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Frothy ninja tale
on July 26, 2008
The vast majority of movies adapted from TV anime -- especially for anime that are still running -- are basically like long episodes of the TV series.
That pretty much sums up the second "Naruto" movie, straightforwardly called "Naruto the Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel." It's a puff pastry of a movie, but it has pretty much everything you'd expect of a Naruto story -- lots of slam-bang fight scenes, a big dramatic threat and a megamalomaniac villain. But it also feels like the writers and designers were making a cultural potlock for maximum effect.
As the story opens, the Sand Ninja -- including Gaara and Kankuro -- are battling a band of strange armored foreigners, who also have a very impressive warship.
Elsewhere, Naruto, Sakura and Shikamaru are handling their easiest assignment -- returning a ferret to its owner. But a clash with an armored warrior named Temujin brings Naruto into contact first with a caravan of wanderers, and then with Temujin's charismatic master. Master Haido holds almost religious sway over his various followers, and insists that he and his friends are trying to create a utopia of perfect peace.
Except nothing is ever that simple in a movie, or it would be very short. Naruto follows Temujin and finds out what "sacrifices" are being made under Haido's orders. And Haido's true motives are revealed when the leader of the caravan reveals an ancient story of a long-lost empire, and the staggering power that led to their destruction. Now it's up to Naruto and his friends to stop Naido, before he gets to the Mines of Gelel.
"Legend of the Stone of Gelel" pretty much sticks to the basic "Naruto" anime formula -- deranged villains seeking ultimate power, nasty minions with their own set of powers, and Naruto and his pals triumphing over the baddie after getting smashed into the floor about a dozen times. It's a fluff action anime, and has few differences from the TV series, but it's pretty entertaining fluff.
The writers also throw in a rather hackneyed message about the importance of friendship and stuff. Okay Naruto, we get it -- friends are important. But along the way, it doles out plenty of fight scenes, colorful techniques, and a fairly interesting backstory for the stones of Gelel, and the remaining people from its fallen empire. It moves by at a fast clip with lots of explosive fight scenes, especially when the ever-stoic Gaara battles a woman who can control lightning.
As the plot winds on, they up the ante to make the action ever more explosive and complex, right up to a finale involving a black hole, and a massive implosion in an underground cavern.
But in their quest to amp up the action and the visuals, the makers of "Legend of Gelel" went a little too far. The villain and his minions dress like medieval Europeans, and the ancient empire appears to have been populated by Aztecs. What's more, the baddie is inexplicably able to turn into a rock monster, and his minion is able to turn into beasts. But we have no idea why.
None of the characters really get explored much -- Naruto is his usual bombastic, hyperactive self and spends much of the movie brooding over the injustices of what's going on, his buddies show off their special skills, and the baddie is a cackling madman. Temujin is the most deeply explored of the characters, and the writers do a pretty decent job outlining his tragic, warped personality.
"Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel" is an amusing, fluffy action anime that echoes the tone of the TV series, albeit with some rather bizarre trappings.