What They Say:
After being captured for attempting to assassinate the leader of the Hidden Lightning Village (the Raikage) and killing Jonin from the Hidden Mist and Rock Villages, Naruto is imprisoned in Hozūkijo, a criminal containment facility also known as: Blood Prison. The warden of the facility, Mūi, uses the ultimate imprisonment jutsu to steal the power and abilities from its prisoners. In the Blood Prison, something is targeting Naruto’s life. The battle to prove his innocence and uncover the truth has begun for Naruto and his friends.
Like most movie releases, Blood Prison is set up in a 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound option of both English and Japanese. The quality is very impressive as they tend to be, with no noticeable errors regarding the audio synching with the lip flaps in English or any slowdown when in sync with the subtitles in either language, however I required no adjusting my audio settings (which is odd as strong 5.1 releases I tend to lower them) so not an issue, just not as powerful as some of the 5.1 movies that have been reviewed. (Note: The Chunin Exam extra whilst in both language does not have a 5.1 release)
Set in full screen with a 4:3 – 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Blood Prison has no major issues animation wise – set up in a widescreen format, the action is clear, there was no slowdown issues but you can tell that this wasn’t the best animators that the Shippuden animators used for this movie. It is still quality and some of the action scenes and also the water scenes were excellent, but outside of that it did feel they scrimped a fair bit on the animation budget outside of that (more noticeable compared to when Bayonetta did that). No issues with animation distortion when pausing, so it is perfect great to watch, just after reviewing so much Shippuden, it is clear the A team weren’t on the whole project.
Selections are shown on a scroll to the left as Mui is attacking Naruto with a hand of energy about to seal him in the prison, the selections are Play Movie, Scenes, Setup and Extras. No problems selecting anything, quick and easy both from the main/sub-menus and from the movie itself, nothing fancy or memorable but does its job.
The movie of Shippudden at least puts more effort into the extras compared to the TV Series release. The main extra is an episode short called ‘CHUNIN EXAM ON FIRE! NARUTO VS. KONOHAMARU’ which is basically an episode of the younger kids from the season now a bit older in Shippuden going for the Chunin exam…forgetting of course that Naruto is technically a genin despite his incredibly power and techniques so he is also there too. It showcases Naruto saving the kids who are after monsters on this year’s Chunin Exam, hosted by Gaara (and a bit of comedy involving Sakura, Naruto and Temari) which leads to Naruto and Konohamaru fighting, where the younger one is obviously mismatched but Konohamaru wants the fight – a bit manic and Konohamaru seemingly defeated but it is all about the effort the youngster puts into…and of course the rather silly ending.
We get an interview with Junko Takeuchi (Naruto’s Japanese seiyuu) which is a quick Q&A, what about Naruto reminds her of him, her hobbies, what she does in spare time, first gig, recording habit, voicing other characters in the show (Akamaru), thoughts on Jiriaya, fans in Japan vs. overseas, and a message to other potential actors. It is a very quick interview but it is a nice extra considering how rare it is to have these things on the western releases.
We also get a message from Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto written text on a page about thanking the fans of their support of Naruto, some movie trailers and some art galleries, which include the production Art (of the movie only characters, the box, the prison design), the colour production artwork (colour versions of the characters, Naruto, background characters and the box), the key art (more in-depth art like from art books from the movie), the clean Booklet Excerpts (more artwork, most likely from the DVD/Blu-Ray sets) and some chibi artwork (just chibi art of Naruto and Kakashi). Much more varied and interesting compared to the predictable series extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With most popular and long-running shows, Naruto has over the years released several one-shot movies which are considered non-canon to the series. After this one, there are two more movies still to come (one of them actually considered canon) and I really hope that they do justice to the good moments of the series because this is not an example that fits here. Not only is the story both predictable and repetitive, they try their best to use new characters with very little input from the cast we know and love, and it just doesn’t work because the attempts and twists they bring on the antagonist(s) are simply not original or done well enough for you to care.
The introduction for example is the Raikage of the Hidden Cloud looking for a box that can apparently grant wishes…that alone makes you wonder if we are going into Arabian Nights territory, but a ninja infiltrates the meeting. The Raikage makes him flee…but to his shock it turns out to be Naruto?
Cue to Naruto being arrested as his comrades seem to turn their backs on him and is sent to a prison known as Hoozuki Jou, rumoured to be nigh on impenetrable. The main antagonist, the prison boss named Mui, puts a seal on Naruto which limits his chakra incredibly to avoid potential escaping. So of course, Naruto keeps on trying to escape even though his chakra is only good enough for getting one shadow clone out – which whilst delays them weakens Naruto and is recaptured and sent to solitary confinement, where a mysterious person tells him to try and defeat Mui to get rid of the seal, all the while a feminine looking prisoner seems to take an interest in Naruto whilst warning him at the same time…doesn’t help when Mui is able to take out any of the weakened prisoners and killing them doesn’t seem to be an issue either thanks to his skill and his underhand named Maroi…
The ninja in question turns out to be a girl named Ryuzetsu, who finds him during one of his latest escape attempts (Naruto does this a lot) – however it turns out Mui himself is trying to frame Naruto for the crime at the Cloud Village for the purpose of extracting the chakra from the 9-Tails beat so he can open the mysterious box of wishes mentioned at the beginning. Ryuzetsu is a spy from the Cloud Village but also has her own personal mission of avenging Mui’s late son Muku, who was apparently used as a sacrifice to harness the chakra energy for the box.
There are a few twists and turns – like the person who framed Naruto named Kazan apparently killed by Muis’ spies but despite his hate for Mui he is actually alive (and yet we know next to nothing about their relationship), and Maroi turning out to be a double agent himself who seems to be on Ryuzetsus’ side, but unfortunately, there is very little development in terms of motive aside from Ryuzetsu herself – it seems like Mui wants to get eternal power for his clan and collaborators, but very little is expanded enough so when he does get the chakra he needs, the revelation he actually wanted it now to resurrect his son is almost a real bait and switch, and the fact he was doing it for his own purposes…yet he sacrificed his son in the first place…yeah, it isn’t the smartest storytelling out there.
In the end, the wish is granted but Mako returns pretty much as a monster due to being possessed by the boxes’ demon Satori, wounding Mui and going nuts on the prison. Ryuzetsu seems to hold him off enough with the remaining human memories whilst Naruto summons Gamabunta (his giant frog summon) who apparently knows the demon and he will capture everyone in the box unless they can stop him. So Naruto tries his sage form but can’t defeat it…
…and is suddenly saved/distracted by everyone in the Leaf. Turns out they helped set it up with the aid of the Cloud Village to help lure out the true culprit…which really isn’t the best idea and/or plot for this set up and showcases the rather rushed writing that it came to this to set up this conclusion. Plus most of the cast only get one line (at best, some don’t even get that or even do anything!) which really feels like a wasted opportunity. The finale however, did surprise me with Mui returning to stop Muku, who seems ready to change…and then kills Mui when the demon again takes over and Muku is the one that stops the carnage by killing himself and sealing the powers – making Naruto’s role pretty much non-existent by the end despite being the bait for Mui in the first place. Ryuzetsu, the only character that did have decent development, is used to save Naruto and it is a touching and sad scene by the end as the conclusion sets…
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about this movie that can really save and/or recommend to people, even to Naruto fans. It has no relevance with any part of the canon manga or even the filler stories, it is a one off movie. And unlike a lot of the movies, it suffers from the fact none of the cast bar Naruto himself have any involvement bar little bits at the beginning and the end. Naruto himself can’t save the movie, as his role seems to have de-evolved to the dunce back right at the start, as whilst his hot-headed nature has always remained, his moments of clarity seem to have gone as he tries escape after escape as the movie seems to go onto repeat until Ryuzetsu makes her known to the plot.
Mui as an antagonist seemed to have potential in terms of the plot twist that he had this take over the world vibe initially but in the end seems to have a spur of the moment change of heart to bring Muku back. Unfortunately, that seemed to come too late and more likely served Ryuzetsus’ character more than his. The character Maroi is trying to be the comic, yet charming double agent, but his role is so spread out that it was hard to decipher what he was trying to accomplish. Ryuzetsu was the only character who was given time and to be fair, the movie is a one shot story in an hour and a half so I can understand that they couldn’t get too much in the time allotted. The main issue is because the characters aren’t developed well, we just wish for more time with the characters that have developed from the show and wished more than a 5 minute cameo.
The action sequences granted are great, and where most of the budget has gone, which again seems to be a bit of a shame as there are moments where you can tell that it wasn’t as good as it has been. Also the way the Leaf treated Naruto at the beginning was definitely suspect and was very rushed (only explained a bit during their cameo and right at the end of the film) that the plot twists weren’t highly original. We know that Naruto is innocent, and there was so little about the imposter and the plot bar ‘need chakra for box of mystery’ that it felt very phoned in.
Naruto: Blood Prison is one of the poorer Naruto movies out there, and they haven’t exactly been masterpieces. The wafer thin plot, lack of development or sympathy for most of the cast, Naruto himself couldn’t carry the movie on his own where they decided to increase his stupidity more than normally, combined with little influence from the remaining cast, and makes this one to avoid even for Naruto fans. No impact on the story….and no impact on the viewer.
A stand alone story that can be avoided, Naruto: Blood Prison is poorly told, very few interesting new characters, and a plot that was very rushed. The action sequences are still well done (as are some of the tense moments like when Naruto has to swim against a dangerous current) and Ryuzetsu is just interesting enough to maybe make you invested, but bar hardcore Naruto fans, this is one that can be safely skipped.
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 1st, 2014
Running Time: 108 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.