The last Naruto Shippuden release on these shores was something of a debacle, suffering as it did with the wrong region coding on disc two. The fate of that set is now finally settled, with fixed product being made available at retail. Thankfully I can confidently state that this latest release has no such region coding issues, or at least that the review copies we were sent don’t. What all this means is that it’s time to turn our attention to the contents of this latest set of episodes.
Naruto Shippuden Box Set 22 begins with a somewhat odd episode, in that it is tied closely to the Naruto movie Road to Ninja. The episode is similarly titled: Road to Sakura, and unfortunately it really doesn’t stand alone too well. The episode sees the titular Sakura falling from the sky and being found by Ino in a somewhat confused state, suffering from amnesia. The story then follows the usual amnesia story tropes along the way to an ending which ties everything up in a nice neat bow. However, many of the events in the episode require knowledge of the film to properly understand, especially the reason for Sakura’s amnesia and strange behaviour.
With the movie tie-in out of the way we head back to the fourth great ninja war, with the reanimated Hanzo of the Salamander facing off against Mifune, the Samurai general. It seems the pair have an old score to settle and the show provides plenty of flashbacks to fill us in on the details. No sooner have the two settled their old rivalry than we are whisked away to the coast, and another battlefield, where the Ino–Shika–Chō trio of Ino, Shikamaru and Choji are forced to face an old friend in a life or death battle. The frustratingly common theme between these battles are the flashbacks scattered liberally throughout them, somewhat spoiling the flow of the otherwise tense fight scenes. Meanwhile Naruto is beginning to get antsy and abandons his training with Bee to investigate outside the confines of his training location, resulting in him finally realising what is going on and heading for war.
I would like to say that sets the scene and direction for the rest of the set, but unfortunately there are a few lesser diversions on the way. Such as one episode focusing on Kiba, Shino and Hinato trapped in a mine, which drags on a lot longer that your interest in it will last. While the worst episode of the set by far sees a return to the leaf village and a rather sexist look at the leaf village mums association. Yes they kick ass, but they do so with frying pans and while staying at home like good housewives should.
The set picks up again nicely at the end, just in time to ramp up the suspense for the next set. Naruto’s heading for war and only the Raikage stands in his way... That really sums up the main problem with this set - much like the last few, it seems to spend most of it’s time building up to something that will happen in another set. Even Naruto’s confrontation with the Raikage is only a means to an end, and even with that in mind the pair’s face off proves to be a touch anti-climactic. This all adds up to a fairly standard set of episodes with a few high points and a few low points along the way, making the release as a whole feel a little inconsistent. Worth watching then, but not as good as it perhaps should be at this point in the series chronology.