Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com
Naruto Shippuden Set 21 includes episodes 258-270 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.
Naruto Shippuden Set 21
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Nauto Uzumaki, the star of the series, has gone through incredible growth since the beginning of the Naruto franchise. At this point, he’s gone from being the boy with the Nine-Tailed Fox demon sealed inside him who was shunned by his village to a young man who became a hero after saving his village when it was attacked by Pain from the Akatsuki. Naruto is currently hidden away, training with Killer Bee in order to learn how to control the Nine-Tailed Fox’s chakra, while the rest of the ninja world is gearing up for the Fourth Great Ninja War.
But before we get to see what’s going on with Naruto’s training or the war, the viewer must first sit through three episodes of a four episode 10th anniversary special, which recaps roughly 90 episodes of the first Naruto series. It seems that the point of this special is to emphasize the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke, but it feels disconnected from the current story arc. Unfortunately, all this special does is to reuse footage from the original episodes and adds nothing new, which makes it feel pointless. Not only that, the flow of the narrative was choppy due to how awkwardly time skips were handled. For a 10th anniversary special, this was very disappointing. It felt more like a way to kill time to allow Masashi Kishimoto to get a little further ahead in the manga before continuing the canon storyline in the anime.
Luckily, the remaining 10 episodes in the set return the viewer to material that progresses the storyline. At first, it looks like the Allied Shinobi Forces are going to fall apart due to grudges that the various villages have against each other. But Gaara delivers a powerful speech and brings the forces together. As a viewer, I think I was just as moved by Gaara’s speech as the characters were.
As the forces mobilize toward the enemy, they discover that Kabuto has used a Reanimation Jutsu to bring many dead shinobi back from the dead and force them to fight for him. In addition, an army of White Zetsu is unleashed to support the Undead Army. As the Undead Army is deployed and encounters the Allied Shiboi Forces, the matchups cause reunions of former friends and former enemies to continue their battles from the past.
Of the reunions that we see in Naruto Shippuden Set 21, the most touching is when Sai comes face-to-face with Shin, his “brother” from The Foundation who had died. While we received backstory on Sai when he first introduced in the early episodes of Naruto Shippuden, this encounter with Shin allows the audience to see how different Sai was when he was younger and how he became the unemotional young man that we’ve seen up to this point. But the most important thing to come out of this reunion is Sai finally allowing himself to show his first real emotions since he was first introduced in the series.
In this set, Kankuro is able to have a rematch with Sasori, and Kakashi and Sakura get to see Zabuza and Haku again. I thought it was interesting to see that while Sasori was more than willing to fight Kankuro, Zabuza and Haku were only attacking their opponents because they had no control over their actions. We get to see flashbacks of Kakashi and Team 7 from the Land of Waves arc, but instead of simply reusing the original footage, a decision was made to reanimate the scenes. Personally I didn’t think the new animation worked very well, and I would have preferred to simply see the original footage.
Outside of the first three episodes, Naruto doesn’t appear much in Naruto Shippuden Set 21. He gets one episode that’s devoted to his training with Killer Bee, and there were occasional times where we might see him briefly before returning to the action taking place in the war. Hopefully we’ll see more of Naruto’s story mixed in with the war material in future episodes of the series.
When it comes to the DVD set itself, there were only three bonus features. First are “clean” versions of the opening and both of the endings that appeared on the episodes in this set. There are three versions of the clean opening and endings: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. There are also English credits, along with trailers for other properties that VIZ Media was promoting at the time this set was released.
Unfortunately, the bonus features on Naruto Shippuden Set 21 are rather lacking when compared to previous Naruto Shippuden releases. Set 21 didn’t include any production art or storyboards, which had always been a feature previously. I don’t know if this is due to the Japanese rights holders not sending these materials to VIZ Media, or if the company chose not to include those features on this release.
Even with the three filler episodes and the relative lack of bonus features, Naruto Shippuden Set 21 is still a “must get” for Naruto fans who want to own the entire franchise in their anime home video collection. The canon material included on this release more than makes up for the filler, especially the backstories and the ninja from the series’ history that the audience has never seen before now.