This, the first Naruto film, is also the only one to date that I saw on a big screen. I saw it first as a fansub in 2005, but then caught it again in 2007 when there was a single promotional screening in London. That may well mean that it is the one and only Naruto film I’ve watched through twice. By 2007 Naruto was already losing its lustre as a series, though had nothing like the blind hatred it gets today, but in 2005 I was quite genuinely keen on the series, before filler made it a laughing stock and the post-timeskip manga storyline even put off the long-term fans.
There were worse ones I could have suffered through. I quite liked this movie adaptation, if truth be told. Because, as I wrote on May 02, 2005, it really made me giggle.
‘I really enjoyed it!’ I went on. ‘No, it was nothing like as good as the early chapters of the manga, and had a very trite story, but that was alright. Team Seven have never been so beautifully drawn and animated, Naruto himself has rarely been so hilarious and some of the shorter fight scenes were very satisfying. The story was merely functional, with barely a new idea throughout, but on occasion, it's fun to watch something brainless - especially if you know and like the characters already. The context (movie stars, machines) was so different from the kind of thing Kishimoto writes that it felt like another series altogether – and we also got a USEFUL Sakura, which was just bizarre, but very welcome!
I found it to be a lot of fun. Not the best movie ever made, but certainly enjoyable, and I'd watch it again quite happily.’
Those impressions have not changed, really. Naruto had a great cast in 2005 and some really fun ideas. Those who pour vitriol on it today likely never experienced the exuberant fun of it when we didn’t know what a state it was going to end up in. Back then, the aesthetic could still be stunning, the associated talent still remarkable (director Okamura Tensai coming fresh from working on Wolf’s Rain) and the end result still pleasing. Fond memories here, and I don’t care who disapproves.
(the English title is Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow)