The Naruto Shippuden anime continues to roll on in Box 21, containing episodes 258 – 270. The box begins with three episodes continuing to recap the events of the original Naruto series that started in the last episode of the previous box. While it doesn’t need to be re-told in the narrative, the intention here is to not only to create more of a gap between the anime and the original manga like all filler material is, but it also creates modern 16:9 aspect ratio versions of the major events from back in the 4:3 days to use in future, quicker flashbacks.
The rest of the set goes back to adapting the manga storyline of the “Fourth Great Shinobi World War”, which sees Madara Uchiha and Orochimaru’s former understudy Kabuto create an army of reanimated dead ninja from the recent and distant past to fight the allied Shinobi forces. Although it’s still a long way off, this is the start of the story arc that eventually ends the series, minus a few flash forwards, so it’s fitting that one of the first things we see are Zabuza and Haku, the two villains from the very first arc of Naruto, do battle with Kakashi (and many others). This is just one battle happening across the continent, however. Ninjas from all the hidden villages face all manor of old villains from the story’s past, as well as old village leaders (or Kage, as they’re known) and good guys being controlled by the reanimation spell to fight former allies or descendants. It’s a chaotic storyline, but the switching to different locations does make this feel like a large-scale war, rather than a few skirmishes, and there are fights that actually end quite quickly, where as some are drawn out for better or worse.
What is Naruto doing during all of this? Well, he’s still training to become stronger while having no knowledge of the World War that’s taking place outside of his island (that’s actually a giant turtle) as the tailed beast sealed within him is the main goal of the opposing side. The leaders thought it would be best to hide him, and knowing Naruto’s need to help his friends at all costs, decided if he found out about the war he’d leap into the battlefield and into the enemies hands. With the help of rapping ninja Killer B, Naruto is learning how to completely control the chakra (life energy) of his Nine-Tailed Demon Fox and gain more power. Keeping your main hero off the battlefield so the lesser heroes can have some big moments is Shonen storytelling 101, and so are “main hero training to gain new strength” stories, so these scenes manage to tick two boxes simultaneously.
So without spoiling some of the happenings in the set, that’s the wrap up of the episodes, the true start to a battle that pretty much takes the story to the big finish, which as of this writing hasn’t even been animated yet, so we’re in for the long haul! The opening theme “Totsugeki Rock” by The Cro-Magnons is your typical happy sounding high-energy rock song that a lot of Naruto intros have been (which is impressive for a group of early humans from prehistoric time!), where as “Cascade” by UNLIMITS, which is the ending theme for episodes 258 to 268, and “Kono Koe Karashite feat. CHEHON” by AISHA, the ending theme for 269 and 270, are standard light rock and energtic pop themes, respectively.
Should you buy Naruto Shippuden Box Set 21? Well, if you’re asking that question it means you at least have a passing interest in the series, as starting your Naruto journey from box 21 of the second anime series is not a great idea, then I’ll say yes. Ignoring the newly animated flashback filler at the start, the box is pretty much all action, and all manga adaptation (with the usual little changes and extensions to fights here and there, obviously). As previously stated, this is pretty much the start of the final arc, you may be able to split it up into distinctive parts, but the characters as they are now will not get a significant rest until the final foe is beaten… a long way down the road. Some lesser-focused characters get some moments to shine, and some old foes get one more spot in the limelight. So if you’ve been dipping in and out of the series, this set would be a good time to jump back in and follow the show to its conclusion. I’m not saying there isn’t any more filler to look forward to, because boy… there is. But this set, at the very least, will give you a good chunk of story as Masashi Kishimoto wrote in his manga, with some nice nods to the past history of the series thrown in for good measure.