As if often the case with shows of this size and longevity, the animation quality is prone to fluctuate, and looking for any visual consistency is folly. That said, there are some moments of wonder and style in amongst the mediocrity. Episode 261, following the recap episodes, offers a stark reminder of how far the series has come in terms of popularity and production values. Sure, there’s still wonky animation, but the increased use of CG cell-shading provides greater scope and more dynamic fight sequences.
261 also sees the start of the Fourth Shinobi World War: Confrontation arc, with the rumblings of warfare in motion, and the battle against the Impure World Reincarnation. Dead shinobi have been brought back to the land of the living by a forbidden resurrection jitsu, to do their caster’s bidding. Among the comebacks are old fan favourites Haku and Zabuza, two of the principal adversaries from the original Naruto series. After the duo’s emotional send-off the first time around, this re-entry isn’t quite up to snuff. The only way of stopping them is by releasing their souls, like the adage about ghosts left behind because of some unfinished business in life. It might not be the most original concept, especially when it comes to anime, but the resurrection trope does make for some interesting scenarios and springboard new faces.
Naruto, meanwhile, continues his training with Killer B (who, in the English dub, sounds like Starsky and Hutch’s Huggy Bear). There’s plenty of laughs and light relief, but it’s got nothing on his training with toady Jiraiya.
The crippling region code issues and filler episodes prevent Collection 21 being anything other than superfluous. Distributor Manga Entertainment UK is resolving the issue, but twelve episode chunks aren’t nearly enough to fully enjoy and appreciate all that the series has to offer. Without the bookending arcs, it feels a bit touristy.
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN COLLECTION 21 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: HAYATO DATE / SCREENPLAY: JUNKI TAKEGAMI / STARRING: CHIE NAKAMURA, JUNKO TAKEUCHI, NORIAKI SUGIYAMA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW