The Naruto franchise keeps on trucking with yet another DVD release. The original series already has a couple of editions and for the sequel, Naruto Shippuden, VIZ has opted to release the show with individual volumes and boxed sets. It's the best of both worlds, kind of, but really the best way to experience the show (or any anime for that matter) is via the boxed collections. A little while ago we got our hands on the first original and uncut set, and today we're looking at the second.
Naruto Shippuden takes place a couple years after the storyline of the original series ends. Sasuke has gone off to become stronger, Naruto went training with Jiraiya, and the rest of the main characters lived, grew, and trained in their respective villages. When the sequel opens up we are introduced to a slightly different Naruto who has aged a bit, but still maintains that immature edge. He's still a dangerous ninja with the nine-tailed fox demon within him; however, he's just as goofy as always and is not below stooping to fart gags or sexy jokes.
Early in the first collection Gaara was kidnapped by the Akatsuki and what transpired after that was a collaborative effort between the Leaf and Sand villages to get him back. Several of the main characters got together to pursue the Akatsuki and that plight continues through the 13 episodes included on the three discs in this collection.
The episodes here follow a rather rigid pattern as the chase is what the action focuses on. There's forward momentum in terms of action, but not really with regards to the plot. Nothing is resolved here and all you'll find in the 13 episodes is one string of battles after another. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you, but anyone looking for story or more exploration of what Shippuden's timeline is all about will be left wanting. Even so, the fact that the teams all split up and take care of their own business in this batch of episodes certainly helps.
For instance, Team Guy gets stuck dealing with mirror images of themselves and Sakura and Chiyo have to put up with Sasori, the Puppet Master. In fact the latter conflict takes up the majority of content in this installment. If you've ever seen the show then you know the longer battles escalate as time passes, so imagine a fight that lasts for more than seven episodes! We really get a nice glimpse at what Sakura has learned in her time with Lady Tsunade. There's also a peek at what Chiyo is capable of, and it's safe to say one shouldn't just write her off as an old lady.