Naruto Shippuden continues in Box Set 23, which contains episode 284 to 296, from Manga Entertainment. The fourth great ninja war continues to wage on and Naruto and Killer Bee are finally on their way. Box Set 23 also features the six-episode “Power” (Chikara) arc, a separate story from the current fourth great ninja war. This release is a bit of a mixed bag, in terms of story and visual quality, but it’s still one of the better releases.
The first six episodes of this set, essentially the first disc save one episode, is pretty much low-quality filler; some episodes are canon but are mixed into the filler and not handled very well. The last episode on the first disc is the start of the six-episode “Power” arc. Taking place sometime before the main storyline, it follows Team Kakashi as they are sent to investigate a village that has been wiped out overnight. I won’t give anything away here but it definitely took me by surprise. The story quality is leagues above the episodes that precede it and it’s a bonus to get a multiple-episode story with no random filler in-between. The “Power” arc could easily have been a movie in its own right and is the saving grace of this box set. This release also features a director’s cut version of the first and the final episode of the “Power” arc, differing from the television broadcast significantly featuring extended scenes and an epilogue.
Visually, the first six-episode of this release aren’t anything too impressive, pretty standard animation although there are some instances where characters like Sai look a little odd and quite different from their manga counterpart. The “Power” arc has noticeably better animation quality to it and makes use of some vibrant colours and great action sequences. The character designs during this arc, while great, are quite different from the usual Naruto look but that shouldn’t put anyone off and you get used to them quick enough. When we return to the main storyline with the final episode on disc two the animation quality sees a very noticeable upgrade, hopefully, future release will keep to that standard.
As you’d expect, the release features both English and Japanese audio tracks, I’m sure by now you’ll know which you prefer. I switch back and forth on occasion but still easily prefer the Japanese track. “Moshimo” by Daisuke and “MOTHER” by MUCC are our opening and ending themes respectively throughout this release except for the final episode on disc two which features a new ending in “Sayonara Memories” by 7!!.
Extras can be found on disc two and include storyboards, production gallery and a selection of trailers. I have to admit that I always find the extras on Naruto sets a joy because we rarely get to see storyboards and production galleries on any other release or even through scouring the internet. Trailers included are for Bleach, Naruto: Road to Ninja, Dog & Scissors and Ben-To.
A mixed bag, in terms of story and visual quality, but it’s still one of the better releases thanks to the saving grace of the six episode “Power” arc. If you buy this release for the “Power” arc alone you would not regret that decision, its movie-worthy and it begs the question how was it not a movie. Either way, six episodes in this release will definitely have you captivated and easily showcases how great Naruto can be when it’s done right.