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Naruto Shippuden the Movie #2: Bonds UK Blu-ray Anime Review

6 min read

Naruto Shippuden is back for another big-screen outing, and seems determined to give us plenty of bang for our buck. It also sees Naruto given the chance to fight side-by-side once again with a certain moody former team-mate…

What They Say:
When an army of mysterious flying ninja appears over the skies above the Hidden Leaf Village and launches and unexpected aerial attack that leaves the village in a state of destruction, the finger of suspicion points towards the Sora-nin from Sky Country. The assault is believed to an act of revenge against Konoha’s actions against the Sky Country during the previous Shinobi World War. When it becomes known that another village on the outskirts of Fire Country has suffered the same fate, Naruto and his friends set out on an offensive mission to prevent any further attacks. During the course of the journey, Naruto crosses paths with Sasuke, his former friend who has since parted ways with the people of the Leaf Village. Adapted from the best-selling manga created by Masashi Kishimoto, the animated Naruto has rapidly developed into an international phenomenon. Firmly establishing itself as one of the most popular anime series in North America and Japan, Naruto has been described as the “ninja Harry Potter for the Pokemon generation”.

The Review:
Audio:
Audio is provided in English and Japanese 5.1 tracks, both in DTS-HD MA format – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. The action scenes are suitably explosive, but there’s some nice subtlety in the use of background effects during the quieter scenes too that works very well. There were no apparent problems.

Video:
Video is presented in 1080p using AVC, and is in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect, so it’s slightly letterboxed even on widescreen TVs. Strong colours are the order of the day, and there’s a decent amount of detail put into backgrounds and settings – making the most of that theatrical budget. Definitely a good-looking show, and the transfer appeared free of any obvious problems.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main screen gives us a nice action pose fo Naruto and Sasuke, with options on the left for Play All, Scenes, Setup and Extras.

Extras:
Provided extras are some trailers for the movie (including some English dub trailers), a “special” version of the opening song (which just seems to be the song set to a series of clips from the movie), and a production art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When an army of mysterious flying ninja appears over the skies above the Hidden Leaf Village and launches an unexpected aerial attack that leaves the village in a state of destruction, the finger of suspicion points towards the Sora-nin from Sky Country. The assault is believed to an act of revenge for the Leaf’s actions against the Sky Country during the previous Shinobi World War. When it becomes known that another village on the outskirts of Fire Country has suffered the same fate, Naruto and his friends set out on an offensive mission to prevent any further attacks – but during the course of the journey, Naruto crosses paths with Sasuke, his former friend who has since parted ways with the people of the Leaf Village…

Well, there’s something I never thought I’d see in Naruto – ninja aircraft carriers. As in, they’re launching flying ninjas from them. With a series that’s so deliberatly low-key in its use of technology – deliberately so, from what I’ve heard – the flying ninjas at the start of Bonds seem a little off-key. Fortunately, they’re just there as a plot hook of starting the destruction needed to kick-start the story – and once that’s done and dusted, the rest of the movie is back to dealing with things and people that we’re more familiar with.

On their way to deal with the ongoing attacks, Naruto and his team encounter Amaru – a young boy with a strong attachment to his scalpel, and who Naruto ends up having to save from drowning not long after they first meet. Amaru is apprentice to one of his village elders, a medic by the name of Dr Shinnou (hence the scalpel) – but no sooner have Naruto and the others met the old man, than their village is attacked by the mysterious raiders, with most of the residents – Shinnou included – being killed in the raid. Amaru, the sole survivor, naturally feels the urge to take revenge for this, but all is not as it seems.

For a start, his old mentor is in truth far from dead. Instead, this has all been part of an elaborate plan, to help him raise a giant, chakra-powered flying fortress that will grant him unimgainable power. It’s such a daring plan that it’s even attracted the attention of Orochimaru who, being aware of the Doctor’s abilities and wanting to keep him in check, dispatches Sasuke to deal with the problem – and in a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, Naruto and Sasuke end up joining forces to deal with the new threat. And Naruto x Sasuke fans rejoiced. Hell, I’m far from being a Sasuke fan, but even I appreciated his appearance this time around.

Okay, so the pairing up of the former friends / current adversaries seems a little forced, and deliberately created to please the legion of fans who seem to love that relationship. I rolled my eyes a little at that. But once you put that aside and take in the rest of the movie, it’s actually pretty good. I’ve always had a better time with movies of Shonen Jump shows than the TV series they’re spun off from – limited run-time works around most of the things that annoy me about fighting shows – and Bonds turns out to be one of the better ones, at that. It’s got a half-decent sense of humour, doesn’t mind messing with expectations a little bit (Amaru has a little secret that plays into both those aspects), and Naruto gets to do what he does best – be the hero that saves the day. There’s some of the usual silliness – power ups that just keep on coming, and one or two unlikely saves when things go wrong – but that’s all just part of the fun, with the movie being lighthearted enough that you don’t mind things like that so much. Not taking yourself seriously can make a hell of a difference sometimes.

As for Amaru… well, every Naruto / Bleach / insert fighting series here movie has a “guest” lead character that, almost by tradition, sort-of works and sort-of doesn’t, and Amaru is almost a poster child for that. His ‘big secret’ is fun and leads to some awkward moments for Naruto, but eventually he’s overshadowed by the bigger things that are going on around him, as Naruto and Sasuke take up the slack in dealing with his master. A halfway-interesting character who never gets the chance to be used to his full potential – but that’s almost what you expect, sadly.

In Summary:
Overall, though, I enjoyed Bonds – it’s big-screen action of the sort that Naruto does particularly well, the theatrical budget means that it looks the part (and the Blu-ray release helps with that, too), and while it stands aside from the main storyline and doesn’t have any impact outside its own confines, it’s a fun, low-brainpower way to waste an hour or so. Worth checking out.

Features:
Japanese Language 5.1, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Movie Trailers, Special Opening Song, Production Art

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: April 2nd, 2012
Running Time: 85 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37” widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI); Acoustic Solutions DS-22 5.1 speaker system.

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