One of the better Naruto movies in recent memory, due to the use of most of the main cast, an actual plot which is decent which delves into Kakashi’s past, and some really good action scenes, which is what you want out of Naruto, but don’t always get…here, you get it.
What They Say :
Has Kakashi betrayed the Leaf Village?! Four ninjas with bloodline limits who have been guarding the Hidden Villages of Cloud, Stone, Mist and Sand disappear from their respective villages. The Land of Fire comes under suspicion as it is the only country to have suffered no loss. Mounting suspicion among the four countries almost brings about a 4th Great Ninja War. In the Hidden Village of Leaf, Tsunade orders her men to keep strict guard against War and to try to find out what really happened. At the same time, it turns out that Kakashi has left the village. The bad news deeply disturbs Naruto and his friends.
The movie has a good start as it has 5.1 Japanese and English Dolby tracks. I decided to watch the movie the first half in Japanese and the second half in English. As far as I noticed, there is very little difference in quality for either, which is of very high quality – the subtitles weren’t a problem in the half I watched from the Japanese in terms with keeping in time with the audio, there was no distortion or volume issues – almost everything could be heard easily at the same time, whether voice, background or effects. The visual quality is one of the best in terms of Naruto, much more concise animation wise, with excellent backgrounds showcased here in widescreen format, with no slowdown or pause issues. It’s been a while since I’ve been impressed by a Naruto release, but this definitely does it.
The menu is standard, shot of Naruto on a grey background in mid-air, whilst the menu is shown on a scroll with the selections of Play Movie, Scenes, Set Up and Extras – with it being a movie as well, we get a scene select which I appreciate more as you don’t get them nowadays in series releases. No problems regarding selection from the main menu or from the movie, standard but applicable.
The only extras on the movie release are a few Naruto related trailers – one for the movie (which showcases this was the 10th anniversary of Naruto when originally released in 2009), the textless closing song of the movie, some nice production art of Hiruko and his followers, and trailers for Naruto The Movie: Ninja Clash In The Land Of Snow, and a general trailer of the Naruto Shippuden Series.
The Naruto movies have never really hit a chord with me – as whilst they are mostly based on original stories, the main weaknesses are the fact the key protagonist used is an original character which doesn’t really endear themselves to the audience. However, this movie does it smart and makes the main protagonist one of the main (and most popular) characters in Kakashi, actually tries and incorporates it into the main story despite being non-canon, and makes it much more enjoyable overall – this combined with practically all of the main Konoha ninjas actually getting involved outside of a cameo also helps the story and movie go along far better as all your favourites are involved in some way or another (unless you’re a Sasuke fan).
The plot involves an outbreak of missing ninjas with the Kekkai Genkai abilities causing concern for Tsunade that a 4th Great Ninja War could break out – we see Naruto, Sai, Sakura and Kakashi on a mission to follow and save some of these ninja when Kakashi seems to recognize the energies emitting is similar to a former comrade of the past of Tsunade, a ninja named Hiruko, who is after Kakashi’s Sharingan. We get a glimpse of the past as Kakashi and Hiruko met and Hiruko put a curse on him to make him act as his puppet. Recognizing the threat Hiruko possesses as he wants to get the last Gekkai from the Land Of Fire and then instigate the Ninja War, and to do so, wishes to absorb Kakashi’s Sharingan. Kakashi asks Tsunade for him to be outcast, knowing Konoha could be at risk if he stays, and leaves as been exiled, with Tsunade and Shikamaru knowing about this.
Unsurprisingly, Naruto doesn’t take this well – thinking Kakashi did something wrong and was wronged without question, so he, Sai and Sakura go out to try and find him. Because of Kakashi’s status as a missing-nin now, Tsunade sends out the remaining teams (Shikamaru/Chouji/Ino, Kiba/Shino/Hinata and Rock Lee/Neji/Tenten) to retrieve them, but you can tell that they will most likely be involved in saving Kakashi as much as trying to stop their friend.
The story splits between Kakashi’s story, as we get flashbacks of how he met Hiruko and with his old team, and with Naruto’s group bumping into each of the teams who are trying to reason with him. Tsunade even asks Gaara to get involved – which leads to sequences of initially trying to stop Naruto, but when Hiruko sends various minions over, each of the teams ‘stops behind’ to stop with this new threat, and not so conveniently allowing Naruto to continue his mission. It was great to see all the characters from the past have at least a decent role in this movie, Shikamaru as the one boss type character that has evolved due to certain spoilers in the series, his talks with Naruto are a good summarization of order vs. selfishness – and the similar talks/battle Naruto gets with Gaara as well, referencing their past and how much Gaara has grown as a leader as Kazekage and how much Naruto has grown as a person in his beliefs.
The conclusion is when Kakashi goes to Hiruko and is confronted by Naruto just before Hiruko absorbs him. Kakashi remembers the lessons he gave Naruto (early returns the training bells he used right in their first meeting WAY back) – the other ninjas help fight off a summon beast he created whilst Naruto and Kakashi face Hiruko who has the ability to absorb energies and techniques – it actually takes strategy from Naruto and Kakashi (again showcasing how much Naruto has grown) to defeat him as Kakashi realizes his real duties and friendships, as a story is actually told showcasing the difference of opinions and loyalty they all have.
The movie is quite short in comparison but there are lots of little things about it that I really enjoyed. First the references to when Kakashi and Naruto first met (you get flashbacks of their first training mission when Kakashi told Sakura/Sasuke not to feed Naruto, and they did but that was what he wanted) and how much the characters mean to each other and that Naruto always considering Kakashi not just as a teacher but as a friend, whilst Kakashi tries to be noble in saving his village, but at the same time knows what is right in his heart.
Secondly, we have the conversations with Shikamaru with Naruto, as well as Gaara with Naruto, as their more calm and reserved sides clash with Naruto’s more impulsive side, yet again you can see both sides of the argument, and how they can both be right. We actually get Naruto doing a lot more thinking but at the same time also believing he is right, and seeing how his friends do trust and care for him when defending against Hiruko’s minions.
Thirdly, the battle sequences were very well done and very intense – it was great seeing all of the Konoha ninjas getting to do something (Tenten, yes TENTEN, actually finishes off the main chimera beast, never thought I’d type that), seeing things like the Hyuuga cousins work together, Chouji, Ino and Shika all teaming up, Shino showcasing his strategy style battle, and of course a bit of Rock Lee over the top ness, the animation was superb and fluid, the battle with Kakashi/Naruto vs. Hiruko was also really good and psychological as well as physical.
It does fall into a number of weaknesses as most of the Naruto movies do tend to do though. Whilst the villain is a bit more engaging due to his past with the Sannin and with Kakashi, and at least it is a focus on someone from Konoha, he is still not very interesting outside of that because the focus is on the journey, and we only see him mostly via flashbacks. The way he manipulates and controls Kakashi whilst good, is only briefly described and basically it’s just via Kakashi ‘abandoning’ Konoha do we see this at work. Plus, his minions are simply there as an excuse for the other Konoha ninjas to work together to stop them and let Naruto go ahead on his journey. And whilst Gaara’s appearance was well timed and enjoyable, it didn’t seem necessary and could have been used just via Shikamaru whilst more time in trying to make Hiruko seem more of a worthwhile villain.
The story is better than most but still kind of basic as it is your typical shounen jump movie. And again, whilst it was great the other ninjas were involved, outside of Shikamaru and Gaara, you never really get to decipher their thoughts about the situation in obeying their orders or trying to stop Naruto. I would have loved to see what the inner monologue would have been for Rock Lee and Hinata in this decision as their turmoil over friend and love interest for example, but we never got that. It just felt more stuff could have been used compared to what we did get in the end.
However, overall this was one, if not the best Naruto movies considering some of the stuff over the years. The fact most of the main cast was involved, combined with great animated battles and a story whilst not perfect, did at least link with the story of the main manga/anime much better than others, and seeing Kakashi having a real crisis in his mind and how Naruto, his student, snaps him out of it combined with them teaming up was a real joy to watch. It’s certainly not perfect at all, it’s not going to be a Ghibli movie any time soon, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a decent watch for an hour and a bit, and can just shut your brain and watch ninjas pound each other and monsters to smithereens.
And sometimes that’s all you need.
The Naruto movies always have felt like filler and whilst this does as well, it is still one of the better ones due to its attempt in incorporating it into the story whilst focusing on one of the more popular adult characters. Getting most of the cast involved was also a welcome change and the fact they all did stuff allows everyone’s favourite a moment in the spotlight at least. The battle sequences are excellent and the villain, whilst still fillerish, at least was a step in the right direction. One of the better ones and one of the few I would recommend both to Naruto fans and just casual shounen fans in general.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening/Ending
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 12th, 2013
Running Time: 93 minutes