New Anime Releases: April 8, 2014

Here are the new anime releases for April 8, 2014. If you see any errors or omissions in this listing, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

The Familiar of Zero Season 1 [DVD]
The Familiar of Zero Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Naruto Shippuden Volume 18 [DVD]
Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie -Rebellion- [Blu-ray] (Import)
Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie -Rebellion- [Blu-ray Limited Edition] (Import)

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 16

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 16 is a two-disc set that contains episodes 193 through 205 of Naruto Shippuden. The first disc contains seven episodes, and the second disc includes six episodes and the set’s special features.

The first four episodes in this set are still “filler” material. In the first filler episode, Naruto finds a photo of a man who he met as a spirit early on in his genin years. He flashes back to how he met the spirit of the man named Kisuke, and becomes involved in a situation that includes Kisuke and a spy that has infiltrated the Hidden Leaf Village. The major issue I had with this filler episode is the fact that it contradicts an episode that takes place earlier in Naruto Shippuden, where Naruto is shown being afraid of ghosts. Since this story took place before that particular episode of the series that I’m referencing, shouldn’t Naruto not have a fear of ghosts anymore due to meeting Kisuke?

The next filler is flashback of Team 7 going on a mission to retrieve a stolen treasure. Sakura is captured by the thieves, and Naruto and Sasuke end up stuck together due to one of the thieves’ web-like jutsu, and they have to find a way to defeat the thieves without the ability to perform seals with their hands. Not only was this a rather pathetic story for a filler episode, but the animation was terrible during the “flashback” portion; while the animation isn’t as bad was the Naruto and Pain fight, it still looks rather horrendous, especially because it doesn’t match the quality of the animation that appeared in the beginning that led into the flashback story. The characters looked so off-model in this that I nearly wanted to weep.

The next filler episode sees Shikamaru reminiscing about his team working with Team 7 to save a hostage that had been taken by bandits. Sadly, this was a rather forgettable filler episode, so I really don’t have much to say about it.

The final filler episode where Sasuke once saved a girl named Naho not knowing that she’s related to the Feudal Lord. When the Leaf Village is asked to provide bodyguards for her, Sakura and Naruto are assigned to the job because Sasuke has been sent on another mission with Kakashi. Naho throws a bratty temper tantrum and insists that she wants Sasuke. Naruto tries to disguise himself as Sasuke to appease her, and they end up fighting a group that’s wanting to kidnap Naho. Of the four filler stories, this one was probably the best, even if Naho was acting like a spoiled brat for most of the story.

And then the set finally returns to canon material. With Tsunade still in a coma after Pain’s invasion of the village, Danzo is appointed as acting Hokage. One of the first things he does is to issue an order to have Sasuke eliminated. In addition, he also tells Sai to keep a watch on Naruto; however, as a precaution, Danzo also assigns a couple of other Foundation members to keep watch on Naruto as well, just in case Sai doesn’t follow through.

Omoi, Karui, and their leader arrive at the Hidden Leaf and see the damage that the village has taken. Omoi and Karui overhear Naruto, Sakura, and Sai talking about Sasuke, and they demand answers. Naruto agrees to talk to them privately and share what he knows about the Akatsuki. When they’re alone, they only want to know about Sasuke, and Naruto refuses to sell him out. Instead, he offers to let them beat him up. Karui takes him up on the offer and punches him over and over until Sai intervenes.

The five kage are invited to a summit being hosted by the Land of Iron a neutral nation that’s protected by samurai rather than ninja. Naruto decides that he wants to plead his case to the Raikage to spare Sasuke’s life, and after some hesitation, he is given assistance by both Kakashi and Yamato. Unfortunately, when they encounter the Raikage as he heads to the summit, but he refuses to listen to Naruto.

Sasuke, meanwhile, has decided to assassinate Danzo. When he catches wind of the five kage summit and the fact that Danzo will be attending, Sasuke and his group sneak into the summit, with the help of one of Zetsu’s clones. Unfortunately, Zetsu’s clone sells them out and they come under attack by the samurai.

The actual summit itself is rather contentious, especially with the Raikage constantly thundering on and doing rash things like smashing tables. During the meeting, it’s decided to establish a Shinobi Alliance, and that Danzo should lead it. It’s discovered that Danzo is using a jutsu to try to control Mifune, the mediator. At this point, the other kage distrust Danzo. After the Raikage tries to fight Sasuke, as well as Gaara trying to intervene, Madara makes an appearance at the summit and explains why he wants all nine of the tailed beasts. When the kage refuse to hand over Killer Bee and Naruto to him, Madara declares that the Fourth Great Ninja War.

In addition to all of that, Sai ends up telling Sakura that Naruto is in love with her, at the same time that it’s been announced that Sasuke is a wanted criminal; this causes a lot of emotional stress for Sakura. Also, during an encounter with Madara, Naruto and the audience learn some history about the ninjas.

Once you make it past the four filler episodes, a lot takes place in the canon material to set the stage for next major plot point, which is the start of the Fourth Great Ninja War. I really enjoyed the Five Kage Summit, because it allowed the audience to finally lead all of the leaders of the five great nations. We also learn an interesting secret about Danzo during the summit.

Speaking of Danzo, I have to say that I didn’t like the guy before he became the acting Hokage. However, after seeing these episodes, I like him even less than I had before this point.

And the ninja history that Madara provides seems to be setting the stage where Sasuke and Naruto will be destined to battle with each other before the end of the series.

This DVD set ends at just the perfect place to make a viewer want to continue. The last things the viewer sees is Madara declaring war, and the four kage who are still at the summit declaring that they must form Shinobi Alliance in order to fight in the upcoming war. As a viewer, I’m now anxious to see how the news of the war will impact the various characters in the series.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, I want to first mention that I was glad to see that the menus have music and footage on them again. The silent menus of the past couple of box sets drove me nuts.

When it comes to the bonus features, there are five total. The first is “Storyboards,” which contains three pages from Episode 200 and three pages from Episode 203. The “Art Gallery” contains nine images, one for each for the tailed-beasts in the series.

“Clean Opening/Ending” includes three versions of each: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. I thought this was kind of a neat thing, because they hadn’t gone to this much effort on the clean opening and ending previously. The English credits are also available.

“More From Viz Media” is a menu to links of primarily Naruto and Bleach items that Viz was promoting at the time this DVD set was released, as well as a promo for the Neon Alley service. You can choose to either play all of the trailers or select which trailer you want to watch from the menu.

This box set is definitely worth it to Naruto fans that want to see how the actual storyline continues once you make it past the fillers that make up the first four episodes in the set. There’s quite a bit of action in the canon material, as well as important character development moments for characters such as Sakura and Sai. This set should really be in the anime collection of anyone who considers themselves a fan of the Naruto franchise.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Naruto Shippuden Box Set 16 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime Film Review: Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison

Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison was the fifth film released for Naruto Shippuden, and it was directed by Masahiko Murata. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 30, 2011. Viz Media holds the North American license for the film. The company released the film on both DVD and Blu-ray on February 18, 2014; this review will cover the Blu-ray release of the film, since that is the version that I watched. The Blu-ray Disc includes both an English dub and the Japanese audio with English subtitles.

At the beginning of the film, Naruto is framed for the attempted assassination of the Raikage, the leader of the Hidden Cloud Village, in addition to the murders of Jonin from the Hidden Mist Village and the Hidden Rock Village. When these accusations against Naruto come to light, Tsunade orders that he be sent to a criminal containment facility known as Hozuki Castle.

When Naruto arrives at the facility, a seal is placed on him by Mui, the head of the prison; the seal limits Naruto’s chakra. During his first night there, Naruto creates a clone as a decoy and tries to escape from the prison. Unfortunately, his clone is secretly taken by Mui to have the Nine-tailed beast’s chakra extracted, so Naruto’s escape is attempt is discovered. Naruto is caught and is placed in solitary confinement.

During his time at the prison, Naruto befriends Ryuzetsu, a female ninja from the Hidden Grass Village who is pretending to be a male inmate. Ryuzetsu knows how Naruto ended up being framed for the crimes he didn’t commit, and that the goal is to extract the Nine-tails’ chakra in order to release the seal on the Box of Enlightenment, which can supposedly grant any wish. Naruto and Ryuzetsu team up together to try to foil this plan; unfortunately, they don’t succeed. The climax sees the seal being released from the Box of Enlightenment and the havoc that is wreaked because of it.

I have to admit that when I first read the promotional write-ups for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into it. However, after watching this film, I can truly say that this is definitely the best film that’s been produced for Naruto Shippuden; in fact, it might even be one of the best, if not the best, film produced for the entire Naruto franchise.

One of the things I really liked about this film is the fact that there is a mystery aspect to it. Because of trying to maintain the mystery, the film is written in a way where the viewer is led to believe that something is true for a while and then is thrown for a curveball when information is revealed that proves that what was thought to be true really isn’t. I also appreciated how, as I watched Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison, I wasn’t finding any blatant logistical flaws like I saw in Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower or the lack of explanations that hampered the storytelling in Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Inheritors of the Will of Fire.

I also have to say that overall, the animation in this film is better than in some of the other Naruto and Naruto Shippuden films. I’m glad to say that there wasn’t any blatantly bad computer animation in this film, so there’s no repeat of the “Attack of the Terrible CG Terracotta Warriors” that was prevalent in Naruto Shippuden: The Movie. There probably was computer animation that appeared in this film, and if there was, it didn’t stand out. The only real issue I saw in the animation was during the final fight scene, when Rock Lee and Guy are in a fight; however, I can’t say whether this was truly bad animation or if the director may have been attempting to use this animation for an effect.

When it comes to the Blu-ray itself, the video is in 1080p High Definition 16×9, and the audio includes DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. This is the first time that I have seen any part of the Naruto franchise on Blu-ray, and I have to say that I thought the film looked gorgeous. The images were sharp and detailed, and I found the video quality to be pleasing to my eyes.

There are a total of six bonus features on the Blu-ray pressing of Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison. The first is a 13-and-a-half minute short titled, “Chunin Exam on Fire! Naruto vs. Konohamaru!”; this is the short that preceded Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison when it was screened in Japanese theaters.

The short sees the Chunin Exam taking place in the Hidden Sand Village, and among the participants from the Hidden Leaf Village are Naruto, Konohamaru, Moegi, and Udon. Naruto and Konohamaru are being competitive as the rules are being said, so Naruto misses something important that affects him later in the short. As fate would have it, Naruto and Konohamaru are randomly selected to fight each other first during the third stage of the exam. This short is rather funny, and I found myself laughing quite a few times throughout it. I would have to say that “Chunin Exam on Fire! Naruto vs. Konohamaru!” is probably one of the best Naruto shorts that I have personally seen.

The next bonus feature is an interview with Junko Takeuchi, the Japanese voice actress for Naruto. This feature runs for three minutes, and it has Japanese audio with English subtitles. The questions she is asked appear as text on the screen, and is followed by footage of Ms, Takeuchi answering the question. It was pretty standard for this type of interview feature, but I have to say that after seeing this interview, Ms. Takeuchi is very personable, seemed to enjoy herself during the interview, and she seems like she’d be a fun person to hang out with.

This is followed me “Message From Masashi Kishimoto,” which is one page of text where Kishimoto talks about both the film and the short. I liked getting to read Kishimoto’s thoughts on both of these productions.

“Art Gallery” includes five options. The first is “Production Art,” which consists of 13 pages of line art from the film. Next is “Color Production Art,” which includes 10 pages of art from the film. “Key Art” includes five pages of art from both the film and the short. This is followed by “Clean Booklet Excerpts,” which has six screens from what appears to be a booklet that would have been given out to moviegoers who saw the film in Japanese theaters. “Chibi Artwork” has one super-deformed image of Naruto and one super-deformed image of Kakashi. To be honest, I didn’t understand why the “Chibi Artwork” was included, because it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with either the film or the short.

Next is “Japanese Trailers,” which includes five trailers for Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison. The Blu-ray pressing gives the viewer the option of watching each one individually or playing them all back to back. The five trailers run for a total of three minutes. The trailers are presented with Japanese audio but no English subtitles. I don’t know whether Viz chose not to put subtitles on the trailers, or if the licensor won’t allow them to include the subtitles.

The final bonus feature is “More From Viz Media,” which includes a trailer for Neon Alley, four of the Naruto Shippuden films, and the four Bleach films.

If you’re a fan of the Naruto franchise who wants to own all of the Naruto material that’s available commercially, then you need to buy either a copy of this DVD or a copy of the Blu-ray pressing of this film. If you have the capability to watch Blu-rays, then I would highly recommend going with the Blu-ray pressing; not only do you get the better video and audio quality, but you also get two bonus features that are not included on the DVD pressing (the interview with Junko Takeuchi and the message from Masashi Kishimoto).

I wrote this review after watching a review copy of Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison that was provided to me by Viz Media.

New Anime Releases:February 18, 2014

Here are the new anime releases for February 18, 2014. If you see any errors or omissions in this list, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

Black Jack Set 1 [DVD]
Dragon Ball Z Season 2 Uncut [Blu-ray]
Hidamari Sketch Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Jormungand Season 1 Complete Set [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
Jormungand Season 2 Complete Set [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
Naruto Shippuden: Blood Prison [DVD]
Naruto Shippuden: Blood Prison [Blu-ray]
Robotics;Notes Part 1 [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]
Time Bokan: Royal Revival [DVD]
Time Bokan: Royal Revival [Blu-ray]

Viz Media Is Releasing Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison on February 18, 2014

Viz Media has announced that the company will be releasing Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison, the fifth film for Naruto Shippuden, on Blu-ray and DVD on February 18, 2014. This upcoming release is rated TV-14 and will carry a DVD MSRP of $19.98 US / $24.98 CAN and a Blu-ray MSRP os $24.98 US / $27.50 CAN. Each version also features a special full-color variant O-card that will have different artwork than what is featured on the actual Amaray cases.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD editions of Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison includes the animated short film, Chunin Exam on Fire! Naruto vs. Konohamaru!, as well as a production art gallery and the original Japanese theatrical trailers. The Blu-ray edition also includes a person message from Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto and an interview with Junko Takeuchi, the Japanese voice of Naruto Uzumaki.

In the film, Naruto is convicted of a serious crime he didn’t commit and is sent to the inescapable prison, Hozuki Castle. The warden, Mui, quickly seals away Naruto’s chakra to prevent him from rebelling. Refusing to give up, Naruto plans his escape while also befriending his fellow inmates Ryuzetsu and Maroi. But he can’t help but wonder what their ulterior motives are.

Charlene Ingram, Senior Manager of Animation Marketing says, “In BLOOD PRISON, Naruto is behind bars in a shinobi Alcatraz, accused of murder and attempted assassination, and the storyline and action that ensue makes this the most exciting NARUTO SHIPPUDEN feature film yet. Audiences are in for a wild ride as Naruto tries to prove his innocence and also help his new friends uncover the secrets surrounding the mysterious Box of Paradise, and their ties to what it contains. Catch all the action on DVD and Blu-ray!”

Viz Media Launching New Naruto Shippuden Story Arc on Hulu and VizMedia.com

Viz Media has announced that the newest installment of Naruto Shippuden (episode 349), will be available on the Hulu Plus Video-on-Demand subscription service, with new episodes simulcast each Thursday. This episode launches a brand new story arc focusing on a previously untold Kakashi backstory during his years as a member of the ANBU Black Ops.

Charlene Ingram, Viz’s Senior Marketing Manager for Animation says, “Kakashi’s hidden past has long been shrouded in mystery and fans will finally get to see the devastating effects the Third Shinobi World War had on him. This episode begins a very important story arc in the continuing Naruto Shippuden anime saga and we’re very excited to bring the latest installment to North America on the same day as its Japanese counterpart. We look forward to everyone tuning in for this special anime simulcast!”

North American users of the free streaming VIZAnime.com platform and the free, ad-supported Hulu service will be able to catch the new Naruto Shippuden segments a week after their initial run on Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus subscribers can also access Naruto Shippuden content anytime with the Hulu Plus App on internet-connected TVs, smartphones, game consoles, set top boxes and additional devices, in HD (when available).

All new subtitled episodes of Naruto Shippuden will also be available day after they premiere on Hulu Plus for Download-To-Own purchase thru Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Xbox LIVE, and PlayStation Network (Episode 349 is now available for purchase).

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 15

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 15 is a three DVD set that contains episodes 180 through 192 of Naruto Shippuden. The first disc contains five episodes, the second disc contains four episodes, and the third disc includes four episodes and the set’s special features.

All of the episodes in this set are “filler” material, which continues the filler that began at the end of Naruto Shippuden Box Set 14, which takes the viewer back to earlier points in the Naruto series and fills in some gaps or shows some of the same events through a different character’s perspective.

Over the course of these episodes, we see a story featuring Inari from the Land of Waves, Team 7 finding a lost ostrich and getting entangled with a guy trying to carry out a vendetta, Team 7 being assigned to work with Gaara and a couple of ninja from the Sand Village in their first joint mission after the treaty that was made after the Chunin Exam, a chakra virus that Naruto is suspected of bringing in from another village, Tenten leading a team to the Konoha Tool Research Lab for more tools for the village, the ostrich Team 7 had dealt with earlier escapes and is hiding out in “Ground 0” of the Forest of Death, Naruto trying to get a flower that’s needed by Guy to make Lee’s special medicine while he’s recovering from the injuries he sustained during the Chunin Exam, Jiraiya teaching Naruto how to repel genjutsu, Granny Cat asks Sasuke and Team 7 to collect the last cat paw print to complete the “Paw Encyclopedia,” Naruto is put on a team with an elder known as “the Eternal Genin,” to patrol the border of the Land of Fire, Kakashi encounters a woman named Hanare who is spying on the village and learns that had met several years earlier, and Neji talks  to Konohamaru and his friends about rescuing Hinata when she’s kidnapped during the confusion of the invasion that took place during the Chunin Exam.

These fillers were definitely a mixed bag when it comes to quality. In my opinion, the best of these episodes are the story with Inari, Team 7 working with Gaara and his team, Jiraiya and Naruto’s training, the story about Kakashi, and the story about Neji. To me, these stories were the best at enhancing the already existing canon material that appeared earlier in the series.

To me, the absolute stinkers on this set are the chakra virus episode, the story with the ostrich in “Ground 0” of the Forest of Death, and the “Paw Encyclopedia” episode. When it comes to the ostrich, when he first appeared, all he did was peck people angrily on the back of the head and acted like a normal ostrich. However, when he appeared again for the Forest of Death episode, the ostrich was talking to and understood by not only young ostrich chicks, but by the human characters as well. This change was never truly explained, and it just came across as rather stupid and bizarre. Also, the episode with the “Paw Encyclopedia” just came across as weird.

The remaining episodes didn’t impress me, but I didn’t think they were bad, either. They were just rather “meh.”

Animation-wise, the quality seemed to fluctuate throughout the set. I can’t say that any of these episodes had top-notch animation, but I can say the animation tended to look average or somewhat bad; however, it’s nowhere near as bad as the animation that some episodes on Naruto Shippuden Box Set 14 received.

When it comes to the actual DVD box set, it’s just like the previous eight sets, because only the third disc in the set actually contains any bonus features.

There are a total of six bonus features included on the third disc. The first is the English credits for Naruto Shippuden. The second is labeled as “More From Viz Media,” but all that’s included is the same Neon Alley trailer that appears at the beginning of the first disc of the set.

“Clean Opening” contains a textless version of the one opening that appeared in this box set, while “Clean Ending” contains a textless version of the one ending that appear in this set. “Storyboards” includes six screens of storyboards from two of the episodes included in this set.

The final extra is “Omake,” which usually takes all of the omake pieces that appear at the end of the episodes in the set and put them together back-to-back. However, only one omake appeared in any of the episodes in this set, so this feature felt like it really wasn’t necessary.

The only way I can truly recommend this box set to anyone is if they’re a fan of Naruto Shippuden and want to watch and/or own every episode of the series in their anime home video collection.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Naruto Shippuden Box Set 15 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Neon Alley Debuting English Dub of Naruto Shippuden: Blood Prison

Viz Media’s Neon Alley service is debuting the English dub of the Naruto Shippuden: Blood Prison anime film on January 26, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Viz Media will be releasing Naruto Shippuden: Blood Prison on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on February 18, 2014.

Viewership Grows for Adult Swim’s Space Dandy, Naruto Shippuden, and Bleach

Three shows in Adult Swim’s Toonami block grew in viewership in its target demographics this week:

  • Space Dandy gained viewers in the men 18-24 and 18-49 demographics and ranked at #1 for its timeslot (11:30 p.m.) among men 18-24, 18-34, and 18-49
  • Bleach ranked #1 in its timeslot (12:00 a.m.) for adults 18-34, men 18-34 and 18-49 with increased viewership
  • Naruto Shippuden ranked #1 in its timeslot (12:30 a.m.) for adults 18-34, men 18-34 and 18-49 with increased viewership

New Anime Releases: January 14, 2014

Here are the new anime releases for January 14, 2014. If you see any errors or omissions in this list, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

Digimon Adventure Volume 5
Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic Set 1 [DVD]
Naruto Shippuden Uncut Set 17 [DVD]
One Piece: Season Five Voyage Five [DVD]
Taisho Baseball Girls Complete [Blu-ray]
Unico Double Feature [Blu-ray]
Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic: Season 3 [DVD]
Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic: Season 3, Volume 1 [DVD]
Yu-Gi-Oh! Classic: Season 3, Volume 2 [DVD]