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Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie Review
Despite the fact that the Naruto manga is coming to an end(or has possibly already come to an end at the time that I am writing this), the anime still has a lot of catching up to do so long as it doesn’t have another year or two of garbage filler episodes. Long after the manga has ended, new episodes and the occasional movie will still find their way to America as an official release. On November 25th, Viz Media will be releasing Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie on DVD and Blu-Ray.
The title alone drives me crazy, why couldn’t they have called it Naruto the Movie: The Road to Ninja. For that matter, what does Road to Ninja even mean? But don’t let the questionable name fool you. Of the few Naruto movies I have seen, this one was by far the best of them all. Unlike all the movies I had seen so far, this one appears to actually take place during the main storyline of the anime and manga. The fact that it didn’t feel like it was a glorified hour and forty minutes of half assed filler proves to be one of the many strengths of this film. Of course, the fact that the original creator Naruto was involved with this project might have helped with that. This movie felt like it stuck more to what made Naruto such a great series in the first place, rather than putting it in settings and places that felt like they didn’t belong in Naruto. Even the villains felt like they fit in the world, which is a sharp contrast to pretty much every villain in a Naruto movie. Especially that guy from Lost Tower that was channeling Ted from Scrubs a little too much to be taken seriously. In this movie, there is a much better antagonist causing havoc for Naruto and his friends.
The driving force of events in this movie is none other than one of the biggest antagonists in Naruto, Madara Uchiha. Naruto and Sakura fall into one of Madara’s schemes to take the nine tailed beast from Naruto, and they find themselves in an alternate world where Naruto’s parents are still alive and Sakura’s parents are the ones that died to save the village. Of course, since it is an alternate world many of the characters behave differently for the sake of comedy for long time fans of the series. For example, shy and timid Hinata is turned into a frightening she wolf that will not tolerate any woman talking to Naruto.
Throughout the movie, one of the bigger focuses is Naruto and how he grew up not knowing his parents due to them being dead. Early on in the movie, the viewer really sees the strain that is put on Naruto due to having nobody to come home to and no one to congratulate him when he pulls off something incredible. There is many a scene where I felt really bad for Naruto and even Sakura when she got to experience first hand what Naruto went through on a daily basis. This somber tone of those scenes is offset by the happier scenes where Naruto gets to finally experience what it is like to have a family that loves and worries about him. Of course there is a sad tone to all of this still since even Naruto knows that it is all an illusion and nothing more.
Obviously, this wouldn’t be a Naruto movie if there wasn’t a great deal of action and combat as these so called ninjas fight and use various techniques in an attempt to claim victory. Although I hesitate to really call any character in Naruto a ninja as they all have the subtlety of a slap to the face. Yet the action scenes are highly entertaining, so it is easy to ignore the fact that ninjas are supposed to be more about stealth than anything else. Naruto as a series has always been able to perfectly mix action with intense emotional drama, and this movie is able to do the same. Although near the end of the movie there is a fight where it is a little too difficult to tell what is going on and who is who given how similar the particular combatants look to one another.
As it stands now, the only real issue I have with this movie is that Naruto still has my least favorite dub in any anime I’ve seen so far. Some voices fit the characters while others are questionable, but Naruto’s voice is still far too jarring for me. That said, the dub doesn’t detract too much from the movie itself. Although the pacing can be a little slow at times, so action junkies may find it difficult to stay interested at certain points of this movie.
Overall, Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie is one of the better Naruto movies in a long time. It has a lot to offer for long time fans of the series, and even has something for people like myself that use to follow the series closely back when the manga had made its debut in America back in the early 2000s. Since this movie takes place in the main story itself, I can’t really recommend this as a starting point given that it doesn’t really explain much about past events. New and old fans will find something to enjoy in this movie, but I can’t recommend this movie to anyone who knows for a fact they are not a fan of Naruto.