In an urgent attempt to rescue Gaara, Team Guy and Team Kakashi rush towards the Akatsuki hideout, only to be delayed by Akatsuki members Kisame Hoshigaki and Sasuke’s older brother, Itachi Uchiha. With both teams struggling at the start, the action builds up and so do Master Guy’s bad memory quotes. These fights seem to switch around as time progresses and with one confrontation more physical and the other more cerebral, it’s surprisingly engaging. Plus we get to see a lot of things from the manga that I was unsure of how they would work when animated, an example being Kisame’s ‘Samehada’ sharkskin sword which demonstrates its threatening power and loyalty to its master.
When I began reviewing this, there was only one fight that I was looking forward to and that was the encounter between the Akatsuki Sasori and Sakura and Granny Chiyo. The first problem I encountered was that the pace of an episode tends to be slowed down, either by filler or by long conversations. One filler scene that comes to mind is the setting up of the emergency defence forces in the Sand Village after Gaara’s disappearance. Sand ninjas are sent to guard posts around the area but except for introducing a familiar character from the previous series (she was one of the main characters from the final arc) nothing comes of it.
Still, the puppet fight scenes between Sasori and Chiyo (with Sakura demonstrating her extraordinary strength) are quite as epic as I was expecting. They start slowly, with obvious and repetitive dodges, but as tension increases and damage is taken on both sides, you get a sense that it’s going to go down to the wire. To my disappointment, the final episode ends quite abruptly, but leaves you with something to look forward to.
While Sakura and Chiyo confront Sasori, Naruto and Kakashi are on the chase to rescue Gaara from Deidara. Meanwhile, the members from Team Guy are battling mirror versions of themselves; this is probably the weakest since the only thing that happens to them is exhaustion from consistent fighting as the episodes go on.
Not to say that all the filler is bad. I really enjoyed an extended glimpse of Sasori’s past showing how he was just a normal child who lost his parents at a young age and how he got his interest in puppetry, as well as showing the tragic way he became what he is.
The music in the battle sequences takes me back to old Dynasty Warrior guitar themes (which is a good thing.) I just wanted to note one small sound effect. In episode 26, one of Chiyo’s puppets uses a cannon to fire from its mouth; it’s quite strange that the cheesy sound effect I heard was quite familiar from old shows and games (mostly remembered from the Nintendo 64 Goldeneye rocket launcher sound effect.) For some reason it gave me a sense of nostalgia.
If you have read my previous review and you also have a big wish to see the opening song “Hero’s Come Back!!” replaced then, you’re still out of luck – but on the flip side the new ending (which first appears around the end of the first disc) is a great one, as I’m a big fan of folk music. “Path – To You All” is a relaxing and well produced song, not to mention the entertaining shonen high school manga sequence that accompanies it, depicting all the characters in school uniform.
Extras are the usual production art and the trailers for the first Shippuden movie and for the Naruto #1 DVD.
Although Naruto Shippuden might have lost a bit of its re-energized steam, your overall enjoyment won’t be affected and the cliffhanger at the end will leave new Naruto viewers asking for more. So I’m going to give it Master Guy’s traditional thumbs up.