As the first day of battle nears its end, the Allied Ninja Forces face equal losses to the enemy... and that's not worth much since their enemies are either dead to begin with or mysteriously able to spawn anywhere. And all the while, Naruto remains in hiding on a secret (turtle) island with only a few suspicions that all is not well back home. For now, the enemy seems to hold the most cards…
Song of Salamander
After capturing Deidara and persuading Sasori to depart for the great hereafter, Samurai Commander Mifune and Puppet Master Kankuro begin their retreat to safe territory. Yet Kabuto's not one to easily give up his toys, and so tasks the newest pawn—the legendary ninja Hanzo—with their elimination. Though his poisoned gas quickly incapacitates the team, Mifune challenges Hanzo directly.
This isn't the first time that they've crossed blades. Years ago, a battle between them had ended with Mifune beaten and (seemingly) dying, but the years that followed weren't kind to Hanzo either. The guy who'd once dreamed of bringing the five great nations together instead lost his life to Nagato/Pain, one of his former would-be victims. Hanzo isn't terribly impressed at the Samurai's dedication to peace, yet Mifune's determined to show that hope is stronger than cynicism now that he's got a second chance to prove it!
Team Asuma Versus Asuma Sensei
Meanwhile, the battle at the beach continues, and neither side is giving an inch. Ginkaku and Kinkaku have been sealed away, but other reanimated ninja remain. Asuma Sensei is among the unlucky fellows to get yanked back from the great beyond, and squares off against his former students in Team 10. Yeah, the same team that had called itself “Team Asuma” until the day he'd died now has to deal with stopping him. Give Kishimoto-Sensei credit—the fight scenes between Iruka, Choji, Ino and Asuma are pretty hard to watch, and in this series, that's saying a lot! They even give us a whole mess of flashbacks to remind us how much the team's grown. Y'know, because it clearly wasn't sad enough already!
Choji can't even bring himself to raise a hand against his sensei at first, and the battle really ends up being his story even more than Ino's or Shikamaru's. (It may have been hard for them too, but at least Ino can also be pretty ruthless and Shikamaru's good at keeping his cool when the chips are down.) Still, much as Asuma Sensei would rather die by the hands of his pupils than keep on living as a slave-zombie forever, Team 10 still has a lot of baggage to work through before the fight is over.
Yet after everything, the day does finally end. While the losses end up being close to equal, remember that the the Allied Forces' ranks include nearly every great living ninja and that, when you come right down to it, their enemies in this war are (count 'em!) two super-powered baddies controlling a whole big wad of resurrected shinobi. Plus, Madara's not done playing just because the sun's down for the night. He's already sent a few of his finest to infiltrate the ranks of the wounded. Which gets even worse when you recall that the Allied Forces are also holding a certain splodey comrade of his who can't wait to be free again...
The Fox and The Ox-topus
Meanwhile back at the ranch/giant turtle, Naruto's getting closer to mastering the Nine Tails' massive Chakra. Despite the beast's unfathomable hatred and ages-long grudge, Naruto can now rip out its Chakra at will. Yet his speedy progress has also left him with a bit more time to think about his escorts' strange behavior. Smelling a few rats, Naruto leaves to investigate the truth behind his so-called "S-Ranked Mission" at the first opportunity.
What follows is a real nail-biter with Iruka trying more and more desperately to deflate Naruto's suspicions. I'll admit, I was actually on Iruka's side through this part. The logic's pretty sound: both he and Bee are both living WMDs and Madara's plan will fail if he doesn't capture them both. Also, he's worried predicts that Naruto won't take it well when he finds out about the war that started while he was learning new Ninja techniques, meeting Chakra echoes of his parents and determining the sex of shy armadillos.
And wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happens! Refusing to remain sequestered en chez tortue a moment longer, Naruto defies his orders and overpowers Iruka and the rest of his guards. The ever-obstinate Bee also joins him in staging his jail/turtlebreak, busting through the muti-layered barriers with his own Tailed Beast powers!
Funny thing though—subverting direct orders comes with consequences. Enter the Raikage, who hasn't been in favor of the disobedient Jinchuriki's involvement since the beginning and can't wait to put both Naruto and Bee in their places. And after this latest exploit, he's got a special place in mind for Naruto: six feet under! Even though all dead Tailed Beasts will return to life eventually, he reasons that killing Naruto will buy the Allied Forces enough time to settle Madara's hash and protect the world all in one go. Too bad it's just a wee bit extreme, as Naruto, Bee and even Tsunade herself are all quick to point out!
And Now For Something Completely Different
When the Sakura trees bloom and the petals begin to fall, it's usually a time for festivity and fun. But when Sakura (the girl) appears in a bright flash of light above the village before falling to the ground, that's...something else entirely. Indeed, the Hidden Leaf has no idea what to do, and Sakura herself doesn't remember a thing! So it's up to her other friends to jog her memory! (These attempts include, but are not limited, to putting Hinata in a very...er, form-fitting Qui Pao! Hey, we've all gotta make sacrifices, amirite?) But then things get straight-up WEIRD at the end; right when you think you know where the story's going, they pull Ninja rug out from under you. Let's say that this episode leads directly into the "Road To Ninja" movie and leave it at that.
Speaking of odd little interludes, we also get a separate story where the kids of the Hidden Leaf deciding to protect the civilian population (moms included) in the absence of their typical guardians. It's a fun, lighthearted little romp—already you can see the next generation eager to get in on the action. Also, I loved the moms. They really explain a lot about the main cast's various crazy quirks.
Don't let the above two exceptions fool you though; this set actually stays focused with its storytelling. It's gotten real now, and DVD Set 22 keeps the story moving forward at a decent pace. (Not that we don't also get a generous helping of flashbacks, but even these are pretty relevant and keep the audience focused on the characters and plot.) The animation quality remains high throughout and the battles are as epic as always when they heat up. Seeing the clashes between many of the world's legendary ninja–familiar and otherwise – makes for some seriously good entertainment.
English & Japanese 2.0 Audio/English Subtitles
Special Features: Clean Opening, Clean Ending
Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 22 is available now at VIZ.com!
©2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN All Rights Reserved.
©2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN © NMP2012
by Chris Turner
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