The 4th Naruto Shippuden movie appears, and whilst the battle sequences are fluid and does a nice job with managing to get some interesting theories in play, it all feels like a recycled plot from a dozen other shounen action movies to make it sound out outside of the use of one particular character.
What They Say :
The Rogue Ninja Mukade is about to be caught by Naruto’s team when he summons forth the power of the Ley Line an ancient underground channel of chakra. Naruto gets caught up in the chakra and is sent back in time to the city of Loran, known for its thousand towers. There he encounters the future Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, on a top secret mission and the Queen of Loran, Sara, whose rule is threatened by Mukade. Will Naruto be able to return to his own time, and can a chance encounter in the past save the future. Plus, in an exclusive animated short, Naruto and his friends come across a magical genie in a bottle. The time has come for the last wish, but Naruto just may squander it.
Set in 5.1 Dolby Surround sound in both English and Japanese, like most movie releases this really showcases how good this was when originally realized in Japan. Both tracks are excellent as listened to half the movie in English and half in Japanese – there was no issues with the subtitles (done more professional looking than in the series) in sync with the audio and visual format. Set in widescreen, the animation was very fluid and the action sequences meant it was a great visual sequence as well. No issues regarding pausing and animation being blurry, no slowdown throughout either, so overall a very good release.
Menu is quite basic and not obvious when selecting at first – the main menu has Naruto in the centre in a rasengan pose with a scroll on the left with your selections (Play Movie, Scenes, Set Up, Extras) with the Naruto Shippuden logo on the top left. As it is a movie, we have scene selection rather than episode selection which I always liked better when this was sound in series but not so much anymore, the main issue I have with the menu is that it isn’t obvious at first you are selecting because the marker seems to be quite slow in responding when trying to select. No problems returning back to the main menu from watching the movie, but this occurred both in the main menu and extras menu so was a bit of an issue.
A few extras were on the movie – we had the clean ending movie song and various trailers in Japanese for the movie, a lot however being quite similar.
The nice extra that was there was a 15 minute short movie called Naruto And The Three Wishes. I’m assuming this was a pre-movie showing before the movie started (similar to when the Pokemon movies did shorts before the main feature) which is set back in their younger days so Sasuke is still with them, and the main trio of Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura are with all the other Konoha genin eating barbeque when Naruto stumbles upon a genie in a bottle. After first thinking it is not the real deal, thanks to Naruto accidentally wishing for something, they realize he’s the real deal…and then Naruto stupidly makes another wish. So now it’s a hunt to get what they want with the last wish. So it becomes a Benny Hill sketch when Naruto steals the bottle and the other genin basically chase after him. It’s quite a funny episode as we get Naruto wanting to be Hokage, Sakura wanting Sasuke’s love…Ino of course then trying to stop her, Kiba being knocked over several times, Shino actually wanting to be recognized, Rock Lee, Tenten and Neji forcing Naruto to pick a side for himself or his team, lovable Hinata being the innocent one and seeing how badly the genie is effecting them and Shikamaru actually being the smart one and suggesting an excellent compromise…only for it to be shot down in flames thanks to Kakashi. Much more enjoyable short that I expected.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The latest Naruto movie does seem to have that element of recycling when I watched it – unsure if it was from Naruto, or any of the other big shounen shows I’ve seen but it was a bit too familiar and predictable, albeit with one really interesting element using the time travel theme. Confusing elements as well didn’t help, but it looked and sounded great and the fights scenes at least were interesting enough to allow watching through it without keeping an eye on the time.
We start with Naruto’s team (Sakura, Yamato and Sai) chasing after a missing-nin named Mukade who seems to be a typical ‘take over the world’ villain, but with the added abilities to be able to find ancient chakra in the city of Rouran – and wants to use it to be able to travel to the past to change the world’s history and take it over through his puppets and decisions. He manages to unseal the chakra but as it exploded in light, it takes Naruto and Yamato along for the ride as they take a trip to the past…
They emerge in Rouran 20 years in the past…or when I say they, I mean Naruto as the two have been separated. He emerges very confused, before seeing a young woman singing. Approaching her, she scarpers with guards in tow, confusing him even more. As he wonders what is going on and where Mukade is, he is confronted by some hidden Konoha Leaf ninja which, you guessed it, confuses him even more, as it seems there are two timelines – one where Mukade arrived in and one where Naruto is…
…this becomes obvious when we see the girl in question, Sara, who is the queen of Rouran. She sees herself as beloved around and sees Naruto as nothing as a pest. However, thanks to him and the fellow Leaf ninja, she realizes the entire crowd is literally nothing but puppets. They can attack thanks to the ancient chakra which brings us some of the nicely animated fighting sequences, and it eventually leads to the three missing Leaf ninjas to reveal themselves, Chouji and Shino’s father…and Minato, one of the three Hokages and without spoiling things too much, has a very unique connection with Naruto as well…and apparently a young Kakashi is there as well…
Turns out Minato’s group is on a mission in their present time, and they discover Mukade, now known as Anrokuzan, gaining weight to disguise himself in case Naruto came back to the past, and was there 6 years before Naruto dropped in which allowed him to control Rouran. It is discovered he also killed Saras’ mother, and reveals his true control of the ancient chakra by transforming himself into a giant puppet to attack everyone.
This leads to Naruto and Sara trying to find everyone who has been turned into slaves to control the chakra for Anrokuzan, but the puppet is near invulnerable and able to regenerate thanks to the chakra. Minatos’ team attempt to hold it off as Naruto is simply told to protect Sara. Sara proves herself to be the worthy queen that she thought she was when they search for the people, leading them to escape and even returning back to try help Naruto despite no battle experience. The clincher is when Minato showcases he has the same techniques Naruto has due to his own training of Jiriaya, which leads to some realization moments of Naruto when the inevitable defeat of Anrokuzan happens, and with his chakra dissipated, they will all return to their pasts. It ends with some changes to the future with someone who looks like Sara appearing using a chakra knife that Naruto used…
Whilst writing the review, I felt I actually enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. The Minato/Naruto connection is very discreet without being overally spoilerish to those who haven’t got that far in the anime/manga so can be easily watched by anyone no matter how far you are in the series, loved the subtle development Sara has to get through from a bratty queen to realizing that her kingdom is in trouble and she needs to do something, and the fact we see that the time travel element added the fact there were three time lines (Naruto’s, Anrokuzan’s and Minato’s). At first it seems confusing, but in the end it works out quite well.
The other thing I liked about the movie was the fact that it showed Naruto’s growth to an extent. He isn’t heads up and because of the inherit connection with Minato does listen to him, and wonders why. There is a lot of thought gone through here which I wouldn’t have expected from a throwaway movie and because the villain, whilst one dimensional in terms of motive, is quite clever in how it is orchestrated. Plus it leads to some very fluid animation in the battle scenes, and nice to see the flashbacks seeing young Kakashis’ involvement as well.
Of course, there are also a number of issues with a movie of this nature. There is very little development outside of Naruto, Sara and Minato. Yamato is literally an afterthought and is ‘saved’ by the other ninjas to return right at the end, the villain whilst exceptional in doing what he does and the way he does it, is still a generic ‘take over the world’ villain with little personality, it was clear this needed a few episodes or a longer movie to really flesh it out. Also, the plot is very familiar with the time travel theme, and using ancient chakra as a deus-ex-machina for time travel is very contrived in what is still a ninja civilization, where time travel isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when you hear Naruto.
It also ends whilst interestingly, feel that the comic spot when Naruto returns and Sakura just hits him because he was looking at ‘Sara’ really didn’t help her at all – a minor point but the ending was great until that moment. Also unlike the previous movie which had all your favourite characters, here it’s mainly just Naruto, Minato and Sara for the majority of the movie. This is of course good for their development but the lack of any of the other teams is a shame for fans of Rock Lee, Shikamaru, Hinata, etc and just have to enjoy the extras instead for that.
Lastly, the movie suffered from extremely rushed plot convenience. Naruto is caught in a time loop, strange things happens, gets introduced to Sara, and then the other leaf ninjas, immediately realize problem, and solve it…when villain has been there for 6 years. Makes him seems stupid in his plotting and also the fact they had to rush to get to the conclusion which isn’t even made clear because there was no set date or time limit – it was just the villain having to kill the good guys or vice versa. It felt very contrived and didn’t flow well at all.
Still, despite this I found myself enjoying this. The relationship of Minato and Naruto gives you a smile when you know what their relationship is, the time paradox’ whilst done before gave it a unique spin on the Naruto universe, and the subtle development of one shot character Sara was at least well done. Nothing huge but certainly there are worse time wasters for an hour and a half.
The Lost Tower is mostly a throw away movie for the Naruto universe. Excellent audio and video help with the action sequences, but not with the rushed plot, basic villain motives and lack of interesting characters outside of the main lead, Minato and Sara. However, it’s a decent watch for a Naruto fan, as Naruto at least is at his least foolish, Minato’s role was pretty good and the time travel at least gave it a new spin, recycled or not. I’d say decent to watch at least once in both languages to appreciate the 5.1 and the fluid animation – there’s enough enjoyment you can get at least for one watch.
Content Grade: C+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 3rd, 2014
Running Time: 116 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.