Naruto, Shikamaru and Sakura are in the middle of returning a lost ferret to its owner – what they think to be the easiest mission ever. However, when a young knight by the name of Temujin attacks them out of nowhere, they are drawn into a fierce struggle over a treasure that harbours a legendary power – the Stone of Gelel.
They discover that Temujin’s master wants to use the stone’s power to create what he believes to be a utopia, while the last of the clan that once controlled the stone want to keep it sealed away forever for he good of the world. Naruto and his team, with a bit of help from Gaara and Kankuro from the Sand Village, must protect the stone from those who want to misuse its power. When the dream of a utopia becomes a nightmare, Naruto needs to use every technique at his disposal in order to guarantee a victory.
Legend of the Stone of Gelel came out in Japan in 2005. By the time that it finally reached overseas marketing three years later some aspects of the animation started to feel a little bit dated. With the TV series’ animation coming on in leaps and bounds, you can see how far things have come in just a few short years. However, we shouldn’t write this one off just yet.
With Sasuke having taken his leave of the Leaf Village at this point in the timeframe, we have Shikamaru as his replacement who effectively fills the role of the third person in the cell to make up Team 7. Sadly, we see no mention of Kakashi in this film, which will be a disappointment to all Copycat Ninja fans.
What Gelel is and how it’s used is explained throughout the film, but essentially it’s just another source of power for people without chakra, and it doesn’t need any greater justification than that, really. The plot is generally simple and straightforward, though it’s not without appeal and is noticeably improved from the first film, with far more satisfying action scenes and employment of its cast. Temujin is also a decent character, and even though the rest of the villains are just evil stock-characters, they still manage to fill their roles nonetheless.
I find that I’m genuinely enjoying the Naruto feature-length films. They allow those in the fandom that are getting bogged down by the TV series’ filler episodes to break out and watch something fresh and succinct with a new plot line to break things up. The good thing with this cast is that they are so diverse and the land they live in is so detailed that stories slip easily and convincingly into place without needing too much exposition or information-dump in order to understand things. Generally, those watching the films are familiar with the characters, their personalities and their backstories up until now, but are getting to watch these characters interact with new characters in a fresh environment, for a change.
The visuals are good, though sometimes the characters are a little lacking in the artwork department, sometimes not having much of a defined outline, I noticed, but this does lend itself well to otherwise impossible fight scenes, and they usually do justice to the iconic character designs. The backgrounds are particularly good as well, (sometimes too good, as it’s usually the detail in the background that brings to light the lack of such in some of the characters).
The story is fairly traditional and structured – don’t expect any jaw-dropping twists or edge-of-your-seat scenes. There were also a couple of things I noticed that I thought couldn’t be reasonably justified. For instance, I feel that Naruto’s powers towards the end became a little advanced for where he was supposed to be strength-wise in the main story. There was a scene towards the end where he managed to produce two different Rasengan with two different types of chakra, and apparently Gaara and Kankuro are very friendly with the Leaf ninja at this point, with no explanation. It seems disloyal to the main story and just looks like invented action for the sake of it, throwing out random tangents in an otherwise well-realised fictitious world. Suffice to say it’s best to take some of the things that happen in the films with a grain of salt sometimes.
Despite this, The Stone of Gelel is a far more satisfying action film than its predecessor, and since it only ever attempted to be an action film and didn’t ever claim to be more than what it provided on the surface, I wouldn’t have many reservations in recommending it to fans of the series.
This is a decent outing for the Naruto franchise. It’s a lighthearted adventure with many fun elements and big battles that will undoubtedly appease most of the huge fandom. Though predictable in plot, we get to see some great characters, some excellent ninjutsu and some interesting and original tactics for those great one-on-one battles that Naruto is famous for.