If there’s any truth in a calm before a storm, then this collection is exactly that. As the Fourth Shinobi World War rumbles on towards its zenith, Box 27 offers three distinct stories, connected in the shared chaos of the conflict and the allure of a dreamt utopia when everything around you crumbles into anarchy.
The confrontation between a resurrected Itachi, a mardy Sasuke and a cornered Kabuto resumes. In his arrogance, Kabuto is certain of his victory, but the bigger they are the harder they fall, yadda yadda. This is Naruto after all, so amidst the clash, extended flashbacks are used to add emotional impact to the forthcoming fight. Fans will be familiar with the formula, and it usually precedes a death or defeat, or just elicits some reaction in the viewer. It’s a cynical conceit, for sure, but that’s not to say it’s totally unsuccessful. Naruto has the remarkable ability of seasoning confrontations with character development, and Kabuto’s backstory is testament. His serpentine story has long been teased, but here we see his fateful first meeting with Orochimaru and how, like a snake with its prey, he kept Kabuto constricted. Their homoerotic relationship is fascinating, with Kabuto later revealing to a surprised Sasuke that he literally took Orochimaru into his body.
It all serves to make Kabuto a more sympathetic character, moving from operating in the shadows, to coming to the forefront. Far from playing second fiddle to Orochimaru (easily done, when it comes to that campy scene stealer), Kabuto is a compelling and tragic figure. His struggle with identity and body dysmorphia is a depth hitherto unexpected of what was otherwise a simple fall-from-grace-story. As he undergoes experimentation trying to find his true self, we see how he became the snake-bellied beastie we all know and love.
His macabre fighting style plays off the gothic music, while the natal imagery adds to one of the most exciting fights in tens of episodes. It’s a sharply directed sequence, with strange and trippy visuals as Itachi deploys the forbidden Izanami jutsu, locking Kabuto into a repeating chain of events. It’s a visual jutsu that works with physical senses of both you and your opponent. Confused? Don’t worry, the show describes it in forensic detail… with diagrams. After releasing the resurrection jutsu, Itachi says his farewell to Sasuke, which is as moving, drawn out and insightful as you might have expected, even if it is repeated another half dozen times.
The second story thread sees the five Kage versus a resurrected Madara Uchiha, a fight that has been raging since Box 25. Given his strength, Madara was never going to be undone by something as conventional as reversing the resurrection jutsu. No, he’s sticking around for a while longer yet.
Then we move to the third subplot, where Naruto, Kakashi, Killer Bee and Might Guy butt heads with the masked Tobi. He’s busy trying to revive the Ten Tails, so-called aggregate of all the tailed beasts, said to have created this land and whose revival heralds the end of everything. In amidst the fight, using the power of teamwork, Tobi’s mask is shattered, revealing his face at last. Given the reveal is on the box art, few will be surprised at seeing Obito Uchiha underneath. The compelling part is in seeing how Kakashi’s former teammate went from plucky ninja to the powerful masked accomplice of Madara. The highlight of this collection is seeing the journey play out across multiple episodes, from how Kakashi got his Sharingan, to the rise and corruption of the Akatsuki. A brilliant collection, inconsistent animation and all.
Check out our review of Box 26
English dub; storyboards; production gallery; trailers.