Continuing on the journeys of Naruto and his ninja comrades, this box set picks up with the second half of the Three Tails story arc that sees the dedicated follower of Orichimaru & user of crystal style technique, Guren, still essentially playing the role of babysitter to the young Yukimaru who plays an important role when it comes to the control of the Three Tailed beast. All the while Ninja from the Leaf Village are determined to counter this plan, enlisting the help of more comrades to keep things on an even playing field.
The addition of the three tails beast continues to add a level of intrigue to the overall plot but in all honesty the most prominent part of this entire tale surrounds the developed (mother & child style) relationship between Guren & Yukimaru and how Naruto feels closely connected to it from personal experiences. You also have Guren’s underlings and their battles with other the Leaf Village ninja and some presence from members of the Akatsuki. All the while this is linked to the capture or sealing (depending on which side the coin, good & evil, the characters fall on) of the Three Tails beast.
The problem with this set is that for a non-incidental arc of Naruto Shippuden – which is a very clear fact from the overall tone and progression rate of the story – it isn’t the easiest collection of episodes to watch. The story is okay, as indicated by my review of the previous box set (read it HERE), but if you’re expecting the story to develop into the one of the most engaging tales of the franchise, don’t. It doesn’t help that this is an original story, meaning it’s not part of the continuum, whereas the arc preceding this was. That previous arc featured foes who (clearly) pose more of a threat than almost any of those who present themselves during this story, the exception to that statement still being Guren, who’s crystal style technique always looks a credible threat, and Orichimaru’s top underling Kabuto. Thus resulting in a story that is really confined to not affecting the overall development in anyway.
Criticisms of the actual story aside, credit once again needs to go to the English language cast as they do a great job of making this story seem more important than it actually is when looking at the grand picture. The character interaction is directed and played out very well, despite the material they’re working with. Admittedly I much prefer the Japanese audio, but the English cast really have upped their game throughout all Naruto Shippuden, so much so I prefer many aspects of their dialogue in this arc. The animation continues to be what you expect of the franchise, which is no by means a bad thing. Though as mist & fog plays a large part of the story, expect a lot of that during this volume.
Overall if you’re a big fan of Naruto you’re bound to enjoy many of aspects in the episodes contained within this release including the comedy elements and wide variety of characters involved. However, story wise this is one of the weaker Naruto Shippuden box set releases. At least we know with box set 10 we’ll be heading to “a place where we can return to”. In this case meaning the proper story of the franchise and not in the context of this arc where that same line is said FAR too many times.
Naruto Shippuden Box Set 9 is available on DVD from Manga Entertainment now. You can order this at Amazon UK HERE.
– Jeremy Graves