Naruto the Movie: Road To Ninja is the latest movie instalment of the Naruto franchise from Manga Entertainment, not including the Boruto cinema run that is currently taking place, of which you should definitely see if you have a chance. This movie release, although originally released in Japan back in 2012, fits nicely with the current story arc in Manga Entertainment’s Naruto box sets, which I remember mentioning an on-screen movie poster of in my review of box set 22; a happy coincidence, I’m sure.
“For my friends and family, I’ll risk my life for this mission! Long ago, a masked shinobi unleashed the Nine-Tailed Fox onto the Village Hidden in the Leaves to spread chaos and destruction. But the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, and his wife, Kushina Uzumaki, sealed the Tailed Beast into their newborn son Naruto to save the village, foiling the shinobi’s plans. Years later, Naruto and his friends succeed in driving away the infamous Akatsuki, who have mysteriously returned from the dead. Upon returning to the village, the young shinobi are praised by their families for completing a dangerous mission. Reminded of how alone he is, Naruto begins to wonder what it’s like to have parents, when a strange masked figure appears before him – the same masked shinobi responsible for the death of his parents!” – Manga Entertainment
The story in this movie, for me personally felt a little odd, the majority of the movie played out like an episode of filler. After driving off members of the Akatsuki, who were presumed dead, Naruto and Sakura are ambushed by Tobi using the Limited Tsukuyomi; Naruto and Sakura are transported to an alternate reality in which everyone is different from their normal selves. We see this kind of situation a lot within anime and it can be a fun way to give different characters more screen time and play around with their personalities. Hinata is a personal highlight being the total opposite to her usually timid and shy self. Sasuke is also a huge departure from his strong and silent persona.
In this alternate reality, it’s not just their friends that have changed, as Sakura finds that in this reality her parents are dead and her father was the fourth Hokage. Naruto, known as Menma – Menma, like Naruto, is a Japanese condiment found in ramen – in this reality, finds that his parents are still alive. Ultimately the movie ended in a rather epic battle against Tobi and this reality’s Menma in an attempt by Tobi to gain control over the Nine-tails from Naruto. The ending comes together quite well and is easily the saving grace of the movie.
As someone who only reads the manga and has watched little of its anime adaptation I always find it odd when there are characters, I don’t know that are treated like regulars. Sakura’s parents are a prime example and although they did appear in box set 22, with a two-episode movie tie-in, they spent the majority of this movie dead. I can’t remember them ever making an appearance in the manga. This probably made Sakura’s pain and suffering during the movie a little lost on me.
The animation quality on show is an improvement over the quality of the television series though colour does seem somewhat lifeless and dull especially when it comes to night scenes. Whether this is an issue across both Blu-ray and DVD I cannot confirm but this is certainly present on the DVD version. This should not affect the enjoyment of the movie but it’s fairly noticeable when jumping from day to night scenes. The English dub is what it is if you have grown up watching that then you’ll be accustomed to it and enjoy it but the original Japanese language is easily the recommended option. The soundtrack, especially during the final battle, was pretty good and fitting, the theme song “Sore de wa, Mata Ashita” is performed by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Extras on disc include movie trailers, promo and commercials as well as an art gallery, which I always think is a nice touch as it’s different to what you normally get when it comes to extras.
Naruto the Movie: Road To Ninja is, as far as non-canon movies go, a pretty good effort and even though the setup is less than original it does allow some entertaining character interactions. As stated previously, the saving grace of the movie is the final showdown between Naruto and Menma and Tobi. While the movie doesn’t bring anything new to the story of Naruto, it is a fun distraction as we wait for The Last: Naruto The Movie next month.