Everyone’s favourite orange jump-suited ninja is back for this sixteenth box set of the Shippuden series. This box set covers episodes 193-205 and kicks off in the same vein as the last set: with four more filler episodes delivered by way of flashback. Between the four filler episodes we’re introduced to a ninja ghost, a golden teddy bear, a master strategist and a Sasuke-obsessed little girl before we finally get back to some story progression. The four filler episodes are entertaining enough as far as these things go (they’re certainly more memorable than some from the last box set), but I really can’t stress enough how nice it is to finally get back to progressing the story in the remaining episodes of this set.
We pick the story back up with a decision imminent on the future of the Hokage; with Tsunade still comatose there’s a power vacuum in the upper echelons of the Leaf Village, and the man pushing himself forward to fill the vacancy is non-other than Sai’s boss and nefarious schemer Danzou. This coincides with a team of Cloud Ninja arriving in the Leaf Village and demanding action to put a stop to Sasuke’s errant ways, which forces Naruto and friends to face up to the uncomfortable reality of Sasuke’s rogue ninja status. On hearing the news of Sasuke's acts, Naruto promptly sets out to petition the Raikage for clemency, leaving the others to ponder what it all means for them. The gang eventually resolve to take action, but quite what form this action will take and how Naruto will react remains to be explored. Whatever it is it must be big, as Sakura insists on telling Natuto herself.
Due to Sasuke and comrades’ alliance with the Akatsuki, and their attempt to kidnap Killer Bee, the Raikage calls for a Five Kage Summit to discuss the Akatsuki threat. In the build up to the summit we’re finally introduced to the remaining Kage, who are an interesting bunch: We’re all familiar with the Hokage and Kazekage but now we finally get a proper introduction to the Raikage, and meet the Tsuchikage and Mizukage for the first time. The Raikage’s a hard-headed, short tempered master of a lightning style - Meaning he’s similarly lightning fast and virtually untouchable. The Tsuchikage is a grumpy old man with a bad back, whose powers seem to include the ability to float. The Mizukage on the other hand is a thirty-something year-old woman with a bit of a complex about her age, and the ability to spit lava. I have mixed feelings about the Mizukage - on the one hand she kicks serious ass (I mean come on, she spits lava - that's hardcore!), but on the other she’s often the root of some poor and pretty sexist jokes revolving around her age and marital status (Japan has something of an issue with unmarried thirty-something women), which stem mainly from her misunderstanding of various things her bodyguard Ao says.
Without wishing to give too much away, the Akatsuki (predictably) make an appearance at the summit which leads to some exciting battles, tense stand-offs and entertaining revelations - including at long last a declaration of the Akatsuki’s true intentions. The battles in this set are short by Naruto standards but entertaining nonetheless. The tone is set early on with an especially tense standoff involving Kakashi and Yamato dealing with a certain masked member of the Akatsuki, and things only ramp up from there: Sasuke and the Raikage literally tear down walls, while the Mizukage just melts them. Finally Naruto Shippuden is back to what it does best, and it’s in this mix of action and intrigue where Naruto really shines. So if you’ve been trying to skip the filler, now’s the time to dip back into the Shippuden waters.