Naruto Shippuden continues onwards with the 26th two disc “box”, this time containing Episodes 323 to 335. In the last set I complained (in a completely unsurprised way) that it was mostly filler, and uninteresting filler at that. Well, I’m happy to report that this set is the opposite. It’s non-stop manga adaptation episodes, with only a few flashbacks and little filler moments here and there.
To very quickly recap (as I have so many times!) the world of Naruto is in the midst of the Fourth Great Ninja War, fought between the Allied Shinobi and two rogue ninja and their army of immortal undead. This chunk of the story arc, a story arc I might add that is only just now coming to an end in Japan with episodes in the 470s, can be split into three separate storylines. The most important one focuses on Naruto and his allies Killer B, Kakashi and Guy, who fight the man in the mask we were all told was Madara, but found out at the end of the last set that wasn’t the case. The masked man, who I’ll call by his old name of Tobi for the sake of this review (his actual identity won’t come until the next set, sorry!) soon unleashes reanimated versions of the past Jincuriki, people who had tailed beasts trapped within them just like Naruto and Killer B had. This leads to a large-scale tailed beast battle that finally, and I mean finally, see Naruto and the Nine-Tails come to understand each other.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Sasuke is on the hunt for Kabuto, the man who is reanimating all these past ninja, though for his own goals rather than to save everyone. On the path to finding him he comes across the reanimated Itachi, his big brother that he once swore revenge on for killing his entire clan, only to find out, after killing him, that he wasn’t so bad… or at least he had sort of good reasons for doing it? Well, anyway, they have no time to chat as they soon have to deal with Kabuto, who has absorbed a great deal of Orochimaru’s power. As this set closes out we start to finally see Kabuto’s backstory, after being a bit of a mystery since back in the original Naruto days.
Finally, the five great leaders of the hidden Ninja villages (known as Kage), team up to take on the real Madara, who, of course apart from being extremely powerful and skilled, is now immortal due to the whole reanimation thing. This fight has plenty of crazy, high-level ninja techniques on display, but has slightly less impact on the story as a whole compared to the other two plots.
“Niwaka Ame ni mo Makezu” by NICO Touches the Walls is once again your opening up to Episode 332, where it switches to “Tsuki no Okisa” by Nogizaka46 (who personally I find much better than Nogizakas 1 through 45). “Yume o Idaite ~Hajimari no Crissroads~” by Rake continues to close out the episodes until likewise ending its run in Episode 332, where it switches to “Black Night Town” by Akihisa Kondo. As per usual, the extras are trailers, clean openings and endings.
When I say Naruto, a lot of people will roll their eyes, and I completely understand that this show does go through (often very long) periods of dull, repetitive filler that mostly involves Naruto being a really nice guy. If someone asks me why I like the show, I’d gladly point them in the direction of this “box set”. Well paced, full of great fight scenes and some story threads that date back to the start of the original series get addressed and closed. It’s these sets of episodes that make me wish there was a “Kai” version of Naruto with all the filler removed, as sometimes Masashi Kishimoto can tell a good story and the anime team can show a good fight. This set is Naruto at its finest.