Naruto: The Lost Story is an interesting case of anime coming out in the UK before it does anywhere else in America. Unfortunately, it isn’t an epic or even a great movie, let alone much to hold over anyone else, simply because, in itself, it’s just too short, and what’s exclusive to the UK isn’t the OVA, but an extra on the disc.
The Lost Story is like another episode in the series, generally looking only slightly better, and offering a story that, from end-to-end, lasts less than forty minutes. With similarly humble beginnings, Sakura narrates the premise of the story; Kakashi and Team 7 are on a mission to accompany and protect Shibuki, the new leader of the Village Hidden in the Waterfall, and son of the previous leader, a great and respected man. But just like Inari from the Land of the Waves, Shibuki is a coward, and doesn’t respect his father for dying in the defence of his village.
Fortunately the local children are fond of him, and think he’s as much a hero as any, especially since he hasn’t been called on to fight or prove it yet. The mission soon looks over, and Kakashi is called back to the Village Hidden in the Leaves for an emergency meeting of Jounin, with Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura having nothing better to do, having arrived unharmed, than to be put to work picking up litter in the waterfall.
Things soon take a change for the worse, of course, as the Village Hidden in the Waterfall comes under attack by a group of rogue ninja with no immediately apparent motive. Shibuki and the children had thus far been loitering outside the hidden entrance to the village, unwilling to reveal its location to the members of Team 7 – but convinced by an ailing villager that they are under attack, and soon besieged themselves, the weak and cowardly Shibuki can only call on Team 7’s help.
What elapses is then a confrontation with the bandits, brandishing all the cunning and jutsu of the battles the series is famous for, but having so little in the way of plot that saying any more would literally deprive The Lost Story of anything to tell. As far as it goes, the film holds its own in terms of general quality, when compared to the series, but fails to deliver either the emotional weight of the Zabuza arc, or the volume of action found in the Chuunin exam episodes. It compares more favourably with the recent Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow movie, but is less original, and doesn’t take the series as far into new territory.
There is some relief, however, in the fact that the disc is also accompanied by a second OVA, ‘Find the Red Four-Leaved Clover’, a quirkier fifteen minute love story centred on Konohamaru’s affection for a young girl about to leave the village. Rather than just let her go, Konohamaru decides to wake Naruto and have him help in acquiring the fabled red four-leaved clover, over which he can make a wish, and stop her from leaving. But it would seem that the clover is hidden in Akagahara, a training ground for Jounin, which resembles the Forest of Death in the preliminary to the Chuunin exam.
I actually found myself more contented with this than the main feature at the time, whether that’s because I had less expectations, or enjoyed how culturally Japanese it was by comparison with the other films I don’t know. But it isn’t without its own slew of problems. I can only imagine it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the fact remains that it doesn’t make up for The Lost Story’s brevity (itself being just fifteen and a half minutes long). Found in the extras menu alongside a few trailers, some fans might miss it altogether (though it helps that the DVD case clearly advertises its presence), and its Japanese language, English subtitled nature, which cannot be altered, means that some younger viewers may be confused by changes in the names of their favourite characters trademark techniques.
Overall I enjoyed the films, but I understand that I didn’t have to pay for them. I’m not sure how much it will cost to pick up The Lost Story, but with both running together at less than an hour, including the credits, you really have to ask if you think it is worth what is being asked for. The Lost Story is at best a good episode, and at worst, a bad episode that derives its story from others in the series and the Dragonball movies (it really is quite blatant). So I can only console myself with the thought that the director probably approached it and the extra side story with the hopes of creating two short but comfortable little stories as appendage to the series, and achieved just that.
The Lost Story is best left to compulsive fans and completionists in most instances, because in itself, even accompanied by Find the Red Four-Leaved Clover, it is never better or worse than the series at its most average, and is probably too short to justify a purchase for most. A seven if you think its worth the asking price, but I’ll air on the side of caution and give it a six.