It doesn’t seem like five minutes since the last time I declared that “everyone’s favourite orange jump-suited ninja is back”, but back he is yet again just in time for the latest instalment of Naruto Shippuden. The last set provided a much-needed return to form for the series after the preceding ocean of filler, and this set continues that trend nicely.
However it's Killer Bee, and not Naruto, that kicks off this seventeenth box set of Naruto Shippuden. Towards the end of the last set, Killer Bee was studying Enka with Master Kin and Ponta when they were rudely interrupted by a challenge from Kisame. It is here where we pick up the story, which unfolds thick and fast, so make sure you fasten your seatbelts! We also have lots of loose ends to tie up following the events of the Five Kage Summit and this set, covering episodes 206 to 218, aims to answer quite a few questions.
There’s action by the bucket load in these episodes, and it seems that everyone wants in on it; Naruto, Killer Bee, Kisame, Danzo, Sasuke, Sakura, Kakashi, even Madara/Tobi (to name but a few) all get their fight on. The battles involving Sasuke are especially action-packed and are without doubt the best you will have seen in Naruto since the Invasion of Pain arc. Even outside of the battles there’s a lot going on in this set: there are declarations of love, tense stand-offs, cunning escapes, subterfuge, high level negotiations between feudal lords and much more besides.
The last box set left us with a few unanswered questions: How will Killer Bee cope with the “Tailless Tailed Beast” Kisame? What exactly is Sakura going to say to Naruto? Will Danzo and his bodyguards escape or will Ao and company catch up to them? So the list goes on. Rest assured all those questions, and more are answered here, and more often than not these answers come in the form of action set pieces. These scenes are fired out fairly rapidly throughout the entirety of this box set, with the only temperance to it's pace coming in the form of regular flashbacks. The plethora of flashbacks, which crop up in almost every episode, serve as nothing more than an irritating break in the action for Naruto veterans, and they often feel like they are only included to pad out each episode's running time. However, for a Naruto newcomer they provide useful glimpses of back story, which will inform the action and make this set a potential jumping on point for those that have not yet succumbed to the spiky haired ninja's charm.
There’s not much else we can say here without delving into spoiler territory, so we’ll leave you with the salient points: this set represents Naruto at it's very best - fast paced, full of action and eminently accessible to viewers of all persuasions.