DVD
Naruto Unleashed
Series 2 - Volume 1

Starring (voice): Junko Takeuchi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: 24.99
MANG5031
Certificate: 12
Available 21 May 2007


Naruto Uzumaki, the hyperactive adolescent, continues his Ninja quest to become Hokage of his village, acknowledged as the finest fighter and the best warrior...

Naruto was a show that, due to its pedigree, should have done well. Produced by Studio Pierrot (Saiyuki Reload, Bleach) and Aniplex (ROD TV, Full Metal Alchemist) and directed by Hayato Date, who has worked exclusively on the show, which is why it has such a feeling of continuity. Its blend of comedy, usually from the estranged Naruto's antics and pathos from his personal predicament, caught the imagination of the anime fraternity very quickly. Of course it didn't hurt the show that the original manga, by Masashi Kishimoto, who drew his influence from Dragon Ball Z and Akira, was already immensely popular. For the most part the show follows the storyline in the manga, though extra shows had to be constructed when the anime caught up and overtook the manga.

Naruto's appeal for the juvenile audience is twofold. First is the usual tale of a youth that has a destiny of which he is unaware. Whilst still a baby, the great warrior The Fourth Hokage defeated the nine tailed demon fox, a being of immense power, and trapped its soul in Naruto. Now the idea was that Naruto should be viewed as a hero for this sacrifice, but the villagers hated him as he grew and treated him with the same fear that they had treated the nine tailed demon fox. Thus we can see Naruto as the perfect reflection of the teenage experience, simultaneously feeling isolated from his elders and culture, but also feeling the burgeoning power of adulthood and the possibilities that this may bring. Now this was powerful stuff, which resonated with its pubescent audience.

For the slightly older audience Naruto, as a show, offers great animation and, more importantly, integral character development. This aspect of the show raises it above the level of a 'fight of the week' series. As does the increasingly rich cast and developing relationships which the show portrays. Fear not, though, if fight shows are your bag then this contains enough well choreographed action to keep you happy. One word of warning, the content of the stories can often be quite dark, therefore the target audience is probably teenage and above.

The show started in 2002 and is stilll going strong today. This collection covers the first half of Season Two and contains a huge amount of episodes, for a reasonable price - it covers episodes twenty seven to thirty nine. Like the previous episodes it is not unusual for fights to last more than a single show, with the story being woven in between the action.

Episode twenty seven, The Chunin Exam Stage Two: The Forest of Death, opens with a recap before Naruto and friends have to enter the aforementioned exam. However things do not go as planned and a new villain appears in the form of Mubi, who has disguised himself as Naruto... cue fight...

Episode twenty eight, Eat or be Eaten: Panic in the Forest, and the action picks up with Sasuke taking on Mubi, whilst rescuing the tied up Naruto. A series of fight start with fake Narutos.

Episode twenty nine, Naruto's Counter Attack: Never give In!, and the fight with the Grass Nin continues. Outside the exam area three contestants from the hidden village of Grass are found dead. A coincidence? I don't think so.

Episode thirty, The Sharingan Revived: Dragon Flame Jutsu!, and Anko is on the trail of the killer, whilst Sasuke still fights for his life.

Episode thirty one, Bushy Brow's Pledge: Undying Love and Protection, Naruto's group have taken a beating with only Sakura left to watch over her comrades, but when she falls asleep Sound Ninjas attack. Anko confronts the killer Orochimura, but is she strong enough to defeat him.

Disc two has one extra in the form of six trailers for other shows.

Episode thirty two, Sakura Blossoms, and another episode means another fight, this time between Rock Lee, Dosu and Sakura.

Episode thirty three, Battle Formation: Ino-Shika-Cho!, and in between the carnage of the preceding episodes we start to get some information about Sasuke's past and the death of his parents. The team continue to battle with the Sound Ninjas.

Episode thirty four, Akamuru Trembles: Gaara's Cruel Strength, and Naruto is back in the fight. With the Sound Ninjas having retreated it's time for the Rain Ninjas to make an appearance.

Episode Thirty five, The Scroll's Secret: No Peeking Allowed, and with the team having lost their first Heaven Scroll they head off to a dark tower where they believe they can find another.

Disc three has no extras.

Episode thirty six, Clone Vs Clone: Mine are Better than Yours, and something is very wrong. No matter how much they try they are not getting any closer to the tower and their reserves of energy are running out. Just as they work out that the distance is an illusion they are attacked.

Episode thirty seven, Surviving the Cut! The Rookie Nine. Together again and having gained entrance to the tower the second exam comes to a close and counting the dead only twenty one of the seventy eight students have passed the test. Thankfully, due to their determination and fighting techniques, Naruto's group are through to the third test.

Episode thirty eight, Narrowing the Field: Sudden Death Examination. Too many have passed the second stage test. The Third Hokage determines that, in order to cut down the numbers, elimination matches will be fought. First up are Sasuke and Yoroi.

Episode thirty nine, Bushy Brows Jealousy - Lions Barrage Unleashed. Susuke is removed from the match, second up is Shino and Zuka.

Audio options are everything you might wish for, giving you English or Japanese stereo, 5.1 or DTS. Both the original and dubbed seiyuu (voice actors) do an excellent job with the show. So the box set represents great value with a nice amount of episodes. The episodes on offer have elements which had previously been censored, which should appeal to Naruto fans, but do make the show less suitable for a really young audience.

Charles Packer

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