Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie (anime movie), on DVD

Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie is, obviously, a Naruto movie. Still, I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be like, and the info on the back of the box wasn't very helpful. I vaguely remembered that the production artwork had inspired theories that it was an alternate universe Naruto. Would it be an alternate universe retelling of Naruto's story? The answer turned out to be “yes and no.”

First, a warning: this post contains some spoilers, although I think I managed to avoid the most major ones.

I'm not entirely sure when in the Naruto timeline this movie takes place. Certainly much later than what I've seen of Naruto Shippuden, and I think a bit later than I've read in the manga. Naruto knows who both his parents are, several of the Akatsuki are dead, Sai is there, and Naruto has saved the village from Pain. Naruto demonstrated one ability that I haven't seen yet in the manga: he released Nine Tails' full form and rode on his back during battle.

At the beginning of the movie, Kakashi, Naruto, Sakura, and several others from the village fight the Akatsuki and are confused, because they know several of their opponents have previously been defeated. The fight ends fairly quickly, which is a relief for everyone, but also somewhat suspicious. That doesn't stop the parents of the various chunin from talking about recommending them for jonin-rank. Naruto is once again reminded that he has no parents who could do such a thing for him. After Iruka refuses to fill out a jonin application for him (because he isn't even a chunin yet – you'd think they'd have made him an honorary chunin by now) and Sakura yells at him for not siding with her after she has a fight with her parents, Naruto storms off.

All fights are forgotten, however, when Madara suddenly appears and tries out an experimental jutsu called Limited Tsukuyomi. When Sakura and Naruto come to, Madara is gone and no one even seems to know who he is. Not only that, but everyone in the village is the opposite of what they normally are: Hinata is aggressive, Shikamaru is dopey, Kakashi is gung-ho and overuses his sharingan, etc. There are story differences, as well. For example, Sakura is now the daughter of heroes – her parents, rather than Naruto's, were the ones that gave their lives for the village.

I found the “mirror” characters to be only mildly entertaining, and some of them were downright cringe-worthy. For example, both Neji and Lee became perverts, and there was only so much “look at Shikamaru being incredibly stupid!” that I could take. Most of the formerly competent jonin were suddenly useless, leading me to wonder how “mirror” Konohagakure was even still standing. (I did at least love the Akatsuki, though – I wish their appearance hadn't been so brief.)

Sakura's portion of the story didn't interest me much either. I've seen Home Alone – the story of the child who gets to enjoy sudden freedom away from parental interference but then realizes they miss having family around isn't new to me. Besides, Sakura doesn't even take much advantage of her new-found freedom. Pretty much the only thing she does is eat whatever she wants and not put her shoes away.

The one thing about this movie that definitely worked for me was Naruto and his parents. If you've ever wished that the portions of the anime or manga featuring Naruto with his parents had been longer, this movie is for you. It takes him a while to warm up to them, but, once he does, it's nice. The “parents love and want to protect their children” stuff was a little heavy-handed, but it still worked for me.

As far as how all of it looked goes: the artwork was a bit sloppy, and the CGI parts stood out a lot. I'd guess that the budget wasn't very big, because there were flashback scenes that were clearly taken right out of the TV series. I recognized clips from earlier in the series – especially lazy, in my opinion, because the artwork style and coloring was slightly different back then – and I wouldn't be surprised if Minato and Kushina's death scene was also ripped straight from the TV series (I haven't gotten that far in the anime yet).

Overall, I'd say this was an okay movie that's definitely best for current fans of the series, rather than newbies. Had it just been about Naruto vs. Madara and his opponent in the mirror world, it probably would have rated a “meh” from me. Like many long-running shonen series movies, it was essentially pointless and had no effect on the series continuity. The one big battle wasn't as exciting as it should have been, considering Naruto's opponent – I've seen better looking battles in the TV series, and I guessed Naruto's opponent well before his identity was revealed. Despite all of that, I'm still glad I watched this. It was nice seeing more of Naruto with his parents, and the scene with Iruka at the end was sweet. I'd pretty much explode with happiness if Iruka ever officially adopted Naruto.

Extras:

Nothing terribly exciting. There are Japanese commercials, promotional videos, and trailers for Road to Ninja, none of which are subtitled in English. The best of the bunch are the commercials, which have the greatest variety of clips from the movie. The worst are the promos, which are so brief I'm not sure why they were included.

ETA, 12/11/2014 - I just rewatched most of it (I skipped ahead to the start of the mirror world part) with the English dub on, and I liked it a bit less the second time around. The people in the mirror world are idiots - Naruto and Sakura accidentally reveal that they're unfamiliar with the world multiple times, and no one calls them on it. Almost everyone behaves in ways that directly contradict how their jutsu are supposed to work: Choji turns down a meal saying he can't eat much, and yet he can still perform his expansion jutsu; Shino tries to kill his own insects; Kakashi should be blind in one eye or even dead from his excessive sharingan use; Kiba and Akamaru hate each other. The list goes on. Also, now that I've seen everything again, knowing the identity of Naruto and Sakura's enemy, I have a ton of unanswered questions. I still liked the bits with Naruto and his parents, but, considering the problems with everything else, I now think those bits could have been better. It was nice watching the movie once. A second time was maybe too much.

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