I finally checked out one of the latest Naruto films. This one got the most hype out of any Naruto film. Even the new one that came out about a month ago didn’t get the same kind of publicity as this one. This was going to be the ultimate Naruto film with the best villain yet. I understand that a lot of people did like the villain, but I can’t say that he was for me. This film suffers from the fact that it seems to appeal to the general audience a lot like the last film, but it’s still a decently good movie. We’re just falling back to the pre Shippuden level for the films.
Naruto and Sakura are having some drama with their parents/lack of parents. This results in some tense scenes in the beginning, which inevitably leads them to conclude that their lives would be better off if they could have swapped parental situations. That’s when the Masked Man appears and blasts them into an alternate world where that is the case. Naruto and Sakura realize that they’re going to really have to put some effort in if they want to escape this world and they’ll need to stop the Masked Man. The only problem is that the Masked Man looks a little different in this world. No matter, time to take him out!
Well, it’s a pretty fun plot, but the movie just messed up in several areas. I will admit that I was worried from the very start, but luckily the film fixed my problem with the intro. Let’s just say that it plays out like a bad fanfic. (Good concept, but terrible execution = bad fanfic) The Genin 11 (Mostly Chunins at this point) are slaughtering the Akatsuki when the film starts. It’s embarrassing for the big villains who used to be a threat. Even Itachi and Kisame are treated like random minions. I was definitely wincing a little during this fight since the disregard for power levels was at an all time high. I feel like power levels tend to be more inaccurate as you go through a series so that made me extra cautious here. Luckily, we get a big twist that makes the Akatsuki look better while making Naruto look worse.
I definitely did not like Naruto as he is treated like a plot device to get things rolling. He suddenly starts to feel bad about not having any parents and he takes it out on Iruka. It’s just not the Naruto that we remember. He got over that a long time ago and seeing his parents in his memories was enough to finally snap him out of that. He’s proud of what they did so he would never wish that they were back here. It seems like something that the writers felt was “realistic” for a kid who didn’t have any parents so they threw that in. This transitions into the general audience problem, but I’ll sidestep from that for a little longer.
Naruto gets to meet up with fake versions of his parents and he decides that he’ll act like a rude person so that they’ll stay away from him. He decides that he’s not going to play the Masked Man’s games, but he’s stuck in the world for now so breaking ties with them is not the best way to go about it. Not to mention that fake Minato is the reason why he will get to go on the mission in the first place. If Naruto really didn’t want to hang out with them, he should have just slept on the bench or in the woods like last time. As long as he is in the house, he should definitely act hospitable.
Even worse than Naruto’s actual personality though is definitely how weak he looks. Naruto has long since surpassed everyone in his village by now so he should have crushed the “Akatsuki” in the opening now that we know the twist. He looks worse than most of his allies there and it’s sad since he was the first one to rush in. Then, he finally gets to face off against Menma and he is thoroughly outclassed. His Sage Mode is unable to do anything so he is forced to summon a giant monster so that we can have a one hit KO attack when he finally gets close to Menma. Not exactly how I pictured the final battle.
Sakura doesn’t look very good either. Temporarily she doesn’t even care about going back to the real world. This also happens to Naruto in the second half, which is also pretty disappointing. She also has her arguments with her parents that is out of character, but still counts against her in this film. Her portrayal definitely wasn’t very good like with Naruto, but she could have been a lot worse. Just look at most of the supporting characters. Once again, it’s safe to say that the Leaf Village is pretty unlikable. Iruka deciding not to recommend Naruto to be a Jounin is just a really low blow. This is why nobody can trust this village, they’re always stabbing each other in the back.
Time to back it up a little. The film really feels like it’s trying to be a decent introductory movie to new viewers in a few ways. One way is that we get to see Naruto’s origin story once again (Luckily we skip all of the bullying this time) and Naruto hasn’t gotten over the death of his parents like I mentioned earlier. Sakura’s arguments with her parents are completely out of character for her and it’s just here so that she can be a part of the plot. It’s also a common plot to use for a film so the writers just couldn’t pass it up. (The Author was the main one who decided what the film would be like, but I say writers because the film guys likely helped along the way with their suggestions) Another way that it feels like a general audience film is that the climax is a giant monster battle instead of a nice hand to hand experience.
Let’s face it, “Bigger is better” is still a popular saying in films. So, instead of letting audiences see Naruto and Menma go at it in a DBZ style confrontation, we get to see the Nine Tailed Fox duel a giant monster. They are naturally implied to be far superior to Naruto and Menma is strength even though they look pretty unimpressive. They can spam their energy blasts, but the small range of the blasts (They strike more vertically than horizontally) means that we end up with two monsters who are effectively “camping.” They just keep firing blasts at the other and none of them actually connect. It’s more of a chase than an actual fight and then we get the one punch that ends it all.
That would have been the more disappointing final anime fight since Pokemon if not for the fact that we quickly get another fight after that. Unfortunately, the film was running out of time by then so Naruto’s fight against the Masked Man is very short. No worries, they decide to rip some scenes out of the manga as Naruto wins in a move that pays homage to Minato’s fight. The film’s homages didn’t begin there though as Naruto’s punch with Menma is almost identical to how Naruto defeated Gaara back in the day. I like homages….actually I don’t. Thinking about it now, they’re typically just not good and take away opportunities. Look at Avengers Assemble and how often it copies the film. It’s always best to do something unique and a homage should be more subtle than just copying a fight scene. That’s a lesson that this film really needs to learn.
The film’s animation is pretty good. It’s definitely not something to write home about, but the quality is definitely very good and it makes for a pleasurable viewing experience. I think it’s a little dicey that a show that’s a few years old like Fate/Zero looks better than this film, but that company’s animation budget is just through the roof so I suppose that it’s not fair to compare. What hurts this film a lot is the fact that we didn’t get any real fight scenes, or at least ones that would have a chance to shine. No character uses any fancy energy weapons or has a power up scene where the animators can have fun with the aura. The energy blasts from the Kaiju are the only chance for the film to show off its movie budget and the blasts look good, but they’re more like energy balls so you can’t really make them look quite as good as a Kamehameha no matter how much time you spend drawing it. The fight against the Akatsuki is pretty smooth, but not flashy in the slightest, which is why it actually doesn’t look impressive. You could compare it to the fights against Kakuzu and Hidan in the series and it would actually be pretty similar. The film is more streamlined, but just not as explosively colorful sometimes.
This film borrows just about all of its themes from previous films and the show. That’s pretty sad for it, but it’s a new trend for films based off of old franchises nowadays. It’s a pretty bad trend if you ask me since the music may be established and great, but you need to keep making new songs. Imagine a time where all films just use old tunes and remixes of old tunes. That’s not what we want to see, but the soundtrack is definitely 5 stars worthy. They’re old, but the themes are tried and true. They’re perfect for battle scenes and some of the villain themes really make you feel like the end is near. They’re fitting for such a world filled with despair as everyone fears Menma.
Speaking of which, one of the gimmicks for this film was that Naruto’s supporting cast would have warped personalities in the alternate world. It’s a decent sub plot in concept I suppose, but totally unnecessary. I always liked the idea of parrellel worlds, but just turning all of the heroes to villains and villains to heroes would suffice for me. Instead, the writers decided to make just about all of them unlikable. We have a few perverts, and more of the others are either really meek or too aggressive to the point where they are antagonistic. It’s hard to imagine how this village lasted for a year, much less up to now. There are no good fighters and the whole world lives in fear of Menma.
Time to finally talk about Menma. Saying Menma’s true identity is hardly a spoiler since it’s probably basic Naruto knowledge at this point considering how popular he became for a while, (Not to mention that the actual plot mixed in with the tie in episode makes it a logical conclusion) but I shall not mention it just in case. He has brought the entire Shinobi world to its knees and he is feared as the ultimate Naruto villain. He knows about the Masked Man and then he decides to destroy the Red Moon scroll. It is the one thing that can defeat him so he heads to the Leaf Village to destroy it and that’s when the climax begins. He can summon several monsters like Pain and his physical abilities are already pretty considerable. He is able to catch a Sage Mode Punch from Naruto, which is no easy feat. Unfortunately, the film was just toying with us there as he doesn’t actually fight. Instead, the monster battle begins. From that one moment, we can tell that he is a tough villain, but he just couldn’t end up showing it.
Menma is ultimately an unlikable character despite his powers. One of the main reasons is that he seems to just be a tool the whole time. He has no real motivations and he seems to just fight for the thrills. What really doesn’t help this is the fact that he has a terrible voice. It’s one of the worst voices that I’ve heard for a final boss in some time. It doesn’t strike fear into you or make you gain respect for his character. It just makes Menma seem like a villain who’s tough talk is all that he’s got. Menma’s true design is pretty good and the voice luckily shifts, but it’s hard to watch his masked form.
This review is definitely turning out longer than I had expected. Partially it’s due to how many ways the film went wrong, but also just because this is a Naruto film so there is a lot to discuss. Naruto’s fake parents look pretty good for the most part. One scene is there to quickly reinforce the point that Naruto’s parents were better so that he could leave with no regrets. It definitely shows how much fun it would have been if the parents had been here since the beginning. That would make for a pretty good AU spinoff series since the Leaf Village would definitely be overpowered with them in the ranks. In a way, that’s how it should have been.
I think I’ve addressed most of the points in this film by now. Time to quickly mention one of the negatives that certainly helped to drag the film down. The fanservice. This film has a lot more of it than usual, which is pretty disappointing. It’s not a huge amount, but for Naruto film standards it is considerable. We have the generic bath house scene, which is pretty cringe worthy. There is really no point to it at all. It’s probably just there to get in some more money, but this has always been a pretty cheap trick. You don’t need fanservice in a film and then having two of the characters be perverted for no reason is also in bad taste.
This film is pretty long, but it doesn’t know how to maximize the time that it is given. Too much time is spent on showing us how everything is a little different and not enough is spent on the actual fights or the villain. The film is already almost over by the time that the final fight happens so naturally it is given the shaft instead of the filler moments. Definitely not a good move for the film if you ask me. The film could have been the usual 70 or so minutes without a lot of the filler moments or 2 hours with more action. Either way, it would have been a huge improvement from what we did get.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Was this movie as disappointing as Battle of Gods? I’m going to say no although it’s very close. My hopes for this film were slightly tempered by Blood Prison while I had nothing to protect me from Battle of Gods before hand. This film still had a great soundtrack, which Battle of Gods lacked although the DBZ film had the much better fight. It just goes to show that the modern films for these two series are not as good as the classics, but that just means that the sequels have a higher chance of being better than these. I’m already hyped for the return of Frieza and I think that the final Naruto film should be pretty good as well. I don’t have high hopes for that one anyway, but the big battle should be good.
In the missed opportunities section, there are definitely a few things that come to mind. One of them is Sasuke since his appearance literally has no point here. He just gets 2-4 lines and that’s about it. He’s relegated to the background like most of the characters here. That’s pretty sad for his fans when the trailers made it seem like he would actually get to do something. The Masked Man’s plan at the end is decent, but plot hax get in the way of this and he also looks rather weak since Sakura is able to hold her own against him for so long. Sakura is a tough fighter, but she’s not Naruto level so he should have been able to crush the Masked Man considering how Sakura’s fight turned out.
Now, I should probably summarize what the positives of the film are since we have so many negatives. How does it actually deserve a 6? Well, we still get a decent fight with the Akatsuki at the beginning and watching them fight random monsters at the end may not be extremely amusing, but it’ll do as an action scene. You just need to ignore the power levels for this film and then you’ll enjoy the fights a lot more. The actual concept is interesting, but it just isn’t used very well. The soundtrack and animation are pretty good as well of course. The film is also pretty interesting while you’re watching it and it’s a fun film. It’s a popcorn fun, action block buster so you’ll leave it feeling satisfied. Amidst all of the negatives, you have to remember that this is still a Shonen Jump film. The designs are unique and the fights are fun. We have good amounts of those two positives here and mixed in with the music, you’ve got the makings of a pretty good film. That’s about it for positives I’m afraid, but they’ll do.
Overall, Road To Ninja is definitely one of the worst Shippuden films and probably ranks pretty low on the all time Naruto list. It loses to films 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. I’m going to say for now that it does beat films 1 and 5 though. 5 was probably the ultimate disappointing Naruto film since Sasuke was in it, but he couldn’t save it. This is a good film to introduce you to the world of Naruto and Naruto fans should still enjoy the fights. Just be prepared for all of Naruto’s friends to look pretty awful and for the unnecessary fanservice included. Also, brace yourself for the final battle because you are sure to be disappointed unless you were waiting for a giant monster fight. The soundtrack and animation are pretty solid and it’s still a good film despite all of the flaws. This review was certainly on the negative side, but that just seems to be the fate of the modern anime films that get a lot of hype. Obscure titles like Bleach 4 and Yugioh 3D seem to get all of the fun. You’re still guaranteed a fun experience here.