Anime DVD Review: Naruto Triple Feature

Naruto Triple Feature is a three-disc set that contains all three of the movies released for the first Naruto series: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, Legend of the Stone of Gelel, and Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. VIZ Media released this set on October 14, 2014.

Naruto Triple Feature
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: October 14, 2014

In Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke, along with their sensei, Kakashi, are sent on a mission to accompany famous actress Yukie Fujikaze, as she heads for the Land of Snow to shoot her new movie. While on their travels, it comes out that Yukie is actually someone important from the Land of Snow, and that someone is after a crystal necklace that she has. Can Naruto and the rest of Team 7 protect Yukie from the danger that she is in?

Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is a good film; however, it was definitely written in a way where you already had to be familiar with the Naruto anime series in order to fully understand what was going on. No time was used for any kind of exposition to explain some of the things that are common knowledge from the series. But then again, it was probably expected that viewers who watch Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow would already be fans of either the Naruto manga series or the Naruto anime series.

This film is pretty much what one would expect from a film based on a Shonen Jump property. Characters and story elements are introduced in the movie that will never be seen in the anime series ever again, and there’s also plenty of action. The animation in Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is rather decent overall, and it seems to have received the best animation of the Naruto films that I have seen up to this point.

One of my favorite moments of the film was getting to see a flashback that shows a younger Kakashi Hatake. I believe that by this point in the anime series, the viewers would have seen a picture of a younger Kakashi, but not actually seeing the younger Kakashi in action.

In Legend of the Stone of Gelel, the film opens with a battle on a beach between the Sand Ninja and unknown warriors wearing bulky armor. As the Sand Ninja are becoming overwhelmed by these mysterious warriors, reinforcements arrive; the reinforcements are led by Kankuro and Gaara, and the tide of the battle turns. However, when the Sand Ninja shine a light on their retreating enemy, a large warship appears and begins firing. Gaara’s sand armor barely protects the Sand Ninja.

Meanwhile, Naruto, Shikamaru, and Sakura are on a mission to deliver a lost pet ferret to its owner; however, they are intercepted by Temujin, who gets into a fight with Naruto. The two are knocked off a cliff at the peak of their battle; as they fall, a giant ship appears. In the ship is a traveling caravan, and it turns out they are the people who had lost the ferret. The caravan takes care of Naruto and Temujin. At first, Naruto and Temujin don’t get along; however, as they are with the caravan, they learn to tolerate each other.

As Sakura and Shikamaru search for Naruto, Shikamaru comes upon a fortress; he finds a lab with children in capsules. He also sees two women who wear armor like Temujin’s, and they talk about the Gelel Stone. As the movie progresses, the audience learns more about the Gelel Stone, and how Temujin has a connection with it. Also, the storylines of the Sand Ninja and of Naruto and his friends converge together during the film.

Compared to the first Naruto film, the story of this film falls more into the “fantastical” side due to the Gelel Stone. Outside of that, though, this story does actually work well for the Naruto universe. It was also nice to see Gaara and Kankuro also make an appearance in the film; however, it would have been kind of cool if the writer had found a way to include Temari, since she and Shikamaru always have fun interactions to watch. However, there is a scene where there’s an amusing interaction between Shikamaru and Temari’s brother, Kankuro. Of course, with this being a film for a Shonen Jump property, this film introduces characters and story elements that are never seen again in the Naruto series.

When watching the film, it was obvious that for the animation, a lot of effort went into rendering the backgrounds. Unfortunately, the animation of the characters was not as strong as in the first film. Shikamaru and Kankuro both received consistently bad animation. The animation for Sakura would fluctuate between being rather good to being very poor. While Naruto tended to get good animation, there were sections where he would occasionally get some bad animation. Gaara and the new characters all seemed to get consistently good animation. The inconsistent animation styles being used for the film does weaken it to some extent; if the animation had been better, I might have appreciated this film a little better than I do.

In Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom, Naruto, Sakura, Lee, and Kakashi have a mission to protect Michiru, the prince of the Land of the Moon; accompanying Michiru is his son, Hikaru. Michiru believes he can buy anything he wants, and he has passed this attitude down to his son. Hikaru’s attitude rubs Naruto the wrong way.

On their way to the Land of the Moon, they make a stop at a circus. Hikaru uses his bow and arrow to shoot an apple in a circus act. He impresses the ringmaster, who says Hikaru can have anything he wanted if he could shoot another apple that was being held by a monkey riding on top of saber-toothed tiger. Hikaru gets the shot, and he says he wants the tiger; Michiru ends up purchasing the whole circus. Before boarding the ships to return home, Michiru makes a visit to the home of his ex-wife, Amayo, bringing her a bunch of flowers. Amayo says that Michiru doesn’t understand what’s really important, and refuses to go back to him.

On the voyage home, Hikaru tries to befriend the saber-toothed tiger, but it wants nothing to do with him. He becomes bored with the animals, and doesn’t seem to care about them when a storm hits. Naruto gives Hikaru a major lecture, and this seems to make Hikaru realize how foolish he’d been acting. Hikaru helps to save the animals, and the next morning, Chamu (the saber-toothed tiger) befriends him. Not only that, Naruto, Sakura, and Lee also become friends with Hikaru.

When the group returns to the Land of the Moon, they discover that the country has been taken over by one of the royal advisors, with the help of three powerful ninja he has hired. Can Naruto and the group save the kingdom and return Michiru’s family to power?

Like the first Naruto film, this storyline fits in rather well with the Naruto anime series. However, just like the other two Naruto films, characters and story elements are introduced that are never seen again during the series. Overall, I do enjoy the story of Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. I especially like the scene that takes place between Michiru and his ex-wife, Amayo. Admittedly, her speech does hit the audience a little over the head, but I liked how she was willing to speak her mind and not feel like she had to hold back due to speaking to royalty. I also appreciated the interactions Naruto has with Hikaru, even though I have to admit that some of those interactions can come across as a little preachy sometimes.

While there is a good story in the film, I was rather disappointed with the animation; of the three Naruto films, this one easily received the worst animation. There isn’t as much detail on the character drawings, and the computer graphics that were used just drew too much attention to themselves. I guess I have to give this film credit for the fact that it consistently utilized poor animation, unlike the second film, which wavered too much between good animation and poor animation.

When it comes to this DVD set, it simply contains the first of the two discs that were included when these films were released individually; the only difference is that a new label was created for the discs to indicate that they’re from the Naruto Triple Feature release. Unfortunately, by losing the second disc from the original releases of these films, you end up losing a lot of the bonus features that came with them. Fortunately, since the “Konoha Annual Sports Festival” short was included on the first disc in the original release of Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, which means it’s also included here.

The bonus features that aren’t part of this set include: documentaries, interviews, featurettes, the original Japanese trailers, Japanese credits, art galleries, storyboards, a clean ending, and a trivia quiz.

If you’ve held off from purchasing these Naruto films in the past and are now considering adding them to your anime home video collection, this set is an economical way to obtain all three films; I would highly recommend this set for viewers who are only interested in owning the actual movies and don’t care about bonus features. However, if you are an anime collector who has an interest in bonus features, then you might be better off trying to track down the three individual releases for these films.

I wrote this review from a review copy of Naruto Triple Feature that was provided to me by VIZ Media.

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