatest Hits!!!!! is a 15 track CD that includes four opening themes for Naruto Shippuden, eight ending themes for Naruto Shippuden, the ending theme for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower, the ending theme for A Chunin Exam of Flames! Naruto vs. Konohamaru OVA, and the ending theme for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison. It was interesting to note that unlike the previous soundtrack CDs, this one does not put the movie and OVA themes where they go chronologically where they should go with the openings and endings; instead, they are put on at the end of the CD. This decision may have been made because if the OVA ending theme went where it was supposed to be, there would have been two songs by the same artist back-to-back.

Naruto Greatest Hits!!!!!
Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment Japan
Release Date: July 18, 2012

The disc opens with “Formerly Transparent World” by Motohiro Hata, which is the seventh opening theme for Naruto Shippuden. It’s an upbeat track, and it’s also a memorable theme from the series. While I know this opens the disc due to where it falls chronologically, it’s great to hear this song opening this disc, because it works well as an opening track. This is one of my favorite themes that’s included on this disc.

Next is “Bicycle” by Ore Ska Band, and it’s the 13th ending theme for the series. It’s an upbeat track, and it’s one of the more memorable ones due to being both catchy and being featured in one of the omake. The only drawback to this song is the fact that the lyrics are very repetitive, especially in the chorus; the chorus is basically made up of the Japanese words for “bicycle” and “pedaling” being repeated. While that quirk with the lyrics is a little bothersome, I still enjoy the song musically. Hearing a Japanese act doing ska music is actually kind of cool.

This is followed by “Transient Fireworks” by Supercell, and it’s the 14th ending theme for Naruto Shippuden. It’s a ballad, and it’s one of my favorite ballad ending themes that I’ve heard for the series. I love how this song builds musically, and the singer has a great voice.

Next is “Diver” by NICO Touches the Walls, and it’s the eighth opening theme for the series. It’s an upbeat track and is another memorable opening theme for Naruto Shippuden. And unlike their previous theme for the series, “Broken Youth,” this one is memorable to me right when it starts.

“U’ Can Do It” by Domino is the 15th ending theme for Naruto Shippuden, and it’s another upbeat and catchy track. However, instead of the more rock-oriented songs or the slow ballads that tend to be associated with the themes for this series, this one is more of a dance/pop track. This different sound already makes it stand out, but it’s also one of the few themes that incorporates some English into its lyrics. This is one of the ending themes for the series that I really enjoy.

This is followed by “Midnight Orchestra” by Aqua Timez, and it’s the 16th ending theme for the series. This one is more of mid-tempo track, and admittedly, it’s not a song that necessarily grabs the listener right away. But after hearing it several times, it becomes more memorable. It’s a good theme, but it doesn’t rank as high on my favorites list as some of the other songs that appear on this disc.

Next is “Lovers” by 70ops, and it’s the ninth opening theme for Naruto Shippuden. It’s an upbeat and catchy track, and follows in the more rock-oriented sound that a lot of the opening themes tend to have. I have to give some serious props to both the singer and the musicians on this song, because the singer sounds great and the music is incredible. Not only that, but the vocals and music mesh well together. This is another track that I really enjoy listening to on this CD.

“Freedom” by HOME MADE Kazoku is the 17th ending theme for the series. It’s another upbeat and catchy song; while it has a rock backing track, the vocals are definitely a combination of singing and rapping. This band also performed the theme for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Bonds, and I have to say that I think this song is much stronger than “No Rain No Rainbow” was. I really enjoy this song, and it’s another one that I really enjoy listening to on this disc.

This is followed by “Shout Out Your Desires!!” by Okamoto’s, and it’s the 18th ending theme for Naruto Shippuden. It’s another upbeat rock track, but musically, this sounds like something an alternative rock band in Western music would do than the other rock-sounding themes have sounded up to this point. It’s a refreshing change musically, and this definitely makes the song memorable.

Next is “Newsong” by Tacica, and it’s the 10th opening theme for the series. It’s more of a mid-tempo track than is usually associated with the series’ opening themes, but that helps it to stand out. In some respects, it makes me think of at least one of the themes that I heard for the Haikyu!! anime series that I liked.

“Place To Try” by TOTALFAT is the 19th ending theme for Naruto Shippuden. It’s an upbeat track, but I have to admit that it’s not as catchy as the other upbeat themes on this disc have been. I also have to admit that when I listen to this, I don’t recognize it at first until I reach the chorus. So for me, this isn’t one of the more memorable theme songs that appears on this disc.

Next is “By My Side” by HEMENWAY, and it’s the 20th ending theme for the series. It’s another upbeat rock track, but it’s one I recognize as soon as I hear it. It’s a very catchy song, and it’s another one that musically kind of makes me think of one of the Haikyu!! theme songs. This is another song that I really enjoy listening to on this CD.

“If” by Kana Nishino was used as the ending theme for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower. This is a midtempo pop song rather than a rock track, but it’s a very memorable and catchy song. As soon as I hear it, I recognize it. Nishino’s vocal performance works very well for this song and she’s got a good voice. This is another song that I really like listening to on this disc.

This is followed by “Future Eve” by Okamoto’s, which was used as the ending theme for the A Chunin Exam of Flames! Naruto vs. Konohamaru OVA. Like their earlier song, “Shout Out Your Desires!!,” it’s another alternative rock leaning song. It’s also a catchy song once the lyrics kick in, and in some respects, I think this song is a little stronger than “Shout Out Your Desires!!” is; not that Okamoto’s other song is bad, but this one has more of a pop hook that’s easier for listeners to enjoy listening to.

The final track on the disc is “Roar” by U-suke, which was used as the ending theme for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison. Musically, this song almost sounds like it has some Latin music influence on it. It’s a mid-to-uptempo piece that is definitely memorable due to how different it sounds compared to many of the other themes that have been used for the anime series and the films. Even though it may be a noticeably different music style, it still works. It’s also a catchy song, and it’s a track that I enjoy listening to.

Overall, this is a pretty good collection of theme songs for Naruto Shippuden. It’s a rather solid collection from beginning to end, and there’s only one song on here that I thought was a little weaker than the others.

If you’re wanting to collect the various opening and ending themes for the Naruto franchise, then I would highly recommend acquiring this CD, along with Naruto Best Hit Collection, Naruto Best Hit Collection 2, Naruto Super Hits 2006-2008, and Best Hit Naruto. The best way to acquire these discs is to look around at sites that sell Japanese import CDs and trying to find the best deal.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of Naruto Greatest Hits!!!!! that my husband purchased for me as a Christmas gift.