Dreams – Naruto’s sensei Kakashi believes that the diabolical Zabuza survived their last battle. Now, in anticipation of their enemy’s return, Kakashi puts Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke through rigorous training programs to increase their focus and control. This time, their job of protecting the old bridge builder Tazuna and his family will be a hundred times more difficult!
After a very much action-packed Volume 2, Naruto Volume 3 slows down the pace considerable for the first two thirds or so, focussing on special chakra training for the trio of young ninja, giving us a little more insight into their characters. At the same time we are given a little more background surrounding the people, location, and situation that Kakashi and his group find themselves in, all of which helps to build up to a very explosive last third of the book, where all out, over the top fighting between the ninja takes centre stage once more! (Ending as expected on quite the cliffhanger!)
Author/Artist Masashi Kishimoto once again effortlessly combines his slapstick humor, drama and action to produce a wonderful page-turner of a manga volume, and when combined with his masterful artwork which is so full detail, emotion and action, never mind his superb bringing to life of all the slapstick humor he throws around, makes for an addictive and fun read that any action comedy Shonen fan will be sure to love.
Definitely a recommended way to spend a lazy afternoon!
Related Link: Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto
Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura join up with Kakashi as they’re tasked with protecting and escorting the huge movie star Yuki Fujikaze (known for her Princess Gale movie series), back to the Land of Snow, where the final action sequence for her latest movie is to be filmed.
There is just one small problem though – the actress doesn’t want to act any more, doesn’t want to return to the Land of Snow, and is completely emotionless, making her completely unapproachable outside of her acting.
Oh, and then there is the small matter of a band of ruthless Snow Ninja who appear to have a history with Kakashi and will seemingly stop at nothing to reclaim the mysterious pendant handing around Yuki’s neck!
The difficulty with writing a movie based on a long running show which is still by airing is that you have to write something that feels as familiar as the television show but in no way changes or impacts the characters or their interactions with one another so as not to spoil the actual cash cow. This of course leads to what is commonly known as filler material, and as you might expect, all of the Naruto movies up to date have felt like filler material.
Nevertheless, this first movie, Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, from director Tensai Okamura and Studio Pierrot, turns out to actually be quite an enjoyable watch, though to get the most out of it you will need to already be familiar with the world of Naruto, as no time is wasted on backstory or character development of course. What you are however left with is a great dramatic tale with plenty of heartache, tempered with fantastic action sequences plus physical humor, the hallmark of any Naruto story.
With an already strong musical soundtrack to work with courtesy of the television series, the film elevates the aural experience to the next level, mixing in a satisfying combination of old and new sounds, complementing a great voice acting performance by both the original Japanese cast as well as the American team behind the English dub.
In terms of animation, this is a feature film and thus the attention to detail, fluidity and quality of animation is apparent, with some beautiful locations and detail, matched by great character animation and choreography, which really comes alive during the big battle sequences.
In summary, I actually really enjoyed this Naruto film. It hits all the right spots with its writing (i.e. it is a Naruto story and delivers what a fan would expect from it), choice of soundtrack, visuals, and action sequences, making for a really enjoyable shounen movie that should appeal to just about any anime watcher who enjoys the action ninja genre.
An enjoyable movie worth watching then, particularly if you are already a Naruto convert. And even if you aren’t, this is a decent stepping stone into the universe anyway.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto_the_Movie:_Ninja_Clash_in_the_Land_of_Snow
I’ve been away from the Naruto franchise for quite a number of years now, and on a spur of the moment decision, decided to pick up Naruto Shippuden: The Movie to give it a spin just for the fun of it. Disappointingly, I found nothing had changed since I last left the series.
Again, the movie is nothing more than a money spinner to empty the wallets of already loyal Naruto fans, and certainly doesn’t do anything for new viewers who might not be all that familiar with the franchise – no character development, no lasting impacts, no real substance – just a lot of varied, over the top fight scenes. However, that said, once again it is an enjoyable standalone adventure with all the classic Naruto humour and action which fans of the series are sure to enjoy – so based on that alone, I would have to say it’s a success then!
The plot revolves around a ninjutsu user who unseals a powerful entity which has previously attempted to destroy the world with its fearsome and unstoppable terracotta army. The protagonist has the entity’s soul locked in his own body, and is now on a race against time to reunite it with its sealed away physical body before the priestess of the Land of Ogres has a chance to destroy it.
This threat is big enough to mobilise all the lands, and Naruto’s Team 7 is no exception, as they are joined by Neji and Rock Lee and tasked with protecting and escorting the priestess to the site of the body in order to prevent the destruction of everything! Just one thing though. The priestess has visions of the future and her latest premonition is simple – Naruto is going to die, and nothing can change this destiny!
Other than some beautifully rendered backgrounds, the animation for the movie is very much the same standard used for the television series, which means it doesn’t stand out as being special at all. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty decent, but certainly not of the high quality one would expect from a movie outing. One negative thing to note though is the terrible CG used for the terracotta army, coming across as really cheap and low budget and quite honestly, spoiling some of the fight sequences towards the end of the movie.
Soundtrack on the other hand is fantastic, with solid voice acting from all the usual actors and actresses.
Overall, if you are familiar with the Naruto world and enjoy the franchise, then this is certainly worth watching, though as per usual don’t expect anything other than pure Naruto action from it – certainly nothing to affect the main timeline will be taking place. For people outside of the fanbase, this isn’t the best of movies to pick up because it offers so little, but as it goes, if you do like some over the top ninja with unrealistic abilities going at one another, then maybe you’ll get a kick out of it too.
As for me, well ‘meh’ is probably the best way to describe it. Not bad, but I could have continued my hiatus from the franchise and still missed nothing! :P
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto_Shippuden:_the_Movie
The Iga clan and the Kouga clan have been sworn enemies for more than four hundred years. Only the Hanzo Hattori truce has kept the two families from all-out war. Now, under the order of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the truce has finally been dissolved. Ten ninja from each clan must fight to the death in order to determine who will be the next Tokugawa Shogun. The surviving clan will rule for the next thousand years.
But not all the clan members are in agreement. Oboro of the Iga clan and Gennosuke of the Kouga clan have fallen deeply in love. Now these star-crossed lovers have been pitted against each other. Can their romance conquer a centuries-old rivalry? Or is their love destined to end in death?
Volume 1 throws us right into the middle of our first ninja battle, as Yashamaru of the Iga clan squares off against Shougen from the Kouga clan, pretty much letting us know what we are in for the rest of this battle-a-minute adaptation of Futaro Yamada’s 1958 novel. Writer/artist Masaki Segawa skillfully guides us through the story as he sets up all the elements necessary to spark the upcoming violence and then hits the accelerator as he unleashes all manner of fierce and grotesque ninja, each possessing some or other very strange and unexpected secret technique as the two clans battle it out for the main prize.
The writing on Basilisk is very steady and very detailed, and Masaki ensures that you are onboard at all times. This is not an action comedy, but when some comedic elements need to be thrown in courtesy of some of the more larger than life characters, Masaki proves he is as adept at making us snigger as what he is at cleverly setting up scenarios and keeping us guessing as to what might happen next! There is a lot of clever scripting that intertwines with his often clever and sometimes purposefully vague visuals to create a very compelling and exciting ninja-fuelled read.
In terms of the artwork Masaki proves to be very skilled when it comes to designing and depicting a huge assortment of people, with him often taking certain characteristics of the various ninjas and drawing them out, thereby creating some very interesting and often quite twisted character designs. His sense of motion, action and fighting is also well captured in his visuals, making for some great looking sequences indeed.
However, the one thing I didn’t really appreciate was his complete and utter seeming refusal to draw any background imagery whatsoever – instead relying on PhotoShopping in photographs and messing with their opacities and focus in order to blend in and provide the backgrounds for the characters.
Sure, sometimes the effect did work, but for the most part the beautiful lines of his drawn characters simple don’t mesh all that very well with the often obvious photo work, and on top of this, because the photos are often dark in nature, he is often forced to give all his characters very noticeable white halos for contrast purposes – which then completely detracts from the pictures because the backgrounds and characters no longer blend in correctly!
If you want to enjoy some classic 90’s OVA animation in a short little burst, then AIC’s 1996 action comedy Ninja Cadets serves this up rather nicely – unfortunately from director Eiji Suganuma’s point of view, there really isn’t any other reason for picking this up though!
Split into two thirty minute episodes, Ninja Cadets throws you into the middle of it, as six young nina cadets are tasked with their final ninja exam – infiltrating Byakkuro Castle and retrieving a powerful scroll from the scroll room. Oh, and one of the cadets is actually secretly the Byakkuro Princess who was forced to flee when only a baby, though she doesn’t know this and it doesn’t really matter all that much in the greater scheme of things, outside of the fact that she should technically be able to trigger the strongest scroll that still resides there.
As the six go on their mission, a group of bandits all of a sudden appear who for no apparent (or rather given) reason, are now searching for the princess, and have decided that she must be in this group of ninja, who they now set off to foil by summoning minor demon creatures to block their path. Oh, and when that fails, to cause the suicide of their summoner so that he can be transformed into a big spider-demon to try again. And when that fails, then there is always mind control or the big robot approach to try.
There really isn’t much of a story to Ninja Cadets and even less in terms of character development. Instead the entire OVA appears to be an excuse for battle sequences and lots of slapstick humour revolving around the high-strung girls in the group, but the events and pacing are just so haphazard that the show feels like a whole lot of pieces stuck together with Prestik putty. Sure there are some amusing bits here and there and some pretty cool fight scenes to take in, but for the most part it really is a bit of a hit and miss.
A comedic magical girl show that doesn’t quite follow the usual magical girl formula – this time around you get samurai for your money!
1999’s thirteen part Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch is the brainchild of director Akitaro Daichi and studio Madhouse, who combined their powers to present us with this action comedy series that takes elements out of the classic magical girl genre and instead applies them to the realm of the samurai, resulting in a modern-day tale that transforms one rather unwilling teenage girl (Jiyu Nanohana) into the embodiment of master swordsman Yagyu Jubei and forces her to defend against a 300 year old feud between the Yagyu and Ryuoji schools of swordsmanship!
What follows is loads of slapstick comedy and wit, which is enough to pull a chuckle or two out of you as you watch some rather animated and quite lively characters have a go at it. But while most of the comedy is resigned to the day to day activities usually revolving around school, when the swords get drawn the anime takes on a far more serious and focused role, making for an entertaining result.
The animation is perfectly acceptable, nothing that stands out too much, but it does capture the silly slapstick nature of the comedy quite well, as well as being able to effortlessly change gear and present the more serious action sequences in a convincing manner.
Cute and silly ninja and not-so-ninja nonsense, best suited to the younger viewers or those who enjoy inane, slapstick comedy.
2004 saw the release of the 12 part anime series 2×2=Shinobuden from studio Ufotable and director Hitoyuki Matsui. It tells the tale of Shinobu, a cute, well-meaning but quite dense girl who is training to be a ninja under the guidance of her master Onsokumaru – who just happens to be a lecherous, anthropomorphic, shape-shifting, talking yellow ball, who is able to manipulate and string her along anyway he wants.
Kaede Shiranui on the other hand is just a plain old normal high school girl who gets caught up in this crazy world where just about anything goes, when she found herself confronting a not quite as invisible as she thought Shinobu who was tasked with stealing a pair of her panties in order to qualify as a ninja (She had to choose 1 out of a 1000 possible tasks).
What follows is a crazy and over the top slapstick spectacular, which combined with Onsokumaru’s lecherous and ecchi antics, is bound to have you giggling out aloud if this sort of silliness does it for you.
The visuals are crisp and clean with very simple lines and bright colours, but it is well animated and brings across the humor, silliness and fast pace of the show extremely well. Similarly, the sound track and voice artists capture the necessary tone to perfection.
The love interest of Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (aka Elektra) is one of Frank Miller’s best loved creations, and despite the fact that she has killed more men than just about any other character in the Marvel stable, she remains one of the more popular heroines in the Marvel Universe.
A kunoichi or female ninja by trade, Elektra is of Greek descent, and is almost never spotted without her trademark pair of bladed sai. Sided with the Hand, a sect of mystical ninja, Elektra is a particularly fearsome assassin, who finally split from her mentor group and went on to become the chief assassin of Kingpin, New York City’s premier crime lord, where her path eventually became entangled with that of Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil.
She is an extremely talented martial artist with a very high proficiency in most bladed weapons. She has mastered many Japanese combat forms, including Ninjutsu and is an Olympic-level athlete, with honed abilities like strength, speed, stamina, agility and dexterity. She is resistant to pain and extreme heat and cold, and is also able to almost blend into the shadows at will.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s original 1993 Ninja Scroll was somewhat of a sleeper hit until it finally hit our Western shores, gaining immense popularity and a cult following for this blood-soaked, violent samurai epic. It took however ten years before anyone thought of capitalising on its success, and in 2003 we finally got Ninja Scroll: The Series, a 13 episode long series directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico; Stellvia) and animated by MADHOUSE studios.
Ninja Scroll: The Series follows master samurai Jubei Kibagami as he inadvertently gets dragged into an age old conflict between the Hiruko and Kimon ninja clans, sparked anew by the awakening of the Light Maiden Shigure and the revealing of the legendary Dragon Stone, the key to untold treasures and fortune.
And that pretty much sums it up. Unfortunately there isn’t all that much substance to the story of Ninja Scroll: The Series as essentially each episode serves as a new battleground for Jubei to take on and defeat a new and even more outlandish than the last opponent before moving on to the next episode and rinse and repeating. There is limited character development in the beginning and towards the end of the story, but for the most part the majority of characters simply make an appearance in one episode to be killed off in the next. The Dragon Stone and the accompanying march of the Light Maiden acts as the vehicle for this tale of destruction and this is pretty much par for the course for the rest of the series.
We do get a couple of supporting characters to add to the ‘story’ and ‘mystery’, but unfortunately they really aren’t good enough to add anything special into the mix and unfortunately this leaves one with no other choice but to declare Ninja Scroll: The Series as pretty much a brain-dead exercise in futility. BUT, and it is a big but, if on the other hand you don’t really care all that much about story and instead just want plain, all out action, then Ninja Scroll simply doesn’t put a foot wrong. Each and every fight is a masterpiece with innovative opponents and ‘abilities’ for Jubei and his trusty compressed air sword skill to tackle, all of which usually comes to a sharp end with a lot of blood and body parts flailing about. It’s certainly as visceral as its predecessor, that much is without a doubt (although I do have to mention that some of the characters and abilities kind of go a bit overboard, leaning quite far out to the ridiculous and just plain stupid category – though if you are already a big Naruto fan then this shouldn’t bother you even in the least! :P).
Artistically, MADHOUSE goes for some fairly interesting and not necessarily attractive facial designs, but overall their character models and environments are all very nicely detailed and portrayed, making Ninja Scroll: The Series certainly look a little bit above ordinary. The chosen colour palette is surprisingly vibrant though, a little bit of a mystery to me as I might have thought that they would have opted for a slightly more gritty feel to the visuals just to try and make the animation a little darker, edgier perhaps. Oh well, at least I can’t complain about the smoothness of the animation and the excellently choreographed fight scenes which really do at times keep you on the edge of you seat. Actually, there are in fact a lot of stylish samurai conventions packed in for good measure as well, so fans of the genre should be kept pretty happy on the visual front as well then.
Musically, Ninja Scroll comes up strong with some excellent arrangements and a very peculiar but perfectly positioned opening number (by Kitaro and Peter McEvilley) which certainly serves to kick off the show with a bang. Similarly the majority of the voice actors all do a stellar job, with the two lead voice actors in veterans Houko Kuwashima as Shigure and Rikiya Koyama as Jubei both putting in exceptionally strong voice performances.
So in summary, if you are looking for a nice juicy, meaty samurai-influenced story then Ninja Scroll: The Series doesn’t exactly offer all that much. However, if you want to see some awesome, extremely well-executed and violent fight scenes with a lot of blood splatter then you will most certainly enjoy it, meaning that ultimately it is up to the type of viewer as to who will get the most satisfaction out of this short, but polished anime series.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninja_Scroll:_The_Series