- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

‘Naruto: Uncut Boxed Set, Volume 2, Special Edition’

(Viz Media, $69.99)

Masashi Kishimoto’s hyperactive, knuckleheaded ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, gets a special DVD boxed set to highlight some of his popular animated adventures seen on Cartoon Network.

Our star is an obnoxious brat who loves to boast and antagonize opponents — and mentors, too, but eventually manages to warm their hearts through his determination and honesty. In the series, Naruta, Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno struggle together as ninjas in training — and as Team 7, they learn the secrets of the warrior art and experience the world.

This latest boxed set contains 12 shows on three discs that cover the latter part of the team’s mission to protect a bridge builder and go up to the first test given during the chunin (journeyman ninja) exams.

The show does a fantastic job of mixing drama and humor, along with pounding youngsters over the head with ideals such as courage, discipline, teamwork and friendship. This is the uncut version of the show; it offers a bit more blood but is highly recommended for any tween and older who loves a great animated story.

The extras: Very slim pickings in the way of multimedia interactivity: Fans only get storyboards from a scene in episode 22 and a way to click to a clip from the show for comparison. Viz needs to look at the Simpsons DVD set to understand how to really take advantage of the DVD medium within its “storyboard-to-show” comparison.

However, Viz makes up for the on-screen deficiencies with cool items stuffed into the DVD box. These include a booklet, in Japanese, of the storyboards to Episode 15 and a heavy-duty headband, necklace and drawstring bag, all imprinted with the Sand Village symbol.

Read all about it: The Naruto show nearly mirrors the Japanese comic book (manga) on which it is based. Viz Media has compiled the black-and-white manga serial into trade paperbacks, and fans can read Naruto, Volumes 3 to 5 ($7.95 each) to see how the sequential art translated into a cartoon.

‘The Simpsons — The Complete Ninth Season’

(Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, $49.98)

The 1997-98 season of the pop-culture phenomenon from Springfield arrives on DVD and offers a fantastic experience for fans of the delightfully dysfunctional family.

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