Naruto Shippuden 8

Naruto Shippuden is, thus far, a compelling evolution of the Naruto saga. The great action to which we’ve grown accustom is still there, but the maturing cast and their growing lives bring a much needed balance to years of inconsequential combat.

2010 TV Series (episodes 31-34). DVD, bilingual, $24.92. Distributor: Viz Media.

Naruto 8

With Gaara on the brink of death, only Naruto and Granny Chiyo can combine chakra in the hopes of performing the Reanimation Ninjutsu. Worse still, team Kakashi is missing, well, Kakashi! While he recovers from his use of the Mangekyo Sharingan, Naruto tries to recruit a new member from the village. Nevertheless, the chosen replacement is not necessarily a beloved friend!

Okay, okay, I’ve finally sat down to review some Naruto Shippuden. And I know in the past I’ve often gone against the grain of Naruto fans – and they are vast, just attend any anime or comic con and look at the cosplayers. But for the older anime set, the hyperactive ninja-in-training, his dreamy-eyed pals, and their need to call out techniques like pool shots during combat is often too juvenile to enjoy. But, hey, I get it. This is geared toward a younger demographic. And as I’ve said before, I can see kids going to bed dreaming about their own Naruto-style ninja training.  Still, Naruto was just too reminiscent of Western cartoons from my youth. Lot’s of big talk, lot’s of choreographed action, and no real consequences: no real death.

At any rate, the Shippuden chronicles are something else. I’m growing very fond of the older Naruto. With maturity comes more dramatic and serious episodic content. This first episode of this DVD, “The Legacy” is a good example. Gaara is essentially dead. And the weight of this fact visually hangs upon the faces and bodies of our teenage ninja. The choice of Chiyo, along with Naruto’s help, to give up her chakra to revive him creates a scene shrouded in solemnity. For the first time, these characters felt real.

What I like about this DVD is that the weight of life and death sits upon everyone’s shoulders. Sakura, in particular, is starting to dislike Naruto’s eagerness to join every mission, no matter how dangerous. And the true, duplicitous power of the nine tailed fox, which rests inside Naruto, may be dangerous to all shinobi!

As Sponson said, "everything get's real sooner than later." 

But don’t worry! This is still Naruto. As Team Kakashi is reorganized, hijinks, pranks, and awkward teenage moments still decorate these episodes like icing on a cake. And even if the new member Sai is like the emo ninja in women’s stretch pants, this anime is heading somewhere good.

And so, Naruto Shippuden is, thus far, a compelling evolution of the Naruto saga. The great action to which we’ve grown accustom is still there, but the maturing cast and their growing lives bring a much needed balance to years of inconsequential combat.

Change, I guess, is the word of the day for Naruto Shippuden. And I like it.

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