Naruto Shippuden Movie 4 – The Lost Tower (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 85 minutes approx.
Team 7 (Naruto, Sakura and Sai) under the guidance of Yamato are on a mission to apprehend a rogue ninja named Mukade aka the Puppet Master. Armed with special chakra knives, they trace him to the underground ruins of the former city Loran where Mukade plans to use an ancient chakra called Ryūmyaku to travel back in time and conquer the world. Having been sealed away by the Fourth Hokage Mukade’s successfully unleash the powerful chakra, creating a huge time portal which quickly goes out of control pulling Naruto into its path. When he wakes up Naruto finds himself in Loran twenty years in the past, here a vibrant hi-tech world. During a street parade Naruto saves the Loran Queen Sara from an attempt on her life, along with a trio of ninjas revealing themselves to also be from the Hidden Leaf Village. Leading the pack is Minato Namikaze, the future Fourth Hokage, who confides in Naruto that they are seeking a puppet master ninja who appeared from the future six years earlier under the name Anrokuzan, who controls an army of Puppet Ninja while enslaving the people of Loran. Queen Sara is oblivious to Anrokuzan’s duplicity however so it’s up to Naruto to open her eyes and get her on side to save Loran.
With just about every other story line having been employed (and overused) during its run, it was inevitable that a time travel adventure for everyone’s favourite orange suited ninja would surface one day – and here it is. With the ongoing TV series and previous films having a tendency to be run of the mill fare, often regurgitating the same old plots, this is a welcome change to have Naruto involved in something a bit more adventurous. However at just 85 minutes there isn’t much room for the in depth exploration such a story deserves; not that The Lost Tower is bad, it just doesn’t fulfil its obvious potential.
With not a second wasted the film kicks off mid battle as Team 7 clash with Mukade and his mauling marionettes, starting off as it means to go on. In fact, in terms of fulfilling its action quotient this film certainly delivers plenty of bang for your buck! A quick flashback to Lady Tsuande issuing the mission edict fills us in on the reason for this scuffle before we return to the action. For fans of Sakura and Sai, make the most of these opening moments because after Naruto is sucked into the time portal, you won’t see them again until the end of the film.
Even time travel doesn’t stop our hero from attracting trouble, getting into a fight with some mechanised puppets almost immediately after awakening. Following being saved from certain death after being pushed off a balcony, Queen Sara acts a little tsundere towards Naruto, thankfully for his heroic act but angered a mere commoner would touch her. When Minato and his men arrive and realise that they are looking for the same man as Naruto, Sara won’t hear a word against Anrokuzan who has been there for her since her mother’s death six years earlier. We maybe be able to join the dots but the young regent isn’t so canny, but fear not because Anrokuzan soon reveals his true colours and it all kicks off in spectacular fashion.
Some of you by now may have twigged the significance of Naruto meeting Minato, a face he seems to recognise only as it is similar to the Fourth Hokage’s on the mountain side back in the Leaf Village – making this observation at a time when there are currently only three Hokage. Just as Sara is oblivious to the truth behind Anrokuzan Naruto is equally unaware of who he is talking to, the penny only dropping in the final act when the time comes to say farewell. Depending on how you feel this moment will either be a missed opportunity to inject some emotional depth to what is largely an all out action adventure, or it is a credit to the writers for not succumbing to the usual conventions of enforced schmaltz, sparing us a soppy finale.
Because of the modest run time character development is rather lacking but despite this the character of Sara is again one that runs a little against type. She starts off as your rank and file damsel in distress for Naruto to protect and win over in the process, but once the truth of Anrokuzan comes out, she undergoes a personality change and gets stuck in, ditching her royal etiquette in order to help kick some puppet backside!
The era hopping plot device allows for some neat references for the die-hard fans, namely the glimpses of the current Leaf Village elders as young kids. Meanwhile have the Loran of the past look futuristic is an effective twist to disarm the viewer, peaking their interest in the story of how such an ultramodern looking city ended up a pile of rubble. The artwork for the “old” version of Loran is something new for the Naruto franchise, allowing the designers to step outside their usual remits and flex their creative muscles. While the budgets for these films are usually higher then for the TV shows yet often barely noticeable, the effects is very much felt here and looks especially good on Blu-ray. Same for the battle scenes which have been given an extra shot of energy due to the alternate settings and mechanised participants.
The Naruto spin off movies are supposed to be a special attraction for the fans yet never seem to live up to the high expectations that come with a theatrical release, remaining mildly entertaining but throwaway adjuncts to the TV shows. That said, The Lost Tower at least tries to do something different and a result is arguably one the more entertaining of these feature length outings. And as a bonus this release includes a 14 minute short.
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 5.1
Naruto And The Three Wishes short film
Textless Closing Song
Rating – ***
Man In Black