If you haven’t heard of Naruto yet, you’ve either been living in a cave or obsessively avoid all contact with manga; it’s the single bestselling series of comics in the US today, regularly placing multiple volumes on bestseller lists. (The animated version is also a decent-sized TV hit, especially among teenage boys.) In case you have been managing to avoid Naruto so far, Viz is making it really difficult to continue: they’re releasing the new volumes of the series three at a time every month this fall, and also threw in a direct-to-video movie, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, to boot.
It’s the movie we’ll be looking at today. I watched it twice over this past weekend, once alone and once in the company of my older son (my resident Naruto expert). The production values are clearly better than the animated show, which I’ve only seen intermittently – even the colors seem brighter and more vibrant. It may be direct-to-video in the US, but it’s a top-notch animated movie, with CGI effects blending very nicely with mostly hand-drawn 2D animation. It’s not quite up to the level of the very best theatrical animation, but the characters are fluid, the backgrounds are stunning, and the action is gripping and well choreographed.