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Naruto OVA - The Lost Story
The Naruto TV series release is in full swing and soon we'll be seeing the first movie hitting store shelves. If you have been following Viz's treatment of the program then you already know about the American edited and original uncut versions of the show. Personally, I lean towards the uncut edition because it's more complete and tends to offer a more mature experience. Thankfully, with the first OVA being released Viz opted to keep things the way they were in Japan much like the boxed set releases.
Called a "Lost Episode", Naruto: Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village is really a forty minute OVA. It is essentially a side story that didn't make it into the show's production and if you were counting you'd probably find a home for this tale somewhere around the episodes in the 80's. Naruto has developed the ability to harness small amounts of the Demon Fox's chakra and they mention that this is one of Team 7's first C rank escort missions that they've had in a while.
The mission begins simply enough and they have to escort some guy named Shibuki back to his Hidden Waterfall Village. Shibuki happens to be the son of the Village's hero and elder but considering the old man has since kicked the bucket it's up to Shibuki to play leader. The villagers idolize him as a hero due to his lineage and stature but in the first few moments that we meet the character we realize that he's quite the coward. He and Naruto clash mostly because our fearless nitwit enjoys poking and prodding him regarding his lack of courage.
Once they arrive at the designated spot Kakashi is summoned back to the Hidden Leaf village. This leaves the kids alone and roped into cleaning up some trash with Shibuki and company. It was kind of silly but I suppose you have to pass the message along to the kiddies that polluting isn't cool. Go Captain Planet!
In any event, this would be a boring episode if there wasn't some action involved. It would seem that a band of missing-nin (ninja that have abandoned their village) has taken it upon themselves to go after the treasure of Hidden Waterfall Village. The location of this treasure is known only to Shibuki and as you'd imagine all sorts of heck breaks loose when the ninja take his people hostage. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura all put up a decent fight but the more experienced ninja prove to be too much. Sasuke and Sakura wind up captured while Naruto goes off to search for Shibuki who has gone for the treasure.
What happens next is more of a personal struggle rather than a ninja battle. Shibuki holds the village's Hero's Water, which harnesses the power to increase its drinker's chakra exponentially. The catch is that if you drink it you basically die do to the potency of it and that's how his father kicked the bucket. Shibuki goes through a whole monologue and talks with Naruto about courage and what should be done. Well, I won't spoil what happens for you though I'm pretty certain you can figure out that our heroes come out on top.
As the first Naruto OVA released in America, Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village was a decent little adventure. It's essentially just an extended episode from the first half of the series but it was good nonetheless. There's not an awful lot of character development to be found and the story elements were kind of light so in that regard it feels frivolous. Still, if you're a Naruto fan and love the show uncut then there's no reason that this one shouldn't end up in your collection.
Oh, and if you've only experienced the DVD releases of the show you don't have to worry about this OVA ruining anything for you. It's a very stand-alone episode.
Naruto: Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village is presented on DVD just like the rest of the series is. That means you can expect a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and an overall decent transfer. The picture was clear and vibrant with very little to complain about apart from some grain and compression that cropped up at times. I also noticed a slight amount of aliasing in a few scenes but it was minimal at best. Overall this was a decent transfer for the OVA and the program looked good but not great.
The audio presentation for this DVD comes in the form of two 2.0 stereo tracks. The English dubbing offers up some irritating voices and an experience that one might call overacting. The Japanese language track was much better with easily acceptable vocals and equivalent quality in sound. With the limitations of a stereo track it's no surprise that there is little to no directionality. In other words after bouncing between this OVA and the series the audio quality sounds virtually identical to the other release.
All that you're going to find on this release for extras are some trailers and such. There are promotions for other Shonen Jump material and Naruto's first movie Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow. Oh, and there was a card inside of my DVD case for the Naruto Collectable Card Game.
Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village is a nice accompaniment to the uncut series collection. Considering that this extended episode was probably not going to find its way into the collector's boxed sets it was inevitable that it would be released stand alone. The tale was pretty good overall though it lacked the depth that story arcs from the series display. If you're a Naruto fan and want everything definitely pick this one up.