Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Naruto: The Lost Story contains an OVA exclusive episode titled, "Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village!" The OVA was originally released in Japan on December 20, 2003. Viz Media produced an English dub of this OVA episode and released it on May 19, 2007.
At the beginning of the OVA, Kakashi and the members of Team 7 (Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke), are escorting a ninja named Shibuki back to his home. Shibuki is the leader of Takigakure, the Waterfall Village. Unfortunately, Shibuki is a coward, and it turns out that a former shinobi from Takigakure is planning to take advantage of this fact in order to gain the "Hero's Water," which is a special water of the village that gives a person who drinks it a temporary dramatic increase in chakra.
As Team 7 is about to wrap up their mission, they are asked to help clean garbage from some water near Takigakure. A messenger bird arrives from the Hidden Leaf Village, with a message requesting that Kakashi return to the village for an important meeting of the Jonin. Kakashi leaves Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke to finish with the cleanup project. As they are about to wrap up and go home, Takigakure is attacked. The rest of the OVA focuses on what happens during the confrontation.
While this OVA story isn't bad, I feel its 40 minute runtime is a little on the short side; as I watched the episode, the story felt a bit rushed, and I thought it probably would have been better if this had been made as an hour-long episode.
At the beginning of the story, you feel as if you're jumping into the middle; even though Sakura gives a voice over narration to explain what's going on, I still felt like something was missing. Perhaps the story would have been a little stronger if it had opened instead with Team 7 being assigned to escort Shibuki, and this could have been followed by a montage of events that take place on their journey from the Hidden Leaf Village to Takigakure.
Another thing that would have really strengthened this episode in regards to the writing would have been to include a little more backstory for Shibuki. In the story, while we are given some backstory, the audience is told what backstory is given, rather than being shown. With animation being such a visual medium, I think it would have been more effective to provide a more complete backstory by showing flashbacks in order to utilize the visual nature of the medium. As a viewer, I found it hard to root for Shibuki, especially when you really should be cheering for him in the climax.
Even with the story flaws, I still think the weakest part of this OVA is the animation. As I watched the episode, it really came across to me as if the animation had been a rush job; unfortunately, since this episode was produced to be direct-to-video, there's probably a bit of truth to this assessment. While the later episodes of the first Naruto anime series had some bad-looking animation, I thought the animation in the OVA looked a little worse than that. There were some shots in this episode where the characters looked rather "blocky" and ill-defined.
While Naruto: The Lost Story isn't a bad episode, it's not as strong as it could have been, thanks to the weaknesses in the writing and animation. This is a release that I can only truly recommend to die-hard Naruto fans who want to have every Naruto episode and film ever released in their anime collection.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of the Naruto: The Lost Story OVA DVD that my husband and I purchased.