Naruto - The Lost Story Review
Made as a standalone OVA special that was premiered at the 2004 Shounen Jump Festa convention, Naruto: The Lost Story follows Team Kakashi as they are just completing a C-ranked mission to accompany a rather timid ninja named Shibuki back to the “Village Hidden in the Waterfall”, where he is the unlikely village leader. As they reach the village’s secret waterfall entrance, Kakashi receives urgent message of a special Jounin meeting he has to immediately attend back in Konoha, leaving Naruto, Sasuke, & Sakura to finish the mission and head back home themselves. However, just as they start their way back, an injured woman comes out from the village entrance, warning Shibuki that a band of rogue ninjas have attacked the village and taken everyone hostage. These ninjas are led by the ruthless Suien, who was once known as the strongest Jounin in the village, and they are holding the villagers to force Shibuki into revealing the secret location of the Hero’s Water. This water is said to increase the Chakra of those who drink it by several ten-fold, and in the hands of the wrong person it could spell the end of the Village Hidden in the Waterfall. As Shibuki wrestles with his own fears and the dilemma of the ransom, Naruto as ever plans to confront the bad guys and rescue the villagers.
This will probably be the shortest review I’ll ever write for this site, because Naruto: The Lost Story is basically just a double-episode length filler story that sticks unequivocally to the archetypal Naruto plotline: Team Kakashi take a seemingly low-ranked mission escorting someone with emotional scars who turn out to be the leader of a village or country that we later find has been taken over by evil invading ninjas. You can see variations of this story in the TV series’ Wave Country story arc and pretty much all of the Naruto films to boot. It’s been done to death, and this Jump Festa special brings absolutely nothing new to the table.
Aside from the imaginatively bankrupt story there’s also one other major gripe I have with The Lost Story: It is completely devoid of any kind of visual flair. The Naruto universe is meant to be a bright, colourful, and visually engaging, but the Waterfall Village looks extremely bland – just a waterfall, a big tree, and a series of wooden houses. The same can be said for the character design as well, with the main villains looking like the generic “background” punks. I know the special was probably shot on a micro-budget for a comic book festival, but you’d think they would have hired a production designer who could be arsed to put pen to paper for longer than five minutes. Another, admittedly minor problem with the special is that the writers have decided to use established villages from the original series to assign to each villainous nin – namely the Waterfall, Rain, and Grass Villages. The problem with this is that these villages are described and fleshed out later on in the Naruto manga/anime, and the info we are given about the villages and their allies, clashes somewhat with the details revealed in this special.
The action is just as unimaginative as the story. It’s only in the final act that we are treated to any real fight sequences, and when it does start we witness a couple of midlevel water techniques and some chakra-boosted taijutsu. At some point Naruto and Suien end up flying about like the characters of Dragonball Z, not I know Naruto is heavily influenced by Toriyama’s grand opus but it does at least attempt to stay within the confines of scientifically “sound” fantasia. Even when Naruto teams up with Sasuke to take on Suien the fight sorely lags the ingenuity of their double teaming in the fight against Zabuza in the Wave Country arc.
If Naruto: The Lost Story were just a normal, 20 minute filler episode squeezed between Main arcs in the TV series I would probably be a lot more forgiving of its flaws, but as a 40 minute standalone OVA special it is woefully inadequate. The irony is that the purpose these Jump Festa specials are put into production is so the TV studios showing these Anime series can put on a show demonstrating their ability to come up with fresh stories for their own projects, but all this special does is demonstrate the gulping chasm in talent between the Manga writers of these Shounen series and the studio staff writers who are called upon to add filler episodes when adapting them into Anime form.
PresentationPresented at approximately close to the original 4:3 aspect ratio; Naruto: The lost Story is a rather dull animation given a rather average video presentation. The colour scheme is generally ok, with solid colour reproduction but a slightly over-processed look that I suspect might be down to the production process. Thereis a little bleeding and chroma noise present in the colours, but nothing that should distract. Contrast and brightness too are pretty solid, no complaints there, but once again compression is an issue on this DVD-5 disc with the double whammy of noticeable low-level noise and mosquito noise in the areas of fine detail. Perhaps most disheartening is the level of composite artefacts present throughout the image, mostly in the shape of minor cross-colouration and extremely heavy dot crawl, but there’s also some composite ringing. The print used is pretty pristine and in keeping with the look of the TV series is slightly lacking in detail. As a final note this is a NTSC>PAL standards conversion with some extremely ugly judder in panning shots.
There are four audio options present: Japanese DD2.0/DD5.1 and English DD.20/DD5.1. Bearing in mind that this was most likely recorded and premiered in DD2.0, this is the audio track I consider the “original” and just happens to offer the strongest sonic presentation, with good dynamics and clear audible dialogue. The bass is a little weak, but doesn’t sound hollow in any way. The soundstage sounds natural, with rear channels being used for ambient sounds and the score. The DD5.1 soundtrack isn’t quite up to the same standards, the main problem is that dialogue and SFX are much much higher in the mix, ruining the dynamics and drowning out the score and ambient sounds somewhat. Bass is also much louder in comparison to the DD2.0, but it’s not quite as full as it should be. The English soundtracks match the Japanese in quality, just with slightly louder dialogue.
Optional English subtitles are provided with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.
ExtrasApart from a bunch of Manga UK promo trailers which I’ve listed in the column to the right of this review, the only extra present on this disc is the first Jump Festa special that was made for the 2003 event: Find The Red Four-Leaved Clover. Presented to the same standards as the main feature, but in Japanese DD2.0 only and with forced player generated English subtitles, this 17 minute episode sees Konohamaru begging Naruto for help finding the titular red clover because he thinks it will grant him his wish to stop fellow classmate and love interest Yoshino Kaede from having to move to another village with her father. What follows is a series of misadventures as the dopey duo end up battling a series of booby traps as they scour the dangerous territory of Akagahara, eventually requiring the help of the other members of Team Kakashi. Like most Naruto comedy “filler” episodes the gags are very hit and miss, but this short episode is much more fun than the bloated 40 minute main feature.
OverallNaruto: The Lost Story is little more than a bland 20 minute filler episode padded out into a deeply uncreative 40 minute “village under attack” jaunt. I’m sure fans of the show will be interested in checking it out, but anyone else would be advised to either get the first Naruto film or start on the TV series. Ideally the special should have been added as an extra on one of the volumes of the TV series, but no doubt contractual obligations has led to Manga UK releasing it as a standalone feature. If you are actually interested in checking it out, the good news is that has a low RRP of £12.99 – meaning it can be found online for around £7.99 from the e-tailers linked to in the left hand column. There is also the added bonus feature: Find The Red Four-Leaved Clover, another 17 minute Jump Festa Special that is much more fun than The Lost Story.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:10:10