Naruto and company are on their latest protection mission and it takes them both to the circus and to the tropics.
What They Say:
Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi team up with Rock Lee to protect Prince Michiru and his son Hikaru on their return home to the Crescent Moon Kingdom. Easy enough, until the royal family becomes a royal pain! Prince Michiru can't help indulging his son, even buying him a circus along the way! Naruto has a tough time putting up with both the spoiled Hikaru and a saber-toothed tiger, but the real adventure begins when they reach the Land of the Moon and find themselves facing a villainous uprising. Does Naruto have what it takes to save an entire kingdom?
What We Say:
Viz Media has a pretty good selection of audio tracks on here though it’s overkill in some ways considering technology. Each of the main languages is done in two tracks, a stereo mix encoded at 224kbps and a 5.1 mix encoded at 384kbps. We listened primarily to the 5.1 mix in Japanese and it comes across quite well, especially in the amount of bass that you’ll find in the big action sequences. This is the kind of mix that carries through on what you wish the TV series would sound like more when it comes to these scenes. There’s a fair bit of good directionality throughout the feature as well when it comes to dialogue and ambient sound effects as well which gives it a very strong full feel in general. It’s certainly a leap over what the TV series offers and it serves as good movie material in and of itself.
Originally in theaters back in 2006, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. While the TV series continues to surprise me with its overall animation quality, at least in the sets that I’ve seen so far, the features don’t replicate it per se but build upon it to something better. These aren’t cheaply done films mimicking a poor TV animation production, but rather a feature working from a solid TV production and taking it to the next level. The film doesn’t really divert from the kinds of backgrounds and character designs we’re familiar with, though new things are certainly introduced, and it all has a much stronger sense of fluidity and vibrancy to it. The characters flow beautifully across the screen during the big moments and even during the quieter ones and it’s captured well here. Beyond a bit of noise once in awhile and the occasional gradient, it’s a very slick looking piece that’s very appealing which will make Naruto fans very happy.
This feature gets a nice double disc edition release inside a standard sized keepcase with a hinge inside to hold the main feature disc. The keepcase itself is inside a slipcover which is very bright and glossy as it features the primary characters from the film all in action poses with big grins and so forth across their faces. While the character artwork is bright, it’s rather nicely framed with the dark shadows that draws you to the characters more, especially with the silver foil used throughout. The back of the slipcover is nicely done in the same foil style as it has a background image of the kingdom island itself along with a number of shots from the show that are very eye-catching. The summary runs through the basics of the premise without giving too much away while the discs features and production information rounds out the bottom quarter of the cover. Though the technical information is all done in text form, it is clear and easy to find everything which is a positive.
The keepcase is pretty much done up exactly the same way but without the silver foil aspect to it. It naturally looks a bit duller because of it, but the positives are still pretty much the same. What’s really nice is that included in this set is a full color booklet for the feature. The bulk of the booklet is a look at the feature through the eyes of Naruto as he talks about the people and places they come across throughout it. It’s a bit hokey at times but I can recall stuff like this working for me when I was much younger. After that, it gets a bit more serious as they have some staff comments from the manga creator as well as the director and a roundtable with some of the voice actors. Toss in the full production credits and a translated version of the theme song and you’ve got a really nicely put together booklet here.
The menu design for the feature is rather basic and uninspiring unfortunately, not even attempting to give it a little bit of grandeur. The main design is that of using the background image of the island kingdom from above, which gives us a nice looking view of the place but nothing really enticing. Adding in some of the characters along one side doesn’t really help much either. The navigation is really simple, especially since the feature disc has just the feature and no extras, but it’s all easy to navigate and problem free. The main feature disc did default to English language with no subtitles unfortunately as it didn’t read our players’ language presets. It also defaulted to the English stereo mix.
The extras for this release are all contained in the second disc and there are some good things to be had here for both sides of fandom. For the English language fans, there’s a new twenty-two minute video that delves into some of the behind the scenes aspects of the feature where we see the ADR staff talking about what went into it and some of the voice actors talking about their performances and characters. There’s also another segment that shows a group recording piece where everyone is together at the same time voicing their roles, which is a real rarity and challenge for English language adaptations for a lot of reasons and not often done. For Japanese language fans, there’s a video interview that runs about eight minutes that talks with the Japanese director of the feature and the approach they took going into this standalone film. Add in some production artwork gallery material, a lot of original Japanese commercials for the feature and nearly ten minute of video game commercials and you’ve got a decent amount of material on here. .
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Naruto movies continue to plod along in their fairly standard method of not really interfering at all with the status quo of the series itself. The movies stand alone well, though within some of the confines of the series at the time, as this one is free of Sasuke. This lets the feature be pretty accessible to new viewers, which is a plus, but like we commented in the review of the second movie, it presents things in a state where nothing is really different or changes. At best, you see the core group working together smoothly and a mission like this adds a little more to the way they all get along as compatriots and friends.
The story of Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom is really very simple at heart. Lady Tsunade has assigned Kakashi, Naruto, Rock and Sakura to protect the visiting prince of the Crescent Moon Kingdom as he makes his way back home along with his young son. Michiru is a fairly decent prince but one that has the mindset that money buys him everything and he shouldn’t be left wanting. He’s not arrogant or rude about it but rather affable and friendly, not seeing any serious issue with it. His son makes up for this by being rather serious and somewhat unfriendly to everyone in general as he has something of a chip on his shoulder. So it’s only natural that he and Naruto butt heads pretty easily when they come into contact with each other.
Michiru and his son Hikaru have spent a fair amount of time traveling the various lands at the request of his father the king but now it’s time to head back home. With quite a lot of things acquired, it’s an amusing caravan of goods that Michiru has bought. The Crescent Moon island is rather wealthy since it’s basically a tropical resort place with gambling and so forth and that means a very affluent lifestyle. This is shown strongly when the caravan comes across a circus performance and Michiru enjoys it so much that he practically buys the entire circus in order for it to come with him and visit the island. He doesn’t really think through the consequences of having to try and get so many animals across the rough waters on a boat, instead leaving the details to others.
While the film is initially something of a roadshow and growth piece as Naruto and Hikaru try and figure each other out, it turns into something more serious when they finally reach the island. It’s here that things seem different as nobody is around and the usual lively atmosphere is incredibly still. Everything turns on a dime when Michiru is confronted by one of his fathers’ ministers who informs him that the king is dead at his own hand and he’s taking over the kingdom. Apparently the king had some silly ideas about people being equal, the government needing to make sure everyone was taken care of and other silly pursuits like life, happiness and so forth. Shabadaba is all about the money and with a wealthy kingdom like this, he intends to have his way with it.
Naturally, he’s not doing this alone as he’s hired a trio of skilled ninjas from some unknown land to help secure his new money maker. The ninjas get named here and there, but the primary one is Ishidate, a fairly restrained young man who has the ability to turn others to stone. Once the revelation is made about the king and Michiru figures out what’s going on, it’s a fight for survival and to set things right on the island. The problem, one that the TV series encounters as well at times, is that after seeing Naruto and the others overcome such fierce challenges, the villains of the movies seem pretty tame. Ishidate has a neat skill to be sure, but when you see the gang getting their rears handed to them during a caravan fight with mountain ruffians or having trouble with the royal guard, it really comes across as weak. The more powerful the villains you face, the harder it is to deal with elements like these.
Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom feels very similar in terms of animation style and quality to what we saw with the second movie. It’s got a lot of very strong and appealing visuals to it with plenty of vibrant moments when it’s the bright outdoors. The darker moments, such as the fights at night or the stormy sea sequence, all look wonderful as well. There continues to be a really great amount of fluid smooth animation to these features that impresses me. This feature is certainly no exception, and while the story is rather predictable, they don’t skimp out on the animation at all. It really comes to life wonderfully during the big action moments but they also give it a series of very strong backgrounds and set designs that only serves to enhance it more. Fans of the franchise will certainly appreciate the care and quality of the animation presentation.
At this point, it’s fairly obvious what to expect from a Naruto movie, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. These features are in a difficult position because they want to appeal to both fans and new potential fans so they need to avoid heavy continuity and entertain in a more basic fashion. That’s great for those coming in a little fresh to the franchise, of which there are many both in Japan and here, but for the long term fans they really just serve up some very beautiful looking filler material. Nothing is really changed here with the actual core cast of characters, but we do get to see them interacting in new places and in a self contained situation. It’s a decent amount of fun and having a very polished filler story certainly isn’t a bad thing. But you also wish that they’d do a big continuity altering feature that would shake things up some and give it real impact. Until that happens though, this is a fun little romp that’s worth checking out and Viz Media has done a bang-up job on it..
Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes, Group Recording Session, Directors Interview, Production Artwork, Commercial Collection, Video Game Commercials
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.