Reviewby Luke Carroll,
Naruto Jump Festa Collection
A collection of NARUTO specials previously only seen at the SHONEN JUMP FESTIVAL in Japan.
Jump Festival 2004 Special - Mission: Protect the Hidden Waterfall Village (dual-language). Naruto and the others arrive at the Village Hidden in the Waterfall on an escort mission for Shibuki, the young leader of the village. Things seem peaceful until Kakashi leaves on urgent business and the village is attacked by Suien, a former Hidden Waterfall jonin and his band of rogue ninja who are after the village treasure, Hero's Water. Now Naruto must join forces with cowardly Shibuki and show him what it means to be a hero!
Jump Festival 2003 Special - Mission: Find the Red Four-Leaf Clover (subtitled only). Konohamaru, the grandson of the third Hokage has a crush on a girl. Unfortunately for him though she's soon to be moving away to another village. Desperate to have her stay he seeks out the legendary crimson four-leaf clover, which is said to grant the person one wish. Trouble is it's hidden in a forbidden part of the village and it's up to our hero Naruto to help out his young comrade.
With over 200 episodes and half a dozen specials to its name, Naruto is by far one of the most popular anime to have been released in recent years. Its mix of humour, action and suspense helped it to become not only a big hit with children but adults as well. Now with the series currently being released successfully onto dvd, Madman Entertainment have decided to treat the fans by releasing the Jump Festa Collection, an action packed dvd containing the two specials that were only shown at the annual Shonen Jump Festival in Japan.
Before I go any further I'd like to explain two things about these specials. They are not linked to the main plot at all. Watching them will not spoil anything to come if you're only a fraction into the series. Secondly they're based roughly around episode 80 for the first special and episode 20 for the second, so Naruto and company are back to being the less mature group they first started out to be (with Sakura being noticeably more useless than ever before). This of course doesn't stop the two specials from being any less enjoyable than they already are, but it is something worth considering before you watch them.
The first of the two specials on the disc is Protect the Waterfall Village, a 40 minute action romp which plays out one of the most common and predictable plots to ever grace the face of anime. After finishing a mission to escort the leader of the Village Hidden in the Waterfall back to his land, Naruto and the gang decide to stay a little while to help clean up a mess they find near the village. Kakashi is urgently whisked away before the village is suddenly attacked by a group of rogue ninjas bent on obtaining the village's sacred treasure, Hero's Water. With Sasuke and Sakura captured in the attack, it's up to Naruto to change the cowardly village leader Shibuki into a hero before it's too late.
The second feature on the disc is Find the Red Four-Leaf Clover, a short comical piece about Konohamaru's goal of finding a sacred four leafed clover before the girl he has a crush on leaves the village. Enlisting Naruto's help, the two set out on entering a forbidden part of the village once used for ninja commander tests. In true Naruto style, they take the trap ridden area on head first, only to find themselves in grave danger when they set off a group of unstoppable creatures. With time being of the essence, Naruto will have to rely on all the help he can get to stop these creatures and get Konohamaru back to the village in time.
Despite being OVA's, these two specials don't improve much over the series in terms of animation and style. The clear and vibrant look Naruto fans are used to is still here, although the first feature on the disc Protect the Waterfall Village certainly seems a lot more crisper than the second feature, due in no part to the year gap between the two. The character designs also remain largely unchanged with the forgettable extra cast looking the part regardless. Overall these specials have been given a decent transfer and should not look too far out of place no matter where you are in the series.
Anyone who has watched a few episodes of Naruto will know what to expect of the soundtrack. The tribal styled tunes blend nicely with the action and comedic scenes throughout both specials, however the suspense music which features in Protect the Waterfall Village is about as lackluster as those found in a Dragonball Z episode. Both soundtracks are mixed in Dolby 2.0 which although is quite fitting when compared to the series, feels like a missed opportunity for the English track especially in terms of bringing out some added depth.
That's assuming you even bother listening to the English Dub in the first place though, because its tolerance will vary between fine and downright painful depending on how much exposure to the Japanese cast you have had prior. Maile Flanagan's take on Naruto is surprisingly tolerable when compared to Dave Wittenberg's version of Kakashi which fails completely to capture much of the original flare and essence that surrounds the masked leader. The translation work is also quite average when compared to what we have become accustomed to, with the dub passing off as a more child friendly attempt at story telling than an attempt at being literal to the Japanese. Thankfully it manages to come together well enough to still be enjoyable despite noticeably being dumbed down. It is also worth noting though that the second special Find the Red Four-Leaf Clover is subtitled only. Whilst this may seem like an oversight, it is quite forgivable considering that the feature is actually a world exclusive and as such has yet to receive a dubbing.
For what could of had a lot of potential to be decent, Madman have surprisingly created a very underwhelming set of extras for this release. Instead of using the Jump Festival as a driving force to include some interesting information and extras, we are given a bare bones package in the shape of a paragraph long Introduction to Jump Festival, a number of Madman trailers and a reversible clean cover. It all comes as quite the missed opportunity, especially considering that the main features combined will barely last an hour in total.
So is the Jump Festa Collection worthy of a purchase then? Well if you are an avid Naruto fan who wants to see it all, then the answer would be a definite yes. It's comical Naruto at its best, and certainly a good way to see just how far the characters have really come in the show. For those who aren't fans however may want to give this a miss. Although it represents a cheaper and alternate way to see Naruto without the burden of a series collection, these two features only capture a small essence of what Naruto is like, and as such doesn't really do the series proper justice. Nevertheless despite having a number of shortfalls, if you believe you're a big enough Naruto addict then do yourself a favour and pick this release up; no true Naruto fan should be without it.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ World exclusive feature, Decent animation.
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