Naruto Shippuden returns to form in the recent release of Box Set 24 from Manga Entertainment. Leaving filler-town far behind, we’re planted firmly back into the main story and a lot of great action along with it.
Naruto Shippuden continues in Box Set 24 with episodes 297 to 308 (actually 309 – the box and disc info is incorrect). The fourth great ninja war continues to wage on and follows Gaara as he faces off against previous Kages including his own father. Elsewhere, Naruto and Killer Bee come face to face with some old enemies from Akatsuki. Across the battlefield, our heroes are being forced to fight friend and foe alike while Kabuto hides in the shadows controlling his pawns however he pleases. If the previous release was a bit of a mixed bag, in terms of story and visual quality, then Box Set 24 is a very welcome change.
“Gaara leads the Fourth Company into battle against the previous Kage, including his own father. Meanwhile Naruto and Killer Bee face the reanimated Itachi Uchiha, who recognizes Narutos growth as a shinobi and his potential to rescue his brother, Sasuke, from his path of vengeance. Kabuto assumes control of Itachi to use his Mangekyo Sharingan, but Itachi’s well of power is not yet drained.” – Manga Entertainment
I must say that it feels really good to get back to the main story; I get why fillers exist but that doesn’t stop them from being the bane of many anime fans’ existence. How good is it then to have a whole release filler-free, mostly that is; aside from the sudden increase in production quality the show feels better to watch. I’d actually like to reference the Bleach anime here, while not all of the Bleach filler was very good it did at least keep in line with the general theme and tone of the series. The approach they used by having a whole season as filler and not mixing it in with the main story was a good call. The same cannot be said for Naruto Shippuden where it suddenly deviates from the main story into some random story is far from ideal. Thankfully in this release, there’ll be no random filler episodes so just enjoy twelve episodes of actual plot progression. The filler that does appear actually fits nicely within the main story.
In terms of the story on offer here, there’s a good deal of Gaara and his past relationship with his father and how he has grown and matured since his father’s time. While I’m not a big fan of the Naruto and Killer Bee duo segments, at least they take on two of the best foes of the past in the series, Itachi Uchiha and Nagato (Pain). I personally enjoyed the Gaara segments more as they were, as a whole, much more meaningful as he reconnects with his father in a way they were never able to before. Kabuto may be scheming away in the shadows but he greatly underestimates the abilities of Itachi Uchiha which makes for one awesome battle, it definitely one to watch.
Visually, the series has seen a very noticeable upgrade in terms of production quality. Something I pointed out in my previous review of Box Set 23 over the final episode in that release. Thankfully, for both myself and fans of the series, the upgrade seems permanent, at least while the story remains filler-free.
This release features both English and Japanese audio tracks; again I’m sure by now you’ll know which you prefer. It wouldn’t be Naruto without a great selection of awesome opening and ending themes and this release is no different. “Moshimo” by Daisuke is used as the opening theme through the majority of this release until the final two episodes when it switches to “Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” by NICO Touches the Walls (a personal favourite). Likewise “Sayonara Memories” by 7!! Is our ending theme throughout until it’s replaced by “I Can Hear” by DISH// for the final two episodes.
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 Naruto Shippuden: The Movie and Naruto Shippuden the series.
An upgrade in production and visual quality, mostly filler-free canon story, what more could you want!? In all seriousness, box set 24 of Manga Entertainment’s Naruto Shippuden has been one of the best releases for the franchise in a long time aside from the movies. It was actually a joy to watch from start to finish and I don’t say that often, especially when it comes to Naruto.