Judge Adam Arseneau is really just a Shadow Clone. Gotcha!
Another day, another feature-length Naruto movie on DVD, and man it's getting harder and harder to tell them apart from one another. They're astonishingly identical.
Facts of the Case
After a rogue ninja unlocks a powerful and ancient evil, the Hidden Leaf Village mobilizes into action! A vast and unstoppable army of terracotta warriors is marching across the land, decimating everything in their path. Team 7—Uzumaki Naruto and his friends Sakura, Neji and Rock—are given an important (but to Naruto, a boring) assignment of VIP protection. Their charge: a young, brash and arrogant princess who alone possess the skills to lock away the ancient evil once and for all.
Unfortunately for Naruto and his teammates, the enemy knows of the princess, and dispatches powerful warriors to assassinate her. The princess has prophetic powers and can foresee glimpses into her future, including the fates of those who protect her. And her latest vision has clearly seen the death of Uzumaki Naruto!
In many ways, Naruto best summarizes what being an anime fan in North America is all about. You get to watch in horror as interesting and entertaining Japanese media get translated and repurposed into mindless pap for hyperactive pre-teen Americans. I considered myself a fan of the Japanese series and the manga, but once Naruto hit the airwaves in North America, the end result was…kind of embarrassing. Actually, mortifying is a better word to explain it. But it comes with the territory. Sometimes, you just live on the wrong continent.
Naruto The Movie: Shippuden is the first OVA to feature the updated Shippuden storyline, skipping ahead in the series a few years to re-visit Naruto and the Hidden Leaf Village as lanky and awkward teenagers. Everyone is more mature and grown, except Naruto, who's still a gigantic screaming child, but that's to be expected. On the whole, the Shippuden arc has been satisfying, adding new ninja moves and techniques to the arsenal of the Leaf Village shinobi, and adding increasingly dire threats and obstacles to overcome. It's too bad that Naruto The Movie: Shippuden feels so much like old Naruto, not the new Naruto. Nothing of the new Shippuden series seems to translate over here; it's the same annoying Naruto, the same derivative and boring OVAs over and over again.
Naruto began as (and still continues strong as) a weekly manga serial published in Shonen Jump magazine. Once the show became popular enough to warrant its own television anime adaptation, the animators quickly burned through the comic material, since a thirty minute episode can often eat up five or ten episodes of the manga worth of content per shot. When animators 'run out' of material, so to speak, they have to allow months and months to pass to allow the manga to pump out new content, and during these lulls, the cartoon kicks out dreaded 'filler' episodes—original content created by the animation team to fill in the gap. From a canon perspective, these episodes are questionable at best. From a taste perspective, these episodes suck.
Why am I wasting precious review time relating this boring detail about animation production to you, dear reader? It's because Naruto The Movie: Shippuden feels like filler; like a half-dozen lousy episodes stretched into an OVA, almost like a recycled storyline that tosses out a product with little thought or consideration.
Consider, if you will, if any of this sound familiar? A big Evil or Bad Thing emerges, and Team 7 gets sent on a non-combat mission, which makes Naruto yell out and be angry in hilarious fashion. They're sent to run an errand, to guard a VIP, usually someone Naruto has a personality clash with. They all get attacked, and before you know it, Naruto and friends are in the heat of battle, fighting for their lives. All looks hopeless, but through sheer stubborn will, Naruto manages to win the fight and save the day, as well as the respect of the VIP and his teammates. Aww shucks, high-fives all around!
Honestly? If this is all this franchise has to offer us now, fans might as well pack it in. OVAs can be a mixed bag, but it's reasonable to expect that any anime series producing one has one or more of the following: a superior but complicated storyline that is deserving of its own movie to explore, or a crack team of animators ready to bust out amazing and expensive animation too costly and time consuming for regular series production. Naruto: Shipuuden: The Movie, irritatingly, has neither. It's just the same old weak sauce we've been getting for years. Even the animation—certainly nice by serialized standards—isn't really eye-popping or wowing enough to necessitate a standalone movie. It's good, but you won't be telling your friends about it, if you catch my meaning.
I mean, for heaven's sake. Half the plot bears a suspicious resembles to the most recent The Mummy film. And the ending simply doesn't make sense. In fact, it robs sense from you. Whatever sense you had in your head before watching this movie? You will have less of it when it is finished. The last twenty minutes are so convoluted, they could make Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Neon Genesis Evangelion) furrow his brow in a vain attempt to understand the situation.
Okay. That last joke was…a bit obscure. I apologize.
From a technical standpoint, this DVD is pretty decent, and fans of the show should be satisfied by the anamorphic presentation. Colors are vibrant and sharp, with respectable detail and black levels throughout. Some CGI elements enhance some of the animation and battles, which all come out looking quite sharp, especially compared to the series. You won't find any print damage or visual artifacts here, save for some slight graininess, but only if you go really hunting.
Audio comes in full 5.1 surround presentations, Japanese and English dub both. Both are similar in balance and average utilization of rear channels and medium bass response. The English dub is a bit punchier than the Japanese, as seems to be common these days on dub jobs, but most people won't be bothered by this. After all, you'd have to be able to tolerate the English dub, which for Naruto is especially dreadful. English subtitles are included.
Extras are skinny. We get a translated copy of the original Japanese promotional booklet distributed with the film in the DVD packaging, and on the disc the obligatory trailers, music videos and a line art gallery.
Like a bad filler arc come back to haunt fans of the franchise, Naruto The Movie: Shippuden is derivative and uninspired. You will rent it, be mildly entertained, and forget about it entirely within the space of two benign hours.
You won't miss anything by skipping this one. I'll be sticking with the manga.
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