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Naruto Unleashed Series 5

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Since the dawn of time, Shoen Jump mangas and their subsequent anime series have always been popular. This can be seen historically by the various anime shows to hit the west in the past twenty or so years, Dragoball, Dragonball Z, Dragonball GT, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Bleach and Naruto. The appeal of Naruto hasn’t slowed at all, and is one of the strongest sellers in the UK, as such, Manga Entertainment have acquired the rights to release the follow up series of the franchise: Naruto Shippuuden.

Produced by Studio Pierrot and TV Toyko, Naruto premiered in Japan on the 3rd October 2002 and ran for 220 episodes. Directed throughout by Hayato Date, the first 135 episodes are adaptations of the 27 volumes of manga, whilst the remaining 80 episodes are mostly filler episodes. These fillers are either entirely new elements to the show, or huge offshoots of a slight theme developed from the original material.

The debut of the fifth series and the first volume commences with the final two episodes of the new Tea Country arc. For many who watched the last volume, the Tea Country arc is the beginning of the infamous filler episodes that Naruto has become well known for. Fortunately this arc does actually push the show forward somewhat, and there’s a degree of character development. Unfortunately, it’s not really at any of the main characters in the show.

Itachi, the person running the race across the Tea Country manages to hurt his leg, and whilst he is recovering Naruto is carrying the boy across the country. Although this may seem like the right thing for Naruto to do, Itachi’s resentment at Naruto is growing and a meeting with his brother comes to mind. This only leads Itachi to resent Naruto even more. Whilst his resentment is growing the trained ninja: Jonin appears to cause more trouble for the cast.

Jonin, aside from being very self-inflated, attacks Naruto and Itachi whilst Naruto is trying to carry Itachi across a bridge so that he can win the race across Tea Country. However, Jonin attacks the pair with a deadly sword that cannot be destroyed or broken. Naruto attacks Jonin with everything that he has many times, and still hasn’t even made Jonin really move much. Then out of no-where Naruto’s friends turn up and battle Jonin. Unfortunately they don’t do much better; however, they do make a crack in the sword. Naruto who attacks Jonin and wins, whilst doing this Itachi realises a few home truths and they win the race notices this.

Predictable and contrived. However, the rest of the episodes are as if an entirely different production team and script team have made them, as they are vastly more interesting. Following from episode three on the first volume, otherwise known as episode 107, the show starts to follow the manga again and much of the second disc is taken up by Saskue’s emotional turmoil and his jealously of Naruto.

A lot of character development is spent in many of the episodes, and most of the main cast are fleshed out more. Neki, Shikamaru and Choji, who were once very much one-dimensional characters, actually have backstory and motives. This leads to more emotional conflict within the group and the volumes are at their peak when the battle between Rock Lee and Garra occurs during the Chuunin exam.

It’s clear that by now the voice-acting cast are very comfortable in their roles and their respective characters, and this is portrayed well. The English cast are now well put together; however, some voices still don’t really suit the characters in comparison to the Japanese cast. Fortunately though the actual quality of the voice cast is strong enough to put aside these reservations.

Throughout the animation is smooth and of a solid quality – which is rare for a show of this length. The characters remain distinct and at no point drab, the battle scenes are very well animated and there are not minutes of powering up either. Thankfully.

Final Score

6

The climax to the season, but fillers begin to make an appearance from here on. It's as it always has been - for a fan great, for a casual viewer: forgettable.