Naruto Unleashed
Volume 2

Starring (voice): Junko Takeuchi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 26 December 2006

Konoha, the Hidden Leaf Village, is your average ninja hamlet, except for one thing, it contains Naruto Uzumaki. Unbeknownst to the children, but known to their parents, Naruto's body contains the trapped spirit of Kyubi, a demon fox which had been defeated twelve years ago. Because of their parent's behaviour towards Naruto, the children of the village also treat him with deferential fear. All Naruto wants is to become the best ninja that he can and win the respect of the villagers - especially Haruno Sakura who he has a crush on - and his mentor Jounin Sensei, Hakate Kakashi. Only time will tell if even his arch rival Uchida Sasuke will play a part on his road to become the village's Hokage...

There is no doubt that Naruto was one of the most anticipated shows of 2006, its massive success and fan following, in both Japan and America, created such a buzz that the show became required viewing. I'll agree that it's a good show, but I'm not sure that it is the great show that everyone thinks it is - though this is often the problem with expectations outstripping reality. For a martial arts program, aimed mainly at a juvenile audience, you can't help but be carried away with the sheer exuberance and sense of fun that underlies this coming of age saga.

One of the odd things you'll notice, though it does not detract from the show, is that the individual episode titles shown in the menu's are not the same in the shows themselves. This is not a great problem, I would imagine that different people translated the show's titles.

This second volume contains three discs, which cover episodes fourteen to twenty-six, which should keep you going for a couple of weeks. The story picks up, where we left off in volume one - with Naruto confronting his nemesis.

Episode fourteen, The Number One Hyperactive Knucklehead Ninja Joins the Fight, opens with a quick flashback to get you up to speed before throwing you straight back into the fight on the bridge between Naruto, his compatriots and Zabuza. Not much in the way of plot progression in this episode, just the unending fight with Zabuza. There are a number of well choreographed fight scenes, which should keep the old blood pumping.

In episode fifteen, Zero Visibility, the Sharingan Shatters. Kakashi, having opened up the Shatingan eye on Zabuza in the last episode, continues the unending and, at this point mind numbing, fight on the bridge. It eventually looks like its coming to the end when one of the crew is cleaved with a sword. Though at the end of the episode your not sure which.

Episode sixteen and the underlying weakness with the show is starting to show as the fight on the bridge goes on and on. The Broken Seal sees our heroes trying out their best techniques to defeat Zabuza; personally I'd have lost the will to live at this point and gone for a beer.

Episode seventeen, White Past: Hidden Ambition, and Naruto gets all emotional over the death of his friend. Kakashi takes on Zabuza, whilst Naruto kicks Haku's arse. Thankfully at this point we get back to a bit of plot progression as unmasked Haku turns out to be someone Naruto knows. After telling Naruto about his/her past, distressed and emotional Haku begs Naruto to kill him/her.

Last episode in the first disc is episode eighteen, The Weapons Known as Shinobi, and we are finally reminded why all the fighting on the bridge is going on as the story moves back to Wave Country, where Inari is trying to gather conscripts to fight to save their village from the machinations of Gato and Zabuza. Though Inari arrives on the bridge so does Gato and his men.

Disc two opens with episode nineteen, The Demon in the Snow, and I think that we're all pleased to discover that the Ninja fight on the bridge is finally over. Though there is some fallout from the fight as not everybody survives. Zabuza discovers that Gato intends to double cross him, something that he takes umbrage at, after a final confrontation the bridge is finally finished and named after Naruto.

Episode twenty, A New Chapter Begins: The Chunin Exam, and the show gets back to Naruto's journey to become a Ninja. Although we don't actually get the exam in this episode, that happens a week after these events. Naruto, full of confidence from his face off on the bridge, wants to continue his training. However he is to discover that menial tasks can often teach patience. Not a lesson he takes to, as he quickly gets into a fight with some local kids.

The penultimate episode on disc two is episode twenty-one, Identify Yourself: Powerful New Rivals, and Naruto and the crew finally get their applications for the Chunin exam from Kakashi - obviously Naruto and the gang get into more fights.

Last up on the second disc is episode twenty-two, Chunin Challenge: Rock Lee vs. Sasuke, Ok this is not going to come as a massive surprise, but this episode is just another showcase for the groups various Ninja moves as they get in the mood to pass the exam.

So, on to the last disc in the set which opens with episode twenty-three, Genin Takedown: All Nine Rookies Face Off, which is by way of an introduction to the various rookie Ninjas who are undertaking the Chunin exam, as well as an explanation of what the exam is and how often it is held. It was pleasant to view an episode that did not rely on the fighting so much.

You just know that with a title like Start Your Engines: The Chunin Exam Begins, that episode twenty-four is going to be the beginning of another fight fest, except that the first exam is a written one, whose rules poor old Naruto is slow to grasp. As the other various contestants correctly use their secret techniques to cheat without getting caught Naruto is in danger of failing. Naruto must pin all his hopes on the tenth, and last question, if he and his team are not to be eliminated.

Which, obviously explains episode twenty-five's title, The Tenth Question: All or Nothing. Naruto is in a terrible bind, seems that if you choose not to answer the question you can come back and try again, but if you attempt to answer it and fail then you can never take the test again. Well there's not really much tension in this choice as the show has run and run, so I'll leave it to you to figure out if he solves it.

The last show continues the Chunin exam with episode twenty-six, Special Report: Live from the Forest of Death. The show is really a catch-up, presumably for those who have come into the show late. Naruto is interviewed about himself and his friends.

Each of the discs comes with English and Japanese stereo and 5.1 DTS tracks, with subtitles. Extras are non-existent except for some trailers on disc two, but hey given the amount of episodes that are in the set it would be churlish to complain - the box set still works out a great value for money.

The picture is good, as you would expect for such a recent show, and the English voice artists do an adequate job, though, to be honest, a great deal of the show involves people yelling at each other so the opportunities to demonstrate subtle nuances in tone are limited.

Overall, another good value anime box set; though I'd suggest you don't watch too many episodes in one sitting as they can be a little repetitive.

Charles Packer

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