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Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel
If you're familiar with anime then you know the Naruto franchise and are aware of just how popular it is. In Japan the series has reached nearly 300 episodes, has more than 40 manga volumes, a multitude of video games, and features a plethora of OVA specials and feature films. Here in the States that content is slowly trickling over and while we have basically just begun to scratch the surface of what Naruto has to offer there's still a decent selection on the market. VIZ has been handling the franchise quite nicely and recently it has released the plucky little ninja's second animated feature.
Legend of the Stone of Gelel may be new to us but considering it originally came out in Japan about three years ago it does feel a little behind the times in some regards. Then again the fact that it's still at a point beyond where VIZ's release of the show is I suppose that's not entirely the case. If anything this film feels a little too advanced for where we are with the series. How can Naruto use two Rasengan with two types of chakra? Why are Gaara and Kankuro friendly with the Leaf ninja? Other questions surface as the film goes on but if you take the more advanced stuff with a grain of salt such as we did with the first movie it's not so bad.
Still, no matter how you slice it this is one for fans of the show and it's not self-contained whatsoever. If you were looking at this release as a way to springboard into the franchise you're going to be left wanting. However, fans of Naruto will undoubtedly be more than eager to gobble this adventure up.
The film begins with a mysterious army attacking a group of ninja from the Village of Sand. Kankuro and Gaara appear just in time to dole out their fair share of pain but it's a short-lived effort as the enemy's technology is far superior than their jutsu at the moment. What is this strange force? Who is in control? Why are they attacking? Naturally the answers are sprinkled throughout the rest of the film and from there we're taken to Naruto, Sakura, and Shikimaru who are out on a mission.
Rather than safeguarding a person of importance or rescuing someone the trio of Leaf ninja is trying to catch a ferret. Once they catch the little weasel they are ambushed by the same group of armored monsters that attacked Gaara and Kankuro. The three use their skills to get through the battle but during the fray a blonde stranger arrives to confront Naruto. This guy is different than the others and he possesses strong abilities that give Naruto a run for his money. Eventually the cliff can't support their battle and the two are lost to the river below.
Naruto and his enemy wake up in a caravan of travelers and from there the story takes over though I'll keep details brief. Basically the blonde and his leader are attempting to end all wars by creating a Utopia and in order to do that they need objects known as the Stones of Gelel. As the tale continues the caravan is dragged into the happenings and Naruto and company go along for the ride. Some predictable twists are in store as well as some fine battles but there are many questions left unanswered in the end. Things tend to just happen forcibly for little reason and in the end the plot proves to be entertaining but not deep by any means.
The film does a fine job of pushing Naruto, Sakura, and Shikimaru into the mix but that's the thing; they feel forced into action. The plot is very flawed and there are several holes in the story but the characters introduced here are flawed as well. Obvious betrayal and flawed logic pepper Legend of the Stone of Gelel but those involved seem oblivious to what's going on. The problem here is that we're given a glimpse at the twists before they happen so as viewers we're never surprised. It kind of takes you out of the story for a bit as you tend to know everything that's going on before it happens.
In the end Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel is basically just an extended episode from the show but without the sense of drama. A predictable plot, flawed character development, and things that just are for no apparent reason are the problems you'll find with this film. It's entertaining in the sense that there's a lot of action and some laughs in between but if you're looking for a deep Naruto story you're going to be disappointed. I felt that the film was enjoyable enough to recommend to fans but even that recommendation is a light one.
Legend of the Stone of Gelel hits DVD with an anamorphic presentation which does the film justice. The colors are vibrant and the picture is very sharp with some nice detail caught in just about every scene. Some grain keeps the image from being as crisp as it could have been but even so it doesn't detract from the experience that much. I'd liken this film's presentation to that of the show's. Granted the budget here was much larger and the animation is much better all around but the technical merits are roughly the same, save for the aspect ratio.
The film makes some improvements in terms of audio presentation as well. Both the Japanese and English languages include 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks which is definitely a treat for fans that have been collecting the series on DVD. I personally enjoy the Japanese dub more than the English so having the added oomph of the 5.1 was quite a surprise. The rear channels receive some nice use during the many fight scenes and occasionally there's some music as well. Otherwise it's unfortunately underutilized and the sense of immersion isn't quite as acute as it could have been. Still, it's a welcome improvement over what we're used to with the franchise so I'll take it!
This two disc set comes in an interesting DVD case that folds open but it stands out awkwardly when lined up with other DVDs on the shelf. Not that this is a big deal but for collectors it does look a little funny. At any rate there are plenty of bonus features included here but before we get into that let me just mention the art booklet packed into the case. Don't read this before you watch the movie! It contains stills from the film and it's basically a manga representation of the story from start to finish so if you watch it you'll spoil the film. Not that the movie isn't predictable anyways, but I digress.
The first disc which includes the film itself contains some interesting supplemental features. Up first is an audio commentary with some of the crew behind the English language dub. As far as commentaries go it's rather informative though it focuses more on how they reconstructed the film's script into English rather than offer details about the movie. This kind of commentary generally comes from the English dub because, after all, they weren't there when the movie was originally made. It features some personal insight into the picture and paints a nice picture of the people behind the microphones. Along with the commentary there is also a pop-up Naruto guide that you can run through the entire film with. Little tidbits will appear in a bubble on the screen and divulge little morsels of information. Be warned that there are plenty of spoilers in here as well and if you have only been following VIZ's DVD release then you're going to learn things that you probably don't want to.
The second disc has a nice variety of features ranging from trailers for Stone of Gelel and one of the third Naruto film Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom to storyboards for the movie and an art gallery. More interesting is "Words from Japan" (8:12) which features creators of the film talking about the project. It's interesting because it kind of gets you inside the head of the guys who made it and provides a nice amount of information. On the opposite side of the coin is more of a discussion about the English localization of the script with "Write and Adapt like a Ninja" (22:20). This feature really gives a great look at VIZ's cast for Naruto and if you appreciate the process of dubbing an anime you'll enjoy watching this. Likewise "Creating the World of Naruto the Movie 2" (14:28) offers the same English cast talking about the franchise and film.
Naruto the Movie: Legend of the Stone of Gelel is a decent outing for the Naruto franchise. It's a lighthearted adventure with many fun elements and big battles that will undoubtedly appease every fan of the show. Unfortunately as a film the plot is very predictable and it features some forced pacing. Characters are pushed from point a to b with little explanation about their motivations and that definitely adds to the movie's weaker elements. Beyond the established characters everyone else here feels out of place almost as if they were shoehorned into a lengthy episode of the show.
With all of that being said the presentation values are very good and the two disc set does include some fun bonus content that really proves to be informational and entertaining. Fans of the series definitely should check it out but keep in mind that it falls into the timeline a little beyond where VIZ's DVD release of the series is. Some things will be spoiled for you if you start watching this now and that proves to be even truer with some of the bonus content.