Visions of the future paint to bad times ahead for Naruto.
What They Say
A powerful spirit that once threatened to destroy the world is back! Naruto's mission is to protect a priestess named Shion, who is the only one with the power to seal away the monster. She also has the uncanny ability to predict someone's fate. Her latest prediction: Naruto will soon die. Naruto's only hope is to abandon Shion, but that's not Naruto's style. He decides to face her fatal prediction head-on - and die!
Viz Media continues to confound with its audio presentation of some of its movies and this one is no exception. We get four language tracks here that soak up a decent amount of space as there are two stereo mixes for each language encoded at 192kbps and two 5.1 mixes for each language encoded at 384kbps. Four language tracks is excessive for this movie mostly because you don’t need the stereo mixes as any player worth its salt will downmix them properly. It’s 2009, not 1999. The reduced bitrate doesn’t likely impact it all that much as the mix is decent but mostly a forward soundstage piece with only a few moments of noteworthy directionality overall.
Originally in theaters in 2007, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The film has quite a good budget to it with a very appealing set of visuals which are well captured with the encoding here. Colors are very rich when needed and plenty of subtle nuances as well with the palette. There is a very clean look throughout this without a grainy feel or any noticeable significant noise in the backgrounds or in the character artwork. There’s a lot to like with this transfer as the movie has a good deal of detail throughout it and the color choices and fluid animation really come across well here, like most of the Naruto movies to date.
Echoing some of what we’ve seen with the TV series releases, this movie is done with a full white background that lets the focus settle on the character artwork itself, this time of Naruto hunkered down on the ground in the midst of battle. The logo dominates a lot of the upper portion which isn’t a surprise so there is a fair bit of color to be had here, but I like the sleekness of it overall and how it stands out against other titles when paired up with them. The back cover is very plain with a circle through the middle in which there is a collage of headshots from the show put together that doesn’t allow anything to really shine. The summary is incredibly brief, but does sum up the basics, while the bottom fills out with the technical information, production credits and lots of logos. They don’t list the actual extras on the disc though and instead list the special features as there being 5.1 audio and an anamorphic presentation. I guess we should be glad we didn’t get a pan and scan stereo version of it.
A big plus to this package is that we do get a movie booklet that was released in Japan, similar to what we got in previous movies. This is a really slick little booklet with lots of full color pieces describing the film, providing interviews with the voice actors, a roundtable discussion and a few messages from the staff. Add in other things such as the full credits and more shots from the film and it’s a very good promotional booklet.
The menu design for the first Naruto movie is really very simple quite plain in a way as it has a circle in the middle where clips play through for the fifty three second runtime it has with bouncy upbeat music. There are various shapes floating through the background to give it a bit more motion, but mostly it’s made up of black empty space that you don’t notice much about on most setup. The navigation is kept to the lower right of the circle which is simple and easy to access with quick loading submenus. The disc didn’t read our player presets though and defaulted to English language with no subtitles. While it’s a decent menu overall in terms of functionality, it is somewhat plain and lacking with everything really kept to that single circle.
This movie doesn’t get all that much in the way of extras but that’s not a surprise as most move franchise fall off after awhile. The basics we get is a line art gallery and the original Japanese trailer for it, which is very appreciated. The other thing we get is a pair of what’s really mini music videos using footage from the film.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Naruto movies are curious things to me in that they have to tell what’s essentially a filler story that will have no real impact on anything. The main draw to it is to get fans to go to the theater to pay to see what they see during the TV series at different points. The plots, while often interesting enough for a movie, aren’t exactly stellar works and they tend to push most of the main cast to the side in order to just let Naruto be the main player with whatever new characters are introduced. On the plus side, the budgets are much bigger here and it’s over in ninety minutes and you go into it knowing what to expect.
The first movie under the Shippuden label is a fairly decent little effort. The storyline is very simple as it revolves around a demon spirited call Moryo. This spirit has been sealed for ages through the use of priestesses and the magics they have. The time has come to deal with it again as a man named Yomi is set to try and revive the spirit of Moryo by using the current priestess through which to unleash it. The priestess, Shion, has forseen all of this and even though she knows its foolish to try and stave it off, those around her try to do so and often fall to their deaths because of it. She’s even resigned to this when Naruto and others from the Hidden Leaf Village are brought in to protect her and transport her to the sealing site so the world will remain safe from the “Thousand Year Kingdom” that Moryo promises.
Yomi has a few people working from him that helps to provide the action for the show. The four players operating under him are actually rather interesting as they’re all elemental users that have simple outfits with masks that give them a very unearthly feeling. Tsunade sends out Naruto, Sakura, Lee and Neji for this mission with Neji leading and providing for defense while Rock and Naruto play offense on it as Sakura deals with keeping Shion healthy. It’s a good plan, though Naruto is as impulsive as always. And there is the one area where the film points out its main weakness. As much as Naruto is supposed to have grown between the first series and this one, it’s still not apparent in the movie here. He still acts rash, still isn’t aware of a lot of basic social norms and still operates alone more than as a team even in situations like this. The lack of growth of the character shown here really means it’s no different than what we saw before except he’s a bit taller and has less of a foolish costume.
With a twenty-nine million dollar budget, the money is most definitely there on the screen. This is a very lushly animated film that has a lot going for it in this department. The backgrounds are great throughout and it has a lot of detail to it, especially some of the really beautiful blue skies. The character animation is really fluid and there are some striking scenes. One with a close-up of Tsunade set against the sky has a lot of appeal with how they’ve tweaked her theatrical design to add a bit more character to her. These little things give the characters so much more life. The action sequences are the same in that they’re big and filled with a lot of movement that keeps it very brisk with a great sense of choreography. And in the end, isn’t that what you go to see Naruto on the big screen for?
The first movie in the Shippuden world is one that’s decent but essentially plays like what has come before. The cast is kept small, they kill off a bunch of secondary characters quickly and the whole fate of the world rests in the balance of what Naruto will do when it comes to saving the young priestess. All in a days’ work for the orange clad ninja. With a good budget, I wish more had gone into crafting a compelling storyline but at least they got the visuals spot on and it was a fun ride to watch, though with more downtime than I expected there to be. This film doesn’t rock the boat in the slightest which is intentional and we get a big epic standalone story of no impact to the overall Naruto universe. So the Shippuden movie achieves what it set out to do by getting people to the theater to see lots of action with their favorite ninja. Viz did a decent job overall here but it’s not without its problems, most of which date to 1999 thinking and not 2009 thinking.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Original Japanese Movie Trailers, Special Movie Version Music Videos, Line Art
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.