Naruto Shippuden The Movie 2: Bonds (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 93 minutes approx.
The Hidden Leaf Village suffers an airborne attack from the Sora ninja of the Sky Village in revenge for the leaf’s victory in the First Ninja War many years ago. In the midst of the carnage, Shinno, an elderly doctor from another village and his young student Amaru help the wounded.
While Lady Tsunade sends a team of ninja to repay the Sora for their grudge driven assault, Naruto, Hinata and Sakura are tasked with escorting Shinno and Amaru back to their village. Meanwhile Orochimaru is suffering from the ill effects of his last body transfer jutsu expiring and sends Sasuke to bring back an individual Orochimaru believes can help him.
Another Naruto movie and another escort mission for our excitable orange suited ninja. Truth be told this latest feature length yarn doesn’t stray too far from the all too familiar formula of both the series and the previous films. Amaru (who everyone thinks is a young lad but is actually a girl) and Naruto start out as squabbling rivals before becoming fast friends, find themselves separated from the others upon arrival at Amaru’s village which has also been the victim of an attack and all the inhabitants missing.
Amaru accidentally triggers a trap but is saved by Shinno in a selfless act of bravery and sacrifice. Sakura and Hinata end their supporting roles here and slope off back to the Leaf Village for back up leaving Naruto and Amaru to continue their quest for the villagers, making a shock discovery in the process. When the chips are down however and Naruto can’t rely on the distraught Amaru for help, he gets an assist from an old friend (no prizes for guessing who that is) which should excite the long time fans watching.
As a standalone tale Bonds has taken the liberty of introducing its own components to the Naruto folklore with the revelation of the “Zero Tails”, possessive demon spirits akin to the multi-tailed variety which plagues Naruto – except without tails – which feed on the darker side of a person’s psyche. Amaru is somehow possessed by one (off camera so it comes completely out of the blue and thus somewhat incongruous) forcing our hero to succumb to his own inner beastie but not for long. As it stands, Naruto relies very little on his jutsu aside from the usual ones (shadow clones, etc.) instead hoping to kick some butt with brute force and anger alone.
Elsewhere however there are some pleasantly captivating aerial battles featured as Sai with his ink drawing birds take on the Sora Ninjas which are among the visual highlights of this film. Even though the standard of the presentation is a little higher than usual the evidence is only really fleeting, noticeable mostly in the aforementioned sky based scenes and in some of the backgrounds and set pieces.
The floating fortress Ancor Vantian which is accidentally unearthed by Amaru is an impressively designed piece of CGI that is carefully not to stick out too much from its 2D surroundings, a folly too many animated productions succumb to. The new characters fit the standard Naruto design template yet some care is given to give Amaru a range of palatable and unique facial expressions even if her persona is by the numbers.
Much like the ongoing series there are no real surprises to be found here. Bonds delivers a supplementary slice of Naruto action to keep the faithful happy and nothing more. As a solitary outing, it has no bearing on the long TV series’ story arcs – and rightly so – but fails to do anything spectacular enough to warrant the feature length treatment.
In other words, there is nothing here that you wouldn’t find happening across two or three filler episodes of the parent show. It is unlikely the diehard fans will complain and for them, this will be another 90 minute treat but anyone still unconvinced by the exploits of the spiky haired one are equally unlikely to have their minds changed by this film.
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 5.1
Special Opening Theme
Rating – ***
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