The Last – Naruto The Movie (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 112 minutes approx.
We all know that Naruto is a global phenomenon but now the spiky haired ninja has literally gone stratospheric with this latest (last?) film. And yes I can say literally in the truest sense as the climax of this film take place on the moon!
Set two years after the Fourth Shinobi War and the now young adult Naruto has become a local hero due to his efforts in said conflict, earning him the admiration of everyone in the Hidden Leaf Village and beyond – especially the young ladies. While he reluctantly laps up this attention one lass in particular continues to crush on Naruto from afar, Hinata.
One night Hinata’s younger sister Hanabi is kidnapped by Toneri Ōtsutsuki, a descendent of Hagoromo Ōtsutsuki who created the moon to trap the ten-tailed beast and protect the earth. Toneri however believes that mankind should be punished for using chakra as a weapon and has caused the moon to turn into a meteor intent on crashing it into the earth. Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, Sai and Shikamaru Nara are despatched to rescue Hanabi and stop Toneri.
With a story developed by Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, who also has complete editorial supervision, this film takes the bold step in resolving one of the long standing subplots which has run in the show right from the start. You’ll notice that despite the timeline of this adventure coming during the Shippuden series, the title is just plain Naruto and there is a reason for that.
The tussle with Toneri is a largely functional catalyst for the aforementioned resolve and as a villain he is frankly no more a dangerous threat than any who have appeared in these theatrical adjuncts. His outlook isn’t exceptionally evil and his motives are more askewed than malevolent while his powers don’t appear to be inherent, rather reliant upon being a conduit for others.
Hence the reason he kidnapped Hanabi, which in turn brought Hinata to him since his first attempt to abduct Hinata was interrupted by Naruto. The Byakugan eyes which are the trademark ability of the Hyuga tribe was what Toneri was after and since one sister was unavailable he went for the other although Hinata was still his primary target for other reasons.
In the grand scheme of things, despite his unique appearance, Toneri won’t rank as one of the more memorable Naruto antagonists, not in the least as much of his truly horrid acts take place off camera. While removing someone’s eyes is a gruesome thought and a less pleasant viewing experience, this just happens without any forewarning or even hint of the horror which awaits poor Hanabi.
Toneri could have been so much more despicable had he revealed this plan before hand or if they even teased showing him at least making preparing Hanabi for this procedure to fully endear him to the audience as a true villainous cad. It’s only his cold, self-righteous smarminess and sympathy for Hinata that riles us enough to want to see Naruto give Toneri what for.
Fans who enjoy Naruto for the action sequences will find they are quite light on the ground in this film but at least are superbly animated, making the most of the increased budget that comes with making a feature film. Most of the early punch-ups are brief, including an aerial clash which visually recalls the Hawkmen battle scene from the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. The climactic face off occurs on the moon where gravity mysteriously doesn’t appear to be a problem for ninjas or Naruto in his nine-tailed fox demon mode but you know, anime.
So if Toneri is a flimsy antagonist and the main story is a bit lacking, what exactly does this film offer Naruto fan to make it worthwhile? Perhaps by now some of you may have already figured out that Hinata being pushed forward a central player in this tale is the key factor. After all she has been secretly in love with Naruto since day one which a number of flashbacks attest to, but being a complete blockhead who has the hots for Sakura, Naruto doesn’t notice.
There is one thing which is noticeably irritating and that is how Hinata is portrayed in this story. Usually, despite her confidence issues she has got stuck in and kicked butt; early in this film even Naruto says that Hinata is one of the toughest people in the Hidden Leaf Village. Therefore it is frustrating to see her reduced to the damsel in distress waiting for her knight in orange armour to save her when she could have fought her way out herself.
Anyway, over the course of the Hanabi rescue mission the group are caught in a genjutsu which allows them to enter each other’s memories, revealing for the first time to Naruto how Hinata felt about him. Naturally Toneri gets the upper hand and persuades Hinata to marry him by which time the penny drops for our hopeless hero. Can her stop the wedding as well as the earth from destruction in time (actually this is just like the aforementioned Flash Gordon film)?
I won’t spoil it but you will need to keep watching after the end credits roll to find out. This is where the gamble of delivering this conclusion on film comes into play rather than building it up across the TV series pays off as this film was the highest grossing film in the entire Naruto franchise thus far, until it was beaten by…well, you’ll have to wait and see.
Whether this will be The Last or not, this is a visually impressive and occasionally cute outing for Naruto but not as emotionally poignant as it could have been. Very much the parts being greater than the sum, there is a case that both stories could have been more had they been made into separate films.
Perfectly acceptable enjoyment by Naruto standards nonetheless.
English Language 5.1
Japanese Language 5.1 w/ English Subtitles
Rating – ***
Man In Black