The continuing fight between Asuma and the Akatsuki member Hidan looked to have been concluded after a well-placed fire jutsu was successfully landed on the antagonist. However, something is amiss. It has certainly left a scar on Hidan but he doesn’t show any pain from his injury;on the other hand, Asuma seems to have suffered from an attack that has left his skin damaged. Shikamaru and two Hidden Leaf team members start to worry about him. Now that Hidan has the upper hand, what exactly has happened to Asuma and can Shikamaru’s tactical skills get him out of this situation?
Much like the previous box-set, the spotlight is taken away from Naruto to focus on other characters, primarily on Shikamaru. This change somehow leads to some of the best episodes in the whole series; the drama is done in a very mature way, the tension is very well executed, and the tactical ideas that spring into Shikamaru’s head can be fascinating to watch, especially when he’s in battle. It just shows that the world of Naruto has matured and the light-hearted aspect of the the series is pretty rare these days.
As a person who has read the manga, I find that the transition to anime in this arc is handled well, the filler that is shown works in its favour, giving more depth to the characterization and plot. A small nit-pick would be the overuse of flashbacks that I’ve seen plenty of times before, but apart from that, it’s a very solid adaptation.
The action is fantastic as well and it’s thanks to the Akatsuki members Hidan and Kakuzu; both are very hard to figure out and ooze mystery from the start and the more you find out, the more you see them as a singularly deadly duo. Episode 85 has the most action and you can see an effective change in art style which is much more focused in the animation of the fights.
The presentation all-round is positive: a powerful use of dark colours in the most dramatic parts of these episodes comes out strongly (although the symbolism is overused), plus some of the background animation can be really beautiful. Both subbed and dubbed voice actors do a very good job, with praise mostly going to both Shikamaru performances.
The Opening “Inoue Joe – Closer” is your standard J-rock theme with a decent build up, showing every major character in the series. The closing “HALCALI – Long Kiss Goodbye” is filled with J-Pop, rap and autotune that makes the ending feel out of place, considering the relaxing imagery of the ending animation.
Original Japan commercials are the newest extra to be shown on these box-sets but the usual production art and trailers are still offered.
Seriously, these are some of the best Naruto episodes that have been offered so far. I’m quite amazed at how well the source material has been handled and I can easily give this a recommendation.